If you’re looking for a great success story in the world of online business, most people will point you in the direction of Amazon.
What was once a garage business in the suburbs of Washington, DC, is now an inextricable part of the global internet. The online retail giant accounts for roughly half of eCommerce sales in the US – more than the next three competitors (eBay, Apple, and Walmart) combined. Thanks to the pandemic, Amazon’s sales surged higher in 2020, fueled by people stocking up on essentials and shoppers driven to online shopping by local lockdowns.
Amazon is also a highly competitive platform, with approximately 350 million items listed by more than 2.5 million sellers. The company helps these sellers get closer to their audiences using Amazon Ads – a host of tools and channels that allow brands to tell their stories and target the right markets.
For founder Jeff Bezos, the potential of Amazon as a customized advertising platform wasn’t anything new – he saw the potential of a fully-realized advertising suite as far back as the turn of the century. Over two decades later, Amazon’s marketing framework has evolved into a complex ecosystem of its own, one that warrants professional experience to make the most of.
To stand out from the crowd and maximize returns, businesses turn to marketing agencies that specialize in Amazon advertising.
However, like shopping for a product among Amazon’s many choices, choosing an Amazon marketing agency can be challenging. How do you select the right marketing partner, and what are the things you should look for?
Establish the Fundamentals Before Asking Questions
Before asking questions about your Amazon partner, it’s important to be aware of your own business first. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, “Know thyself before thy agency.”
In order to find a good fit, you have to come prepared on your end.
- Having a clear understanding of what your business goals are, and how digital marketing ties into them.
- What Amazon services you’re interested in (ie. Amazon SEO, PPC, Reviews, or Fulfillment by Amazon, more on that below).
- And of course, what your ad spend budget is.
In other words, identify where you are, where you want to be, and the challenge with getting there. This way an agency can more easily explain how they will help you overcome the challenge.
By establishing these fundamentals, you can narrow down the list of potential Amazon partners based on their services. Instead of sending out dozens of time-consuming inquiries, you can whittle down your choices to a select few by looking at their specialization and their customer satisfaction rate.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to ask the key questions.
Question 1: What’s Your Pricing Model?
It’s critical to find a partner who can align your business’ interests and budget with their services.
There are three typical pricing models used by agencies:
- a monthly fee
- a share of success (not recommended)
- a combination of both
Most agencies use the latter model, either for a fixed period or on an open-ended retainer. For the second pricing model (share of success), this can be a percentage of the total sales, net sales, or advertising spending. For combination models, it can be a fixed consulting fee plus a percentage of success.
Aside from the actual marketing services provided, several factors go into how Amazon marketing providers determine price models for their clients:
- Strategy Aggressiveness: The more aggressive a marketing strategy is, the more costly it tends to be.
- Catalog Size: The more products a brand sells, the more work is required to develop content and strategies to sell them, driving up the total price.
- Experience: Tried-and-tested companies often come with decades of experience in digital marketing. All that peace of mind comes with higher costs.
- Agency tech: Agencies often use advanced tools to analyze markets and to better craft high-performance strategies. All these tools come at a cost, which further raises the ceiling for price models.
Beyond pricing models, there are other important considerations:
- Does their pricing model offer flexibility?
- Does it scale accurately with bandwidth and client success?
- Are they transparent about their pricing?
Question 2: What Amazon Advertising Services Do You Offer?
While Google remains the dominant search engine globally, most people do not know that Amazon is a search engine itself, but for online shopping.
Don’t believe me? One survey found that 55% of participants started their product search on Amazon first, and that 9 out of 10 will still check the site for a specific product even if they found it on a different site. Bottom line: while we use Google for normal search inquiries, Amazon is our go-to search bar for anything product-related.
This is why Amazon marketing agencies offer marketing services that are uniquely tailored to the Amazon ecosystem. These include:
Amazon SEO – Unlike traditional SEO, optimizing for Amazon involves different practices like focusing on individual short tail keywords and placing more emphasis on conversion rather than clicks.
This also involves using Amazon’s A+ pages – a content feature that allows for enhanced text placements, images, and interactive elements to craft a strong product and brand story within the product description section.
Amazon PPC- Amazon’s advertising platform is a complete standalone system, known as Amazon Advertising. Among the ad options are Product Display Ads and Sponsored Products. A good agency can help you determine which PPC strategy best works with your business goals.
Amazon DSP – Amazon’s Demand Side Platform allows advertisers to automate much of the ad-buying process – this service uses metrics to intelligently utilize ad space to reach the right consumers. This can take place on Amazon and on third-party platforms in the form of static images, videos, or even OTT ads that take place over connected TV platforms such as Amazon’s Fire Stick.
While most Amazon marketing agencies offer these services, some specialize in or are more renowned for one or more practices.
Asking about the range of support an agency has for Amazon’s Ad services gives you a good idea of how familiar they are with the platform, how up-to-date their strategists are with newer services, and how well they can tailor an Amazon marketing mix to suit your brand and products. Not each tool is useful across the board, and a good agency will help you understand why.
For example, OTT ads do not generate clicks (as they work on a TV platform), and may not be the right choice for a business that generates conversions based on clicks. Generally, a responsible agency would advise you to spend your money on the right PPC channel.
The right strategy could be Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Sponsored Brands or a combination of Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and DSP. There is no right or wrong here. It completely depends on your business objectives, your niche, and your individual reality on Amazon.
Question 3: How Do You Plan to Accomplish Success?
A good data-driven agency should have a knowledge base gained from working with many clients, covering different Amazon product categories. Through this historical base, they should have a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t for your specific industry or product category.
Moreover, to answer the question of how they can accomplish success, they should first ask you questions of their own.
- Determining what you’ve already tried.
- What strategies were effective and which weren’t.
- What your revenue or growth goals are for a specified period.
Some agencies will also spot opportunities for your business to expand , such as a promising product category, or an untapped method of advertising or marketing within Amazon or externally.
Question 4: How Does Your Team Gain an Edge?
Here you challenge the agency to differentiate themselves: Why should I choose you over all the others?
Factors you can look at:
Experience – How long have they been around, and when did they start offering Amazon-specific services? (Remember that Amazon Ads have been around for over 13 years, so an established agency should have several years under their belt).
Furthermore, Amazon’s AWS certifications have been in place since 2013 – giving several agencies the time to obtain certifications in various marketing tools directly from the company.
Standout services – Among the different Amazon services they offer, which ones do they excel at? And how satisfied are their clients with those practices?
Tools – Ask what apps and software they use. While most use popular analysis and optimization tools, some may have proprietary software, or use AI or machine learning.
A good sign is if an agency has built its own in-house software. This means that, aside from avoiding third-party software price markups, the agency is serious about investing in itself by customizing workflows for not just their clients, but for their employees as well.
Portfolio – A good agency should have a portfolio that showcases its clients and results. It doesn’t need to be an extensive lineup; look more at the concrete results per client, rather than how long the client list is.
Reviews – Be sure to do your homework and do a cursory search of the agency. Look for customer reviews (both good and bad), especially for the service that you aim to get.
The goal here is to throw ‘curveball’ questions towards the agency. This will help you understand if it can distinguish itself from the competition.
Question 5: What Can I Expect From My Investment?
While fulfilling the business goals is the end objective, getting there involves meeting a series of milestones. By asking this question, you can understand how the bandwidth you’re paying for is going to be utilized to meet those milestones.
Points to cover:
- How much are clients involved in the whole process?
- How long will it take to see results from the strategy or campaign?
- How do you handle a strategy or campaign that performs below expectations?
- What happens if you don’t meet the campaign goal at the end of the period?
- What can I expect my return on investment to be?
Question 6: How Do You Manage Accounts?
This question allows you to identify how well they handle account management. It’s important to know how your account will be managed alongside their other clients.
Some of our clients have experienced account management issues with previous agencies. Here are some of the questions they should have asked:
- What is the ratio of clients to account managers?
- How many strategists will be involved in your account?
- What is the reporting schedule?
- What is your account strategy?
- Are all your account managers certified?
- Who would be our account manager, and what experience do they have?
These will let you determine if the account managers are spread too thin amongst too many clients and if there are enough resources and brainpower that can be devoted to your account.
Question 7: Do You Have Success Stories?
Look beyond the glowing testimonials on their website. Ask for case studies and other ways to substantiate their past successes. A good Amazon partner should have one case study for each industry or product category they’ve managed, so examine the ones that are related to your business.
An agency with few case studies or success stories either has limited experience or may not have the type of performance you’re looking for. Remember that when it comes to marketing agencies, data speaks louder than words.
At the end of the day, partnering with an Amazon marketing agency is a two-way conversation. While they will ask for your business goals and budget, it’s your duty to ask them these hard questions. After all, your business deserves the best partner you can find.
About the author
Spencer Padway is the CEO and co-founder of Search Nurture, a full-stack digital marketing agency with extensive experience working with Amazon, as well as other top retail channels like Walmart and Instacart.
This post was edited by EditorNinja.