The Importance of Channel Diversification ⎜ Brand Together ⎜ EP 179

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This is a podcast episode titled, The Importance of Channel Diversification ⎜ Brand Together ⎜ EP 179. The summary for this episode is: <p>Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Talal Asad of Brand Together one-on-one as they break down the importance of channel diversification for your online brand.</p><p>---</p><p>Crossover Commerce is presented by PingPong Payments. PingPong transfers more than 150 million dollars a day for eCommerce sellers just like you. Helping over 1 million customers now, PingPong has processed over 90 BILLION dollars in cross-border payments. Save with a PingPong account <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">today</a>! </p><p>---</p><p><strong>Stay connected with Crossover Commerce and PingPong Payments:</strong></p><p>✅ Crossover Commerce @ <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>✅ YouTube @ <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>✅ LinkedIn @ <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>---</p><p>You can watch or listen to all episodes of Crossover Commerce at: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>

Ryan Cramer: What's up everyone? Welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer. And this is Crossover Commerce, presented by PingPong Payments, the leading global payments provider, helping sellers keep more of their hard- earned money. Hey everyone, happy Friday. And welcome back to another episode of Crossover Commerce. I'm your host, Ryan Cramer. And this is my corner of the internet where I bring the best and brightest in Amazon and e- commerce space. Don't want to leave any of them out because that's what we'll be talking about today, omnichannel diversification. But before we get started, this is a live podcast. So if you are tuning via watching on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, go ahead and submit your questions or let us know where you're watching from by just putting in the comment section, pressing send, we'll see that on our end and engaging with myself and our guests today. If you have questions that come up along the way, clarification, just smart aleck remarks. We love all those things here on Crossover Commerce. So if you have any of those, you can do those by putting them in the comment section. If you're not catching us live or listening to us on the podcast version, you can also engage with our guests or myself, and you'll be able to get that contact information at the end of the episode. But other than that, this episode, as well as every episode leading up to this one is presented by PingPong Payments. PingPong Payments is helping more customers save time, money, and effort by sending and receiving localized currency and making more money, be more cost effective and putting margins and percentage points back to their bottom line. They can do that by free account signups. And when you receive localized currency or currency from different marketplaces around the world, whether it be in Australia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Europe, the UK, you can receive that and don't have to pay those fees that Amazon will charge you. So it's one of those things we actually get a lot more control over. Sign up with a free PingPong account today. You can do that by going to usa. pingpongx. com/ podcast. That being said, again, episode 179, we're recording this on November 12th. So a Friday. And we're in the midst of obviously Q4 and there's lots of different things are happening on. Obviously lots of people are focused on sales, their numbers for Q4, making sure that they last with inventory throughout the remainder of the year. Lots of things going on. There's lots of events that just ended a couple days ago with AMZ Innovate. I know that there was AMZ Live in Orlando, lots of different things going on. But as the year kind of caps off, lots of different people are already making plans. And by people, I mean brands, businesses that are going to be expanding and making plans to diversify into the future. And not just doing it now, but they're playing for already spring, summer and into 2022, well in advance to make sure that their brand is going to be diversified and the growth plan is being built. Now so what does that mean? Why is it important to do this now? We're going to be talking about that with our guest today, which is why we obviously named this episode, let me go ahead and say, I brought it up already, the Importance of Channel Diversification. That's what we already had written down and what we named this episode. So that being said, I wanted to bring on a person who's lived diverse backgrounds. We were talking pre- show diverse different business operations, opportunities, and now is helping people grow on Amazon, but also other channels as well. His name is Talal Asad of Brand Together and invited him on to talk about diversifying your brand in e- commerce, whatever that looks like. So without further ado, let's welcome onto Crossover Commerce Talal Asad. Talal, welcome to Crossover Commerce. How are you?

Talal Asad: Thanks Ryan. I'm pretty impressed that you guys have a 179 episodes. That's quite a lot. You've passed the like, we're just doing this for fun into like, this is a legit operation here.

Ryan Cramer: This is a machine. I've already established this with other people who come on the show. It's a machine now, you can't stop it. We're full fledge. But I enjoy this. This is the thing of with podcasting or talking with people like this. And I enjoy, I can least say this. I've only met one person on the show in- person. So this is a way to feel normal and getting, meet people in events or anything like that until, whenever that is, probably 2022 at this point since events have wrapped up. But it's a pleasure having you on here. And we're talking pre- show about all the different things that you're doing as a business owner now, but have dabbled in so many different things in the past. I'm curious for people who aren't aware of you or just don't know your background, what's that background look like and how do we get to now Amazon, I would call it agency or e- commerce agency, if you'll now?

Talal Asad: Boutique consultancy maybe.

Ryan Cramer: That's fancy. I love that. I'm going to use that now. Boutique consultancy.

Talal Asad: Boutique consultancy. So yeah, my background has been, as we talked about a little bit before this, it's just like a lot of meandering into eventually what became e- commerce. Started out with just doing marketing. In college, I started marketing and entrepreneurship, and I also tried to study Arabic as well, because like I figured, I'm coming from Jordan, I could speak pretty decent Arabic. It turns out Arabic, my lowest grades in college were in Arabic. So that was not the easy A I was expecting. But yeah, so just right out of college, started working for Nielsen, which is the largest market research firm. And we did basically what was called the BASES division of Nielsen. And that was like the Booz- Allen Sales Estimating System, really, really cool system. And if you're familiar with PickFu, it was like PickFu on steroids. And it was essentially every single CPG conglomerate that you know, before they launch their products, they launched them through us first at BASES. And so they would say, we're going to have a new Gatorade, or we're going to have a new pet food extension. And so we would do like the market research for them, where you would say, okay, here's one version of what this would look like, here's another version of what this would look like, and how much are we going to sell in year one? And we would get them to, at the time, this was 10, 11, 12 years ago, you get them to within 80% of their first year sales, oh, sorry, within 15% of their first year sales 80% of the time, which was by far the highest sales estimation that anyone could do at the time. But it was really cool because that got me really interested into CPG. And then at that point, you start to see, okay, when people are launching new products, what's the words that are working for them? Like, what are the taglines that we chose? I was in their new video game division at the time as well. So they were going away from CPG and into more like, can we do this across more entertainment assets? And so like lots of video games that were launched by EA and whatnot. I saw them before they launched and we gave them an estimate on them. And it was fun. But around that same time, a really good friend of mine was starting up his hip- hop career in London. And he was like, " Hey, do you want to come manage it for me?" And I was 23. I was like, "Yeah." Or 22, I think even at the time, I was like, " Yes, of course."

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely, let's take this ride.

Talal Asad: Yeah. So I did that for a while. Very difficult to launch a hip- hop career FYI. I don't know if anyone has tried, especially when-

Ryan Cramer: So listening to this and you're thinking about it, we advise not to do it.

Talal Asad: I advise against it, especially in a foreign country where you just really don't know how to navigate anything. At the time, Entourage was a really big show. And this was 2009. So at the time, I was like, " Yeah, I could totally do this." And then I realized like, it takes a special someone, for sure. But from there, we entered onto going to health information technology, worked for my sister's best friend's company and he was starting it up and it was doing pretty well. And it was mostly health information technology, but it was also a very kind of diverse technology company, like you were able to use kind of the framework of this SaaS into multiple different things. So we used it in banking and we used it in like telephony and everything as well. But HIT was kind of like the main portion of it. And it was really cool because he had a really different way of looking at business. And so all the way up until 24, 25 year old Talal was like, " Yeah, business should be like cutthroat and we're all going to kill each other and it's going to be fun." And his whole entire approach was way, way different. And I think that that's instilled a lot of what I have today was in terms of like, you can do things cooperatively and you can be really good friends with your competition and be really good friends with your clients as well. You don't have to make everything so like cutthroat business. And maybe that's the difference between like how people become like multi- millionaires and billionaires and not. But as long as you're comfortable with making a decent living and you're able to like sleep at night, I think it was a really cool thing. And what he ended up doing was taking this like super, super high quality enterprise level health information technology that most hospitals would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain. And he offered it to indigent care communities. So like farm worker healthcare and to community health centers in a cooperative basis, saying like, if you can't afford it, that's fine, try to write us into your contract when you can. And that whole cooperative kind of nature is how I run my agency today, which is Brand Together and trying to make things like as easy as possible for both our clients and our, even with our competition being very, very open with how we discuss stuff. And I think that's a cool thing that you notice a lot in our level, I guess, of the Amazon consultants is just like people really share a lot of information and are very cooperative. And that's why I really like working with in this industry right now.

Ryan Cramer: That's amazing. Well, I take a lot of things away from what you had said in that introduction. And thank you for that in- depth look at it, because as business people, no matter what industry we might be in, actually, you can take all these principles and build it on top of each other. And you said a lot of things that I take away, we're in a lot of groups that are just throwing ideas around with each other of, hey, did you see this for this client? Or I'm noticing this for this clientele. And a lot of people don't catch us to different things because obviously in the Amazon world, we're not omnipresent. We don't know everything that's going on. We have our hands in lots of different things or notice different things too, which is why I think collaboration, no matter if you're technically competing with these health of agencies, like you said, your boutique agency versus someone else who's managing a book of business that's a billion dollars in PPC, or someone's doing as something else in terms where we all cross over with each other. We're all still helping each other. And I think at the end of the day, it's helping consumers or business owners grow, which is why I think that's where we all align with each other. Would you agree with that?

Talal Asad: Totally. Yeah. I mean, look, the pie is so big, right? And not everyone is going to be able to like, no one agency can do every thing and no one agency can service every single client. And a lot of times it's when agencies take on too many clients is when their service declines pretty significantly. And I've been on both sides of this. I've also worked prior in between this health information technology and Brand Together, I also worked at a DSP before anyone really knew what a DSP was. Right now, it's kind of like the sexy word, everyone's throwing it around. And it's like, I saw how the sausage is made. Like I was running Walmart's banner ads. I know it's not a pretty place if you really know how it really works. And so it's, and then from there, I worked in CPG, again, working for an energy drink company for two and a half years as the second employee or third employee and running their Amazon and Shopify and everything is where we're going to probably meander into it at some point talking about that. But I've been on the agency side, I've hired agencies and now I'm agency again. And so I know how that struggle always is. And as you try to scale agencies, you notice that service declines pretty significantly, which is why I've like so far have like a moratorium on new clients right now. And it's, you have to preserve, you can't just keep saying yes to everything because you clearly will have capacity issues. And that's why it's so great to create these like networks of friends and colleagues who, when you are at a capacity issue, you'll say, " Hey guys, I have this and this client, does any of you know?" And that's kind of like the stuff that I've been setting up right now is trying to find ways to when I hear like a really cool company that I like, and I just don't have the time for them, it's, I'm glad that I know that there's trusted people out there that I know who do a really good job and have them have be able to bid on that business.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. And that's why I think is really important too with this industry is it, you don't want it to be something where you take on some much and the quality diminishes, and I've heard people who've had certain capacities, which if their business is, if they're taking on so much and they're going to say, yes, I'm going to have my hands on it, and they have to actually push it onto colleagues or an associate's plate and they don't have the same insights or look at it, still good job, but they don't have that capability and that same touch that you do that might come off differently to a client or someone who's paying you to do those kinds of those pieces of work. So is that something that you always have to balance of, I want to have my hands on everything and when I start to push it on more and more people, then the quality of work, like you had mentioned, diminishes? And to you, that's the most personal thing instead of growing, scaling, bringing in all sorts of clientele and money. What's that fine balance for you?

Talal Asad: Yes. You're like my therapist today.

Ryan Cramer: Thank you for coming on these podcast all, it's because they need to talk out and vent out their frustrations. I get to learn things in the meantime. So our audience is going to learn about all these different things. But yeah, it's one of those things where I always see people, what's that balance to people? Do you find, one, do you find yourself in a group that other people are not quite often in that boutique setting instead of a growth setting?

Talal Asad: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely a journey and like a self, like a self. We were talking earlier about grass is greener on the other side, and I'm thinking, sitting here, have a bunch of 20 to 60% complete software projects that I've been working on for years. And then you just don't have the time for them. And I'm like, " Man, I want to get into SaaS." And then earlier you were like, " Man, I really like, the consulting side is really cool." And it's everyone, I feel like always says the opposite. But when it comes to growing and scaling and everything, I will always imagine that Brand Together will remain a small boutique type agency at most. And if anyone's out there who has a small boutique type agency, one, two people, I'm always looking for someone who I feel like I can eventually partner with, or at least have like a, if it's not a true partnership but like a very close collaboration, because that's what I really want to grow this into is like one big good colab agency, or we don't know what the right word is here. Not quite a cooperative, not quite an agency, not quite a consultancy, but some way that we can sit there and really service our clients because at the end of the day, that's the most important thing, right? The dollar in my pocket is great, and I want more of them like everyone does, but you can't do that at the expense of your clients because we may not have like a legal fiduciary responsibility, but we do have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients. And they're number one, their ROI, their bank for their buck is so much more important than my own. And I feel like if you were to talk to any of my clients, they would say that I consistently tell them to stop spending budget or lower bid or something that would hurt my model. But at the end of the day, it's more important for them to be happy and to be in the positive territory or else it's just not worth it. It's scammy frankly at that point. A And that's something that I really just really disliked about seeing how a lot of advertising agencies work is they always, always, and it's just Amazon is a great example of it. Amazon shoots out this email every beginning of November, late October saying, make sure to up your budgets and spend more. And it's like, we know, and then they say, display, and people use the word top of funnel. Top of funnel is just a way to tell people to spend more money at the end of the day. You better have expensed every single bottom funnel thing before you go to top of funnel and optimized everything bottom of funnel, because at that point, you're basically selling impressions and selling clicks and that's just, you're selling dollars, you're selling traffic. And that's if it's not qualified and it's not smart and you don't have the money to spend it, you shouldn't spend it.

Ryan Cramer: So I have a question in that regard. So we're talking about diversification today. And again, for everyone who's watching this on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, if you have a question, feel free to send us in. Look, we even got, and I appreciate the introduction. Someone is looking for a tech co- founder, post of CTO, if they're interested, Sonny, we'll leave this up here. But Talal and I do not have time for that position. But if there is interested people, go ahead. We're already getting job offers or people are looking for this, like more we're trying to network people amongst this podcast. So for we're talking about diversification and I'm going to throw out the banner just to prompt people if they have questions, diversification means a lot of different things, right? It can be within one marketplace and you have lots of different products, kinds of products you're selling, or you have one product, one SKU, one ASIN, whatever you want to call it, and it's in multiple different places that you can buy it, Shopify, BigCommerce, eBay, Amazon, the list goes on and on. And there's quite frankly a ton of different marketplaces that product itself could be sold. What does diversification mean to you and your agency? And how do you help clients get to that point when you're selling yourself or trying to sell them in terms of diversification?

Talal Asad: Sure. I think people are starting to notice it finally, and especially around the Amazon side of things where everything used to be like, I'm building a business and it's on Amazon and it's almost all of our revenues on Amazon. It's like at the end of the day, do you truly have a business? And the answer is yeah, of course, like you are transacting and yeah, you do have a business and you're making money. And hopefully now with the rise of aggregators, you can maybe try to exit it, but you will inevitably make money that way. Not inevitably, sorry, you could very possibly make money that way.

Ryan Cramer: More likely than not, you will make money that way.

Talal Asad: Yeah. Well, I mean maybe more likely than not, you won't make money. But if you have your stuff together, more likely than not, you'll do a good stuff, you'll do a pretty good job.

Ryan Cramer: You can sell, you have a good product. There's a lot of basis you have to have. We're not saying it's guaranteed. This is not a, you will make money on Amazon no matter what, just throw a product on their blah, blah, blah. But we've gone down that all, that was a long time ago.

Talal Asad: That was a long time ago. Now at this point, though, it's been very clear to us, Amazon has made it extraordinarily clear to everyone is its Amazon's business. They can shut you down for any moment. And more times than not, it's a false positive reason. If you have a real brand, it's a false positive reason. If you're doing retail arbitrage and stuff and like you're selling counterfeit stuff, that's another story, we don't need to go into that. But if you have a real brand and you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, if you get a suspension from Amazon, and at least this is the case with me and my clients, nine out of 10 times, it's not a true term of service issue. It's something that Amazon messed up. And because of that, you are getting hurt. So if your entire book of business or the majority of your revenue is coming from Amazon and you're offline, or your main ASINs are offline for anywhere from one to 21 days plus, that's it, you're basically, if cash flow is an issue for you, you're done, or at least you have to sit there and find an emergency loan or something that can bridge you over. But for the most part, you're basically you're dead in the water. And so that's where diversification comes really important. And that's where it comes like the reframing of your mindset of is Amazon supposed to be your main revenue sales channel? And I'm working a lot with brands who back in 2015, 2016, even before that, 2010, 2011, 2012, did have the majority of their business come from Amazon, but we've been working really, or they internally, I won't say like I'm spearheading that with them a lot, because a lot of the brands I work with do have kind of like machines behind them and they're working behind the scenes, but have done a really good job of starting to wean off of Amazon and really focus on building their brand and building their own internal native channels. And so that would be like a Shopify or a BigCommerce, or a custom build of some sort. But that for me, channel diversification, the hub of that should be your own Shopify channel. And that should be the goal of every single true business, of every single true CPG company. And CPG is also defined always weird. Some people define CPG as like FMCPG, which is fast- moving, which is typically like groceries is probably the closest thing to that. But at the end of the day, if you're sending a product and it's going, it is a CPG product. It could just be like a slower moving one. But anyway, sorry, I digressed.

Ryan Cramer: No. And that's the thing too, is when you give me the topics to cover, I think that there was so much to cover in these regards of, I feel like that there's two schools of thought, you can sell on Amazon and only sell on Amazon and I'm going to ebb and flow and take what Amazon gives me. And that's my business model. That was, I've already seen over the last two years. And you mentioned aggregation of businesses, accelerators, whatever you want to call it, there's these stems of businesses that are helping people grow and take a brand and growing it. It didn't make sense to me personally, not representative of any other business, didn't make sense for me personally to stick your business model on just singular growth in one marketplace when you don't own it. Does that make sense? Where you don't own the customer, you don't own the traffic. You own the conversion because of either history or because it's a good quality product, which are the basis of a brand. A brand would be selling not just on Amazon, but also owning its own customer and own website where you can have a loyal following, people can be advocates for yourself, you can own a email list, you can own that brand itself in house. And then also you can sell directly to retail where a majority of commerce is still happening. Quite frankly, it's what 15% of all commerce is happening on e- commerce 40% of is on Amazon. But there's still lots of retail happening. So again, that's that third pillar. I always tell people, you have Amazon, you have your consumer- based, or your direct to consumer, and then you also have wholesale or retail or direct to consumer through wholesale. Why are people now just, why were they not looking at that model holistically, instead they were just baking on that, but now all of a sudden, you're like, " Oh, wait a minute. Maybe we should look at brands that do have a healthy off of Amazon sale?" Where did that initial shift come from do you think? Because you probably hear the same news and reports that I do of, now people are starting to look at brands that are established off of those kinds of not 90% on Amazon or a 100% Amazon sales, but they actually have an establishment off of Amazon more. And that skew is becoming more apparent.

Talal Asad: Yeah. And I'm actually surprised that that wasn't the model to begin with, frankly, because building an off Amazon company that does scale profitably and really well, that means you put in a lot more work than building one on Amazon for the most part, because you have to sit there and you have to cultivate a company and you have to cultivate a brand and loyalty and you have to work a lot harder on your PR, you have to work a lot harder on more difficult ad types, such as like, whether it's working through, I mean, not even ads in general. I think a lot of the companies that I know that do really well off Amazon don't do a lot of like digital advertising. They just really have developed really good communities that are able to push their sales through micro and nano influencers and just community in general. Before it was even called influencers, that was just called community.

Ryan Cramer: Fans.

Talal Asad: Fans, fans, evangelists. There's tons of tons of names for these types of people. But yeah. And so people on Amazon is a captive network and the people's wallets are out. So it's just a much lower bar to be able to sell on Amazon. And so if you have been able to sell successfully off Amazon, that means you put in more work for the most part, or you just had a great product and you just lucked out on something incredible that got picked up and people know about. But yeah. So that's why I think people who were in the Amazon mindset stayed in the Amazon mindset because it's a little comfortable, like it's, you know your problems, you know how to fix, you know how to try to fix them. I could say Amazon has gotten a little bit worse in the last few years in terms of like how they deal with their sellers. I think it was really bad. And then it got better and then it got really bad again. And I think a lot of that had to do with COVID and just constraints in general with how many seller support people can you possibly hire. And then you will allow everyone on Amazon at the same time. I remember in 2016, there was a moratorium on like starting like September, they wouldn't allow any new people on FBA for Q4. Do you remember that?

Ryan Cramer: I do.

Talal Asad: Why doesn't Amazon do things like that again? Amazon should have stopped sellers at some point because they clearly can't handle the amount of sellers that are coming in. And not really everyone deserves to sell. And I know it's the opposite of what a lot of people, I think a lot of software companies, they try to sell their software. So their whole entire shtick is anyone can do everything, and Joe Schmo can do this and that. Sorry, but that's so not true. And it's unfortunate because you're trying to sell a software. And then at the same time by selling software, what you're doing is you're telling everyone can do everything. And that's just not the case. And I see a lot of times when we talk to some brands and I'm just like, " I don't think your product is good or like, I don't think it's going to be worth going online, or you might need to find someone that can do a little bit more handholding." But going back to the differences between Shopify and Amazon and stuff, at least the barrier to entry on Amazon was just a little bit less than it is on your own native channel.

Ryan Cramer: Right. And it makes sense. If people want to do it quickly or effectively, the data's there, you have the tools in place to find that potential product or software or solution or product in general that will solve a problem. But it's all iterations on already successful things. So it's just a oversimplifying it. It's just a finding things that work. And then just making it a little bit different, which again is entrepreneurship and product development. But in general, if people's goals are building a brand, their goal can be starting on Amazon. There's just not a lot of people that look at, oh, doing my own direct to consumer channel is hard, or I have to do completely different, like I have to drive traffic to my website, I have to put in more effort and time, I have to make things look right, I have to check out, have all these things that look nice on checkout and kind of keep people's at the top of mind when I'm not already there at the bottom of the funnel waiting for people to just put me into their cart and then check out. It seems like that there was the people that are exiting businesses, and this is my generalization, people that are exiting their businesses or people that are now cashing in, they were there at the end of early 2014 and 2015, they were putting products online. It was easy for them to compete, take over, build that establishment. And now the fruits of their labor are, I can just leave now. And it's now too hard to do anything different. Does that make sense where Amazon's completely changes fundamental of trying to stand out has become tougher more than ever of need more money and need more ways to get people's eyeballs on you and they're starting to block off all these different ways that people used to be able to find products, whether it be coupons or rebates and things like that in the old launch strategies, now they're like, hey, we're going to direct people to your brand? And they're trying to make more different ways for people to come up through and it's become harder to figure it out, people are just abandoning ship. Does that make sense? Is that what you're seeing with a lot of customers that are having difficult either starting on Amazon or breaking through on Amazon?

Talal Asad: Yeah, I would say that. So for the ones who are exiting, great. I think that that's phenomenal because you did bear the fruits of your labor at the time. And I think a lot of people do get burned out too. And I think at that point it might be really smart to cash out and go find out the next thing, you go start the next thing, because clearly you have an entrepreneurial spirit enough to have built something, exited, got your monies, and then you can go and move on. So for me, I'm thrilled for the groups that are exiting at this stage. In terms of just kind of viewing or how to view Amazon, at this point in 2021, I try to coach a lot of the brands that I work with to view Amazon as a marketing channel not as a sales channel. What it is, it's a margin, positive marketing channel. It's the only margin positive marketing channel you will probably ever have, like true positive, where there's like actual, real revenue coming from what you're doing. But then that investment should then be made at refining the brand and then working on capturing off Amazon clients or customers. But then we talk about other channel diversification. Of course, Walmart is starting to make, it's finally starting to make up a piece of the business that's worth dealing with their version of seller support, which is infinitely worse in my opinion. It's so funny. Walmart could overnight overtake Amazon from like a seller's perspective. Maybe not from a customer's yet. But if all they did was say, okay, what are all the annoyances that happen on Amazon? And how can we just not do that? How can we just make the best seller support possible? But what happened was they bought Jet. And then jet and Walmart. com, the two teams did not mesh well at all. And they basically killed Jet, put everyone under. com. And the people that they hired at Jet were, I have no idea why they bought it. It was like they could have built exactly that.

Ryan Cramer: That was the bell of the ball back in 2015 when it happened because that was a$ 2 billion acquisition, that it was so much promise, it was its own marketplace, it was the delivering capabilities. And then just take-

Talal Asad: Unreal. What a flop. And it's so funny because like you have the smartest people in the room in Bentonville sitting there and discussing this purchase of Jet. And like, how did they... Anyone who was selling on Jet could have told you this was going to be an absolute disaster at the time. I think even the CEO of Jet. com became the CEO of Walmart. com and ended up having more shares than the CEO of Walmart. com at some point and was worth more. And it was just like crazy, crazy, crazy. But anyway, anyone who has sold on Jet can tell you like the people that they hired as like buyers were not, they were glorified seller support people and just did not know what they were doing. They were like kids out of college and had no clue what they were doing. But now it looks like Walmart is starting to get its stuff together a little bit better, still not a great system. And you would hope after six, seven years that they would've figured it out, but they still haven't really figured it out. But that's another diversification. That's something just in case something goes down, there's another thing.

Ryan Cramer: There's growth that's happening there, I believe is 5, 000 new sellers that came on just on Walmart. com alone. And a lot of people are if there aren't succeeding on Amazon, I think it's that trickle effect of all right, well, let's find a different channel to either take advantage of, manipulate, sell on, whatever you want to call it. And that became the second tier I think of not on Amazon. com and Amazon. So that going to be fruitful for me. I'm going to go to Amazon or Walmart. com. So it's interesting, everyone's like, " Wait, give Walmart some time, give us some time." It feels like it's been that way for a year or two. Is that chain really a really pushing hard for customers to go into?

Talal Asad: Yeah. I mean, it's definitely growing. And I would suggest being in there earlier rather than later if you have the capacity or if you have good people that can help you with it, which I don't know if you've ever had Michelle on this call before, but she does a really good job on Walmart. And she's been someone who I've loved working with.

Ryan Cramer: To get around and talk about Walmart. com.

Talal Asad: Yeah. She could talk about Walmart for sure. I'll send you the details for her later. But she, that's the thing is finding that someone who's willing and ready to navigate that because it's not an easy thing to do on your own. And everyone who I work with on Walmart, who's done it on their own have basically said like, " We don't really care about Walmart." And then you're like, well, maybe it's time to start caring, because especially if you've already been green lit for an account, there's just not that many people have yet. So it's still that, it's kind of like sponsored brand videos in 2018, or if you're doing them, you're going to do pretty well just by being there.

Ryan Cramer: By just being the first to market. That's what I'm thinking is a lot of people, I would rather be first to market and be in that capability of maybe it's not a big lift, but if you're first to market, it's that establishment of, hey, I'm here. It starts to build that reputation. And instead of, hey, be a part of the wave and you get missed in the mess of it all, if that makes sense, where if you're first to market, it's hard to like, there's no other option, they're going to go with you. So there is the opportunity to capture and be beneficial in that regards too, which is why I think Walmart is really positive. And that's why first to market in different Amazon marketplaces is always intriguing for people of, hey, I may not be a big lift, but first market means something in certain capacities in two or three years down the road, maybe it is a 5% of my yearly revenue or things like that. So that's why I'm, you don't want to stretch yourself too thin, but also why it's interesting, like you said, Talal, is each different marketplace has to have its own set of like basically its own team at this juncture. And that's why people are stretched across the board of, hey, if I'm an aggregator, for example, again, this is at scale and I have 200 brands, we're really good at Amazon. But if we wanted to do the same thing for Shopify, for example, that's a whole nother team theoretically that you would have to train on the brand, get really good at it and have its own separate teams. So basically doubling the efforts that you're already putting into a specific brand, which is really hard for people to put that investment in when it might not be the same lift as Amazon. So do you see that all the time with other companies and agencies? Or is that something I'm making up here on the spot?

Talal Asad: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't say it's a full doubling of efforts, but there is definitely, there's some overlap that you can have between, especially if you have really good people. I think that's maybe something to talk through too is just like the talent glut that's out there right now, it's very hard to find really good people in e- commerce because they're all attached to either a company or attached-

Ryan Cramer: Or hired.

Talal Asad: Or hired. Yeah. And so unfortunately, I feel like people can pretty much name their price at this point if they're really good at what they do in e- commerce. And so trying to develop like raw, fresh out of college talent is not, like you need a lot of time and dedication and effort to it. And then you have to really realize very quickly the people who can and can't do the work. And without a really good mentor or someone who knows what they're really doing or sending people to these conferences and really getting them to train up, that's the reason why I learned is because I was able to learn on someone else's dime for two years, on a company's dime or like-

Ryan Cramer: It's not a bad thing.

Talal Asad: And alone, I would've never figured it out. I mean maybe, but it wouldn't have been the same thing. And a lot of people who are running it as a brand, lot of entrepreneurs, they just like building, or not entrepreneurs, but I would say like in CPG or product development, a lot of people fall into a couple different, I would say silos. There are some product people who just want to be inventors and create what they create and then have no idea how to sell it. And there's people who are like sellers who are sitting there, and I would say the opportunistic type people who sit there and go through Xray and the new product explorer tool and Jungle Scout and whatnot, and try to find a niche product and then try to do that. But then maybe they come up short in actually developing a product. And then the third, it's like the support part of it, like sitting there and actually being able to get through all of the stuff-

Ryan Cramer: How to get it sourced. Exactly. Well, that's the thing, you're starting to see these industries really branch into its own somewhat entities of sourcing logistics is becoming this really big. It's hot now because people, everyone across the board, no matter if you're in e- commerce or just in retail or whatever it is, it's all being affected by one major thing is how do I get my goods from point A to point B in any route everywhere in between to make sure it's streamlined and effective? And that's why you see these major hirings. People want to get it figured out first, because you don't want to sit on a boat for 120 many days or having it sit in a warehouse and it can't get to last mile delivery or anything like that if you're filling yourself. There's all these different issues that are really stemming. And that's where innovation is really, really starting to become apparent more than ever. What in diversification, like in terms of what you're seeing now, you've been in this space, what is the most troubling part of where we are sitting as an industry now? And what is the most exciting part in terms of where people are innovating as well? I'm going to use innovation as the umbrella. What's the one that's the most troubling problem, but then where are you seeing the most excitement coming and stemming from?

Talal Asad: That's a great question. The sourcing piece of it, the excitement from that is I think people are going to wean themselves off of purely like looking to China. And I think that means you're going to open some more opportunities of buying local and buying like the made in the US, in North America as well like Canada and Mexico. I think Mexico right now is hot in terms of like, is there a way to source? I know a lot of textiles that's being sourced from like El Salvador and Honduras and stuff like that. And I think you're going to see a lot more of that happening. I'm pretty excited. And then we keep forgetting that there's like a whole Eastern Hemisphere too. Like that's not, I mean, like when I say Eastern Hemisphere, I'm trying to think of my globe here, but I'm like the Europe, Africa, Middle East side. There's that side too, that I think people keep forgetting about that. We have like an Eastern Seaboard as well. And it's like, everything is just so focused because China has really up their capabilities in the last 20 years. But I hope that that means you're going to start to see some more diversification in where we source material and products from.

Ryan Cramer: Well, and you're even hearing, I've heard the term popup port being used. And I didn't know that was the thing. I'm thinking popup shop, but popup port, I'm like, you can't just like sit on a coastline somewhere randomly and start offloading on a boat. But it's sounds like that there's more being diverted to the Eastern ports, like I know like Savannah, I believe the Georgia coast, obviously Florida's pretty like 80% at capacity. There's a lot in terms of that regards in, I think, oh gosh, I don't know if it was the group that we're both in together or not, but the video that was shared for mutual friend Barcus Patty, he shared like the Texas governor and love governors who are trying to say, " Hey, put your goods into our ports. Don't be in California, put them in Texas. And it only takes an extra two weeks to get here." Very much broad stroking the issues at hand of don't let it sit in ports in California, come to Texas and offload them there. There's a lot of different unfortunate factors of time, trying to plan it out. Like you can't just be a speedboat and change directions of a freighter all of a sudden. So that's why I just really tried hard to understand like where's that innovation coming from? That's a big pain point for a lot of people. Is it for everyone though? And that's my question for you is are everyone having those same struggles or is just major people at scale that I feel like that there's a good core group of people that are under the radar that have it already figured out that are not complaining because they have planned to, they've seen this kind of come forward or they have plan B E, C and D already implemented? Do you have any like best case scenarios for your clients or are there like case studies that you've seen have avoided these issues?

Talal Asad: That's a really good question. I'm not really involved in a lot of that for the most part. There's only a couple clients that I'm pretty involved in their day- to- day discussions when it comes to things around that. I do know that there is one that I know who has been sourcing from China for over 20 years and they anticipated this happening. And so they over, over ordered in early 2020, because they figured that this was going to happen. And they still got hit with waiting at the port for a while, but now they have enough to tide them over for the next year and a half. So you have to have the money to buy that. You have to, if you're typically you're doing like a 100, 000 unit orders from China, then you had to do like 250, 000 just to take care of this year. So there are people who have dealt with it before. And maybe not, I don't think that this issue is unprecedented. But for example, people who really know how to deal with China prior to like Chinese New Year, for example, and making sure you get everything in before. So whatever. And so that kind of know- how I think comes a lot with just experience. But we're even seeing the big traditional conglomerate multinational struggling at this point too. So I think there is just a global struggle. I think there's clearly is a global struggle, whether or not there's some people who just were prescient enough to really figure it out prior, I'm sure there are out there. I don't know of them, though.

Ryan Cramer: Gotcha. Sticking with the diversification model in the little time we have left. Again, if you are listening to this and you have different questions or comments about diversification or where to look to next, again, I think we've covered Shopify and the exciting things that it's coming out with them, I think there's lots of cool different features that they're integrating with. Is there any other places and marketplaces that you're seeing really emerge as a viable option to jump in early, whether it be on the same playing field of like a Walmart or your own Shopify store? Is there other ones that people are seeing lots of success on?

Talal Asad: Yeah. I've never been able to make eBay work. I'm sure some people have. I just don't touch it. So that's just my personal opinion. Someone out there could be there and be like, " Yeah, we're crushing it on eBay." I'm like, " Good for you. Keep going, keep doing it." I know a lot more like prettier, female- focused, handmade stuff can work well on Etsy. I don't know anyone who's really doing well selling on like the social network type, like using Instagram shop and Facebook shop and stuff like that. I haven't seen anyone doing really good work there, but maybe that overlaps with Etsy a little bit. I don't know. Again, those are not the channels that I'm very familiar with. For me, at the end of the day, everything should come back to Shopify or BigCommerce or your own channel where you are in charge of your customer, you can email them when you want, you can retarget them when you want. I'm sure things are a lot harder now with iOS 14 and not being able to really do such detailed targeting that you used to be able to do. So maybe when I say you could retarget them, like as long as you have the first- party list, you can. Things are harder and you're always going to, and I think that's just the nature of the game, right? There's always going to be some sort of regulation or some sort of impediment from the platform that you're on. Like talking about Amazon and like not being able to know who your customers are anymore, or like not getting any information. These things are going to continue to happen. And it's just about being able to like bob and weave and figure things out. And that's why diversification is important because if one completely goes down, at least you have the other one to tide you over, keep your employees hired, give you enough capital to at least keep the lights on while you fix and figure out the next move.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. I know we talked about channel diversification, do you ever have the conversation about product diversification, the kind of brand?

Talal Asad: All the time. Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: So what are the things that you hear from clients that you always hear and you're like either, hey, I have to constantly remind them it's not a breath thing, it's more of a focus thing? Or is there something you wish they would ask you before they hop on either as a client or wish they would ask about before pursuing a different business venture or anything like that?

Talal Asad: I think a lot of times people get into the trap of, if I add more SKUs, I add more sales. And there is a huge cannibalization if all you're doing is adding colors or adding flavors. I think you could do some sort of extension to your brand with flavors and maybe a couple of the primary colors or changing them to more modern colors. That works. But if you're consistently launching new colors, unless you're like a shoe company or like a couch company, like a furniture where color really matters, like the difference between a green and a white tape measure or garlic press. Yeah. You're not really going to extend the market that much. You're just giving people more options that might get someone who wasn't going to buy buy, but it's not going to get someone who's going to try to buy something else.

Ryan Cramer: It's not a big lift.

Talal Asad: It's not a big lift. But when you are entering something, either complementary or even something competitive, that might be a good way to enhance and extend your brand. If you're going from something like sugar- free to sugar, or sugar to sugar- free or low calorie, then you're extending your brand because you're getting people who wouldn't have purchased the original one. So when you're thinking about diversification, you have to have, obviously you can't just launch a clothing company with black. You have to have your four or five colors that are going to account for 80% of your sales, but everything after that, you're just giving people more options. And then at some point, you might be giving people too many options. And then you get into that whole entire analysis paralysis issue where they just don't buy anything, because they have too many options. And so you have to keep playing that game. So definitely thinking about things where you are launching when you're launching new products to your brand, keeping them brand, like within the same brand and actually relevant to that brand, being something complimentary that people can either add onto the existing product or can use independently, but still fall. Like if you have like a grilling company and you have like a spatula, you probably also want to start figuring out a new type of grape or a new type of like scrub, something that you could do that's going to be part of the brand that extends the brand for a whole new customer set or gets the current customer set to buy another version of it because they really like your current version.

Ryan Cramer: That one makes sense. And I think obviously that's a customer because it depends on the entrepreneur at that regards. I guess my final question for today would be when people ask you, when should I be ready and when should I diversify? When's the right time to know, how do I know? What do you tell people in that kind of question comes up?

Talal Asad: I frankly don't think that I'm the right person to ask that question to because I don't know. A lot of the crosstalk. Yeah. I think it's a hard question and I think it's kind of-

Ryan Cramer: Is it more of a feel?

Talal Asad: Yeah, I think there's a lot of feel to it, but there also is probably a time where you feel like you're capping out if you're plateauing, if you're doing well but plateauing, or you're just not doing well at all and you just can't tell whether or not it's the product. Maybe at that time, it's time to look at something new. I don't feel like I'm qualified, unfortunately, really in that aspect a lot. I know it's something that you have to always think about, but whether or not like when or what to do. I think that I gotten in discussions with the brands that I work with a lot based on when they try to launch a new bundle or a new product. And I say, " I don't think, I think you're just going to compete with yourself on this one or cannibalize." And it turns out that it works perfectly. And I was like, " Well, I was wrong and I'm glad I'm wrong." And so I feel like I've been wrong as many times as I've been right on that one. And so for me, that's a push and I don't have a qualification for it.

Ryan Cramer: Exactly. Well, no, I think it's always up to the brand and when they're ready, they're ready, whether it be monetarily wise or just a feel wise. I think like they can feel like they can take on more. I always tell people if you're asking that question, you're more likely, there's no like metric that's going to tell you I'm ready to go, like, I'm going to hit a million dollar in sales in Amazon, now I'm going to move to a different country or I'm going to move to a different channel. I think it's all depending on what you can take on and what you feel comfortable with time, money, and effort, and not to hurt yourself in what you've already built out. So it's always up to the business or the entrepreneur at that juncture.

Talal Asad: One more thing on that, though, is like, and you notice this a lot with the more visionary type entrepreneurs or CEOs in the company is lots of them have shinny object syndrome, where they want to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. And when you haven't even completely dominated one part yet. And that one is something that I would advise against, like going on Etsy for the sake of being on Etsy or going on eBay for the sake of channel diversification or going to Amazon Australia. These are tiny, tiny, tiny markets probably for a lot of brands now. So of course some brands might be great there, but at the end of the day, you have to look at like how much is really being transacted in this new channel and if you have the time and dedication for that new channel. And if not, there's probably so many things that you can do. First of all, you have almost an infinite market. And I know that's not a right number, but bear with me on this one, approaching infinity market on Shopify, because you have the US economy and you have if have a decent market in terms of like what you're trying to sell. We're talking billions in dollars in most subcategories. So if you're on Shopify, you technically have more than you can handle in one lifetime, not being a conglomerate. So you can still keep focusing on that and optimizing that and working on that for a long, long time before you have to jump into a new channel. But of course, we want you to jump into the new channels because if one goes down or iOS 15 comes and says, no more retargeting or iOS 16 comes and no more retargeting, at that stage, you are glad that you're on Amazon for your backstop. So view things with a backs. I know I'm probably very contradictory in this conversation, but I think that's the nature of business, it is kind of contradictory.

Ryan Cramer: You don't want to be a 100 or zero. I'm going to summarize this probably podcast in one sentence, you don't want to be a 100% in one channel because it can go to zero, but you don't want to be in a 100 different places where one goes down and you're just spread too thin across the board. So you want to be so that if one shuts down, you still got revenue channels, you can turn up the heat, figure out what the problem is, and then fix that leak, if you will. So if it's one leak, it's probably going to feel like a fire hose if that's the only channel and you have to stop it, or it's all going everywhere. But if it's just one tiny leak, you can fix that and you can bear the fruits of the other channels in the meantime. So I think that would be my summary of all of this as well.

Talal Asad: Totally.

Ryan Cramer: So Talal, going into 2022, is there anything that is exciting with you in the final moments that we have here on the podcast?

Talal Asad: I mean, I think this is a call back to the beginning of our conversation where we're just trying to figure out who we are in this ecosystem. And I hope in 2022, we have like a pretty good set of what I want Brand Together to really be versus what it is right now, which is leaving a lot of the day- to- day stuff. We don't really do a lot of day- to- day Amazon stuff. We really try to train and help the operators in their companies, do what they need to do, because I don't believe that, and this is comes from back when I was working at the energy drink and even before when I was working at the HIT company, like being able to have continuity. And if any agency holds things proprietary and doesn't tell you what they're doing or they make changes without telling you why they're making those changes, they're doing that so they can keep you in golden handcuffs. And so for us, we like to really explain what we do and why we do it for the most part in order to allow you to have that continuity. Now, of course, not every single thing, because some things you just do on the fly, or there's some things that you learn from somewhere that you're not really going to tell. And so you don't tell all of the things, but you do tell enough to have them feel comfortable that they can move on to somewhere else.

Ryan Cramer: Amazing. And then if people want to get in touch with you or if they have questions, what's the best way to do that if they want to connect with you? You said you have a moratorium on new clientele, but if they want to connect with you and just touch base, how do they do that?

Talal Asad: I'll always take the call. So you can go to brandtogether. io. You can email me at talal @ brandtogether. io, or just hit me up on LinkedIn, just search for Talal Asad. I'm the one with my face up and I was shaven. So that's my picture on that one.

Ryan Cramer: Maybe Talal, if you will, before COVID hit, before we all had to grow beards and had facial hairs. That's awesome.

Talal Asad: Yeah.

Ryan Cramer: I was going to say, well, thank you so much. Obviously I've learned a lot from you today. And then just there's so many different parts that you've been touching. It's that mentality in the background that can help point people in the right direction, which is really cool. And I love hearing your thoughts on the space in the industry and where the growth is going to happen all the time on our other little channels that we have going on. So it's a pleasure to talk with you on this channel and talk about channel diversification for our other listeners and clients that are listening, watching I'd say. So thank you so much.

Talal Asad: Thank you so much.

Ryan Cramer: Awesome. Well, again, let me go ahead and if you hang right there, I will come back to you before I sign off right now. Again, thank you Talal Asad of Brand Together. Again, thank you for everyone who is watching us on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. Again, this is your first time or 179th episode that you joined me in my corner of the internet, we appreciate it. And if you like us, go ahead and rate us with a thumbs up or give a good rating on your favorite podcast channel. And again, there's lots of different competition, not competitions, awards that are being recognized for thought leaders in the space, both on service industry side, on software side, YouTube channel podcast. If you care to do that, you can do that. Go to sellerpoll. com and vote. If you really like Crossover Commerce, please go ahead and do that. Rate us in there. It'd be cool to see how people take this information. Again, we've been putting so much out there for you, the listener who is trying to learn more about Amazon or e- commerce diversification, especially today, and trying to grow your brand or business. We'd appreciate that. But this is our mission, what we'll always try to do here on this podcast. That being said, this is Friday. Hope you all have a great weekend, have a safe weekend. Make sure that you tune in again or set notifications for feature episodes. We have a jam- packed week ahead of us next week, starting on Tuesday, I'll be doing two episodes live, one with a round table and another with another individual. So they're going to get a double Tuesday. I haven't called it anything specific yet. But make sure you tune in live and you can listen to that round table. We're going to talk about make sure your business is being profitable and how do you do that before an exit. And then the second episode is going to be around ever, let me go ahead and look real quick. It's overcoming the obstacles that Amazon throws your way. So that is another one we're going to be talking about with Market Wize. And my round table is going to be with friends of the show, Ben Leonard, Chris Shipferling, and Yoni Kozminski. All guys have been on the show multiple times. So we are going to be talking about what makes a brand profitable and valuable and sellable. So with that being said, this is Crossover Commerce. We'll catch you guys next time in my corner of the internet. Take care.


Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Talal Asad of Brand Together one-on-one as they break down the importance of channel diversification for your online brand.


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Today's Host

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🎙 Ryan Cramer - Host

|Partnership & Influencer Marketing Manager

Today's Guests

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Talal Asad

|Founder of Brand Together