Your business's safety needs to be priority number one. That's why when hiring third party services, asking the right questions is key. In this episode Chris and Leah discuss how to vet "experts" and third parties so that you aren't putting your account at risk with bad information.
[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody, welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions, the wonderful podcast created by myself, Chris McCabe and Leah McHugh of ecommerceChris to dive into the various wonderful problems that sellers face on Amazon listings taken down occasionally random messages from Amazon itself that are hard to read or understand and what to do about it. How to troubleshoot and best practices versus not so wonderful ideas that are sometimes floating out around there in the community, right?
[00:00:40] Leah: Yeah. I like to think of this as a 10 minute look into what we talk about all day long.
[00:00:45] Chris: Exactly. Exactly. And we've got a conference coming up very soon we'll be at Sell+Scale in Las Vegas.
And that got me thinking about so many business owners and sellers meet so many people, other sellers, third party services, others interested in running, selling, managing an Amazon business. How do you vet for expertise? What kinds of questions do you write for yourself before you go to certain, let's say boots for third party services, because there's an educational component at these shows, but then there's also a promotional component.
[00:01:19] Leah: Yeah.
[00:01:19] Chris: And I think some people don't necessarily prepare. They don't have time for it. They're not sure what to ask they figure, well, I'll just walk up to somebody's booth, hear what they have to say, listen to their pitch, and then I'll go to their competitor's booth and listen to the same thing.
I had this idea. I wanted to run by you get some feedback. I know you'll give me your very blunt assessment, but also it's worth discussing with sellers who listen to this podcast about how you examine the expertise level, but also maybe even a quick little test, like a litmus test for do these people know what they're talking about? Showing them your products as a brand owner. Hey, this is what we're trying to sell. Let's just say you're trying to sell more product, right? Market yourself better, rank higher. Let's keep it simple. Let's say you're speaking with listing optimization experts and there's a crowded field of them, right?
So you already know you have a lot of questions you have to ask. And you have to evaluate those answers. Don't you think it's a good idea to maybe show them what you sell? Give them a chance to say, Hey, this is just a few minutes of what I think you should do next. Given what you've told me about the product and given what the product is, and then kind of privately, you could take away whatever you've written down, whatever you saved from that interaction and vet it for compliance, did they give you a sales trick or tactic that might get you into trouble or might get the listing taken down? That's the step I think a lot of sellers are missing. They don't consider that either before they just run right in and do it. They might say, Hey, that sounds great. Let's just try it as an experiment. But do you really think they sit down before they implement it? Wondering if that might get them in a trouble, get a policy warning, get the listing suspended?
[00:03:04] Leah: I mean, obviously I'm biased because I see the people who get in trouble for their listing content so I assume a lot of people aren't checking it for compliance because I assume we'd had less cases if that weren't the case.
[00:03:17] Chris: But how do they check it? Is my question, because some people might just go to the provider website and look for some post that says, this is Amazon TOS compliant and they're like, oh great. It says it right here. They're they don't examine it.
[00:03:32] Leah: No. And I think a large part of it is that a lot of sellers don't know what they don't know. So it's, it's very easy to just listen to a sales pitch about how something is totally within the rules. And if you don't know that you don't know the rules, it's, it's very easy to just be like, yeah, sounds awesome.
So I think a lot of it does and sellers are probably sick of hearing me say this, but I think it, it comes down to the seller. The seller is ultimately responsible for making sure that things are done correctly. And I think particularly when it comes to product compliance, I don't know if it's necessarily fair to put product compliance on the copywriter's shoulders.
Product compliance is so vastly different for every product within every marketplace that I don't think it's fair for you to expect a copywriter or maybe not even the copywriter, maybe just one of the sales team at the conference--
[00:04:28] Chris: right.
[00:04:28] Leah: To know all of the rules related to the FDA and Health Canada and UKCA, that's very specialized information that you'd probably need to speak to like three different attorneys about, so expecting a copywriter to have that information just readily available at a conference is maybe asking too much.
[00:04:46] Chris: Or the person in the booth is there for promotional purposes they're not the person working on your account.
They might give you some ideas on who at their company might do it. But I don't know if I partially agree or somewhat disagree in terms of, I think it's a shared responsibility. Obviously the buck stops with the business owner. That's the way Amazon views it. That's the way we all have to view it.
But listing optimization again, using that as an example, You're not optimizing anything if the listing gets suspended. So they should also have that built into their due diligence in terms of marketing ideas and what they pitch you and what you can do to sell your product better, because you're not optimizing anything if you're getting ASINs suspended.
[00:05:27] Leah: Yeah. And I think certainly having an understanding of Amazon policy is important if you're providing any sort of service around Amazon. But when you're getting into the more complex legal issues, I do think it really is on sellers or on the brand owner, whatever you wanna call yourself.
It's really on you to make sure that you're getting your copy approved by somebody that is an expert in that area of compliance, and you're getting your packaging reviewed by an attorney that is an expert in that particular area, particularly if you're in a highly regulated space, like supplements or medical devices or anything like that. So I think, like you said, it's a combination effort, but I do think that if you're doing any sort of service within the Amazon space, that you definitely need to have some familiarity with Amazon's terms of service, because I mean, otherwise you're potentially selling people services that'll get them in trouble. And I mean, that's not fun for anybody plus it could lead to a lawsuit. You don't really wanna deal with that.
[00:06:27] Chris: And whether it's at on a phone call or at a conference, it's kind of the same concept of people are tempted to oversell their competencies, I think.
[00:06:34] Leah: Yeah. I also am a very firm believer in just because you're the best speaker doesn't mean you have the best knowledge or the best expertise. So just because a booth has like the best sales team doesn't mean that they're the best people for the job. And I think it's very important to be able to look past that and say, okay, is this person actually know what they're talking about or are they just telling me what I wanna hear?
[00:07:01] Chris: Look past the quality of the swag. You've gotta be able to look past that, right?
[00:07:06] Leah: Exactly.
[00:07:06] Chris: Not that it's not worthwhile for people to put more effort into what kinds of swag you get, because so many people are tempted to give the same old things but they're there for a reason, right? They're talking, talk is words. So you're like gravitating from a conversation to hiring them, to do something on your account. So that should open up a whole area of due diligence that you're spending time on and that's when you're really asking if you can't do it in a two, three minute chat at a booth or even on a short phone call when you're hiring them, that's when you're asking the meaty questions and you need to get meat in the answers, right? You can't just have things glossed over.
I think a lot of sellers, the psychology of it, go approach someone's website, somebody that talked to on the phone, somebody at a conference. With this idea already baked into their brains. This person's an expert on blank and I am not. So when I ask them a question, I'm assuming I'm going to get an expert answer back, or if I'm hiring them for a service on Amazon, they know that they have to play by Amazon's rules. It's Amazon's sandbox, and they have to go by those guidelines. Otherwise they're gonna be hurting me. Their customer, their client. And they don't wanna do that because I'm a new client.. So I'm assuming that they won't do that. By the way I was just using listing optimization as an example. I mean, this is communitywide for a wide variety of services.
[00:08:45] Leah: Yeah. And I think in particular, when it comes to Amazon policies, if somebody's telling you that something is TOS or if they're making claims about Amazon's policies, ask for their sources, I rarely, except maybe for clients that have worked with us for a long time and know that I know what I'm talking about. I rarely will say something about Amazon policy without providing a link to that policy and a quote about what I am talking about. If they can't do that. I mean, that's just like, you know, those Abraham Lincoln meme quotes that you see all over the internet, like you can put anything on a sticker and call it whatever you want, but it doesn't mean it's true.
[00:09:20] Chris: Got to fact check it.
[00:09:22] Leah: Right. You need sources. You need to check their references and you need to make sure that what they're saying is one true and two, that they actually understand what they're talking about and if they can't do that, if it's just because like, oh, everybody knows this. They probably don't know what they're talking about.
[00:09:36] Chris: Well, or just, if they've got a series of promotional testimonials somewhere that they've vetted. That's not enough. You have to know what questions to ask. The first part's on you, do some research before you even get there. Again, sticking with the conference part, know what you wanna ask, know what you have to ask.
So study up yourself, do some homework. Don't expect them to do the homework for you or to do it on the fly. And don't just approach a bunch of different people who do the same thing. Get their wide variety of answers.
[00:10:09] Leah: Don't just pick the cheapest ones.
[00:10:11] Chris: That's what I-- you stole my thunder.
[00:10:13] Leah: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you're gonna say something else.
[00:10:14] Chris: And then get evaluate like it's just a trial. That's what I really wanted to talk about today. Even people doing trials are getting damage on their accounts. You can't just say I'm gonna cut them off. If they do something bad. I mean, they might do something really bad in a really short amount of time.
[00:10:32] Leah: Or they're money back guarantee.
[00:10:34] Chris: Money back guarantee, all these things which you and I know, I mean the best example is why would you want to let an amateur take a crack at reinstating your suspended account just because there's a money back guarantee? If they're an amateur or if they're new, or if they're not seasoned vets of this area, why would it have any value to you to get your money back after they've screwed up your entire appeal?
[00:11:00] Leah: Right. No, absolutely. I think mentality wise, it's like, oh, well there is no risk because I get my money back. If something goes wrong. I don't think enough people think about. If somebody does something wrong on my account, here are all of the bad things that could happen, including an account suspension or including that listing being blocked or whatever the case may be.
[00:11:21] Chris: Right.
[00:11:21] Leah: Your inventory could get suck in immigration somewhere because whoever you hired to deal with that didn't know what they were doing.
[00:11:27] Chris: The risk is the permanent damage to your account.
[00:11:30] Leah: Right.
[00:11:30] Chris: So we shouldn't have to explain that there's no risk. I mean, there's no risk of your few hundred bucks for that month or whatever it was, of the service, but, I hope in the next year or so that people are asking us those kinds of questions too, that shows that they put deep thought into this and they wrote some stuff down before talking to us and then hopefully our answers, coincide with what they expected based on their research. And that's a rewarding interaction or they ask us follow up questions based on, oh, that's not what I heard because of A, B and C, and then that I think is a good process for vetting out real answers versus not, not so good answers because service providers, aren't going to promise to cover everything you ever do on Amazon. That's pretty unheard of in terms of anything that ever happens to your business, I will assume full responsibility for it, I guess, unless it's a full service agency that really puts into writing we do everything for you.
[00:12:31] Leah: But I mean, even if they take full responsibility, if you can't get your account reinstated, you're still suspended. Potentially without your money or your inventory. So, I mean, great if they'll pay you back for that, but you still no longer can sell at Amazon. I mean choose your level of risk that you're comfortable with, I guess.
[00:12:50] Chris: Yeah. In summary and conclusion, do some fact checking, Don't believe everything you read or hear.
[00:12:56] Leah: Surprisingly, Chris and I are telling you to do due diligence.
[00:12:59] Chris: yeah. Buyer beware.
[00:13:00] Leah: Our frequent listeners will be shocked that we're telling you to do your due diligence.
[00:13:05] Chris: Well, the reason we're even talking about this is we've seen the ugly outcomes. And we hear a lot of regret from people. We hear a lot of stories from people. I wish I had done that sooner, I wish I had talked to either us sooner or people who understood, let's say compliance, people who understood let's say the law better. It doesn't make sense to me personally. Maybe you're more charitable in your review of these stories, but it doesn't make any sense for people to just say, well, I hired a marketing company and they're not really knowledgeable about non-marketing stuff and that's where this all went wrong. Well, you're sharing the responsibility. Of course you have at least some of the responsibility, but you're sharing the responsibility with any company that takes over a task for you that you've hired to complete something, right? Because you have to consider all the things that could go wrong, especially when you sell on Amazon. I don't know. how we're almost in 2023, and we're still telling people how things can go wrong on Amazon.
[00:14:06] Leah: I like to blame the passive income gurus. Mostly because I just like to blame them for most things, because you know, easy but--
[00:14:12] Chris: Low hanging fruit.
[00:14:13] Leah: But it's the whole idea of selling on Amazon is easy. You can do it in your sleep. There's no work involved. You don't have to know anything and make millions of dollars. Like that's terrible advice and we're at this stage now where maybe 10 years ago, you could do that for a while, but we're not in that world. Anybody that's teaching you this, or if you pay them tens of thousands of dollars, they'll do everything for you and you'll just make millions of dollars without doing anything.
[00:14:40] Chris: Right. Four hours of work a week. I like that one. And hiring VAs to do everything for you without having any clue what they're doing or how well they know the work. So we will revisit this topic again I am sure as we get into the thick of Q4, we're going to see listing errors and compliance mistakes that result in bad things. Hopefully not, but if these things happen to you, you're looking to stem the tide or even identify warning signs before Amazon takes action. Ask myself, ask Leah or tune in again to our next Seller Performance Solutions podcast. Thanks Leah.
[00:15:14] Leah: Thanks Chris.