Originally published on June 5, 2018, updated June 10, 2020
A growing business is an exciting one, but also one that can take up more and more time that you may not have. As your Amazon business grows and you find yourself needing extra hands, you may have asked yourself whether it’s best to do the work in house or outsource to a freelancer or agency.
While there is no one right answer for everyone, I’ll outline some of the common reasons many 3P Amazon sellers choose to outsource to an Amazon agency and then discuss how to find an Amazon agency.
As the Amazon marketplace attracts more and more sellers, and as Amazon rolls out tools for 3P sellers such as Storefront and A+ Content, you need to stay on top of changes and understand how to best leverage the new tools. I’ve seen Storefronts with poor designs resulting in poor conversion rates and A+/Enhanced Brand Content that looks great on desktop but is unreadable on mobile. I’ve also seen product pages done by “experts” that use so much keyword stuffing that anyone reading the copy would not understand what the product is.
As you look for someone to optimize your product page, whether it’s copy and keywords, or images and A+ Content, ask them about their techniques and how they plan to optimize your product page. Make sure they are taking into account the full customer experience, including mobile optimization, and are not just relying on tricks and gimmicks to get keywords indexed.
Advertising has become a necessary part of selling on the Amazon marketplace. Sponsored Product ads have gotten much more competitive, with average cost per click increasing dramatically across categories. Headline Search ads require different tactics than those used with Sponsored Products. And more ad platforms are likely in the works.
If you want to get the most out of your ad spend, you need to be very strategic in how you use these different platforms and how you set up your campaigns. Amazon advertising is also not a “set it and forget it” platform. It requires weekly review of all the data campaigns generate and optimization based on what the data tells you.
If you are struggling with advertising, either with lack of time or knowledge, I would highly recommend hiring an expert in Amazon advertising. When vetting and agency or consultant, be sure that they have actual Amazon Sponsored Products experience. Beware of agencies that are primarily experts in other types of PPC advertising and are just getting into the Amazon ad market. Amazon has its own algorithms and needs different strategies and tactics then a platform like AdWords. Find someone who can explain what they are doing and why and who has a history of results with Amazon advertising.
If you have sold on Amazon for any length of time you are aware of how quickly Amazon can change and how little they sometimes share with sellers. Recent changes include the latest round of review manipulation crackdowns, updated storage and long term storage fees, as well as the ability to upload videos to the product page video shorts section.
Some of these changes were announced, others rolled out quietly. If you have not been able to stay up to date with the constant changes, considering hiring someone who not only will stay up to date but will also understand what kind of opportunity or threat the change poses to your business and how to best react.
When looking for someone to consult with or outsource to, make sure they are not only up to date with the latest policies but that they are committed complying with Amazon policies and will use only white hat tactics. Black or even grey hat tactics that violate or use creative interpretations of Amazon policies will only get your account into trouble and even suspended.
If you are just starting out as an Amazon seller there is a lot to learn. From FBA vs. SFP to dealing with seller support and figuring out how to do bulk uploads, there is a lot to managing this channel. For those who are do-it-yourselfers, there are a lot of blogs, webinars, and courses out there to help you learn. For others who are short on time and would rather focus on building their business, hiring a consultant or agency to help you get started can be invaluable.
Avoid anyone who promises a quick and easy path to a wildly successful Amazon business.
When looking for an expert to help, avoid anyone who promises a quick and easy path to a wildly successful Amazon business. While launching on Amazon was easy just a few years ago, it now takes a lot of strategy, marketing, money, and even time to become successful.
When speaking with sellers interested in hiring my firm, I am very clear regarding the type of investment that is needed to get launched on Amazon. If you are not willing to spend money on advertising, promotions, good copy, and graphics, even an expert agency will not be able to do much for you. How much you need to spend will very much depend on what product niche you are in. Find someone who will give you an honest opinion on what it will take to help your particular product to succeed.
If you are actively growing a business and a brand, you likely would rather spend the majority of your time developing your business. This can leave you with little time to really master selling on Amazon and you would be better served outsourcing to someone with the experience and dedication to the Amazon channel. Focus on what you are good at and where your interests lie and hire out the rest. This is true for many business tasks including accounting, design, marketing, etc.
Focus on what you are good at and where your interests lie and hire out the rest.
Create a list of what you want to keep in house vs outsource. Some clients we work with prefer to handle all their inventory monitoring themselves, and outsource just the advertising. Others don’t have the bandwidth to be closely monitoring their Amazon account and need an agency who can take care of the entire Amazon channel. They then rely on the agency to send regular updates on sales metrics, account health, inventory status, marketing efforts, etc. Find an agency that will take care of your specific needs and allow you to run your business in the most efficient way possible.
1. You need to improve product page traffic and conversion.
2. You want to outsource weekly ad optimization.
3. You're struggling to keep up with policy changes.
4. You're new to Amazon.
5. You want to focus on product development or other sales channels.
Whether you choose to outsource or manage your Amazon channel in house, the key to success is making sure whoever is tasked with managing Amazon operations and advertising is up to date on the latest policies, strategies, and tactics. Also keep in mind that someone who is great at inventory forecasting and data analysis may not be great at customer service or marketing. Review all the different tasks it takes to manage your Amazon account and decide which ones your business model and staff are best suited for and which tasks it would be better to hire out.
As your business grows and you realize it’s time to expand, outsourcing is a great way to keep costs down and bring in specialized talent. Instead of creating internal accounting, marketing, HR, and even Amazon departments, consider creating a network of service providers with the expertise and tools that will take your business to the next level.
While there are a lot of great agencies out there, there are of course those that lack experience or that just would not be a good fit for your company. So how do you decide who to hire? There are several factors that go into vetting and hiring an agency that will be a good fit for your company.
Before even starting to interview agencies, you need to be clear on what services you need from them. Do you need advertising help? Are you optimizing product listings or A+ content? Do you want support for inventory management or even someone to manage the whole channel for you?
Decide what you want to outsource and also how involved you want to be. I work with some clients who are very hands off and leave us to keep things running and give them regular updates. Other clients are much more involved with decision making and prefer to handle certain tasks themselves. Determine what you want your level of involvement to be.
Also, think about what type of agency or consultant you want to work with. Larger agencies may have more collective experience and resources, but you may be one of dozens or even hundreds of clients and receive less personalized experience. Individual consultants may have fewer resources, but may provide more personalized attention to your account.
Once you have outlined what you need and how you want to work with your agency, start looking for one that provides the services you need and has a working style you are comfortable with. There are several ways to start looking. Sites like Upwork will help you find individual contractors and consultants. A search on Google will help you find more established companies and agencies. There are also a growing number of Amazon conferences with many service providers in attendance you can meet.
My favorite way, however, is getting referrals. Do other sellers you know use an agency? Can other service providers you use refer you to someone they trust? With a referral you can question the person giving the referral and get a feel for how that particular agency works and the results they are able to provide.
Once you get a short list of Amazon contractors or agencies you think may be a good fit for your company, set up some time to speak with them on the phone. Be clear about the services you need, the results you are looking for and how you would like to work together.
Some questions you can ask are as follows:
A good agency will have a few questions for you, as well. They will want to know what category you sell in, how many SKUs you have, what recent sales have been like, and what other channels you may be selling on. Speaking from an agency perspective, we ask these questions so that we can get a better idea whether or not we can help you.
You want someone who is up to date on the latest changes from Amazon and the competition, someone who can help you stay ahead of the pack.
Some of us specialize in particular categories or with different sizes of sellers. We want to make sure we are a good fit for you and that we can actually help. It’s frustrating for both agency and seller to start work together only to find out that the agency is not a good match for that particular seller’s niche.
So besides ensuring that an agency provides the services you need, how can you determine if they will actually deliver results? There are few things you can ask them.
Beware of guarantees or too-good-to-be-true promises. While a 100% guarantee is what we all want to hear, the reality of selling on Amazon is so complex that there just are not any. If someone promises immediate or guaranteed results you may want to press further into what methods they are using and get case studies or references.
Do your homework when hiring an Amazon agency and make sure they are a good fit for your company. Knowing what services you want, outlining your expectations and asking the potential agency specific questions on their methods and background will help you find a company that will be a good fit for you.
Finding the right agency can mean increased sales for your business and less stress for you, so don’t shy away from exploring the opportunities to outsource parts of your Amazon business to an expert.
Originally published on June 5, 2018, updated June 10, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.