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biophase

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Bio, is the process still as follows? :

Spend hours researching on Alibaba for that special product you think will have good margins.

Go back and forth with the china man.

Order samples.

Test samples, put them on amazon. See if if you can sell them.

If you can sell them, order more.

Is that the gist of it?

This is the process that many people follow. But I don't follow this process at all because you are not adding any value. As an example, say that you found that kitchen knife sets sell for $50 on amazon and that you can get them for $15 in China. You look on amazon and there are 15 people selling these kitchen knives at $50. You find the supplier making their kitchen knives and you put a red handle with your logo on them and sell them for $50 on Amazon. So what did you really do? Nothing. You created another kitchen knife set on Amazon that looks like 15 other ones except with a different color handle.

What I would do is see what I can change about the kitchen knife set. Here are things that you can do to improve the kitchen knife set:
1) Use a better quality blade
2) Use a better quality handle
3) Improve the knife block
4) Use a different combination of knives
5) Add more knives
6) Add a butcher block cutting board
7) Add a money back guarantee
8) Change the blade shapes

Imagine if you did 2-5 of these things. How do you think your listing will stack up compared to the original 15 listings? What if your cost ballooned to $25 and you still listed your knife set at $50. Do you think that you would sell more units? Do you think that you need to giveaway sets for free reviews? No, in this case, people will find your knife set and buy it because it is better when compared to the other sets out there.
 

biophase

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If you have an advantage or can get ranked, do it!

I have never used any review service in my main niche. I get them to #1 by selling at cost until they get to #1. Put it this way, if my product is already better than a competing product and we are both priced at $40. What happens when I drop the price of it to $25? You guessed it, it sells like crazy. A few weeks at $25 and I'm at #1. All the sales and reviews are organic. Then I move the price back to $40. Now I stay there.

I have used a review service once, I got 25 reviews for a product. This was in a competitive niche, the same one where a competitor got 320 reviews within a month. He is on the front page, I'm on the 6th page right now. But, my product is better than his. In fact, I had requested 50 reviews, but cancelled at 25 because I didn't them any more. The 25 sales got my product in the search results and that's all I needed. Once in the search results, it will sell itself. I sell 1-3 of these a day now.
 

biophase

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With the new TOS you're 100% right - it IS a real risk for the business. You're definitely better off at the moment just growing organically / with PPC until amazon specifies what they mean by an "excessive" number of free or discounted items. Does giving away 5 products for honest reviews put you in the same "excessive" category as 50 or 500? ..Probably not - but who knows?

If you are giving away 5 products, just ask your friends. You only really need a service when you want to do 25+.

The big worry here is not if it will work, it is if you will get penalized in the future. Let's say you launch today and you get 100 free reviews, you shoot to #1 and everything is fine. You build a nice business this way. Then in 2017 Amazon decides to penalize people who did this. All your listings go from #1 to [HASHTAG]#800[/HASHTAG] in a day. All the income that you were used to is now gone. Your listings are now tainted. So you need to start a new listing, but now you are starting from scratch at 2 years behind your competitors.

This is basically what Google did with its Panda updates.
 

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If you are giving away 5 products, just ask your friends. You only really need a service when you want to do 25+.

The big worry here is not if it will work, it is if you will get penalized in the future. Let's say you launch today and you get 100 free reviews, you shoot to #1 and everything is fine. You build a nice business this way. Then in 2017 Amazon decides to penalize people who did this. All your listings go from #1 to [HASHTAG]#800[/HASHTAG] in a day. All the income that you were used to is now gone. Your listings are now tainted. So you need to start a new listing, but now you are starting from scratch at 2 years behind your competitors.

This is basically what Google did with its Panda updates.
Ouch. And you might have built a bigger infrastructure based off this steady revenue, so could be in a bigger hole than if you had just done it right from the start.
 
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Lukebrisbane

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Am i able to get into this if I live overseas, like in Australia? Like could i use the fulfilment in america and sell to them? Also, say you wanted to start selling on amazon. You were on a budget, you say wanted to invest the smallest amount possible to start and build up, what resources would you go about looking up to read, what niches would you look in? I'm not per say looking for the most profitable, i'm looking just to get started then build up.

Finally, so assuming I do all this, i could run the business entirely remotely and never have to see/pack the product myself?

Kind regards,
Luke.
 

smithsta

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Biophase, I'm just curious, do you run multiple eCommerce stores and multiple brands on Amazon?

Btw, I'm personally glad Amazon changed their TOS regarding the discounts/giveaways for reviews.

Anyone with a bit of cash can get hundreds of 'honest' reviews, but where's the creativity in that.
 

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B, regarding custom requests with the manufacturer e.g. a different knife block (to use your earlier example) in your experience, are manufacturers happy to make some changes? What kind of premium can you expect to pay for a change in product?
 

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You said there was a small product that you were importing that margins were low but it helped your brand so you did it. How did you go about brand expansion and the selection of said brand to dominate whichever niche you are in?
When you make changes to products how do you communicate that with the manufacture and if they say they cannot do what you are asking what is your course of action?
How many products are you currently selling?
What does your day to day operations consist of?
 

biophase

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Am i able to get into this if I live overseas, like in Australia? Like could i use the fulfilment in america and sell to them? Also, say you wanted to start selling on amazon. You were on a budget, you say wanted to invest the smallest amount possible to start and build up, what resources would you go about looking up to read, what niches would you look in? I'm not per say looking for the most profitable, i'm looking just to get started then build up.

Finally, so assuming I do all this, i could run the business entirely remotely and never have to see/pack the product myself?

Kind regards,
Luke.

I know a few people in Australia who sell FBA on Amazon US so yes it is easily doable.

I think the whole start small, choose a profitable niche is the wrong way to go. By picking a niche based on your funds and what everyone else is doing, you are basically guaranteeing an unsustainable business. You have to find something that works for you. If I told you kitchen knives was a good niche, would you start there and jump into a crowded space with no value add?

You're almost guaranteed to lose your small investment because you can't compete against someone willing to give away their first $2000 order.
 

biophase

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Biophase, I'm just curious, do you run multiple eCommerce stores and multiple brands on Amazon?

Btw, I'm personally glad Amazon changed their TOS regarding the discounts/giveaways for reviews.

Anyone with a bit of cash can get hundreds of 'honest' reviews, but where's the creativity in that.

Yes, I run multiple ecommerce stores and am in multiple niches.
 

biophase

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B, regarding custom requests with the manufacturer e.g. a different knife block (to use your earlier example) in your experience, are manufacturers happy to make some changes? What kind of premium can you expect to pay for a change in product?

Yes, they will be happy to make changes. This will increase your price and MOQ and you may have to pay some tooling or mold costs upfront. The premium all depends on the product. You just need to ask.
 

biophase

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You said there was a small product that you were importing that margins were low but it helped your brand so you did it. How did you go about brand expansion and the selection of said brand to dominate whichever niche you are in?
When you make changes to products how do you communicate that with the manufacture and if they say they cannot do what you are asking what is your course of action?
How many products are you currently selling?
What does your day to day operations consist of?

I look for products that work within my company. So if I sold kitchen knife sets, it would be natural for me to go into butcher blocks, cutting boards, kitchen drawer organizers or anything kitchen utensil related. Once you are in all those products, you can move outward to plates, cups, place mats or pot holders. You could even go further out and do home related products. Once you are in these niches you will see what is missing and needs to be sold.

I don't know how many products I'm selling right now. It's probably between 50-100.

My day to day is fairly simple now because I have an employee running it. All I work on is new product development and the occasional box unloading.

11866369_10206879002989478_5535274423193910586_n.jpg
 

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Bio,

Re: different brands on Amazon. Do you petition Amazon to have separate accounts for your different brands or run them all under the same login info/bank account? I've heard it's better to get separate accounts, just curious of your experience with it.
 

biophase

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Bio,

Re: different brands on Amazon. Do you petition Amazon to have separate accounts for your different brands or run them all under the same login info/bank account? I've heard it's better to get separate accounts, just curious of your experience with it.

I run totally different companies with different addresses, different bank accounts, different everything. Nothing is intermingled with them.
 

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This is the process that many people follow. But I don't follow this process at all because you are not adding any value. As an example, say that you found that kitchen knife sets sell for $50 on amazon and that you can get them for $15 in China. You look on amazon and there are 15 people selling these kitchen knives at $50. You find the supplier making their kitchen knives and you put a red handle with your logo on them and sell them for $50 on Amazon. So what did you really do? Nothing. You created another kitchen knife set on Amazon that looks like 15 other ones except with a different color handle.

What I would do is see what I can change about the kitchen knife set. Here are things that you can do to improve the kitchen knife set:
1) Use a better quality blade
2) Use a better quality handle
3) Improve the knife block
4) Use a different combination of knives
5) Add more knives
6) Add a butcher block cutting board
7) Add a money back guarantee
8) Change the blade shapes

Imagine if you did 2-5 of these things. How do you think your listing will stack up compared to the original 15 listings? What if your cost ballooned to $25 and you still listed your knife set at $50. Do you think that you would sell more units? Do you think that you need to giveaway sets for free reviews? No, in this case, people will find your knife set and buy it because it is better when compared to the other sets out there.
That was a really good explanation, thank you.
 

marklov

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I know a few people in Australia who sell FBA on Amazon US so yes it is easily doable.

I think the whole start small, choose a profitable niche is the wrong way to go. By picking a niche based on your funds and what everyone else is doing, you are basically guaranteeing an unsustainable business. You have to find something that works for you. If I told you kitchen knives was a good niche, would you start there and jump into a crowded space with no value add?

You're almost guaranteed to lose your small investment because you can't compete against someone willing to give away their first $2000 order.



Is the low margin high volume model worth it?
 
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Lukebrisbane

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Thanks for the response, so you'd recommend minimum $2000 saved, and forget about the cheapest niche to start in, just look for demand?
Okay, so say you had to start your own journey all over again from 2015, instead of when your started yourself, what mistakes try your hardest to avoid? What areas would you of focused on in your business instead? I'm not just talking marketing, everything. Branding, product development/sourcing ect.
Do you recommend another forum thread to get started learning?

Thank you.
 

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What I would do is see what I can change about the kitchen knife set. Here are things that you can do to improve the kitchen knife set:
1) Use a better quality blade
2) Use a better quality handle
3) Improve the knife block
4) Use a different combination of knives
5) Add more knives
6) Add a butcher block cutting board
7) Add a money back guarantee
8) Change the blade shapes

B, regarding custom requests with the manufacturer e.g. a different knife block (to use your earlier example) in your experience, are manufacturers happy to make some changes?

Yes, they will be happy to make changes. This will increase your price and MOQ and you may have to pay some tooling or mold costs upfront. The premium all depends on the product. You just need to ask.

In regards to asking the manufacture to make changes, would I need to know specifics like the raw materials used to build the product, size/shapes, design, colors etc. Or is it just as simple as asking them, is there anyway you can increase the quality of the blades by any chance? and go from there? Because how am I suppose to know what a better quality blade is? Is this something I should be researching constantly trying to figure out the best materials?

Whats is your process like when trying to change a product? Do you send your manufacture a 3D CAD model, or a PDF sketch of the product? Or is it as simple as just asking and letting them handle the rest. As long as the change is made and you see the difference in quality after receiving them and your good to go?

I don't know how many products I'm selling right now. It's probably between 50-100.

Are all your 50-100 of your products custom made in some way? Or are there some where you just see the margins and it matches in your store and you sell it?
 

biophase

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Because how am I suppose to know what a better quality blade is? Is this something I should be researching constantly trying to figure out the best materials?

It is up to you to do the research. Sometimes the manufacturer has no idea why they are building what they are making. If you are trying to sell knives and don't know the difference between a good quality blade and a poor one, you should not be selling knives. Because someone like me is eventually going to come along and blow your product out of the water and sell it for cheaper. Then watch your sales decline.

Whats is your process like when trying to change a product? Do you send your manufacture a 3D CAD model, or a PDF sketch of the product? Or is it as simple as just asking and letting them handle the rest. As long as the change is made and you see the difference in quality after receiving them and your good to go?

This all depends on the product. It can range from CAD drawings to a simple email or hand drawn diagram. There's no hand holding here, you just do and and learn as you go. I have no idea what they need to do to make my improvements. If they tell me they need CAD drawings then I get CAD drawings, if they tell me they need only a drawing, then I make a drawing.

Are all your 50-100 of your products custom made in some way? Or are there some where you just see the margins and it matches in your store and you sell it?

They are all custom. If I found a normal product that sold well on Amazon, why would you NOT try to improve it? If my knives are selling well, why would I sit back and be happy with that? I would want to improve them on each shipment. That's only way to stay ahead of the game.
 

biophase

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Thanks for the response, so you'd recommend minimum $2000 saved, and forget about the cheapest niche to start in, just look for demand?
Okay, so say you had to start your own journey all over again from 2015, instead of when your started yourself, what mistakes try your hardest to avoid? What areas would you of focused on in your business instead? I'm not just talking marketing, everything. Branding, product development/sourcing ect.
Do you recommend another forum thread to get started learning?

Thank you.

"what mistakes try your hardest to avoid?" - I would not sell what everyone else is selling. Personally I would not go this route, BUT it is still working, so if you want to make a quick buck, the current Amazon methods that everyone is doing still work. This is not the path to building a company though, but it can make some money.

This is hard to do, but I'm trying not to brand just to brand. If you just slap a sticker on a product, people can hijack your listing easily. I'd like to make it so that my brand is somehow designed into the product. So others can't listing under you, and if they do, the customer will know that they got a fake.

"What areas would you of focused on in your business instead?" - I am focused on being different. I'm not launching a knife because there needs to be another knife for sale out there. If I could make a super undulable knife, then I'd go that direction. I am launching a new business right now. In fact my first shipment shipped on Friday. The product in this business is nothing special actually. What is special about this business is where the proceeds are donated.

I don't know if $2000 saved will get you anywhere. You are talking about 500pcs of a $2 product. A $2 product is likely to be shit. Not saying it can't be done, but you need to do some research.

There are tons of Amazon progress threads on this forum. I would read them all. It doesn't take alot of time.
 

biophase

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You can use this concept alot. Watch from 44 seconds.


My friend was competing in a space where everyone was selling 1 and 2 packs of the product. So I told him to do a 4 pack. Guess what, it worked! Sometimes the answer is easy.
 

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To be honest, I think a lot of sellers on Amazon are overreacting to the new TOS. A lot of rumors spreading, "My sisters-best friend's- Dad's-Cousin got banned for giving away 50 units."

The new TOS is extremely vague. From what I've heard from Amazon reps and fellow sellers with designated amazon reps, the whole point of the TOS is to target those nasty sellers that are using other "blackhat" methods, which I can't discuss, sending hundreds and thousands of fraudulent orders to their listings ranking them extremely quick. It's usually those products that are ranking 1-5 for main keywords and your're wondering how they're there with a crappy product/listing. I think amazon is doing us all a favor.

Anyways, sorry to hijack the thread biophase! I have this bookmarked for the near future.

Thanks.
 

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Good to have an update on the topic as the landscape has changed drastically.

I've been selling on AMZ for 2.5yrs and it's just like Pre-Panda right now.

A few questions for you:

1) Can you give us a rough % of AMZ sales VS your own eCommerce? The reason I ask is because as you know, AMZ has been banning people left and right and this is the problem with AMZ- No Control. Is this something you see as a big problem, and just riding the AMZ wave as long as possible? I think I would be more comfortable getting 60% of sales on my own platform and missing 40% of sales and always looking over my shoulder.

2) How do you plan on protecting/hedging against the possibility of losing the ability to sell on AMZ?

Sometimes most sellers get banned for no fault of their own (customers input wrong data, competitors play dirty etc). I'm almost at a point of fearing Amazon controlling my life because unfortunately at this point, I'm all in on AMZ - but looking to diversify as we speak.

My thoughts on AMZ is quite simple, it's a good platform for either highly recognized brands to get the best deal, or non-loyal brands that customers don't really care too much about (like silicone gloves or whatever). I think the way to succeed if you aren't on Amazon is to have a product that can be easily targeted to customers and show them a solution to a problem they didn't know existed.

The problem with Amazon is you have to know what you want before hand, which is why Wal-mart and other big B&M will always dominate. Another reason why I would be headed towards B2B sales in niche speciality stores for my product.

Here's a good example: when you buy milk,toilet paper,whatever at Wal-mart/Target etc you will always end up with another item you never planned on getting. This is something Amazon cannot dominate YET because their weakness is lack of visualization. Would you agree?
 
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biophase

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Good to have an update on the topic as the landscape has changed drastically.

I've been selling on AMZ for 2.5yrs and it's just like Pre-Panda right now.

A few questions for you:

1) Can you give us a rough % of AMZ sales VS your own eCommerce? The reason I ask is because as you know, AMZ has been banning people left and right and this is the problem with AMZ- No Control. Is this something you see as a big problem, and just riding the AMZ wave as long as possible? I think I would be more comfortable getting 60% of sales on my own platform and missing 40% of sales and always looking over my shoulder.

I don't know the exact number but it's over 50% and it's growing every year. Yes, it's a big problem, but it's better to have that problem than just losing sales to others on Amazon.

2) How do you plan on protecting/hedging against the possibility of losing the ability to sell on AMZ?

I keep building my brand. That's about all I can do. Niche ecommerce stores have a tough road against Amazon. I think it's mainly due to shipping speed of Prime.

I should say that I have been selling online for 8 years now and 4 of them were not on Amazon at all. So it's not like I can't make money without Amazon. But for those people who only started on Amazon, they have no experience selling on their own stores and that may be a problem if they got banned.

Sometimes most sellers get banned for no fault of their own (customers input wrong data, competitors play dirty etc). I'm almost at a point of fearing Amazon controlling my life because unfortunately at this point, I'm all in on AMZ - but looking to diversify as we speak.

My thoughts on AMZ is quite simple, it's a good platform for either highly recognized brands to get the best deal, or non-loyal brands that customers don't really care too much about (like silicone gloves or whatever). I think the way to succeed if you aren't on Amazon is to have a product that can be easily targeted to customers and show them a solution to a problem they didn't know existed.

The problem with Amazon is you have to know what you want before hand, which is why Wal-mart and other big B&M will always dominate. Another reason why I would be headed towards B2B sales in niche speciality stores for my product.

Here's a good example: when you buy milk,toilet paper,whatever at Wal-mart/Target etc you will always end up with another item you never planned on getting. This is something Amazon cannot dominate YET because their weakness is lack of visualization. Would you agree?

I don't agree with this because you are talking about brick and mortar sales vs online sales. Yes, when walking in a store, B&Ms have the opportunity to advertise everything in the store as you walk the aisles. Right now, people go into grocery stores because it's not as convenient as online and at the same price.

But at some point, when people STOP walking into Walmart because toilet paper, milk and oranges cost the same online as in the store, you will see a tip over to buying everything online. It's just saves time. If I could get a gallon of milk to my house for $1.99 shipped, within a day. Why would I go to the store. I can just sit at home and click away. We just aren't quite there yet.
 

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What strategy would you advise in a small market for example Netherlands population 17 million?

Not really sure on this. But, I'd probably go with a small product that people need every month or every few months. When you have a small customer base, you need repeat buyers.
 

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Hello biophase,

First of all thanks for doing this.
I would like to ask you what you think about outsourcing especially when starting out?
You said that you improve your products yourself and let your manufacturer produce it.
Do you hire a designer or do you make the drawing yourself?
Do you let someone else do the CAD animation if necessary?
Do you hire web developers and graphic designers to build your ecommerce stores (or do you use a shopsystem with template or program yourself)?
Do you take product photos yourself or do you hire professional photographers?

My situation is like this: I am just starting out and dont have that much money to invest (I invest everything I got).
I could hire a professional photographer now to make my product photos or I could invest in equipment and learn photo skills and do it myself.
Wouldnt be that expensive because tutorials/guides are free at the internet and I can borrow a high quality cam from a friend and so on.
I am just wondering what you think about that? Better to learn a skill you need for your ecommerce business or hire a professional who does it for you?

Thanks in advance.
 

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It is up to you to do the research. Sometimes the manufacturer has no idea why they are building what they are making. If you are trying to sell knives and don't know the difference between a good quality blade and a poor one, you should not be selling knives. Because someone like me is eventually going to come along and blow your product out of the water and sell it for cheaper. Then watch your sales decline.

This is probably considered a hand-holdy question - but I would imagine a lot of guys here might be thinking the same thing.

If I'm going to try and make a better knife, the first thing I'm going to be thinking of is the metal used to make it (then maybe the shape, the wood used in the handle, etc.)

So then, I go to Google and type in "Best type of metal used in knife" where I find a page that tells me that the "ultra premium" type of metals are going to be " CPM S90V, M390, ZDP-189, Elmax and CTS-XHP".

After I searched this I realized that this particular page is talking about pocket-knives. I figure the metals in pocket knives and kitchen knives probably differ due to their different uses and do another search for "the best type of metal used in kitchen knives".

I then get a bunch of different results and pages with information that all differ and possibly contradict one another. But I read through and find that -DUH- not only are pocket knife alloys and kitchen knife alloys going to be different.. but individual knives in your kitchen set are going to have different alloys than one another.


As I read through, I still have no idea which metals are actually going to be the best. As matter of fact, after these simple google searches I realize that there is a PLETHORA of information on knives that I've never even thought about before.

As somebody who isn't a cook or a knife enthusiast, the only things I've ever thought about a knife was that they were sharp, had a blade and a handle. But then out of the corner of my eye I notice a chart on knife anatomy.

knife_parts.jpg


Holy crap. There's a lot more to knife anatomy than I EVER would have thought.
And then...

KnifeAnatomy4.jpg


Mother of God.... LOOK AT ALL THAT STUFF THAT I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS!! This obviously isn't a kitchen knife.. But should I know what this stuff is in case I want to be able to incorporate it into my kitchen knife?!?!

Stainless steel? Non-stainless? Hell, I may even want to look into ceramic knives.. And I know even less about ceramic than metal!




MY CONCLUSION

So after my 20 minutes of research (This post wasn't hypothetical.. I actual did the searches and then posted what I was thinking) I found that I know even less about knives then when I started.

This is a PHENOMENAL thing and I think drives home the point of why @biophase 's process is superior to just finding shit on amazon and alibaba and then importing that.. Barrier to entry. Most sellers are not going to even do the 20 minutes of research I just did.. They're going to find something that's selling on amazon, find it on alibaba, change the logo, and import/sell the exact same thing that 48 other guys are selling. With a bit of research you'll be able to stand out from the competition and sell a better product.


***But my question is***

How do you determine when you've researched enough? Do you spend weeks researching how to make the best knife? Do you buy books and spend months on knife forums to become a knife expert?

Maybe you just do what I did and utilize simple google searches - But that's also a rabbit hole that could take forever to get the answers that you're looking for AND result in analysis paralysis.

There is obviously a point when you've spent enough time doing your research and it's time to get the ball rolling and start making some sales. When is that time for you @biophase ?

(Also - I'm aware that this is the type of question with an answer that is probably something along the lines of "it depends" depending on the person, the product, the complexity, etc... But maybe give us a small glimpse into your mind to see how you might put in the research and determine what changes need to take place.)


 
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SeanyHang

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** Funny Coincidence - Not meant to Hijack thread **

I had a really strange sense of deja-vu as I was writing my last post on researching knife quality.. I felt like I dreamed about writing it or that I was supposed to write it or something. Weird. Whatever. (Whether or not you believe in a higher power, alternate realities or deja vu just being random neurons firing off and enticing feeling of doing things before is up to you. I'm not trying to start a philosophical debate, I just wanted to mention the feeling of deja vu.)

But what was really funny was after this post I went upstairs to talk to my dad and see how he's feeling (he got sent home from work with a neck spasm and I'm home due to a broken fibula). I start talking to him about the forum and this post in particular when I notice that the kitchen sink is full of dishes.

I hate that crap - I like things to be in order and can't stand eye sores like full garbage cans or sinks. So I start emptying the dishwasher to make room for the dishes in the sink, all the while talking to my dad about this thread in particular and how he really should start checking out the forum (he hates his job with a burning passion).

What's the very first thing I randomly pull out??

0


A knife with some crappy a$$ metal-quality apparently!

Hahaha... This thread is MEANT TO BE!:notworthy:

I'm loving it so far @biophase .. Thanks so much for all the knowledge and the future Gold Thread.
 
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