Donal and I worked together in the Amazon Business team, supporting strategic accounts across the UK. His background was spent working within the InterContinental Hotels Group before transitioning over to the world of Amazon, where he primarily focused on advising "whales" on the 3rd party side of the business.
Donal and I worked together in the Amazon Business team, supporting strategic accounts across the UK. His background was spent working within the InterContinental Hotels Group before transitioning over to the world of Amazon, where he primarily focused on advising "whales" on the 3rd party side of the business.
I've enjoyed interviewing Amazon folks to date as I personally believe they offer a different perspective to those outside Jeff's 4 walls.
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In this episode we discuss:
[0:00:00] George: Welcome to It's always Day one. My name is George Reid, a former Amazonian turned Amazon consultant. Each week on the podcast you're gonna hear in this tree expert Brando on Amazon employees share their answers to the basic yet fundamental questions. You should be asking yourself about your Amazon business. Now, let's jump in. How, Donal Treacyd first. Julie, thank you so much for joining me on. It's always day one to kick things off. Would you mind giving us a bit of a little background? I obviously know who you are and where you're from and all that jazz. But for listeners out there, you want to paint the picture? Why? I decided I wanted you to come speak with us today on the Amazon. Podcaster is it's always they want.
[0:00:43] Donal Treacy: Sure. Yeah. Well, first of all, George, thanks very much for having me on great to catch up again after all that time, So, yeah, so we obviously worked together quite briefly. And when we were at Amazon as I arrived in, you were on the way out. So, like you, I'm in an ex Amazonian. Um, I have quite a diverse background across a number of different industries, But I've always worked in, um, account management sales on DH on this was looking after he partners for the businesses that I've been in. So currently, I'm gonna count director for BT British Telecom, based over in Ireland. Ah, before Thus, I worked for about 2.5 3 years as, um, a strategic account manager and later a team leader as Amazon business. So the B two b arm of Amazon, looking after a procurement Andi Before that I spent quite a number of years in the corporate travel industry. So I worked for H G or Intercontinental Hotel Group, who at the time I was there was the biggest hotel company in the world, about 6000 hotels. Andi I looked after the relationship with our hard party travelled providers. So, like the likes of kind of booking dot com, Expedia, those kind of big corporate Web sites as well as companies would be travelling for corporate business. So I I've taken a lot from the industries that I've bean in Andi, the backgrounds I've been in, they've obviously been very, very different types of companies. But us, given that we're to talk about Amazon Yeah, It was an amazing experience to work there. It was great to be able to take things from a beam or traditional types of businesses on DH. Apply them to Amazon. Particularly given this when the section that I worked on with you was B to B on a lot of the kind of companies that we worked with were not particularly used to the idea, let alone the actual practise off selling online and e commerce.
[0:02:50] George: I think that I need to be quite nicely into one of the questions anywhere about We obviously worked in the Amazon business side of things with strategic sellers. So for those and familiar, like the slightly larger sellers on the platform working the premise, they're gonna have the most selection. So it was logical to bring them on board, get those business offerings out as soon as possible. So with that in mind, what do you think you've spent more time in it than I did were some of the common challenges you notice strategic sellers facing on Amazon And how typically were they overcoming them?
[0:03:25] Donal Treacy: I think there was a couple of issues. I think the 1st 1 wass maybe a misunderstanding about the role Amazon was gonna play in their business. So when we would contact these companies on, But we would try and discuss where Amazon could could help make them a little bit more successful, very often. Kind of bristled a little bit, and they kind of got their backs up Thinking Bess, Amazon is the competition. Amazonas, the enemy. Amazon is where, um, people go when they don't want to buy from me, that they're gonna take our products and put us out of business. And they're going to do all of, you know, these kind of things. Whereas I think in reality wass the way I always saw Amazon on, But I would try and get people to see us is that it's simply a sales channel. Um, I mentioned earlier this I had come in from the corporate hotel industry and that a lot of my work was working with online travel agencies. You know, the bed bags, things like booking dot commer Expedia hotels don't no, they don't particularly like paying commission, but they don't fear these places. They don't think that just because we're going to go out of business. And while they're there. They worked very, very hard to encourage loyalty and direct direct booking. They simply see us as a sales channel, and for them it's very normal. Thus, they'll have one price on Expedia and one price and booking dot com and one price. When you go direct on, when you go direct, you may get a level of service that you don't guess when you when you go through a provider like this on, and it works out very well for them. They have a revenue manager. Andre understands how to play the system to win like best. And that's always the attitude I tried to take into my conversations with industry leaders who had never sold online bus. Amazon is simply one channel, and that set up, you've probably will end up having is you're gonna have, maybe direct sales. You might have distributor's who who sell your products and they'll have another set of pricing. You have Amazon who sell your products. May might work with eBay. They might work, which you know Alibaba or they might work using any other number of kind of things like XY or nothing. The high straighter, you know, things like these on DH, they can have a different pricing strategy for all of these. That's quite done, and I could better just over time. I don't think a lot of people saw it that way and trying to get them toe stop. Seeing this is a one off commitment on DME or of an ongoing journey was a really big thing to try and get them to get their head around. Um, I think the second thing wass, that they didn't quite understand what's we were pitching to them initially. They're very used to being a distributor. Agreement on Amazon dolls have a Venator set up as well, Plus the marketplace is anybody listening to this podcast nose is very much a self service platform, and it's something that you're never done with. I think a lot of them, particularly those who were leaders in their little niche industry, kind of had this idea ofthe right. Okay, Donal Treacyd's command he's had this amazing opportunity to discuss about, you know, the world would be to be great. Let's do it. Let's get everything, open the side, sit back and watch the pounds roll in on. Obviously is nowhere near as simple as that on DH trying to, I suppose not trying. Teo, take the piss out of them and, you know, take up another notch on who we've won over onto. The platform was always important and actually take a step back and manage their expectations. Because if they're gonna come on with that attitude, they simply will not be successful on all that's gonna happen from Amazon. Perspective is, we would have a very high profile company. Talking about what, Ah, difficult experience. It wass so managing their expectations. But what's actually going to be needed to be successful on the platform,
[0:07:40] George: I think, says you broke down two Interesting point. It's there. But one. You can make the comparison to booking dot com, which I completely get. And there their vendors, the merchants, whatever you want to call them. They were perhaps more accustomed to being on these different channels, and they viewed them his channels and you write that different prices. Perhaps obviously, Amazon frown a little bit more about having different prices in this all fancy machines working night and day to ensure that people are kept in line with their pricing and ensuring that its competitive as they would call it. It matches the website where you mentioned they're getting a different level of service playing the system a little bit. What was some of the clever things that perhaps you're advising when it was on the phone? More seven email? Or you saw people implementing as a way for them to offer that extra service on our website or do something a little bit different because they ultimately did have to charge the same price?
[0:08:42] Donal Treacy: I think a lot of it comes down to, and so there's a few elements this with business to business, Um, products. Most of this is quite complex solutions that they're offering. There might be particular kinds off. You know, of electronic equipment that people need. It might be kissing out an office. You know, things like that. I'm trying to give, you know training included. Trying to give extended warranties included beating Amazon's returns. Policy is not a difficult area is not an easy thing to do, but I've seen companies go and try and go down that rolled off like if your machine breaks and five years after purchase will look after that for you. I've seen them do things like Oh, okay. Perfect. You've You've both here. And while they're not trying Teo under court, Amazon or anything like best Amazon business at the time that I was working for them didn't offer, like, negotiated pricing on DH, they would just mentioned that what? We have membership programmes. We have loyalty schemes that if you are looking at repeat business that you know, you you log in, you have the passwords on DH. If those repeat business going in that way transactional business or long tail, spend this. What Amazon should be targeting Andi. I think for most of our companies that we worked with, that was very much how we saw ourselves. Thus, there's going to be business out there that is strategic, and it's very planned. And although Amazon would love, I'm sure to capture some of us. We weren't set up to do that, and we didn't try to. What we tried to do is get them into a mind set off. Here's business. You're already getting on DH. People could come to Amazon for that, but I'm not sure why they would. Why is much more likely for you is we're gonna put you in touch with companies that you haven't engaged with already. So if you're a massive, massive company trying to reach every single little business who wanted by ones and twos of your product isn't worth your time, you wantto think very 80 20. I'm gonna focus all my salesmen into engaging these cos they're gonna Sellem bulk. We're gonna have a great relationship with them. It might be the things like, you know, taking their guys out to Gulf days and, you know, classic B to B hard, nothing but capturing the ones and twos business. They add up in a very, very big way. And that's where Amazon helps. And it works the other way, too. If you're a small company, getting in front of, you know, a major major buyer is almost impossible for you. Bus. You know, some of the companies who are buying on Amazon business, I think I think the biggest company that I was aware of was Seamans, that they were doing their procurement rounds on business. So if you are ah, small company from you know, West Country in England's trying to engage Seaman's to buy from you is going to be impossible. Who do you talkto boss? What can happen is you have little drip feeds. You might have an interesting products that they weren't aware of, and they see their through Amazon. So the ways they would get the ways we get around the world were things like those trainings. That was kind of extra guarantees on it might even be things like product lines that they had held in reserve on. That was something that we I would see a lot off where companies Woods not take our advice about selling everything on Amazon. And they may keep one product or two products back in reserve. Andre would experiment with us. I mean, as you know, George advice, um, that we would always given that I would still give any company is come on board with your full selection of products For reasons that I know that you've spoken about it. Lent bus companies did experiment with keeping a product or two talked away. This you need to come to them direct to guess on DH had varying levels of success.
[0:12:51] George: It's it's interesting, you say so I've spoken to yourself. I spoke to Benny of the Week I spoke. Teo, Tony Rebecca is still at Amazon, and obviously I'm not. I'm not allowed to air their interview. They were just practise warm up until Amazon PR signs off on that bad. Essentially, I asked similar questions, and they all inadvertently came back to that same point off the importance of having your full selection on this. It was interesting. You reiterate that as well, and it's also fast. Now you describe how Seaman's air on the platform and you had, perhaps you would. You would struggle to connect with a senior buyer at Siemens as a small client, and you could have dio I've gotta approach one linked in and I've gotta introduced are slightly quirky product. But if they're browsing on Amazon, in essence, got the similar opportunities available lists a lot of the big players selling products, in particular if you've got something a little bit unique as well. So it's a really interesting way of looking at it on that membership is well, I think really powerful, and I think for those listening, thinking of how else can we really create an experience? You can still create memberships and lofty schemes for Amazon with light, subscribe and save et cetera, but that membership in that loyalty scheme you can set up on the back of Amazon purchase right. I know it's always a little frowned upon by by Amazons terms and conditions, but there are still opportunities there for you to go. Okay, let's say I was working with someone selling tonic earlier if they had a beautiful little video on their website, and they directed someone to that video of the best way to use this tonic and three cool ways to build it into drinks that improves the experience. It's little bit grey area from Amazon perspective, because you are sending them to a website that you are offering additional value if in turn there, then sat on your Web site and they see those other schemes you've got in place. That's the benefit of having them. You've used Amazon to acquire the customer, which is why it's important to be there, and then your website is doing other sorts of funky things, too. Retain the customer potential.
[0:15:01] Donal Treacy: I think George is well that obviously my focus while I worked at Amazon was exclusively in the business to business world. But if you open them up, Pinto engaging the customer like the individual customer, something that I know. Speaking to colleagues at Amazon and actually are companies that sell as well is even things like your packaging. Um, if you're selling through FDA and your products will arrive in Amazon. Brendan Boxing on DH It's functional, but it's not the most beautiful product in the world. That's if you're selling direct or you're on your own size. How Maney Boxing video unboxing videos Have you seen online? It's become a big thing. People love to get a really, really beautiful product from somebody. Um, that's designed, well, that's wrapped well, that's set up well, and it feels like a really special thing when this arrives in the post, Um, people are, you know, they're used to getting their their brown Amazon box that comes in and they opened it up and squashed on the cardboard. And that's this bus. How many products have you seen that you actually take a phone's a lot. You're willing to put this up on instrument? You're one of what's happened to somebody else to show what amazing thing has committed through the door like sentries don't cause much, Boss, they're so Sochi.
[0:16:23] George: Yeah, I use the term. There's two things. One is desert Invoke an emotion upon delivery. And two, is there something that for some reason you just don't want to throw it away. And that could be an insect Could be target in the U. S. I think half this Siri's of boxes, which has got dog inside of them that plays a dog journey. There is just something that invokes the motion on DH for those listing a company that does this Really beware the unboxing thing that you mentioned a company called Lumi L u m I go look there on boxing experiences online and just draw some inspiration from that. And that's it's still something I think you could do with Amazon with your frustration free packaging. If you can get to the certain tear and to be be eligible, you can obviously go out as it's on. Also, even if it is getting sent inside of Amazon box, you can still wants to open that up. You can still do a lot with kind of your product's packaging there. So Donal Treacyd, moving on to another question before we get into a rabbit hole there. Yeah, you said you said something, which I thought was quite interesting about people misunderstanding Amazon's role. And that brings me toe interesting question of us. Lots of people came to know your thoughts. What do you think that biggest threat is to an Amazon business right now? Um,
[0:17:43] Donal Treacy: to an Amazon, you I'm assuming you don't mean Amazon business, but business that sells on Amazon.
[0:17:49] George: That's because I'm not talking about eight of us talking about the end of the Amazon marketplace.
[0:17:55] Donal Treacy: And the biggest breast without a shadow of a doubt, is it's your product. Be coming commoditised without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, you need to have a unique message you need to have, like something that sets your product is different from somebody else. You could be a 1,000,000 trillion trillion% sure best. There are no unique products in the world anymore. Everything can be replicated and built. If you buy a shoe from, you know, Nike or Adidas. Whoever it is, you can buy the exact same bloody shoes down the marketplace. I don't even need the Amazon record place. I mean, down some fella from dodgy geezer flag a knockoff. But the reason you you pay it is because of the brand name on DH. That's not gonna necessarily be the same for everybody else. But there are other messages that you can think about, like, What's your sustainability like? What gonna work you doing on diversity where your profits going? Are you giving something to charity? People love all this kind of stuff because our own personal sense of kind of social responsibility it has really kicked on over the last couple of years. These air really key messages. If you're doing this kind of thing, don't keep it to yourself. Tell, you know, you talk about this. Used the enhanced brown content. Let them know that who is buying, who is selling the product and what's important to you as a business. And if you can do thus on difference, you're safe yourself from the other people who are selling. You know, cheaper replicas are replica versions of your product, and that's really, really important.
[0:19:37] George: Yeah, I think that the echoes a lot what I say as well. It's gonna that threat of someone undercutting you, and then if you don't have a solid arguments to why they should be buying your product at a slightly higher price point. You haven't built that grandma out. You're in a very vulnerable position because ultimately look at the tools get more, more powerful. There are people all over the world either being outsourced today or doing it for themselves, hunting for an opportunity where you haven't got a good message. But you've got a good sales volume. I think even some of the biggest players out there I spoke to one of the UK's biggest sellers, you the day on DH. I was looking at their products, and they still haven't nailed that brand message. Despite doing over £1,000,000 a month in revenue just in the UK, it's a huge volume top 10 seller. But the branding just wasn't strong enough to protect themselves off Commoditisation.
[0:20:39] Donal Treacy: Yeah, it's, I mean, for me. It's an absolute no brainer. This should be one of the single biggest things that you should be thinking about. If you're an Amazon seller, is why you? Because there are very, very few companies I'm talking. You can count them on your hands here who can out price anybody in the world there will always be somebody willing to do the job cheaper than you. And if you get into this, all that happens is you're in a race to the bottom and that doesn't help the customer. It doesn't help you, Andi. It's certainly doesn't help your business. So what you should be thinking instead is what can I offer it? That's different to anybody else, and it might be something very, very small. But if that small thing is enough to capture a small part of the Marcus, then you can do very, very well for yourself. You don't need to sell toe everybody. You just need to know who your customers and act accordingly.
[0:21:35] George: And you know, you make you make a great point now about just capturing that small share of the market, particularly even if you're selling in a very large marketplace and you go, I don't need to appeal to everybody. I don't need to have a product that is going to be very popular for everybody in this market. I'm just cutting a little portion away and getting my message. Everything I'm doing is talking to them. So with that being said, if you could hire just one individual at the moment to help an Amazon brand. What would their skill set B on DH? Why?
[0:22:08] Donal Treacy: Who? Um, that's a question, I think with the with the brands. I feel that your if you're a business owner, the brand message and your understanding is something thus I feel you need to take responsibility for. And I wouldn't have thus be something that you outsource. Because if it is, then it's It's not authentic where I feel that you should be. Maybe outsourcing is in having somebody help you craft that message. I'm particularly being able to do it across multiple channels. Um, so you understand that your company your high quality your you know, whatever it is that that sets you apart from somebody else. Um, having somebody who Khun turned that narrative into something tangible and into something that's visual, I'm into something that lasts in the mind of the customers because that is a skill that not everybody has. Um, I've had sit downs with very, very large companies who, when we sit down for an hour and thrash it out over coffee, we can arrive
[0:23:21] George: and
[0:23:21] Donal Treacy: what that message is, But they can display us on an email can display it on Amazon on their old without trying to find somebody in marketing who couldn't go and do this on DH. That's why if you have a very big company, find you have an in house marketing team, you work with pee. Are you communications? And between them they'll arrive at a message. Fast fits your tone, and that fits your your brands on. Gus can maybe win you business you didn't have. If you're a small business, that's not something that's available to you. And that's where I'd be spending my time with my money
[0:23:59] George: to thinking right. I'm gonna curate the message myself. I'm going to write down those values, be very solid on those values, build my product around those values. But then, when it comes to communicating it, I need a copywriter. I need a someone who's good at graphics in order to take it out on this name. Visualise and it's I chatted, said good graphic design to do that. And he said, one of the things that really helps someone, a zoo because he's a freelancer himself. Someone who's freelancing, graphics and creating concept is having a solid understanding off kind of a brand bible of these are our vow of use, they said. That's often where people become unstuck because there haven't got its solid enough in their head. So when they passed something over to the designer designer, never truly kind of calculate. That's exactly what what the brand means. S. O. I think if you are going to go out nor outsources noting down and exactly okay here is like the leadership prince was, for argument's sake, Obama's and noted them down exactly what you want to be exactly what type of customer you're going after, exactly what they're passionate about on DH. If you're very solid on that, everything else is going to sit on top of it. But if that's a bit flimsy and you're not quite sure yourself, it's just taking a moment before you go and go. Here's a grand to a video or Griffiths create me something. I've given them a couple of bullet points and that's it. You need to be very clear
[0:25:33] Donal Treacy: on it. I think you need to be brave as well, George. I think if you're saying what you're for, then what you leave out is what you're not for, and that's something people aren't always willing to do. Like some of the some of the terms I threw out there a couple of minutes ago were sustainability, diversity, high quality, Um, people. Jenny generally jumps. They're good at everything. They don't value everything on DH. That's OK. They don't have toe boss. Very often feel that they have to be seen to do every single thing amazingly, on DH there often not willing Teo to draw that line in the sand on these air values that are important to me and that I that I live by and that I live in my business and I can demonstrate that really, really clearly on DH instead, it just gets lost in these of the trends right now that I need to focus up like if you're if you're a family business established 100 years ago, that's a huge thing that you know you've been able to build this over time and that you're high craftsmanship and that, you know, ex wives that I don't know that this is where you've come from, and that's that message of reliability. And, um, you know that you're a local, a local everyday company who has stood the test of time because you're a high quality seller. That's a really powerful message if you can convey that in the right way, because I
[0:27:02] George: think someone like Game One example
[0:27:05] Donal Treacy: Exactly perfect example. Guinness has been around since the 17 hundreds on DH. It's a staple of Irish business, their advertising, their marketing, us so one points because they don't overcomplicate in any way. That American is very, very simple. But if you start trying everything to bring in that your innovative as well as all of this or that, you're somebody who's asked, you know, they're cutting edge or there's somebody who is, um, you know, putting people first Storey. There's so many ways that you can take your company, but you can't be everything to all people. And until you can kind of communicate that to somebody and make your peace with us, I don't think it's something that you're gonna be able to come across, is authentic and genuine with,
[0:27:56] George: I think yeah, even if you look at the latest apple advert, for instance, with the With the Working From Home, which was a straight up genius like that. Their marketing is so on point because they understand their message on that. There could be touched on being innovative. That's exactly what they're pushing. But they're communicating in such a way where they're talking very much about the benefits more so than the features on DH, their messages so clear for everything they do the same as Guinness. Like, if you see Guinness adverts, they don't necessarily talk about how they're using the best technology or how they're giving X y Zed back to local businesses in Ireland, for instance, that's not the message they're running with. The message is very clear about one of their history and their roots and that sort of thing, even though they could be doing the other stuff. I think it's is being clear we could be doing other stuff, and there's no downside to it sorting things sustainably or doing some charitable stuff, but only have one message and not trying to be everything
[0:28:59] Donal Treacy: right exactly, it's it's so very important to do. Otherwise you're just gonna end up with a hot mess of both boards that nobody
[0:29:10] George: really believed stuff, absolute it on with that being said brings one to another question off. What? What bad recommendations Did you hear on such a frequent occasion when working Amazon? When that could be two brands, it could be from brands. It could be people on the phone telling people what to do aboard some of the worst recommendations you were hearing. I'm in kind of the Amazon, Stace.
[0:29:35] Donal Treacy: Oh, there's so many, um, I think a lawsuit of bad recommendations that I used to hear were coming from people who, um, we're coming from the customers themselves, who would rightly take the view of that. They were true experts in their in their arenas, but their arena wasn't the online arena. So they were trying to take, um, their learnings and their successes from the offline environment, the world where Ivan account manager and you've helped manager and we shake on us and that business man the you know, coming in and trying to, like, pitch their product to me or to Amazon think wasting their time and effort in that way, rather than actually thinking about who their customers, um, that the individual and user there pitching and presentation and, you know, trying to be overly commercial that ivory top top end with something that I struggle with Teo to get these people to stop thinking about and just to put the customer first, who's using your product, what's important to them and taking the classic Amazon. Can we make it cheaper for them? Okay, if in us can we make it a better experience for them? You know, whether that's through better delivery, whether that's true, Um, you know, being able to offer in other countries is something like this and just really focusing on just keeping their fly wheel spinning. I think some of the other advice that I used to hear some inexperience colleagues give into was this. Wait and see attitude night. People will come on board on DH. Um, agree that actually, yes. Selling on Amazon does make sense for us on the message that you're giving radi resonates Ah, we're gonna sell in the u. K. Um, we have the opportunity at no extra cost to sell in Germany, in France, in Italy, in Spain, a boss for no reason other than it just is this oven extra step, we're gonna hold back for a year or two and just kind of see how things go, that phrase. We're going to see how things go. That, for me is is the death of a business on Amazon. It might be We're going to see how it goes with listing our full selection, which we talked about earlier it might be We're gonna see how it goes before we pay into advertising, which is, I mean, eluded. So they want to see you could have the best product on the entire marketplace. But if nobody knows it's there than it's worth absolutely zilch. Teo Andi. We'll see how it goes before we actually engage the full list of customers we can like. People would pay the same money for reaching 100 million customers rather than 300 million customers.
[0:32:39] George: Do you think that's the strange thing? Is a lot of pushing it into the EU and remember them conversations ourself that, like we're just going to start with the UK and then, yeah, see how things go? And it was deluded. Do you think that comes in a little bit from, Or Old head? Perhaps old ways of doing business which was officially offline on its ingrained in them that Oh God it If we're going to go into France, Germany, Italy, Spain, like there's gonna be so many logistical problems, just let's not even think about that. Let let's just work on during the UK solely because they have had these painful experiences, perhaps in the past. Or do you think it was stubbornness why they wouldn't d'oh! Or what do you think was gonna name reasons why people are so reluctant to push into new markets?
[0:33:29] Donal Treacy: So I think I'm going to give people a little bit off benefit of the doubt around Brexit's, which certainly didn't help the matter. I think there was some concern this I'm gonna have products stranded over in Madrid somewhere and I won't be able to get them back. But I think the reality is for most people, and this is not unique to Amazon. This is same for any kind of business decision that is being made. People are looking for the path of least resistance. They're looking for the quickest. Yes, they could guess on a very, very common Um, this was experienced from me dealing with kind of quite large companies. Wass might have a director or am you know, director of sales director from marketing head of E commerce, who fully supported getting onto the Amazon platform who had been struggling internally for this year's on, would be very much a champion for what it was we were trying to suggest internally in the company on, and they were looking for the quickest. Yes, they could get to their board on DH.
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