Five Signs Your FBA Business May Flop, Part 2

This is part two of a five-part series addressing concerns around “Is an FBA business profitable.”  In part one, I discussed “creating a hustle vs. building a business.”  Part two is concerning building a brand other than your own.

Building a brand other than your own

Building a brand is the goal of the vast majority of businesses.  Just saying that you have a brand isn’t enough, though.  And while brands and brand marks are properties of a company, they don’t reside in the company. 

A brand is what resides in the hearts and minds of your prospective customers when they think of the products your company offers for sale.  An example of the conflict between what a company wants to brand and the results of their efforts is the Chevrolet Nova from the 1970s. 

When the US car manufacturer named their Nova car, they focused the product to the muscle car enthusiasts market.  The term nova refers to a sudden burst of energy—at least in the US.  While the car was popular in the US, it never took off in Mexico. 

The reason?

The Spanish meaning of nova is “not going.”

So, car buyers in the Mexican automobile market didn’t want to drive something that, in their minds, wouldn’t go anywhere. 

The goal of a brand-building

The goal of brand building is straightforward. 

The goal is to leave an impression of your company’s goods and services that set you apart from the crowd. 

It is to be different – unique. 

It isn’t just having a domain name!

There are two basic models that you can employ to attempt to build a brand.  The models are mass market and niche.  Amazon.com is an excellent example of a mass-market brand.  Even when Amazon.com started as an online bookstore, they attempted to position themselves for the masses through advertising. 

The second basic model you can employ in brand building is niche segmentation.  People often overcomplicate the concept of a niche approach—it’s any segment of the overall mass market. 

A hypothetical example of this approach would be if Amazon.com either: stayed in only the bookseller business, only served the western US, etc.  A niche could be tiny, or it could be enormous.  The main thing to keep in mind concerning the model is that you are only trying to serve a portion of the larger market. 

When starting an Amazon FBA company, the default is to focus on a niche.  Not because the founder wants to stay within that niche.  The reason is likely due to minimal startup capital.  Most likely, a founder will pick one or two categories or products and form a company around them. 

This is where a lot of founders interested in building a brand start to fail.

Who’s brand are you building?

The thought process goes something like this:

“I can buy something from China, ship it into Amazon FBA, and I’ll make a ton of money because Amazon is the world leader in eCommerce sales and Amazon markets for me!”

It doesn’t work like that.

Yes, you can buy stuff relatively cheaply from China and ship it into Amazon FBA.  Yes, Amazon markets for you, and you will likely make sales—maybe even a lot of them. 

But, so can anyone else in the entire world!

The level of competition on Amazon is high and growing every day.  Even with keywords that are classified as “low competition,” there will still be competitors.  And in the presence of competitors, what happens? 

Margins decrease. 

That means, after you take the risk of buying products and shipping them into Amazon FBA, paying storage fees, etc., you may make a few pennies on the dollar that you invested. 

Who does that benefit? 

Amazon.

Amazon’s brand proposition includes providing customers with a wide selection of products at reasonable rates delivered quickly. 

What about your brand? 

Chances are the consumer picked your offering because it was the cheapest among the “sea of sameness” that returns from an Amazon search. 

Take a guess who else wins with this approach.

The winners in this model include the software providers and Amazon training course providers that helped you select the product to offer via Amazon FBA. 

Is it a lost cause?

Heavens No!

eCommerce is not only alive and well; it is a growing reality in our lives.  That is where people get taken advantage of–they believe the hype. 

What does it take?

First, you need to shift your mind from building

-an Amazon FBA business to simply building your business. 

-Amazon’s brand to simply building your brand.

-a software or training provider’s brand to building a future for yourself and your family.

Once you do that, the most critical phase is over.  By putting the opportunity in perspective, you have accomplished something significant.  From that position, doors open as you learn and then apply your new knowledge. 

It is a journey, but the journey is rewarding. 

Note: For full disclosure – the story of the Chevrolet Nova is somewhat disputed. Academic researchers have found it to be accurate while Snopes.com has found it to be false. What has not been addressed, though, is how much time was required to allow a brand perception to be swayed by the actual performance of the product. In brand-building, that is a key consideration.

Being Productive vs Being Busy

Being productive is different than being busy — in life and in business. Identifying value-added activities versus value-subtractive or value-neutral activities is a key first step. Then, like this article discusses, just because it is a value-added activity – the order of those activities make a difference too.  

Fearing Failure Part Two

In part one, I discussed fear and how to overcome it.  I suggest reading it before this article on learning from failure.  

Failure comes in many different forms, and your realization of the failure can come either suddenly or slowly.  The slow recognition of the failure may be the most gracious because you may feel that you have some options still available to turn things around.  The sudden realization of failure is most likely the hardest–being so unexpected.  In the end, though, the feeling is roughly the same.  

How could I have made that decision?  Why did I do it that way? Why didn’t I see that?  If I had only known that earlier?  Those are some of the questions that may haunt you once the point of failure hits.  While those questions initially surface only as a way to kick yourself in the backside for starting something that, in hindsight, you perhaps shouldn’t have started—you can turn them around to be beneficial.  You can use them to make failure educational.  So, when you find yourself in a pit of despair because you tried something that didn’t work out, get O.U.T!  

Own The Failure

The first step in turning your failure into a learning opportunity is to own the failure.  Now is not the time to pass the buck, lay blame elsewhere, or try your best imitation of “Teflon man.”  Now is the time to simply say, “Yeah, I got here because of me.”  You may feel that it is counterintuitive, but by realizing that you were empowered to make the decisions that got you into the failure implies that you were also empowered to have prevented the failure.  

Understand What Triggered The Failure

The next step is difficult, and it may take a little or a lot of research.  However, with the benefit of hindsight, you have an advantage.  The question you need to ask is, “Where did things go wrong?”  In my professional career in Information Technology operations, I have spent multiple hours doing root cause analysis.  It involves looking at the data and letting the data lead you to theories.  Once you have a theory, test it out in different scenarios to see if that theory holds up.  Your analysis may lead you to a specific decision that turned your ship into a wrong decision.  The study may yield that you never even should have started a particular project because you were doomed before you began.  Either way, now is the time to dig in to find the truth.  Once you find the truth, incorporate it into your decision-making process.  

Turn The Page

The last step is to turn the page—get over the fact that you had a failure.  Sometimes that is easier said than done, but you need to do it!  Once you turn that page, you have a feeling of empowerment or even accomplishment.  If you leave that page unturned, you may still have lingering thoughts of failure or also being a failure.  How sad would that be?  You may have just learned a piece of truth within months or with a few thousand dollars when someone else had to spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in school tuition to learn.  In most positions within the economy, an academic pedigree isn’t a good indicator of future job success.  What is a good predictor of future job success, though, is past job experience.  Now, you have that experience.  

Fear Of Failure

So while you have ample justification for wanting to avoid both fear and failure, don’t!  Analyze your concerns and analyze your failures.  Learn from them both!  By learning from both of them, you will likely accomplish more not only in your professional life but also in your personal life.  Once you exercise these muscles in one part of your life, you will end up feeling more confident.  Confidence breeds more confidence.  

If you still feel unsure of starting a new effort, you may benefit from hiring a coach.  By working with a coach, they can help you work through some of the decisions that you will need to make and can likely highlight some items in the future that you’d need to try to avoid.  Hiring a coach is an investment, but they may be able to help you avoid some of the more significant challenges you’d be facing.  

Fearing Failure Part One

Fear and failure.  Separately, they both are powerful.  When you combine fear and failure into the fear of failure, it can become immobilizing.  But why is that?  Fear, while often viewed as a negative emotion, can be very positive because it warns us of the potential of being harmed.  If you have that warning, you can do something to prepare for or mitigate the potential harm.  Having failed at something is also viewed as a negative outcome of attempting something.  However, trying something new is often very educational.  

By going through a process of trial and error, you have the potential of gaining knowledge capital that you could potentially apply throughout many different aspects of your life.  For instance, in starting this blog, I had the opportunity to either following a ‘do it yourself’ model or following a ‘managed service’ model. What I had learned from a previous “failure” is that paying for the managed service would free my time up to generate content for my blog rather than spending my time working on the technical infrastructure.  With a previous business, I was writing all the HTML code myself to create and manage the website.  In doing that, though, it pulled me away from other aspects of my business that could have generated more revenue.  As a former developer, I was veering toward what I was comfortable with rather than what I needed to accomplish.  

A common saying is that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.  That isn’t necessarily the case.  It truly depends upon what is triggering the feeling of fear.  If you needed to rely upon a skill that you had never developed to be successful, you would have a reason to be fearful.  For instance, if fear comes over you when asked to make a presentation in front of a broad audience, there are some steps you can take to deal with or eliminate that fear.  The steps are define the fear, address the fear and then overcome the fear.

Define It

Defining your fear takes some introspection and self-honesty.  In the example of giving a presentation, is the fear centered around your public speaking skills, your knowledge of the subject, or something else?  This step sounds very straight-forward, but it can be challenging.  

Fear can be based upon conscious thoughts, but it may also be based upon subconscious thought.  Depending upon the root of your fear, the path forward to be able to overcome the fear could be widely different.  Because of that, you genuinely need to be honest with yourself as to the why behind the fear.  Getting down to the real root of your fear is the only way that you’ll be able to overcome it.  Being fearful of standing up in front of a broad audience because your speaking skills aren’t polished is vastly different than being afraid of the possibility of ridicule over some physical imperfection.  Therefore, the more fine-grained that you can get on the why behind your fear, the more successful you will be in overcoming it.  

Address The Fear

You have to want to overcome a fear.  The fear emotion is based upon an assessment that you are facing harm.  The natural tendency is to avoid that potential harm. So, if you want to overcome that fear, eventually, you need to reach a critical point.  You need to realize that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.  Once you get to that point, your whole world could change.  From that vantage point, you can put together a plan for eventually overcoming your fear.  

If your fear of public speaking is rooted in your presentation skills, you can pull together a plan for improving those skills.  Or, if your fear is based upon your physical appearance, you can work with stylists to modify your update your physical presentation. If there are some underlying emotional issues, you can set aside some time to talk with a counselor or a religious leader.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and you can start seeing the possibility of overcoming the fear.  It may be a one-step plan, a two-step plan, or a multi-step plan, but as you progress through the steps, you should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Overcome It

Having followed your plan, now’s the time to re-approach what you had been fearful of in the first place.  Hopefully, at this point, the fear is gone.  But it might not be.  If the fear isn’t gone, you’d need to go back to the first step and reassess the why of your fear.  If your fear is based upon your subconscious, it could take a few cycles through this process to realize that reaching out to others may be necessary.  

In part two, I’ll review the failure component of the fear of failure.