Kingpin, Week 2

Last week I gave an overview of some of the strategies I was considering for this project: affiliate marketing, lead generation, and e-commerce.

I've tried to approach and analyize these three areas objectively, but, quite honestly, it's hard. Affiliate marketing and lead generation get a bad rap, because much of the time the most successful sites are ones that push mediocre products and services via annoying and/or shady means.

I know it's possible to build an affiliate site that provides meaningful added value, but creating that added value feels very time-intensive. Two of my goals were to keep the time requirements low, and to be able to easily replicate the system to scale up income. I don't have a lot of time to write high-quality content, and don't have enough money (or, frankly, trust) to hire someone to write it for me. Same goes for lead gen.

So. That leaves e-commerce.

Fun fact: I used to work in Amazon Global Marketing, right next to the Amazon Associates, Amazon Deals, and Amazon Email Marketing teams. And yet, I know almost nothing about selling online. Talk about not knowing your business, right?

But, for the purposes of this project, that's actually a benefit. One of the unstated (but hopefully obvious) goals of Project Kingpin is to document this entire process so someone else can replicate it. That's also the primary reason I'm not doing something software-related. I've been coding for over fifteen years; it's sometimes hard for me to understand what's obvious and what isn't, since it's been so long since I've been a true beginner.

But I know nothing about e-commerce from a seller's perspective, and if you're following along with the project, there's a reasonable chance that you don't either. We're learning together, and that's way more fun!

What I Did Last Week

  • Researched various means and marketplaces for selling online - Custom store, Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Storenvy. For now, I'm going to give Amazon a shot. Little effort, lots of eyeballs, and, although I hate to admit it, I'm still a bit of a Company Man at heart.
  • Researched costs - Costs asssociated with listing, referral, shipping, handling, packaging. This is variable, based on product category, size, weight, etc.
  • Researched product strategies - Retail arbitrage, wholesale, private label, custom product, etc. I might have to devote an entirely separate post to this. For my January goal, I don't need to make a profit—I just want to sell $50 worth of product. I can lose money and still meet my goals. But obviously, the overall purpose of this is to make a profit.
  • Researched pricing strategies and goals - It's apparently not enough to just buy random stuff, throw it on Amazon, and pray. I listened to a lot of podcasts and read a couple books that proposed some interesting ideas for how to identify successful products. Given my resource constraints I've had to modify them a bit. We'll see if that works out.
  • Ordered sample products from manufacturers - I identified 5-6 products that fit most of my criteria, so I ordered some samples. I'll write a separate post for this after the rest of the samples have arrived. So far, I've gotten one set of samples and they seem pretty good!

What's Planned for Next Week

  • Put in a small test order for one of the products I've sampled (provided the rest of the samples arrive in time)
  • Sign up to sell on Amazon
  • Research packaging/labeling requirements
  • Uhhh... do I need to brand any of this stuff?
  • Apparently getting good reviews early in the product's life is critical for overall success. Need to research strategies for getting honest, high-quality reviews.


Now that I've decided to sell physical products, I've been diving deeper into research. A portion of that research has meant handing over actual money for product samples, which is a bit scary. That's like... real, man. I decided to get over the first buy quickly, like removing a bandage. Even if they end up not being good, I'll have a little momentum behind me, and a little practice talking with manufacturers.

I need to get something up by January to meet my $50 goal, so there's no time to mess around. I hope to have a test order in by next week, at my doorstep by the week of Christmas, and up for sale by the first week of January.

With the rush delivery from the manufacturers, I'm going to severely eat into any potential profits (read: I'll be lucky to break even, and will probably lose a bit of money). I think that's okay. I just want to quickly validate the products, even if it means paying 10x on shipping. If I've done my homework correctly, the margins should be good enough to recoup the loss within a couple months.

Time will tell me if this is a reasonable strategy...