Craig Brockie Interview with Nick Shucet

Nick (00:00)

Hey, what's up, everyone. Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers Podcast. Today, we've got Craig Brockie on the call. Thanks for coming on Craig. How are you doing today, man?

Craig: (00:14)

Doing awesome, Nick. Great to be here. 

Nick (00:16) 

Did you get all your crypto notifications turned off and all that stuff?  

Craig (00:20)

Indeed. I think we're gonna be safe and sound for 30 minutes here,

Getting to Know Craig a Little Better

Nick (00:24)

So cool. All right, man. Well, where are you calling in from today?

Craig (00:30)

Clearwater Beach, Florida. I live in an area called Island Estates. It's straight before the beach. It's a boating community. So we've got a few jet skis off the backyard here and a boat club membership. So we get to take up boats whenever we want. So that's pretty good. I like the lifestyle here. It's a lot hotter than it was in Newport Beach especially Canada, where I grew up. 

Nick (00:50)

OK, nice. And how long ago did you move down to Florida?


That was at the end of 2018. And I was really glad to be here during the last year when things were getting crazy in California. It's definitely a lot more free over here.

Nick (1:05)

Yeah. They just changed some things here in Virginia Beach and for the better, you know, in my opinion. So it's been nice. So yeah, man. That's nice down in Florida. So you got a boat? Do you get out on the water pretty often?

Craig (1:23)

Probably once a week. I enjoy it a lot. I got out these sit-down jet skis that are pretty fun. But we also have a standup jet ski, and that's a lot of fun. I never grew up using standup jet skis, but I used to do a lot of water skiing. So it’s kind of in-between wakeboarding, water skiing, and jet skiing. You get to fall in a lot and take jumps and stuff—It's pretty fun.

Nick (1:45)

Nice, man. I love getting out on the water, just like on anything I possibly can, you know. Just feels so good being out there, man. 

Nick (01:45)

So, let's dig into your journey in business a little bit, man. When did you get started with entrepreneurship, was Amazon your first thing, or was it something else?

Craig on his Business Journey

Craig (02:09)

Well, I did websites. I started doing websites in 1996. Actually way back when you actually had to convince someone that they needed a website. So that was when I was 21 years old. I started a business with a partner back then and had to learn how to sell. So I guess the first major skill that I had to learn was how to close deals.

And, you know, get people interested in their own business enough that they'd wanna promote it with you and trust you enough to do it. And so that was up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is super cold—very conservative place, like a farming community, basically. I mean, it's a city, but it's really agriculturally based. And then found them to be really conservative. 

Then I started going back to Ontario, where I grew up. And pitching, hunting, and fishing lodges to get them, tourists, down for fishing and hunting and stuff.

Getting into SEO

Craig (03:00)

So that's where I really cut my teeth, and that's when I got into SEO. And basically, 1997 or so is when I got into SEO. The main reason is because we had a client who happened to be a friend of the family and he was just so frustrated. He wasn't getting business from his website, and he cut out some other advertising spending to make room for his website. 

So I felt really bad that he wasn't getting any business. So I would even search for his website, and it would come up as an untitled document in the search engine. And at that time, it was probably Alt Vista or Infoseek or Excite, one of those ones.

How Craig Started Brand Reputation Management

Craig (03:35)

It was way before Google and Yahoo were around then. And then I realized, “Okay, wow, we need to actually put some keywords in here and put things in the right places to start ranking.” And I started seeing some of the tricks, the guys that were ranking at the top of the list we're using. Just like you and I do today on Amazon, as we like. And we see who's ranking at the top.

And what are they doing differently? And how can we emulate some of those things and do them better? And then we kept on running that till about 2006 and then tried to, you know, get into another business online, and that kind of failed. So I just kind of retired for a little bit, then ran outta money. And really, as I needed to get back into business, I started doing reputation management—online reputation management. 

And that was so-so, but a really tough gig. And then, at the time, I met these people who were part of my church and they were… they had no past internet experience. This was 2015, and they were just killing it on Amazon, and they had never run E-commerce or had done anything online before. And I was like, “Wow. If two green people can kill it on Amazon, I should learn something about that.”

So I signed up with ASM, and my wife actually started the ASM course while I was running the reputation management business. And then over time, I just look that over. And today we've got a great team of executives here and doing over 10 million in sales and really have a good thing going on.

Nick (05:11)

Nice man. That's pretty cool. The “reputation management,” is that, kind of like authority building, like your presence on the internet, positioning yourself. Is that what it is?

Getting and Managing Brands

Craig: (05:21)

Yeah. Well, typically what we would do in prospecting is look for people that had some like, I'd look at doctors, lawyers, anything, anybody whose high net worth of businesses had some sort of negative report or something showing up at the top of the list. We also did some advertising too, for people looking for reputation management, but the cost per lead on that, I think was close to $2,000 per lead.

To get a reputation management client using Google AdSense, no AdWord, Sorry. But yeah, it's a really tough gig because trying to clean up the first page of Google results and get all the negative stuff out of there, you have to push a lot of positive PR and, you know, you can do Forbes articles and all these kinds of things, but it's expensive.

 It takes a lot of time and it's still no guarantee that you're gonna be able to push all the negative stuff out of there.

Leveraging Brand PR on Amazon

Nick (06:14)

Nice man, yeah. That does sound difficult to do. And that's still something I'm navigating a lot is that SEO marketing, more traditional world versus Amazon. Have you been able to leverage that experience? Like, do you do PR stuff for your products?

Craig: (06:34)

Well, very... on a limited scale. We do so well on Amazon. Within Amazon, we do some paid Google advertising with quartile, but it's not anything like a home run. We don't do organic SEO right now either. So that's something that I've talked to some of my old reputation management guys. And they pitched me on it. And, I see the benefits of doing that, but we just haven't really ventured out of that yet, like into that.

External Traffic: Running a Good Business on Amazon

Nick (07:03)

Okay. Yeah. I was wondering, man... cuz you know, external traffic seems to be kind of like the hot topic on the Amazon space right now. And I know I'm kind of driving myself crazy thinking about all the different ways I can make that happen. I've seen some guys, it seems like they have some good results with the PR stuff. But yeah, I haven't really picked one to go with

Just, kind of, doing the more traditional stuff on Amazon. 

Craig (07:32)

And, I mean, within the Amazon ecosystem, you can run a really good business. Obviously, you're really dependent on that traffic, and the pay-per-click costs have come up a lot in the last year, it seems. But, you know, it's still very profitable, obviously. What we've been doing with our business to expand it is obviously getting new products. But, we like to build new variations of existing products. 

You know, if we have a winner... we have three hero products, really, right now. And then a new one that's up and coming as a hero product. So, you know, once you have that best seller badge and a high number of reviews—several thousand reviews or tens of thousands of reviews, I find it's really easy to come into there and add a new variation.

And take that variation, put a different title and different keywords on that. And actually, go after a whole different keyword universe on that new variation. And launch it under that. And with all the power of the existing parent's variation combination. It just, you know… you launch with a lot of power and a lot of strength.

And then you have a whole other way of feeding new visitors into your listing in a keyword universe that you weren't necessarily doing very well in until you launched that new variation.

Utilizing Google Traffic

Craig (08:44)

So that's one of the things we did. Back in the good old SEO days, we were basically black-hat SEO. We were spamming the hell out of the search engines. And actually, like Google traffic was coming in hot and heavy. We're doing over 200,000 unique visitors a day on average. And it would go up to 300, 400 at times. But 200 was kind of like the low end, but we had thousands of websites.

And it was all about just spattering as many keywords as possible and just broadening that keyword universe as much as possible. And I find Amazon that's really successful.

Also, some people might be selling a bottle opener. And then they're doing all the things to do with bartending and bottle openers and that kind of thing. But maybe not really looking at gifts for men who have everything. Or, you know, Father's Day gifts or whatever those keywords that could apply to that where they're not gonna be kicking ass all year long.

But you might get these seasonal spikes. And we do, really well at Christmas because of our gift ability and focus on gifting with our keywords and our products.

Seasonal Keywords

Nick: (09:52)

Nice. So when you're... when that time comes and you're ready to focus on some other keywords, are you relying on PPC for the most part to do that? Or do you make any changes to the listing itself?

Craig (10:05)

Well, you know, Easter's really strong for us too. Christmas is really strong for our products cuz they're really kid-oriented products. Sports and outdoors get their kids off their cell phones outside and have fun. So if anybody out there has young kids, you wanna get 'em off your phone, our product line would be right up your alley. But anyway, we do change titles from time to time.

I was really reluctant to do it in the old days because sometimes your title would get locked, and then you wouldn't be able to change it again. So I would leave, for instance, the keyword Christmas in a variation all year long previously. But now, we'll sometimes rotate it into Easter or more summer-oriented keywords. We just make sure that we remember, and we keep a log of which titles and which keywords we've rotated out of.

Craig (10:50)

So when the new season comes back, we can rotate back into those keywords. Because the thing about variations, and you'll see this in Helium 10, is when you look at your rankings. When you have a whole bunch of variations, only one variation shows up for any particular keyword. You know, if all of them were separated and not apparent, then you might get multiple listings showing up there.

But when they're under apparent you only get one that's ranking at the top.

Be Consistent

Craig (11:16)

So we're very careful to make sure that, say something's ranking really well for a gift-related keyword for ten-year-old boys or something like that. And we should end up shifting the title. We make sure that we shift it back before Christmas to what it was so that, you know, everything's lined up.Because it seems like Amazon's algorithm… it seems to us at least it has some sort of historical...

it's almost like an elephant that never forgets where it's from or something, you know. It seems to memorize what you used to do well, and they'll at least try you up in those areas again. And if you... I could be totally wrong. This could just be Craig's voodoo. But it seems to us that if you've ranked really well for something in the past, you should make sure that you don't really abandon that.

And if you do abandon it somewhat throughout the year make sure you come back to it again.

Nick (12:08)

Nice. Yeah, I think that's a great tip, man. I know some people lately have mentioned, you know, changing up titles based on seasonal keywords. Or maybe something caught your eye in a PPC campaign. And you wanna try popping that into your title and seeing how it works? But yeah, I like that you've… like we keep a flat file, like a backup, you know.

Kind of like a restore point on a computer. But I like the idea of having those titles saved as well. So you can kind of just plug them back in when you're ready to do that.

COVID Anniversary: Pushing Sales Back Up

Craig (12:43)

Yeah. And our sales have been down a little bit lately. Like, we were up triple last year, so it was just a blockbuster year for us. And then, right up until about where COVID picked up last year. We were up triple this year also. And then once we got to that anniversary date of COVID, we've actually been down a little bit. So as far as you know, we do have some new product launches that are gonna take up the slack and get us back into our growth phase again. 

But I wanted to... I always like to make sure that my same SKUs are up year over year and always growing. So one guy I've been really kind of intrigued about is Steven Pope, the 'my Amazon guy.' Have you ever heard of him?

Nick (13:22): 

I recognize the name. Yep.

Hiring for SEO

Craig: (13: 25) 

Yeah. He does a ton of YouTube videos and they're actually a really affordable agency. So, and the guy, he used to be a chess teacher, like the game chess and really good at chess. And then he also used to be an SEO expert, and now he is running an Amazon agency. 

So I just hired them yesterday to do an audit on my account and see if there's any SEO things that were maybe missing or we're not doing well enough, cuz it seems like, you know, I might actually hire them as an agency and give them one of my ASINs. 

One of my hero products is not performing that well just see if they can do anything better with it because, you know he's running over 160 accounts, we're running like two accounts, so there's a lot more data to pull from, and seems like a really sharp guy. I have no financial incentive to refer to, I haven't even hired him full-time, so I'm not endorsing it either.

Craig's early stages of Brand launch

Nick (14:24)

So that kind of reminds me like, I forgot to ask when you started out on Amazon. You met those two guys you said were doing well. Was your first brand that you launched, the one that you still have? Like what did that early stage look like?

Craig (14:40)

Yeah, the first product we launched was a sports towel, like a microfiber sports towel. And that was pretty lackluster, and we ended up discontinuing it. It sold really well at Christmas as a stocking stuffer, but that was kinda it. And then, so we kinda let that one go, and then our next product ended up being a home run. So we've just kept on expanding out more and more variations of that.

Hitting more and more keywords, getting more and more reviews. You know, maintaining that best-seller badge.

Expanding to international markets

Craig (15:12)

And I guess before I forget, I wanna mention too, I'm gonna take a little segue sway here. But say you have a listing that has 10,000 reviews on it and a best-seller badge in the US. Or even if it doesn't have a best seller badge say you have 10,000 or even a few thousand reviews and 4.5 or 4.3 rating. Right now, it's so easy to go into Canada, UK, Australia, Japan.

All these markets and all the US reviews are pretty much moving over into those markets. So like about this time last year, we saw that that changed. A friend of ours tipped us off, "Hey, we used to have this ugly duckling in Canada that did no business." And all of a sudden our US reviews came over and we're showing in Canada and our sales just went through the roof.

So we really did a lot of global expansion last year, too. So we're now all over Europe with the Pan-European program, which really helps cuz you get prime shipping everywhere, UK, Canada. We're also in Australia and Japan. Now they're not big markets for us. But my feeling is that if you can crack the code and get in there while you have all those US reviews and establish yourself.

And get the rankings, and get the momentum, and get the reviews. Even if they pull away those US reviews, you'll be the guy standing strong there. So I suggest if you haven't gone into those countries, you do so right away because who knows how long that opportunity is gonna last. It could be something that's temporary. I totally forgot the question you did ask, man.

Nick (16:42)

Right. No, I'm glad you mentioned it. Hey, I'm wondering. How much did you rely on Amazon to help you get your products out there? Like logistics-wise. I know they'll kind of reach out to you and say, “Hey, you should launch on this marketplace, and we'll help you do this. 

The Brexit Hit

Craig: (17:04)

Yeah. Well, what we did do is we hired them. They helped pay for all our legal compliance in Europe to get Pan-Europeans set up. So that was about 5,000 euros or something like that, that they picked up the tab on. And that was kind of nice. I mean, we got hammered hard this year because we weren't ready for Brexit. And so, when this inventory got separated, we weren't set up ahead of time for that.

So that was an error on our part. But now that we're back up and running, our sales are just crazy and really exceeding our expectations. In terms of logistics, though, whoever's doing your logistics now and your compliance, you can just get those people. Just give them a target. Say, I want you to open up Pan-European next, or I want you to open up Canada next. Canada's super easy to do. And most guys, I think, are doing Canada these days.

The NARF Program

Nick (18:02):

Yeah, we got on the North American remote fulfillment program a while ago, and that worked out well. But now, it seems, customers have gotten savvy to the… they don't wanna pay the extra customs and taxes and stuff. So now you've got a lot of sellers just setting up shop. You know, in Canada, with some inventory and sending it into FBA there.

And we're actually in the middle of doing that now ourselves. 

Craig (18:29)

Yeah. We used to do NARF also. And I think it's safe to say that whatever you're doing now if you actually get your inventory in there with two days shipping and no customs and all that BS, you're probably gonna 5X at least your sales on what you're currently doing in Canada. We tried to get into Mexico too.

But there seems to be a lot more red tape involved with actually getting your product into Mexico, and actually having it distributed from Mexico. So we haven't quite got there yet, but I've been really, really happy with Canada, UK, Europe. And even Japan is picking up now. It's crazy.

Nick (19:06)

Yeah. I've been thinking about Mexico, man. I visit there often, but man, like I see the way people drive down there. Like I don't know how much I trust my stuff on a truck, you know, a big Amazon Prime truck on their roads down there. I love visiting there, but yeah, I've been thinking about that lately as well. Like how it's just a… it's just different down there man. 

Do you get a good amount of sales through the NARF program still down there though?

Craig (19:37)

I don't think we'd get much at all, honestly. In fact, one of the problems I had with NARF is it didn't seem to include all our ASINs. So it seemed to be very selective in which things it would include and which it wouldn't. And maybe that's why our statistics increased so much when we actually got our inventory there and got everything active.

Maybe some guys really do well with NARF. But if you're doing well with NARF, you can think of having two-day fulfillment on everything all across the country. You know, it's just gonna get better.

Nick (20:08)

Yeah, those global marketplaces really seem like a no-brainer right now, man. It's the .com market getting so competitive in a lot of spaces. I hear a lot of people talking, you know. They're like just looking at the UK marketplace. And they're looking at these other opportunities and taking off with those. It's crazy how much opportunity there is when it comes to Amazon man.

I'm starting to really think that there are not enough people selling stuff for the amount of people that wanna buy stuff. I mean, it's just crazy how much people shop and, you know, people love spending money. And the internet has just made it so easy. And Amazon makes it just effortless. It seems like even with things like clothing and fashion and stuff, where, you know, people used to…

They want to go in the store and they want to try that stuff on and see how it feels. Well, you know, we know that on Amazon, you can order something, try it on, mess it up a little bit, rip the tags off, send it back, and get a refund. So they've made it easy.

Challenges on Amazon

Craig (21:16)

That's actually one of the problems we have with our project. And in my opinion, because it's a gift item, we do get some returns obviously. And one of the problems we have is that Amazon will… people don't wanna pay for return shipping, so they'll say it's defective. So that's a big pain point for us even though we have proof that has not been opened or hasn't been even tried.

Like they haven't even put the batteries in the product to try it. They'll mark it as defective. So we put in a whole, what's called reverse logistics. It's basically inspecting your returns. The other thing is when we allow Amazon to dispose of our product, they don't destroy your product. They dispose of it. And by disposing of it, they sell it to a liquidator in most cases.

A negative Customer Experience is a bad business

Craig (22:05)

And what people do is they buy up your product and pennies on the dollar, and then they're selling the shit on your listing. And for us paying the extra 50 cents or whatever it is. Or, I don't know, the extra cost for them to ship it to you. And I think we pay maybe a bucket unit or something to have it inspected.

And then we keep a whole statistic of, “Well you said that this ASIN had 10 defectives this month, but actually five of them were unopened and two of them have been opened, but the batteries weren't opened indicating that it hadn't been even tried.” Therefore we open up cases. So I don't know if anyone's getting hit with those NCX alerts where it says ‘negative customer experience.’ 

Well, we like to be proactive about that and really know what's true about the defect rate. Plus obviously, if there is a problem, you wanna take it up with your supplier and really hammer that out, so it's not an ongoing issue. But I think that's super important. Especially to keep hijackers or resellers off your listing, selling to your customers.

Because if it is a defective product and someone did get it in from a liquidator and they throw it up on your listing as used, you're gonna get an unhappy customer. I don't think that's worth the risk.

Nick (23:20): 

Yeah man, I think you touched on two things that are pretty critical there for people like having Amazon dispose of your inventory. And they have… I think they have a mother program too. But I noticed… I started out reselling, so I was very dialed into like the buy box and how it rotates. And sharing it with other sellers. And when I started doing private labels on one of our accounts, I saw my buy box percentage going down.

And I'm like, “How? What the hell? Why is my buy box percentage going down? I created this product, it's mine. I don't sell to anyone else. And it was freaking Amazon selling like warehouse-damaged products on my listing for like $30 cheaper. And just completely messing us up, man. That was really frustrating to see and figure out because Amazon positions it as, "Hey, we're gonna help you out with this new program".

And it just doesn't help you out.

Nick (24:25): 

And the other thing that you touched on was the negative customer experience thing. And I think that's something, a lot of people don't really know where to find that. It's in that voice of the dashboard or the voice of the customer section in your account performance section. And yeah, we're also very proactive on that as well. But what frustrates me about that is you can't find out who left the feedback. 

Have you guys found out a way to kind of like... cause in my… What we've done is like, we had one product we were selling. It said 'large container’ on the title and we had variations. And some of those variations would not be considered large. They would be considered small. And we got an NCX for that cuz, you know, Amazon customers.

They see large and even though they could pick the variation, there's still some mix-up there. So we just took 'large' out of the title, but we didn't really have a course of action to reach out to a customer and say, “Hey, sorry, we want to send you a replacement or something like that.”

Craig (25:28)

Yeah. You know, my finger isn't really that close to being on the pulse on that line. But I mean, if what you're saying is the case that I don't... I can't, just thinking out loud... I don't know how you would actually identify the customer identity. But there's probably some MDS hacker in here that's way smarter than me. That can just say, “Oh, you just do bloody blah or you do that.

Nick (26:00)

Yeah. It's weird how Amazon, you know, they expect us to take action on certain things. But it's like, “Well, you're not telling us who the customer is that left this feedback. So we can't really... we're limited in what we can do because I'm with you, man. You gotta be proactive about those things. And when you do, when you represent yourself to Amazon, it's like going to a court man.

And you know, like Amazon's the judge, the jury, the executioner, the attorney, and you've gotta really have everything documented, to prove to them that you tried to do everything you can. And then we've found that NCX thing, like when you do a plan of action or something like that, right? They want to know that you looked at that NCX. Keep tabs on all report cases

Craig (26:51)

So we keep a spreadsheet of all the cases that we open. Reporting the false defects that aren't defective so that when we get an NCX we just, “So well here's all the cases result.” We tally up all the results for it, then we say, “Boom, you know, 50% of the stuff that's reported defective is not defective. Therefore please, you know, reinstate this product.”

Whether that helps or not. I don't know. But if we ever get to the point where they're actually wanting to take us out and completely eliminate the ASIN, I think, you know, that it will help in terms of showing that we're really on top of it. And that their statistics aren't necessarily accurate. 

Nick (27:31)

Yeah. I think that on that one it be helpful, and someone else on the account health team pointed out the customer concessions report to me as well. And you can find some stuff in there. But yeah, they make it difficult to find the stuff they want you to when you're writing those appeals. And trying to get a listing back up or an account reinstated, they don't always make it easy for us.

Dealing with Patent Infringement


Yeah. I did wanna mention a couple of things before we move on like this. Like before we end the call at least. But I did sign a deal recently to sell my company. So that's pretty exciting. And then right before I signed the deal, I got hit with two patent infringement issues like allegations. And so that's been kind of interesting. So if anybody's having to deal with patent infringement, I've got a lot of experience on that now.

And how to deal with that. Obviously, if you just go to a lawyer, your lawyers, benefit from having controversy and fighting. Because the longer they can stretch something up in a lot of cases... Unless they're working on contingency, you know, they like to have conflict. So one of my suggestions, if you ever get hit with patent infringement, is to try and find out who the owner is and contact them. and get in communication with them directly.

Craig (28:53)

And I did that with this one guy and it turns out we were a hundred percent infringing on his patent. I had no idea this patent even existed. I did hire a lawyer before launching the product and he didn't find the patent. I mean that sucked, but turns out the guy was super cool. He wanted to shut me down. He wasn't looking for a licensing agreement.

He just wanted to get me out there cuz I'm a direct competitor. And I said, “Look, man, we're selling the same product, but give me a chance here.” Let's have a conversation and maybe there's room for a Coke and a Pepsi. That's how I put it. I'm happy to help you boost your sales. I can see a lot of things with your listing. You're not gone fully optimized. 

And we ended up having a conversation. And on our very first Skype video call, before the end of the conversation, I'd added so much value to his business that he actually thanked me. Sorry, if that's too loud, we can pause and cut back.

Nick: (29:49)

No, I think we're good.

Turning a bad situation into a win-win scenario

Craig (29:52)

Okay, good. Anyway, while we were on that first Skype call, he actually thanked me for infringing on his patent. And wow, he basically offered me the rest of the year to sell his product—to sell our product that infringes on his patent. No questions asked. I also introduced him to the same buyer who's buying my company and that buyer wants to buy him too. 

So basically the patent issue's gonna go away because the same company's gonna own the patents and both products. And then on top of that, which was kind of cool, we just helped him with some PPC. We helped him with some keyword stuff. His whole search term field was blank. He had a plus content, but the description was completely blank. 

There's another tip guys. If you have a plus content and you haven't gone back and taken the old description field and splashed a whole ton of keywords in there, you're missing out.

Rendering assistance also solves problems

Craig (30:44)

So what we did is, we took basically our keyword list, threw it in his description, gave him some really good titles, and helped him with his images. Infographics put a better video in his image stack. And he contacted me this past weekend. He said, "Oh my God, my sales have gone up 5X. Now I'm gonna be running outta product. I need your help with logistics now." 

So I put him on the phone with my logistics guy. I said, “Okay, here, you got all this coming in, we're gonna airship some. Some we're gonna fast boat.” But the bottom line is that if I had just hired a lawyer and my lawyer said, “he's not infringing on your patent.” And just trying to create some controversy.

Business is People

I'd be out a whole bunch of money and probably be on my way to being shut down right now. But if you actually communicate with the guy… And I met a guy really early on in my business career. And he used to carry a business card with him—his own business card. But on the back of it, it said: "Business is people". And I'll never forget that. I'll always remember that.

He said, “As Amazon sellers, sometimes it seems impersonal because we're dealing through a platform. And we don't see that person on the other side. But you've got to always remember, you're dealing with a human on the other side. They've got problems. They've got things they love in their life. Things they're not so happy about in their life.

And if you can actually communicate with that person on the other side of the phone and find out really what they need and want and fill that need. This guy turned when he found out he could sell his company for like a minimum of 5X, multiple. he was just super stoked. And then all of a sudden, I'm his best friend and I've boomed his sales. 

And he'll be telling this story for the rest of his life. I'm sure how he came after some guy for patent infringement and ended up selling his company and 5Xing his sales.

Nick (32:30): 

Yeah, man, that's amazing. And it's amazing what can happen when you just pick up the phone and just talk to someone. And I love that you mentioned that business card that says business is people on the back, on the back of it, and how that's just stuck with you. And, now you've got this great story to tell and you've impacted someone's life in such a positive way. And it helped you out as well.

It's just a beautiful thing when you see stuff play out that way, where everyone walks away a winner. And how many people just wouldn't have picked up the phone? You know, so many of us just won't pick up the phone. We won't make that call. 

Communicate first

Craig (33:13)

Or they'll contact the lawyer and the lawyer reaches the other lawyer. And it's just, once you got the lawyer on, they have to talk to each other, and for you to talk to the guy after the lawyer's involved, it's trickier anyway. It's always good to jump. Get in communication with them first and find out what they need and want. And it might not be as bad as you think. 

Now, I also got hit with another patent infringement issue. I don't know if you have time. Do we have time? I met with another guy, he's actually what you call a patent troll. I don't know. Have you ever heard the term patent troll? It's basically someone who has a patent, but it's really frivolous—their allegations that you're infringing on it.

"It's always good to jump in, get in communication with them first, and find out what they need and want.”

Craig (33:53)

But they're basically just trying to threaten you. Saying “If you don't give us some money, we're gonna litigate. And you're gonna end up wasting so much money litigating that you might as well just give us some money, basically.” So, I mean, fortunately, this guy also runs a business and he's not just like a hundred percent patent troll. He does add some value in life and in business. 

But I was able to use this story that I had with the first Amazon seller, who I was infringing on his patent. And I just handled the hell of the situation, really added a lot of value. And I said, "Look, man, I'm not gonna pay you the money because I'm not infringing on your patent. I've had many opinions saying that I'm not infringing on your patent. So that's not gonna happen".

But I mean, talk to this guy who I've helped and he'll tell you that I'm a good guy. And if there's a win-win here intended, instead of us suing each other and stuff, maybe there's a way that I can help you out as well. But you know, this guy has way less leverage with me in terms of being able to shut me down. But he could also cost me hundreds of thousands, if not over a million dollars of litigation fees if push came to shove. 

Anyway, this guy seems like a bit of a douchebag, so I'm not sure if I'm gonna help him so much, but we'll see.

Nick (35:15)

So is that like a different product, I'm assuming, than the other product?

The Doctrine of Equivalence

Craig (35:20)

Yeah, right. And then someone, the previous owner of the patent actually alleged, that we were infringing on the patent way back in 2018. And at the time we arguably were infringing on the patent. So we completely redesigned the products. And now there, another guy bought the company. And he sees how well we're doing, cuz we have the bestselling product.

We probably have sold 10 million worth of this one product to date. And he's thinking, “Wow, if I could just get a percentage of all those sales.” And he's looking at helium 10 projections, which are way higher than my real sales. So he is thinking, “Man, if I could just get a sliver of those sales I'd get a few hundred at least.” And then they argue something called the doctrine of equivalence.

If you're not actually literally infringing on the claims of the patent, one thing they can do is they can claim, “Well, you know, you're not using this, the exact same things, but you're using equivalent things to that. So therefore we think that you're still infringing.” So that's what these guys are doing with me. And my lawyer's not having it. I'm not having it.

Nick (36:19)

Yeah. Well, I love the way that you're approaching these situations, man. Not really reacting in a bad way. Just kind of keeping an open mind and trying to turn in a different direction. That's great. 

Employing the Art of Negotiation: Don't create Antagonism

Craig (36:33)

The worst thing you can do in those types of situations, in my opinion, is creating antagonism, and making the guy think he's stupid or an ass. Or insulting them in some way. Or, disregarding something that they're saying. So I do my best to listen to what people have to say and acknowledge them. So they at least feel like I've looked at their point of view and try not to disagree.

But I guess at the other point in any kind of disagreement is to try to find something that person has said that you can agree with. You might not agree with a hundred percent of what they said, but if there's 10% of what they said, agree with that. You know, that's what selling's all about. It is finding points of agreement and increasing that amount of agreement until they agree with what you have to say.

Nick (37:15)

Yeah. I like it, man. Definitely some art of negotiation there. It sounds a little bit right.

The Value Gotten from Being a Part of the MDS

Craig (37:27)

Yeah. And just trying to get along with people and genuinely help people. And that's the last thing I wanted to mention to the MDS members. I think this group was fantastic. I get so much value out of it. I made at least an extra 2 million in sales last year. Thanks to two guys. Michael Petro. I don't know if I pronounced his last name properly and Keith Mander, I've done shoutouts for those guys already online, but never in a video. 

But if I hadn't had those logistics hacks last year, you know, November and December, we would've stocked out. Would've missed out on all kinds of sales.

It's Way Easier to Solve Other People's Problems

Craig (37:58)

So, yeah. Appreciate those guys. And there's just that kind of value there all the time. And one thing I really like doing is helping other people with their problems. So I find it's way easier to solve other people... help other people solve their problems than it is to solve my own problems. Cause I'm, you know, so mired in them. Maybe you found this also as someone tells you a problem, The solution just seems so simple to you, maybe.

"It's way easier to solve other people's problems".

But because they're so mired in the problem. They maybe… they don't see the solution. So I love talking to guys. And so if anything comes of this interview and this podcast where guys feel comfortable reaching out to me. And we can do a quick conversation and they just say, "Hey man, I'm struggling with this right now." And whether I can help you or not, it'd be interesting to have the conversation. And I'd love to see if I can help guys and ladies in the MDS group.

Nick (38:46)

Yeah, man. The power of networking and the group continues to blow my mind on a regular basis. And like every time I come back from an event. I'm just so focused and motivated. And you know, just so excited for the next event. And it's almost like I don't wanna let people down at the next event. It's like, I want to come to the next event with some great thing that happened or some great thing I figured out.

And like, it just keeps me going man, year-round. And you know, a big shout out to a lot of the, you know, like Anita and IRI, for this past year through COVID, like keeping the virtual events going while we couldn't meet in person. And really just fostering that environment where we continue to be open and honest with each other, man. Cuz it's... I think you're spot on like solving your own problems.

You're like, you kind of get blinders, you get tunnel vision and you miss stuff. 

Craig (39:41):

It can be upsetting at times too. Like you're, you know... there's emotion that gets tied into it. Whereas when you're detached from it, you can see it without that emotional upset, you know?

Nick (39:52)

Well man, you know, you're definitely a valuable member of the community yourself. I look forward to hanging out with you again in person. I think we, what we hung out in Utah, right?

Craig (40:03)

Yeah, man, that was amazing. I wanna do one shout-out to Ian Sells. He gave a tip on PPC there that I think... not think, I know, was quite a contributing factor. We tripled our sales last year, obviously, COVID helped, but I don't think everyone's sales tripled because of COVID last year. So the PPC definitely helped. Like the tips that he was giving just about PPC.

But yeah, we met in Utah. We hung out. It was great. I wished I could have made it to the port of Iowa. But it just didn't work out. but I'll definitely make the next one for sure.

Nick (40:33)

Yeah, man. Well, I'll definitely be there man. Looking forward to hanging out with you again. Before we let you go, man, why don't you give the audience one piece of advice? Like if you had to go back and start over, you know, what's something you would do differently?

Craig on how he would have done things differently

Craig (40:49)

In Amazon specifically, I would say expanding variations quicker. And really we had a bestselling product that was just one color variation and it just killed it. We had the best seller badge and we were doing super well, but now we have eight and we'll soon have 11 versions... color versions of that product. So now we're just the total number one in that space, we have the most number of reviews and no one can really touch us right now. 

And each variation is going after its own set of keywords. So all together, they just feed so much traffic into that listing. It's like for instance, we have a pink version and we focus more on female keywords to do that one. We have a blue version and not only sound stereotypical, but we focus more on male terms to do with that one and boys and stuff.

And then, they're all driving traffic into this one listing. And if we had picked that up sooner and done that, I mean our sales would've been huge even years ago,

Nick (45:25)

Man. Yeah. Great tip. Appreciate you handing that one out, man. Craig, thanks so much for coming on man. It's been great chatting with you, really looking forward to seeing you again soon, man. And just thanks again, man. Thanks for coming on.

Craig (42:05)

All right. Take care. Thank you.

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