Tag Archives: Seller Central

Seller Central Tip #6 – The Magic Words for Communicating with Seller Central

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get your point across to a Seller Central representative and feeling like you are continually being misunderstood.

In previous blog posts, we have covered ways to handle different glitches within the Amazon inventory system – some of which require opening a case and sending a written message to ask for an investigation, a reimbursement, or some other type of assistance.

To open a case, you will need to log in to your Amazon seller account, and click on “Help” in the top right corner of the screen. A box will pop up where you can click “Contact Us” at the bottom.

Next, you will see the question “What service can we help you with?” You’ll want to click “Selling on Amazon,” which will bring up a list of options for the type of issue you are having.

You can browse through the list of issues to find the one that best fits the problem you need assistance with.

When you’re communicating with a Seller Central representative through the “Contact Us” button, there are a few things you will want to keep in mind:

1. Be prepared with the correct info.

You will need to provide the basic information about the specific issue you are having problems with, so it helps to have that information handy before you open your case. If it’s a shipment problem, be sure you know the shipment number. If it’s a problem with a particular product, be sure you know the ASIN or UPC. Any other details you can provide, including screen shots, would be helpful to the representative who assists you.

2. Always start with e-mail.

You will be given the option to have the representative respond to you via e-mail or phone. We recommend always sending an e-mail detailing your issue and requesting an e-mail response. It’s good to have a paper trail proving what happened in the course of your case. You may not need that paper trail in the future, but it’s good to have it just in case. Also, sometimes the representative will call you even if you request an e-mail. Other times they call to tell you they’ve e-mailed you (a bit of overkill, don’t you think?). It’s a good idea to save the Seller Central number in your phone’s contacts so you’ll know Amazon is on the line the next time they call.

3. Be polite.

Your mom was right: Politeness goes a long way in this world. So be polite! Even if you’re answering your third or fourth response in your case, stay polite with the Seller Central representatives. Always thank them for their time and always use the magic word “please.”

4. Use the “magic words.”

Besides the word “please,” Seller Central representatives also respond well when you use a few other magic words. Amazon corporate training emphasizes core concepts that you, too, can emphasize in order to help the Seller Central representative understand your request better:

  • “The customer experience” – You’re likely aware that Amazon desires to be the most customer-centric store on the planet. They want customers to have an amazing experience shopping on their website, in order to keep them as loyal buyers in the future. Seller Central representatives are trained to prioritize the customer experience over other concerns, including your own requests as a third-party seller. If you can find a way to tell the representative how your problem is affecting the customer experience, you are much more likely to get a positive response. Here’s an example of writing the same request two different ways, one using the magic words:

Not so effective: Please help me change the title of this product so that I can get more sales. The current title is wrong, and I can’t get my product on the first search page.

More effective: The current title of this product is affecting the customer experience because customers cannot easily find it in a search using the correct title. Please change the title of the product to improve the customer experience.

  • “Take ownership” – Amazon trains their representatives to take ownership of problems and work to find the best solution. If you are having problems with getting the run-around on your case and the representative isn’t being helpful, you can gently remind them to take ownership of this issue.

Example: Thank you for continuing to assist me. We have already been working on this problem for over a week now, and we still haven’t solved the problem. Please take ownership of this issue and help me investigate the best solution.

4. Be persistent.

Sometimes you won’t get a good answer on your first (or maybe even second) try at communicating with Seller Central. If you know the answer you receive on the first response is not correct, be persistent (but always politely persistent!) and reopen the case. This might be a good time to use the “take ownership” phrase – or you can try another magic word: escalate.

Example: Thank you for continuing to assist me on this issue. The reimbursement amount I received is unfair. Please refer to the numbers I have provided you below. If you aren’t able to help me get the correct reimbursement, please escalate this case to your supervisor. I appreciate your help!

Hopefully you are able to use the tips in this blog post to learn some ways to more clearly communicate with Seller Central representatives. As Amazon sellers, we always want to keep in mind that there’s a human at the other end of our e-mails to Amazon. Communication can be difficult in any situation, but there are ways to make improvements on our end when it comes to opening cases in Seller Central.

Now, I’d love to hear from you! What “magic” words or strategies have you used in order to effectively communicate with a Seller Central representative? Share your tips in the comments below.

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How to Provide Box Level Details on Amazon FBA Shipments

box-content-info-blogIf you’ve been reading your seller emails from Amazon, you know that starting November 1, 2016, FBA sellers will be required to provide box level details of the contents of their shipments to FBA warehouses. Failing to provide those details will incur a fee for your shipments of 15 cents per item. Additionally, Amazon has stated that shipments without box contents provided might experience a slower check-in time than shipments providing the box level details.

The thought of adding an extra step to the FBA shipment process isn’t super appealing to most Amazon sellers – the fewer the steps the better, right? But I (Stephen) have added box level details to my shipments for the past month now, and I can tell you it’s not as bad as you might have heard.

sC_b001h9nxvg-boxpileReally, it’s in your best interest to start NOW learning how to add the details and practicing with shipments of various sizes. In the long run, spending 5-10 extra minutes per shipment to add the box level details will definitely save you money and potentially save you time: definitely the money from the fees for not providing the details and potentially the time of your shipment being delayed during check-in because you didn’t provide the details.

There are five ways you can handle adding the box level details to your shipment:

  1. Only ship one box at a time – no need to provide extra details.
  2. Ship multiple boxes, but only one SKU per box – no need to provide extra details.
  3. Ship 25 SKUs or less in multiple boxes, and you can provide details through the web-based form on Seller Central.
  4. Ship more than 25 SKUs in multiple boxes, and you can provide details through an Excel spreadsheet uploaded to Seller Central.
  5. Use a third-party listing software to provide details.

I’m not exaggerating when I say providing box contents will add only 5-10 minutes to packing your shipment. It really isn’t a long, time-consuming process. So far, I’ve been listing my shipments in Inventory Lab and then finishing out the shipment process (including providing box level details) in Seller Central. In the very near future I will try out Inventory Lab’s new box level detail process and report back on my thoughts on it.

For a tutorial of how to use the #3 and #4 methods above, I’ve made the following screen capture video walking you through the process.

As you can see in the video, the steps for filling out the forms are rather straightforward. To assist in the process of knowing which items I’ve packed in which boxes, I always print out my form so that I can check off the items on paper as I’m packing; then I transfer my check marks to the online form or Excel sheet once the boxes are packed.

money-fees-add-up-fastIf you decide that providing the box content details is too annoying or time-consuming, you do have the option to skip this step in the process, but you will incur a fee of 15 cents per item in that shipment. This may seem like a small fee, but be careful because those charges can add up quickly. Let me show you how.

I recently had a 92-item shipment of more than 25 SKUs, so the fees to skip the box level details for that shipment would be $13.80. I timed myself as I provided the box contents for the shipment through Excel, and it only added 6 minutes to my processing time. If you do the math, $13.80 in fees versus 6 minutes of my time means that I would have been paying Amazon $138/hour to allow me to skip that step. It’s worth it to me to just spend the extra 6 minutes and keep that $13.80 in fees to spend on more inventory to sell on Amazon.

As with so many other changes that happen over time in selling on Amazon, there will be a day in the not-so-distant future where adding box content details is ingrained in our minds as just one more step in the process, not as a new time-sucking step. Ultimately, providing box level details should theoretically help us as sellers have an easier time reconciling issues with lost inventory from shipments during the check-in process, which makes the entire process worth it, in my mind.

To read for yourself the Amazon guidelines about providing box level details, click here.

Have you been using the web form or Excel sheet to provide box level details on your Amazon FBA shipments? Do you have any advice to add on this topic? Please let us hear from you in the comments!

How to Handle Unfair Amazon Reimbursements

Unfair ReimbursementsWhen Amazon loses or damages one of your inventory items, it is their policy to either 1) find a replacement for your lost/damaged inventory, or 2) reimburse you the replacement value of your lost inventory (less any applicable FBA and selling on Amazon fees, of course).

This is how most people imagine this reimbursement policy being lived out in real life:

670px-Put-a-Rubik's-Cube-Back-Together-Step-1“You find a great item to resell, price it competitively at $24.99, and send it to an Amazon FBA warehouse. Amazon accidentally drops and breaks your item, so they now owe you a reimbursement. Amazon takes your $24.99 selling price, takes out the fees as if you had sold the item, and then reimburses you $18.42.”

Unfortunately, this is not how many Amazon reimbursements work out. Did you know that when Amazon reimburses you for lost or damaged items, they have specific rules they are supposed to follow when coming up with the amount they are to reimburse you? It might surprise you to know that Amazon sometimes (not all the time) fails to follow their own reimbursement rules.

Here are the set of factors Amazon is supposed to consider when calculating the reimbursement amount:

  1. Your sales history – Is this an item you sell often, and what is the price you usually sell it for?
  2. The current average FBA selling price – What is the average of the most recent (no number is given) sales prices for that item.
  3. Other factors (Amazon doesn’t explain what these “other” factors are).
  4. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 3.54.14 PMIf Amazon doesn’t have enough information to establish a reasonable value for an item, then the replacement value is determined based on a default replacement value from the table pictured to the right.

Here’s the deal… I have never ever seen a reimbursement that has followed the above table, so in my experience, Amazon comes up with their own reimbursement amounts based on something other than this table, something a bit more subjective.

In reality, this is how Amazon’s reimbursement policy is lived out more times than not:

728px-Disassemble-a-Rubik's-Cube-Step-3“You find a great item to resell, price it competitively at $24.99, and send it to an Amazon FBA warehouse. Amazon accidentally drops and breaks your item, so they now owe you a reimbursement. Amazon takes your $24.99 selling price, and somehow decides to reimburse you only $10.54.”

Did you notice that? If Amazon took your FBA selling price, and took out the correct fees, then they should have reimbursed you $18.42, not $10.54. What’s going on? The truth is, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I do know what to do to get the reimbursement you think you deserve.

How to know if you received a fair reimbursement:

  1. When you get a reimbursement, do some quick research.
    1. Research Part 1:
      1. Take the ASIN and put it in the Amazon.com search bar and find the product page.
      2. Click on the link to view the current FBA offers.
      3. Take 3-5 of the current lowest FBA sales prices and find an average. This number will be your current FBA average selling price.
    2. Research Part 2:
      1. Take the ASIN and put it in the FBA revenue calculator.
      2. Input the current FBA average selling price (that you calculated above) on the Item Price line under the Amazon Fulfillment column.
      3. Click the yellow Calculate button.
      4. Write down two numbers: the Cost (Amazon fees) and the Margin Impact (your profits after fees)
    3. Research Part 3:
      1. Repeat Research Part 2, but instead of the current FBA average selling price, use your original selling price you had priced for that item.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.13.40 PMCompare your Margin Impact number of the current FBA average selling price (found in Research Part 1) with your reimbursement amount. Also, compare your Margin Impact with your original selling price with the actual reimbursement amount.
  3. Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.10.48 PMIf the difference is big, then it’s time to open up a ticket with Amazon and request an additional reimbursement (more on that in a minute).
  4. If the difference is small, then just let it go and move on with your business. Opening up a ticket with Amazon and dealing with getting a higher reimbursement amount can take some time. So, for most cases, it’s not worth your time to fight a reimbursement that is only a few dollars difference. Value your time and only fight a low reimbursement when you think it’s worth the time to dispute it.

How to get the reimbursement you deserve:

  1. Open up a ticket with Amazon. If you’re not familiar with the process, here is a quick video from our YouTube channel on how to open up a ticket with Amazon.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.17.09 PMWhen contacting Amazon, choose the option to open a ticket about Fulfillment By Amazon, and then click FBA Issue. Yes, it’s redundant, but it’s how Amazon has things set up right now.
  3. Click on the Something Else button.
  4. Choose your method of communication. Personally, I like to use email because there is a written record of the communication, and I can communicate without being interrupted.
  5. Enter the ASIN in question for the reimbursement in the proper field.
  6. In the “Please Describe your Issue” field, write this:
    “I received a reimbursement for ASIN __________, but it was not a fair reimbursement amount. I was reimbursed $$10.54, when I should have been reimbursed $18.42. I have calculated the correct reimbursement number using my sales history (My average selling price is $24.99) as well as the current FBA sales prices (the current FBA average selling price is $24.76). Here is the math:
    $24.99 (my sales price) – $6.57 (applicable fees) = $18.42 (correct reimbursement amount.
    Would you please approve an additional reimbursement of $7.88 ($18.42 – $10.54 = $7.88)? I would really appreciate it. Thank you for your time.”
  7. Click Send and a new case will be opened.

Keep Calm Do the mathWhen you go to the trouble to show the Amazon representative that you’ve done the math and spell it out for them, they are much more likely to approve your additional reimbursement request than if you only complained about your reimbursement amount. You’ve basically done all the work for them and they don’t have much to argue with.

When you open up a new case for an additional reimbursement, someone who works for Amazon will review your case and will reply. When you get a reply, one of three things will happen:

  1. You will get the reimbursement that you deserve. (YAY!)
  2. You will be requested to provide more information such as a receipt or invoice of that item.
  3. You will get a form letter from an Amazon employee that probably didn’t read your entire message and is just responding with a “copy and paste” reply that basically states back Amazon’s current reimbursement policies. They will then close the case.

If Amazon asks for more information (like a receipt):

ReceiptsI don’t know why Amazon asks for a receipt or invoice in order to get a proper reimbursement of a lost or damaged item. It might be in case you never really sent Amazon the item, and Amazon says they lost it, but in reality you never sent it, so Amazon wants proof you actually purchased it to sell on Amazon. No matter the case, I have never sent Amazon a receipt in reply to this response. Here is how I reply:

“I’m not sure why you are asking for a receipt or invoice in order to determine the proper reimbursement amount for this item. The reimbursement amount is supposed to be calculated by looking at my sales history, as well as the current FBA selling prices.”

I would then copy and paste the math I provided earlier so that all the information is in one place for the Amazon rep to make a decision.

If your request for an additional reimbursement was declined and the case was closed:

escalate-300x2911If you didn’t get the additional reimbursement you expected, the next step is to re-open the case. When you re-open the case, be sure to ask that the case be “escalated” and for that Amazon rep to hand the case off to one of their supervisors. Be sure you use the word “escalate” because the Amazon employees know and understand that word and that you mean business. You can re-open the case and communicate something like this:

“Thank you for your response, but it did not solve the issue. I would like to escalate this case to your supervisor. Please have your supervisor read through our previous communications and reply to me at their earliest convenience. Thanks and have a great day.”

Usually when you escalate a case, your request will be forwarded to the Amazon rep’s supervisor who will more than likely approve your request.

Stickerline-elsa-let-it-goIf, after all this, Amazon still doesn’t reimburse you any more, then it’s time to let it go and move on with your business, but the majority of the time you will end up with an additional reimbursement.

For more information about Amazon’s FBA Lost and Damaged Inventory Reimbursement Policy, just click here.

Want more? Two fantastic resources to make sure you’re getting all the reimbursements you deserve are The Amazon Refund Guide (a do-it-yourself book for all things reimbursements) and AMZSuite (a really affordable service that does most of your reimbursement work for you). We have personally used both of these resources and found great success at getting reimbursements!

So how about you? This is how I handle unfair reimbursements, but do you have any more ideas on how to get the reimbursement amount you deserve? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

How to Find Out Exactly Which Items Will Be Charged Long Term Storage Fees

LTSFUPDATE: Amazon has recently updated their Inventory Age report, and this post is now outdated. What I teach below still works, but there is now a much easier way to find what you’re looking for. 

Click here see my latest training report on how to find out exactly which items will be charged a Long Term Storage Fee

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If you’ve been selling on Amazon at least 6 months, then it’s possible you have recently received a FBA Aged Inventory Notification email from Amazon. This notification from Amazon is to warn you about upcoming Long Term Storage Fees (LTSF). To read more about what the LTSF are, why Amazon charges them twice a year, and some timely tips on how to avoid these fees, then click here

Most Amazon sellers would be wise to find out which items in their inventory will be charged the LTSF and how much they’ll be charged. Unfortunately, Amazon does not give you this information directly, but there is a way to find out using one of Amazon’s reports found in Seller Central. 

Here is exactly how you can find out which items in your inventory are going to be charged a LTSF on August 15th (and how much you’ll be charged per item):

1. Log in to Seller Central.

2. Hover over Reports and click on Fulfillment.

3. On the left side of the screen, under the Inventory heading, click on Show More.

4. Click on Inventory Health.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 1.56.16 PM5. Click on the Download tab.

6. Click on the Request Download button. 

7. After about 60 seconds (or possibly longer) the report will be generated, and you’ll be able to download it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 12.22.10 PM

This is the text file version of the report. I copy this data and paste it into a spreadsheet so it’s much easier to understand.

8. After the report downloads, open up the file in a spreadsheet. My download automatically opens up a Text file, so I just copy and paste it into Excel. Based on your computer’s available programs, you should be able to open up the file (or at least copy/paste the text) in your computer’s spreadsheet program. 

9. The text in the file contains many columns of information that you really don’t need in order to assess your long term storage fees. You can keep the ones you want, but I delete all of the columns in the file except the following:

sku
asin
product-name
qty-to-be-charged-ltsf-12-mo
projected-ltsf-12-mo
qty-to-be-charged-ltsf-6-mo
projected-ltsf-6-mo

10. To make the chart easier to read, I change the names of the last 4 columns to:

12mo
12mo$
6mo
6mo$

11. To make the data easier to read, I also do the following (this is just a personal preference, so you may want to skip this step):

Change the document page setup to landscape.
Center align the last 4 columns.
Change the size of the last 4 columns to be smaller.
Change the size of the product name column to be bigger.

12. Select all of the text (CTL-A for PCs or Command-A for Macs)

Now, its’ time to sort. In Excel, you can sort by clicking on Data from the top menu bar, and then select Sort

13. Sort the 12 mo column and choose descending

14. Sort the 6 mo column and choose descending

15. When I’m done, my spreadsheet looks more like this:

The image is blurry on purpose. It’s so you have an idea what the spreadsheet looks like after the changes above.

Now, your spreadsheet will show you on the first pages which items will be charged a LTSF, how many will be charged, and how much the charge will be. My next step is to print out the document, but I only print out the pages that contain the information about LTSF. If I printed the whole document, then I’d waste a lot of paper as most of my inventory is not affected by the LTSF. 

Now, it’s important to know how to read and understand the data in the spreadsheet. Under the 12mo and 6mo columns, you’ll see how many items will be charged in the upcoming LTSF on August 15th. In the 12mo$ and 6mo$ columns, you’ll see the total amount that will be charged if that item is not sold or removed from your inventory. 

For example, your chart might read something like this for an item:

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 1.39.18 PMThe above example shows that the My First Pad item will not be charged a 12 month LTSF, but will be charged a 6 month LTSF of $8.32. Since you have 7 of these items that will be charged a LTSF, you can do the math and see that it will be a charge of about $1.19 per My First Pad. (Remember: one unit of each SKU is exempt from LTSF, so you actually have 8 of this item in stock, not 7.)

The next step is to decide what you want to do with the inventory that is affected by LTSF. In a previous blog post, I’ve discussed all the ways you can avoid Long Term Storage Fees, but for the rest of this post, I’ll only discuss the most popular method of avoiding the fee: lowering your price to get the next sale. 

LC_OFF_Body_NLPLowering the price might indeed get you the next sale, but there are more important aspects to consider. Remember, in our example above, you’ll be charged $1.19 for each item for the LTSF, so if you lower the price by over $1.19, just be sure you don’t think you’ll ever sell the item for the price you want over the next 6 months. If you do some CamelCamelCamel (CCC) research and see that you’ll probably get your original price come Q4, then maybe pay the fee, and then wait for the sale to come during Q4. On the other hand, if you don’t think you can sell this item for the price you want, then it might be a good idea to lower the price and avoid this fee. 

Again, with our example, say you have the item priced at $19.95, but the current low FBA price is $11.95. If you  lower your price by $8.00 to $11.95 to share the Buy Box, you might indeed get the next sale… but lowering 7 items by $8 each, you’ll be losing out on $56.00 in order to avoid a $8.32 fee. Is this worth it? Well, we’ll need to check CamelCamelCamel to see if we think the price will go back up during Q4. If CCC shows that the price will probably go back up in Q4, then maybe it’s a good idea to pay the $8.32 fee in order to make the profits come Q4. On the other hand, if CCC shows that the price will probably never again go up, then maybe it’ll be a good idea to lower your price in order to sell out before August 15th. As always, different items will require different actions, so do your research and make the best decision for your inventory.

amazon-warehouse-5

Note: Amazon does not want to be your long term storage solution.

You might be thinking that this requires a lot of work and thought, but the LTSF is something to take seriously, as it’s currently $11.25 per cubit foot for items stored over 6 months, and $22.50 per cubic foot for items stored over 12 months. Currently, my LTSF would be over $100, but I’ve been keeping track of my potential LTSF for over a month now. If I didn’t use these tactics to avoid long term store fees, then the fee would be even higher.

So how about you? What are some of your strategies for dealing with these Long Term Store Fees? I’d love to read them in the comments below. 

Spring Cleaning for a Profitable FBA Business

spring cleaning

It’s Spring! This is the perfect time of year to do a little Spring cleaning of your inventory.

Let me ask you a question. How often do you look at your inventory at Amazon? For most sellers, we don’t take a look all that often. Sure, we might look at our inventory levels, but how often do we really look at each item in our inventory? Here are a few “Spring Cleaning” ideas:

1. Reprice your really old items to sell as soon as possible. 
2. Remove or destroy older items that will never sell.
3. Remove or destroy older items that are no longer profitable. 
4. Delete your old inactive inventory items. 

Inventory Seller Central 1Before I break all these down and explain why I make these suggestions, let me tell you how I’m able to sort my inventory and see what items I’ve had at a FBA warehouse the longest. Log in to Seller Central and click on the Inventory tab. The default settings will show you the newest items that you’re selling via FBA. To sort from the oldest to newest, just click on the little triangle under the “Date Opened” text. This will show you the items you’ve been selling the longest. When you are making your “Spring Cleaning” decisions, be sure to ignore any items that you constantly replenish. 

Ok, now that you know how to sort your inventory to see what items you’ve been selling on Amazon the longest, let’s break down why you should clean up your inactive inventory. 

1. Reprice your really old items to sell as soon as possible. 

price-tag-267x300Many Amazon sellers look at the price of their items only one time: when they originally price them. As we all know, our items are never perfectly priced. Competition comes in from other sellers who seem to always lower the price. Not only that, but new products are added to the Amazon catalog every day, and so not only do you have competition with other sellers, but your inventory item has competition from other like items. 

It’s always a good idea to take a look at the items that have been in your inventory the longest, and then price these items to sell quickly. Maybe that Atkins cookbook was priced perfectly at $14.99 back in January of 2014, but today it looks like it’s selling for about $5.99. It looks like it’s time to reprice it at around $5.99. You’ve had that item in stock long enough, and based on CamelCamelCamel data, it doesn’t look like you’ll get your $14.99 price again. Reprice that book, get some capital back, and reinvest it in items that will bring back a good ROI much faster.  

For more reading on repricing, check out my blog posts on how to manually reprice and my top 6 repricing strategies

Spring Cleaning Just Ahead Green Road Sign and Clouds2. Remove or destroy older items that will never sell.

Go back again and take a look at your oldest inventory items. Unfortunately, some of these items might never ever sell. I say “might” because you never know, but there are a few things you can look at to see that the probability of certain items selling again is less than .01%. Here are items to potentially remove from your inventory:

A. Items that no longer have a sales rank. 

That cassette tape of ZZTop’s Greatest Hits might have had a sales rank in 2014 when you first bought it, but now it no longer registers a rank. If Amazon doesn’t even give it a sales rank, then it has not sold in a long, long, LONG time*. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.22.55 AM copyB. Items that have a ridiculously high sales rank

There comes a point where it’s time to stop waiting for an item to sell. You’ve had the buy box for months and the item never sells. Maybe it’s an office product that was ranked 9,000 when you bought it at Goodwill, but now it’s ranked 1 million. Yes, there are over 5 million items in the whole Office Products category, but that’s still an incredibly high rank. Unless I’m the only seller for this item and there are no other product pages for this item, then I’m going to have it removed. Always check CamelCamelCamel for sales rank history, but sometimes it’s just best to let go of the items with crazy high sales ranks. 

*A note about sales rank: Amazon does not assign a sales rank to some electronic items, even though they might be selling often. No one is really sure why this is, but it happens. The best way to see if an electronic item has sold lately is to check the product reviews. If it’s still getting recent reviews, then it’s probably still selling. To read more of my thoughts on sales ranks in the Electronics category, click here

3. Remove or destroy older items that are no longer profitable. 

Maybe when you purchased that hardback novel, it was selling for $11.99 on Amazon. But now the best prices from both FBA and MF (merchant fulfilled) are all at $3.99. Even if you sell the book at $3.99, you still won’t make a profit. You might even lose money if you sell it… so what do you do? Wait for the hundreds of other sellers to sell out at $3.99 and hope the price returns to $11.99? No. It’s time to let it go, create a removal order, and move on. 

Note: Amazon is currently offering free removal orders until April 30 2016, so now is the absolute best time to create a removal order to either destroy or return an item from your inventory.

00_lead_image_delete_key4. Delete your old inactive inventory items. 

Go through your inactive inventory and delete anything that’s over 6 months to a year old. These are items you once had in stock, but have not had in stock for a very, very long time. The only reason you would need to keep these items is if you plan on getting them back in stock. 

The best reason to delete old inactive inventory items is to protect yourself as a seller. At random times, Amazon will declare a particular item or brand as restricted. There are too many reasons to list why Amazon would suddenly restrict an item that it once sold hundreds of, but they do this often with specific items and brands. If Amazon sees too many of these listings in your active or even your inactive inventory, they could potentially shut down your Amazon seller account. I’ve heard on several occasions of Amazon sellers who had their account shut down because they had 4-5 items in their inactive inventory that were now restricted. It took the sellers months (not to mention a lot of pain and agony) to get their accounts reinstated. While this is an extreme situation that would only happen to a small amount of people, it’s still not worth risking your Amazon account. 

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.13.18 PMDeleting your inactive inventory also means you will get fewer “ASIN Change Notification” emails from Amazon. You might remember from this blog post that in order to protect your business, it’s very important to take the right actions each time you get an ASIN Change Notification email from Amazon. What you don’t want to do is waste time dealing with ASIN notifications about items you no longer have in stock and don’t plan on selling again. Even if your inventory item is listed as “inactive,” you will still get an ASIN Change Notification from Amazon. Deleting the old inventory items that have been inactive for quite some time will reduce the amount of ASIN Change Notifications and will free you up to spend your time in more profitable ways. 

I hope these Spring Cleaning ideas help you clean up your inventory so that you can spend more time and money on items that are profitable! Any other Spring Cleaning ideas? If so, feel free to share them in the comment section below. 

How to Run “End of the Year” Inventory & Sales Reports for Tax Purposes

year-end-reportsI admit the topic of “end of year reports” is not all that exciting, but it’s very necessary… in fact, if you don’t do this right it could have some negative impacts on your business.

No matter if you sell on Amazon as a serious income stream or as an occasional hobby, you’re still required to report your income to the IRS. It’s important to know that there are several reports you should be sure to send to your CPA (or whoever is doing your taxes).

Before we go any further I want you to know that I am not a tax specialist or giving you any tax advice. I highly recommend hiring a CPA who is knowledgable of online sales and all the tax implications. Today, I’m only showing you how to get the reports that you need to add to all of your other 2016 tax documents.

dec-31-calendarOk, there is one report that you MUST run on December 31st (or at the very latest, early in the morning on January 1st). This report will let you know how much inventory you have still stored at Amazon at the end of the year. The reason you need to run this report on December 31st is because, as far as I know, Amazon does not currently have an easy-to-use report that tells you what inventory you had in their FBA warehouses on specific dates in the past. The only way to get an accurate printout of the inventory you are rolling over into 2016 is to run this report on December 31st or early on January 1st.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.09.38 PMTo pull this report, follow these simple steps:

  1. Log in to Seller Central.
  2. Hover your pointer over “Reports,” and then select “Fulfillment.”
  3. Under Inventory, click on “Amazon Fulfilled Inventory” on the left side of your screen. you might have to click “Show more” to find it.
  4. Click on the “Request Download” button.
  5. The report status column will state that this report is “In Progress” until it’s completed.
  6. Once the report is completed (usually a minute later), a “Download” button will appear. Press it.
  7. Your report is now downloaded to your computer as a .txt file. Open up the file.
  8. Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.11.07 AMThe text is hard to read, so select all the text (Control A for PC users or Command A for Mac users).
  9. Open up an Excel type spreadsheet and paste the text you just copied. The data will now be more organized.
  10. Save the file with a name like “2016 Amazon Year End Inventory.”

Note: Do not print this document out. If I would have printed my document out, it would have used 784 pages. That’s because the document also contains all of the items in your inventory that are sold out and are at zero quantity. If you rarely (or never) delete any of your MSKUs that you no longer use (because you’re sold out and don’t plan on selling again), then you may have a file even longer than mine. So don’t print the file, but do save it and email it to your CPA (or whoever is doing your taxes).

Other reports on the same Reports/Fulfillment page that your CPA would probably like to see are the following:

 – Monthly Inventory History – Found under Reports, then Fulfillment, then Show More, then Monthly Inventory History. Click on the Download tab and run this report for the full year (choose “last 12 months” for the report time period) and it will show you a monthly breakdown of what you sold each month.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.08.03 PM– Received Inventory – Found under Reports, then Fulfillment, then Show More, then Received Inventory. Click on the Download tab and run this report choosing “last 12 months” as your time period. This shows what inventory items Amazon received from you this year.

Note: As with the “Year End Inventory” report, be sure to move the report over to a spreadsheet program (like Excel or Google Sheets) so that it’s easier for you or your CPA to read.

When you run these reports, don’t forget to choose “last 365 days” or “last 12 months”  for your report dates. You want the reports for the whole year, not just the current month.

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 11.04.28 AMYour CPA would also like to see a report of your sales, fees, and income from Amazon. The way to find and run this report is a little different than above, so here is how you do it:

  1. Log in to Seller Central.
  2. Hover your mouse over “Reports,” and then select “Payment.”
  3. Click on the “Date Range Reports” tab.
  4. Click on the “Generate Report” button.
  5. Select Report Type: Summary
  6. Select Date Range: Custom
  7. Enter in the date range you want. For tax purposes enter “01/01/2016 – 12/31/2016”
  8. Click “Generate” to get the report started.
  9. Once the report is ready, it will be available to download.

Note: If you are running this report before December 31st, then the report will not be ready to download until January 2nd. Set a reminder somewhere to come back and download the report on January 2nd. If you are running this report after January 2nd, then it should be ready to download in a few minutes.

Get all of these reports to your CPA ASAP. You really don’t want to be late on getting the tax process started. Again, if you don’t have a CPA, I highly recommend getting one as soon as possible. It’s costly, but you want to be sure your numbers are right, and you want a professional to do the work that would eat up way too much of your time if you did it yourself.

Of course, these aren’t the only numbers you’ll need to give to your CPA. They will also need to know your cost of goods (you logged your receipts, right?) and any other business-related expenses that will deduct from your sales numbers.

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Make 2017 your Best Amazon Sales Year Ever! 

Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year.

Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way in 2017.

Imagine working on your Amazon business knowing exactly what your priorities are, what you need to avoid, and what you need to accomplish during each month to make progress toward making 2017 your best sales year ever.

Find out more about The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business today. The package includes a 200-page ebook, monthly live webinars, and 4 special bonuses.

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If you liked this post and found it helpful, scroll back up to the top and subscribe to the blog. I’ll update you about once a week with helpful tips on how you can make a full-time income with FBA.

Ok, 2016 is almost over. What other things are you doing during the last week of the year in order to prepare for 2017? I’d love to hear what you’re up to this week!

Top 5 things you NEED to do when you get an ASIN Change Notification

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.13.18 PMEver since I started selling on Amazon, I would randomly get emails notifying me that some ASINs I am selling were recently updated. For my first few months of selling on Amazon, I just ignored these emails and thought I had better things to do. I assumed innocently that these ASIN changes were probably just improvements to the product page, and that I didn’t need to investigate. Boy, was I naive and wrong. I quickly learned that there are many profitable action points that I need to do every time I get one of these emails.

Most of the time when an ASIN is updated, it means that someone is trying to improve the ASIN’s product page listing information. Maybe some good keywords were added, or the item had some additional information added that would help increase sales. I would say that 95% of the time, this is true, but the other 5% of the time, the changes actually hurt the item page and could also hurt you as a seller. Whether the changes come from a malicious and deceitful Amazon seller or just a newbie that doesn’t know any better, these changes must be checked in order to protect you, your seller metrics, and your bottom line. I’ll explain more of this below as I give you the top 5 things I check every time I get an ASIN change notification email from Amazon.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 3.43.01 PM1. Product Title – I think I’ve seen it all… I’ve seen product titles that were one word long and some that were paragraphs long. I’ve seen them contain spelling mistakes and written in other languages. I’ve seen product titles that tried to contain HTML and others that were not even talking about the item that was pictured. The product title is one of the most important pieces of information that Amazon uses to help buyers find what they want (especially the first 3 words of the title). So it’s vital that the updated title be accurate, spelled correctly, and contain a few additional keywords.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.27.30 AM2. Product Description – Unfortunately, some people don’t know what they are talking about and really make a mess of the product descriptions. I’ve had an item in my inventory where someone added to the description that it was a 4-pack, when in reality it was one toy that contained 4 parts to the toy. This is not a 4-pack. A 4-pack is when there are 4 copies of the same item. To make things even worse, sometimes some sellers actually do change a product from being one item to being a multi-pack. This change could really be bad if you start selling an item that is a 1-pack, but then someone else updates it to a 6-pack. You could have a really upset buyer leave nasty feedback for you if they only receive one item when they are expecting a 6-pack.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.20.52 AMOther sellers sometimes are doing mass updates and accidentally cut and paste info from one item and paste it on the wrong item. I’ve also seen when someone puts an external link in a product description to buy that item on another website. These external links are against Amazon’s rules! Not only that, but they are taking sales away from you.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.25.17 AMLike I said, some people who are trying to update the product pages are newbies. Most new Amazon sellers are coming over from eBay and assume that if they need to state something specific about their particular item, they need to update the product page, when in reality they just need to make note of what they want shared in their condition notes.

3. Product Type – Most of these updates are in reference to category changes within the Amazon catalog. Again, it’s so important that each item be placed in the correct category. Some Amazon sellers will try to sneak certain items in the wrong category because they are gated in the correct category. For example, someone might not be approved to sell in clothing (a gated category that requires approval to sell), so they try to change the category to toys, books, or another category that they are already approved to sell in.

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 1.53.28 PMOn the other hand, some people try to game the system by getting products changed to be in gated categories. For example, if one seller is approved to sell in shoes, then maybe they’ll try to get that toy to be moved to the shoe category, so that there will be fewer sellers approved to be the competition for that item. It’s sneaky and wrong, but people do it. Ultimately, you want these items to be in the correct category. When an item is in the right category, then it’s more easily found by buyers who are searching for it.

4. Product Key Words – Some Amazon sellers have thought that adding unrelated key words would boost their product in the search rankings. Unfortunately, this not what you want. You want the item to have the best key words that actually relate to the item. Some people even add lines to the product description that could get that item completely removed from Amazon. I once saw a grocery item that had the keyword “e-cigs” added, and those are not even allowed to be sold on Amazon.

71NGQMCh2QL._SL1500_5. Shipping Weight – Most of the time, the updated shipping weights come from Amazon themselves, but other times they are changed by a seller who sells merchant fulfilled items from home. The higher the shipping weight is, the more money they can make from shipping costs. For example: If Amazon thinks it should cost $6.00 to ship a one pound item, but the item actually only weights 8 ounces, then the merchant fulfilled shipper gets $6.00 to mail something that should only cost them $3.00. How does this effect an FBA seller? If someone is not a Prime buyer and buys your item, then it’s possible that they could be overpaying for shipping and therefore become an unhappy customer who is ready to leave you negative feedback.

Note: To check on your inventory items, simply follow the link in the ASIN Change Notification email that states: “Click here to vote to disagree with the decision to make the ASIN detail page changes below.”

When you click on this link, Amazon will take you to a page telling you what items are being updated, what the new details are, and what the previous details were. You then have the option to disagree with the update. If you agree with the changes, all you need to do is scroll down and click “Nothing to disagree.” On the other hand, if you do disagree, then you can click “disagree” on the items you think do not need to be updated. You then have the option to express why you disagree. Remember to keep your response short, as to not confuse the Amazon worker who is responding to all of these ASIN change disagreement notifications. After you explain your reason for disagreeing, you can then scroll down and click “Submit Votes.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.44.57 PM

It can be somewhat time consuming to check on each of these items one by one to verify that the changes are accurate, but in the end it will be worth it to protect your seller metrics and ultimately your bottom line.

If you notice something is incorrect or just flat out wrong, then vote “Disagree” and tell Amazon what you think the correct details of that product should be.

Some of you may have turned this notification off in your Seller Central preferences. If you want to protect your inventory and bottom line, I suggest turning the notifications back on.

price-tag-267x300BONUS TIP – When ASINs are updated, it often means that someone new is selling the item and that you now have additional competition. It’s likely that they are updating the ASIN because they have multiple copies of that product in stock. When the ASIN is updated, it’s probably a good idea to go and check your competition and make sure your item is priced competitively. For more on repricing your inventory, click here.

So how about you? What crazy ASIN updates have you seen? Do you have any additional tips on how to make the most of the ASIN Change Notification emails? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year.

Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way this year. 

Imagine working on your Amazon business knowing exactly what your priorities are, what you need to avoid, and what you need to accomplish during each month to make progress toward making this year your best sales year ever.

Find out more about The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business today. The package includes a 200-page ebook, monthly live webinars, and 4 special bonuses.

Amazon Split Shipments And What You Can Do About Them

It’s the number one question I hear from those who are new to selling via Amazon FBA: Why is Amazon forcing me to send my inventory to multiple warehouses all over the country? It’s expensive, inconvenient, and it’s cutting into my profit margins. What can I do to fix this?

brownbox2In a perfect world, Amazon sellers would be able to take all of the items they are selling, send them to a single FBA warehouse, and continue to see those items sell quickly. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Amazon has their reasons for shipping our inventory to multiple fulfillment centers, so it’s important for us to understand why Amazon wants to do this.

As you probably know by now, Amazon is the most customer-centric company ever. Everything Amazon does is to make the customer happy. In relation to inventory, Amazon wants to have as many items spread out across the United States as possible. The closer an item is to the buyer, the faster that item can get there, which helps secure a happy customer. If you have a toy to sell, and Amazon already has that toy in stock in Florida, Dallas, Tennessee, and Colorado, then maybe they’ll have you ship your toy to California, where that toy is currently out of stock. When a customer in California wants that specific toy, and that toy is priced competitively, then you have a great chance of winning the buy box and getting the sale.

article_icebreakerUnderstanding why Amazon splits up your inventory doesn’t always make split shipments any easier. It can be frustrating when the bulk of your inventory is going to Indiana, yet one item needs to go to Tennessee, two items need to go to Texas, and another item to Arizona. For many of us, the cost of sending just one or two items to a separate FBA warehouse can completely destroy our profit margins.

So what is a FBA seller to do? Well, you have two options: Distributed Inventory Placement or Inventory Placement Service. Distributed Inventory Placement is where you let Amazon pick where it thinks your inventory should be shipped to. This is the default for those who sell via Amazon FBA.

Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at 8.43.26 AMThe other option you have is called Inventory Placement Service (Click here for Amazon’s page outlining inventory placement options). Choosing Inventory Placement will generally create one shipment for most of your standard sized inventory. I say generally, because Amazon actually only promises that they will send all quantities of a single MSKU to a single FBA warehouse. They do not promise that all items in your shipment will be sent to the same warehouse, but more often than not, they will. There are exceptions, such as oversized items, clothes, shoes, and some media (books, DVDs, etc), which will still need to be sent to a specific warehouse other than the main one you usually send inventory to. The inventory placement fee is currently 30 to 40 cents for each standard-sized unit and $1.30 for each oversized item. Click here to see the current fee structure. Remember, this fee is paid for every item that you are sending in to Amazon, not just on the multiples that might get split up if you did not have Inventory Placement turned on.

Here’s how to turn on Inventory Placement Service:

1. Log in to Seller Central
2. Go to “Settings” and click “Fulfillment by Amazon.”
3. Under “Inventory Placement” click “edit.”
4. Choose your preferred option (The default is Distributed Inventory Placement)
5. Click “update.”
 

Before you head on over to Amazon to update your inventory placement settings, it’s a good idea to weigh the positives with the negatives of Inventory Placement Service.

shutterstock_128422982Positives:

1. Multiples of the same MSKU will not be split into different shipments and will all go to the same warehouse.

2. No more shipments of a single item to a different warehouse.

3. Your inventory will most likely be shipped to one of the warehouses close to you. This could mean lower shipping costs and less time your shipments are in transit.

4. Since your inventory will most likely be shipped to a nearby warehouse, you’ll get faster processing times, and your inventory could go live much quicker. The faster your inventory is processed, the faster it can be sold.

Negatives:

1. The cost of 30 to 40 cents per item could add up quickly and eat into your profit margins. If you have a shipment of 100 items, that could cost you $30 in Inventory Placement fees alone.

2. Inventory placement doesn’t promise that all items in a shipment will go to the same warehouse, it only promises that multiples of the same item (MSKU) will not be split into multiple warehouses. So, you still may have to send items to three different FBA warehouses.

3. Here is a little known secret: Amazon ships your inventory to different warehouses without you even knowing it. You might have shipped your inventory to Tennessee, but after it’s processed, it could easily be removed and sent to Florida. While Amazon is shipping your item to Florida it’s considered “inactive” and cannot be sold. I believe that Amazon takes the money it makes from the Inventory Placement Fees and uses that money to reallocate your inventory across the country.

Most Amazon FBA sellers don’t like shipping their inventory to so many warehouses, but it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth it to pay the Inventory Placement Fees or not. I, personally do not. The fact that Amazon will temporarily deactivate some of my inventory while it moves those items across the country is a deal breaker for me.

To read more about Amazon split shipments and our strategy for how to minimize shipping costs and FBA fees, click here.

So what about you? Do you use Inventory Placement Service? If so, what do you like or dislike about it? Let us know if you have any questions about these options.

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Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year.

Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way this year. 

Imagine working on your Amazon business knowing exactly what your priorities are, what you need to avoid, and what you need to accomplish during each month to make progress toward making this year your best sales year ever.

Find out more about The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business today. The package includes a 200-page ebook, monthly webinars, and 4 special bonuses.

Seller Central Tip #5 – Fixing Stranded Inventory

Today we’re discussing our final Seller Central Tip in this series: Tip #5 – Fixing Stranded Inventory.

For a recap of our Seller Central Tips, here are the previous posts:

Tip #1 How to Check if “Returned” Items are Actually Returned to FBA
Tip #2 How to Get Reimbursed for Unfulfillable Inventory
Tip #3 How to Handle FBA Inbound Shipment Problems
Tip #4 How to Check for Reimbursable Lost Items
 

Fixing Stradned Inventory“Stranded inventory” refers to your items at a FBA warehouse that do not have an active offer on the Amazon website. Every few days, we check our inventory to see if any items have popped up in our stranded inventory list, and we take action according to the options provided in the drop-down menu beside each item.

Fix Stranded SidebarTo get started, log into Seller Central, and under the “Inventory” tab click “Manage Inventory.” In the left sidebar, click “Fix Stranded Inventory.” This brings up a list of all your items currently at a FBA warehouse that do not have active offers on Amazon.com. When we first began cleaning up the problems with our inventory on Seller Central several months ago, I (Rebecca) brought up this list and discovered we had six pages (six pages!!) of stranded inventory, requiring several hours of work to sort through the mess and take the appropriate actions. Now, I look at the stranded inventory every few days and never find more than a couple of items at a time that need to be addressed — often, these are items that I’ve already dealt with when checking for unfulfillable inventory, so I don’t need to do anything more with them.

In the “Status” column, you’ll see a few different reasons why your inventory might be “stranded.” The statuses we’ve encountered are Inactive, Incomplete, and Out of Stock. There might be others that we’re unaware of, but these are the ones we’ve personally had to deal with. If you have experience with other statuses, please leave a comment below, and tell us how you dealt with it. Now let’s look at each of these statuses and their implications.

Inactive

Stranded InventoryOne possibility for an inactive status is that an item has been returned by a customer and is unfulfillable, either because the customer damaged it (likely, he or she opened the package) or the customer said it was defective. If you’ve been checking your unfulfillable items as we learned about in Seller Central Tip #2, you will have already created a removal order for these items, and there’s no reason to take further action here. If you haven’t already created the removal order, there’s the option to do so in your stranded inventory list by clicking the drop-down menu under the “Actions” column.

Sometimes, however, there’s a problem in the Amazon system that causes an item to be listed as inactive for no reason that we’ve been able to figure out. In these cases, when we know that the item isn’t unfulfillable, we chose “Relist” from the “Actions” column and fill in the appropriate information in the “Offer” tab of the Amazon product page.

4On occasion we’ve discovered that “Relist” is not an option for certain items, particularly DVDs, automotive items, and health and beauty products. Movies and TV shows by certain studios (Warner Bros. and BBC, to name a couple) have become restricted items in an effort to control authenticity of DVDs for sale on Amazon. Also, anything that may be considered hazmat is restricted. Sometimes these restrictions come into place after you’ve sent an item to a FBA warehouse. In the case of movies, you can create a removal order and try to sell the item on eBay or at your next garage sale. For hazmat issues, sadly we’ve found that Amazon won’t allow us to create the removal order and have the items shipped back to us, for safety reasons. The only option is to cut your losses and have the item destroyed by Amazon.

Out of Stock or Incomplete

Out-of-stock3When I first encountered those six long pages of our stranded inventory, many of our items had the “out of stock” status because of a glitch occuring during the initial process of scanning and entering them in the Amazon system. Somehow, even though we were scanning them into the system as Fulfilled By Amazon and sending them to warehouses across the U.S., the glitch caused them to be recognized as Merchant Fulfilled and listed them as stranded inventory. To fix the problem, I clicked on each “out of stock” item’s “Action” drop-down menu and chose “Change to Fulfilled by Amazon.” Almost immediately these items became available for purchase. Since our initial inventory clean-up, we haven’t encountered this problem again, but if we ever do in the future, we’ll know how to handle it.

These are just a few of the issues we’ve encountered with stranded inventory. Sometimes the fault is ours, sometimes it’s a glitch in the system, sometimes it’s unexplainable. Regardless, you’ll want to check your stranded inventory and see if there are items that you can have relisted and available for purchase — inactive listings do not bring any profit!

Have you encountered these or other problems in your stranded inventory list? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Imagine knowing exactly what to expect in your Amazon FBA business every month of the year.

Imagine what it would feel like knowing you were not missing out on any of the opportunities that will come your way this year. 

Imagine working on your Amazon business knowing exactly what your priorities are, what you need to avoid, and what you need to accomplish during each month to make progress toward making this year your best sales year ever.

Find out more about The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA: A Month by Month Guide to a Profitable Amazon Business today. The package includes a 200-page ebook, monthly live webinars, and 4 special bonuses.