In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA and recorded LIVE at the Prosper Virtual Show 2020, Liz Fickenscher shares how to nourish Amazon sellers with great content & direction. Liz is the eCommerce Marketing Manager at Teikametrics, a leading eCommerce advertising platform, and she shares her life's journey into eCommerce.
Understanding the advertising and analytic aspects of the e-commerce world can be a daunting thing. But there are people and tools out there that can help you get a better grasp of your online business. Yoni Mazor from PrimeTalk shares one of the best group of tools out there that can really help you learn, analyze, and build your Amazon advertising.
In today’s interview, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Liz Fickenscher, the eCommerce Marketing Manager at Teikametrics, a company with the mission of helping sellers and brand owners maximize their potential on the most valuable e-commerce platforms. They operate in 5 countries worldwide and have unrivaled technology components.
Liz Fickenscher discusses the path that led her to Teikametrics and the tools that Teikametrics offers that can help you maximize your business and become empowered in the world of e-commerce. If you have an e-commerce business and want to scale up, then this episode is for you!
Visit Teikametrics for more information.
Learn about GETIDA's Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Welcome everybody to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I'm really excited to have an amazing person, an amazing guest. I'm having Liz Fickenscher. Liz is the head of marketing and..No? Tell me what you are. You can start.
Liz Fickenscher 0:21
E-commerce marketing manager. I’m on the Content Team at Teikametrics.
Yoni Mazor 0:24
Yeah, so i forgot that, e-commerce marketing contact manager of Teikametrics. Teikametrics is a wonderful company that I also have used myself back in the day when I used to sell on Amazon and I always say this: I used to, I know I made a fortune using Teikametrics so i'm very grateful for this company
Liz Fickenscher 0:43
We love it when you say that!
Yoni Mazor 0:44
Thank you, thank you. And I'm also grateful for the other company that you work with so you're on a lucky strike. Two companies that you're involved with, the previous one was ECom Engine, they have a bunch of solutions. One of them was Feedback Five which I did use. So Liz is the guest that we have today. Liz, welcome to the show!
Liz Fickenscher 0:59
Thank you Yoni, I'm happy to be here.
Yoni Mazor 1:02
Awesome, you are indeed and it's really a privilege to have you so thank you for taking today, and this time today, because actually, I want to say this: we're recording this live in the Prosper Show. You know, we're in the midst of the virtual Prosper Show and this is being recorded live. We have actually a few guests attending with us which is really exciting, they’re actually seeing how we're recording this episode. And this is also being broadcast live on Facebook. So you know, welcome everybody from the social media world. So today's episode Liz we're gonna essentially, is going to be the episode about you the story of Liz Fickenscher. So you're going to share with us, you know, who you are, where you're from, what's your background, where did you grow up, where did you go to school, how did you begin your professional career. So without further ado, let's start.
Liz Fickenscher 1:49
Well. So I'm Liz. My name is actually Elizabeth but in second grade I decided I would change. I changed schools, and I decided that I was going to announce myself as Liz. My mother has still not forgiven me for that. But I am an e-commerce marketing manager as we mentioned at Teikametrics. I’ve been with Teikametrics since August of this year so it's a new role for me. Previously I was the industry liaison for Ecom Engine, which is a legacy very established company in the e-commerce space, and Yoni is gonna be doing an interview with the owner of them pretty soon, but I'm...they're still great friends of mine, still recommend their tools. So I got into e-commerce kind of sideways.
Yoni Mazor 2:30
You kind of rushed it. Let's start with where you grew up. Let's talk about, you know, you as a child, you know..
Liz Fickenscher 2:36
I was born in between Charleston...well I was born in Charleston, West Virginia and we lived there till I was five and we moved around a lot because my dad's corporate job, he was also in the military, but we didn't move because of the military, that would have, we would have lived cooler places if we had moved because of the military. Like Germany and stuff instead of St Clairsville, Ohio and Holden Massachusetts and places like that. But I graduated high school in Roanoke Virginia and then I came to Richmond for college and I went to VCU and I flunked out in 1999. I was...uh Virginia Commonwealth University...I was an English major and I didn't really think it was all that necessary to go to class and it turns out it is. That's where the tests are and the lectures are and all that kind of stuff. So I ended up getting pneumonia and almost dying which was really bad and then I recovered and immediately got a job and my very first job was with a promotional marketing company. So like you know tchotchkes and service awards and that kind of stuff like logoed stuff and I was product research I was the assistant to the president. I kind of wore a lot of hats at that job and then I went to work for a title insurance company and I was an executive assistant there which is a really cool job when you don't know what you want to be when you go up.
Yoni Mazor 4:05
Let's talk about years a little bit. So what year did you graduate? Did you graduate? Or eventually, finish school after you got pneumonia?
Liz Fickenscher 4:11
Yeah not yet.
Yoni Mazor 4:12
Yeah, so that's part of the story. So what year is that? Let’s start with the year where you basically shifted from college into working for an insurance title company.
Liz Fickenscher 4:19
So I went to work for the title insurance company in December of 2004.
Yoni Mazor 4:25
Okay were you still in school or just right after you kind of.
Liz Fickenscher 4:28
No no. So I had pneumonia, I came back to Richmond cuz my parents actually lived in Raleigh North Carolina at that time. And I convalesced at their house and then I came back to Richmond and I went to work for a temp agency and I got the job with the promotional marketing company and then I got the job at the title insurance company. So it was sort of okay “let's get a grown-up job” kind of thing it was a great company. I drank the kool-aid. I wore the lapel pin. I loved it. I had a great boss who was very challenging but taught me a lot about managing expectations and exceeding expectations. He was all about the Ritz Carlton philosophy and I still carry that through my work which
Yoni Mazor 5:09
Which philosophy is that? Let’s touch that for a second.
Liz Fickenscher 5:11
Well, it's the “it's our pleasure”, it's you know the whole...actually we did an achiever circle every year for the top salespeople and top sales managers and it was always at a Ritz Carlton and there was always a Ritz Carlton person that would speak about their philosophy. It's really interesting to read about.
Yoni Mazor 5:30
So is there a book about this? I’m actually, you got me intrigued. You really connected that flow. So the Ritz Carlton, obviously a top-of-a-line hotel chain where you come in everything's sort of the velvet treatment correct?
Liz Fickenscher 5:41
Well, and I don't know if you guys watched the keynote today for Prosper but he talked a lot about the Ritz Carlton. It's the gold standard, so at the Ritz Carlton, “Our ladies and gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests. By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity, and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company”. So I think there is a book. Gold Standards...Gold Standards...
Yoni Mazor 6:13
Got it. I like it. I like it, I'm gonna have to check out more books about that later. right, so that was I guess the early, you know, experience with, you know, professional world, professional career, corporate America, but nevertheless the velvet treatment touch of the golden standard the Ritz Carlton and so, what was the years that you spent there? It was 2004 until when?
Liz Fickenscher 6:33
2004 to I think it was mid-2008 the company actually went bankrupt.
Yoni Mazor 6:39
Hmm. So let's touch the companies again. So when you said insurance titles, so how did that manifest? Give me a, give us a little taste of what were you guys doing and what may be potentially failed if you know what happened?
Liz Fickenscher 6:50
I, well, I can't actually talk about that.
Yoni Mazor 6:52
Liz Fickenscher 6:54
Um but I didn't actually, I worked for the SVP of marketing and sales and then he later became the COO and then he actually exited the company and i ended up working for the director of communication and helping out with the CEO stuff. And then there was a division of the company that kind of tanked and it took the whole company with it. So i hung out there for a while, I did a lot of different jobs as different people got laid off. It was very depressing. It was very disheartening and I just thought I was never gonna work for a company ever again.
Yoni Mazor 7:27
A company period? You’re gonna work for yourself?
Liz Fickenscher 7:29
Yeah, it broke my heart.
Yoni Mazor 7:31
In 2008, actually, 2008 was a very challenging year in general for the economy, you know, the mortgage bust where, you know, and….
Liz Fickenscher 7:39
And that had a lot to do with the title insurance deal, with the company not ...
Yoni Mazor 7:45
Right so it was an economical meltdown and you felt I don't want more for any company ever again, I want to work for myself. That was kind of the mindset?
Liz Fickenscher 7:52
Well, one thing about 2008 and 2009 is that it was a great time for freelance writers. I don't know if any of you are out there have ever tried your hand at freelance writing but it was... Google's algorithm at the time was rife for tons and tons of content and it didn't have to be terribly contextual but it couldn't suck and I decided to try my hand at freelance writing and i got the opportunity to work with an SEO company called Big Oak that was based here in Richmond and i was writing 100 articles in 100 days. I was writing seven blog posts a day six articles a day.
Yoni Mazor 8:33
So this is actually a pivotal moment for you because you found the internet, you can actually express your thoughts and wisdom over there, but what compelled you? You felt like there's a burning itch for you to, you know, write things? And what were the topics about? What was your inspiration for the topics?
Liz Fickenscher 8:47
It wasn't really so much about that. It’s that I knew that I could write, and I wanted to make money at it. I mean that sounds terrible and not artistic at all and totally mercenary but I didn't want to find another job with a company.
Yoni Mazor 8:58
So you saw an opportunity. You really seized the opportunities that you're a very creative person, you know, you're very good with words and I guess you're very good with assembling the words so it resonates with others, so they learn, they get educated and this stirs them up. And you just saw that as a very useful vehicle for you not only I guess to use a skill and talent, but also generate some sort of economic freedom for yourself because you can freelance through this mechanism. So kudos to you for discovering that, I dunno if you’ve ever thought about in these terms, or at least back then, because when you look back usually it's easier to see what was happening but when you're in that moment that's one thing it's a little hazy but you got to get your instincts and i guess it takes you to the right direction.
Liz Fickenscher 9:37
Absolutely it does, and my first paid writing gig was a top 10 article about the top 10 hairstyles and I got paid $15 for it.
Yoni Mazor 9:47
How long did it take you to write it?
Liz Fickenscher 9:48
About 45 minutes
Yoni Mazor 9:52
I mean that's 2008, not bad.
Liz Fickenscher 9:54
Yeah not too bad and...
Yoni Mazor 9:55
With inflation, it's like 20 something dollars today so you did okay.
Liz Fickenscher 9:59
And like I said the opportunity at that time 2008, 2009 was tremendous. You just put it out there, there were you know freelancer.com and whatever Upwork was before it was Upwork but i didn't even really have to do that. I found lots of jobs on craigslist, I found lots of jobs via LinkedIn, actually, every professional job I’ve ever had except for this one right now came because of LinkedIn. this one right now came because of Jason.
Yoni Mazor 10:24
So what year did you start using LinkedIn, if you remember?
Liz Fickenscher 10:28
Um, I think I started my LinkedIn account when I worked at the title insurance company.
Yoni Mazor 10:33
So early adopter. This is 2004, this about 16 years.
Liz Fickenscher 10:36
Yoni Mazor 10:37
That's amazing. I didn’t know it was there for that long, I had no idea.
Liz Fickenscher 10:40
Whenever it started, I got in there.
Yoni Mazor 10:43
You’re in. You’re linked into LinkedIn as soon as it became in. A lot of “ins” for one company. Alright, that's amazing. So 2008 you start freelancing. It was, I guess, easier to play the SEO game where, you know, the articles, you put the keywords and you get the traction, you get the readers to come to the website, and I guess, what was the next station for you?
Liz Fickenscher 11:04
Well backing up just a little bit, when I worked at the title insurance company, they said hey you're great and you could be more than an executive assistant but we require all managerial positions to have a bachelor's degree and you don't have yours but we have tuition assistance so why don't you go finish your bachelor's degree and then we can talk about your upward mobility and development here. And I was like, fantastic! So that was back in like 2000, that was right around 2008.
Yoni Mazor 11:38
so we're almost before the collapse
Liz Fickenscher 11:40
Right, I only got to do a little bit of tuition assistance before they weren't offering tuition assistance. But I was already hooked and I had 42 credits left in my bachelor's degree and that's a lot of classes because just divide that by three...
Yoni Mazor 11:52
That’s ok, you’re plus if you're really, if you go to school, yeah do like 30 plus credits.
Liz Fickenscher 11:56
Luckily I was able to do some classes online through community colleges because you only had to do like 30 of your last 40 at VCU and I had done a lot at VCU already in my previous time there. I did a senior seminar though, and this was after because I graduated in 2009, so the beginning of 2009, I started my senior seminar on Hemingway and Fitzgerald with a guy named Bryant Mangum, who is one of the absolute sweetest best instructors ever, and he said, you know, you should really think about going to graduate school and I was like...
Yoni Mazor 12:38
So how do you connect with him?
Liz Fickenscher 12:40
He was my professor for my...and it was at Virginia Commonwealth University, and it was my senior seminar and I was
Yoni Mazor 12:47
And where is that school located in Virginia?
Liz Fickenscher 12:49
It’s in Richmond. Richmond. in downtown Richmond. It’s the whole reason I'm in Richmond is that I came here in 1995 for college when I graduated high school.
Yoni Mazor 12:59
You were what they say, what they call, Richmond’s finest, you know.
Liz Fickenscher 13:02
Well, it's my adopted hometown for sure. So I finished my bachelor's degree and I decided to pursue a master's degree. I got accepted which was amazing since my GPA was so lousy the first time around but I managed to get almost straight A’s when I went back and so I went to grad school and that was 2011
Yoni Mazor 13:27
Alright, so these years you're still freelancing to make ends meet?
Liz Fickenscher 13:30
Yoni Mazor 13:30
Got it. 2009, 2011 your school almost, you know, part-time, full time at school? What would you say in terms of your schedule?
Liz Fickenscher 13:37
I was taking three classes a semester which I think for grad school counts as full time.
Yoni Mazor 13:41
Got it okay almost like a full-time yeah.
Liz Fickenscher 13:44
And I did my thesis on JD Salinger.
Yoni Mazor 13:47
The Catcher in the Rye? From the Catcher…?
Liz Fickenscher 13:49
Not on Catcher in the Rye.
Yoni Mazor 13:50
I mean the writer of it, the same guy, or author or...
Liz Fickenscher 13:54
He was actually in world war two and he did, a number of his short stories are related to his experience in the war, and his you know shared experience from people that he talked to. So there's a lot of that and it was sort of a deep dive into post-traumatic stress disorder as it was related to world war two and I interviewed a lot of veterans and it was a really fulfilling awesome project and I’m really glad I did it. I'll never stop paying for it. But I’m really glad I did it. So I graduated in 2011 and then in 2012, I did a short stint at an ad agency as a copywriter.
Yoni Mazor 14:34
Once again local Richmond or this was Madison Avenue kind of?
Liz Fickenscher 14:35
Local. Local Richmond. I’ve been in Richmond since 1995. I haven't gone anywhere, so local Richmond. That lasted about a year and then I went back to freelancing. so 2013 I was freelancing. 2014 I was freelancing and I got a message from somebody on LinkedIn saying hey can you edit an ebook for us and I was like sure. And I read this ebook and just to give you an idea of the time it was The Four Post-Purchase Emails You Should Send to Your Amazon Shoppers. And I was like, wait a minute, what?
Yoni Mazor 15:07
Again? Again? Again? Take it slow. Take it slow. What was it?
Liz Fickenscher 15:10
The Four Post-Purchase Emails You Should Send to Your Amazon Buyers.
Yoni Mazor 15:14
What does that mean? Help us out.
Liz Fickenscher 15:17
I didn't know. I'm like, Huh. So I come to find out people can sell on Amazon. I had no idea.
Yoni Mazor 15:26
So this is what year? This is 214, 14. You realize, okay, this is related to the Amazon industry, you thought, like most consumers do, Amazon is the one who sells on Amazon. But you realize No, there's actually another phase or side to Amazon, which is third-party sellers. Right? If you, you know, anybody can pretty much open an Amazon storefront, sell on Amazon. And this company was providing a solution for those third-party sellers. They need, they wrote an ebook, and they wanted you to come and edit it. Correct? That was the context?
Liz Fickenscher 15:54
That was the context. And it was Ecom.
Yoni Mazor 15:57
The name of the company is Ecom Engine. I think we lost that little sound. So Ecom Engine was the company, they reached out via LinkedIn. And now you got me.
Liz Fickenscher 16:04
Well, it was actually a while before I did any other work with them. I did some clickbait writing for, you can find me, just look up Liz Fickenscher. And you can find me on Looper and Grunge and a couple of those sites. And their editorial guidelines are actually pretty strict. So you have to be a pretty good writer to write for them. Turns out I wasn't.
Yoni Mazor 16:27
That's okay. You're on our show today. So you did something right.
Liz Fickenscher 16:31
I didn't pay enough attention to detail I don't think. And I was getting kind of burned out because I was doing so much writing and the...it had gotten more competitive, it had gotten harder to find jobs, it had gotten harder. It was harder to find clients and keep them and all of a sudden writers started learning how to do graphic design. And I didn't, because I thought I'm a writer. I don't need to learn how to do graphic design. But then you had these double threat people out there that were, you know, younger and hungrier and willing to take less money. And so roundabout 2015, I got a message from the recruiter at Ecom Engine. And he said, Hey, you know, you're a writer. We're looking for a writer. And I was like, actually, I did one job with you guys last year. And she was like, Oh, cool.
Yoni Mazor 17:13
And that one job was the ebook that you did?
Liz Fickenscher 17:17
Yeah. So I ended up talking to Jayla Guard, and Matt Keener, who is a consultant. And he's the executive in sweatpants, actually, he's really inspirational, cool guy, but he's a good friend of Ecom Engines. And so I talked to both of them. At the time, I was actually teaching at Bryant and Stratton College, teaching English there, just a couple of classes a semester, I was still freelance writing. So I got contacted by Ecom Engine. And I started working with them. As a contractor, this was 2015.
Yoni Mazor 17:57
So 2014 you did a little bit of work with them, the Ebook. And then about a year later, you go, you know, a second round. This time you come in as a guest full-time freelancer.
Liz Fickenscher 18:07
Well, not full-time. I was still, you know, it wasn’t hourly, it was still just like, yeah, project-based, and then it became hourly. But I got so obsessed with the idea of this industry and the entrepreneurship involved with the people that I was meeting through case studies and the people that I was meeting just through casual conversations in the industry. So I wanted to learn more. And I also want to learn how Ecom Engines tools worked. So I found a friend of a friend, who ended up becoming one of my very best friends, a guy named Dino Decklemen, who's actually a musician, but also an entrepreneur and music producer here in Richmond, and asked him for a job, you know, I'll work for really cheap, but I want to learn what you're doing because he was doing retail arbitrage and online arbitrage and getting ready to move into wholesale. And I was like I want in, you don't have to pay me a whole lot. Let me hook your account up to these tools for this company. So I can write more for them and make more money for them. You know and learn about how their tools work and stuff and so...
Yoni Mazor 19:16
You wanted to help him sell online. Part of the agenda was actually connecting to, you know, the tools that accompany you were also helping with content. Yep. And kind of dive in, to know your writing to get into the mindset of the third-party sellers. So when you write it really resonates because you’re in the trenches with them, so to speak. So you got, you want to, you know, basically throw stuff at the mud to see what it's like.
Liz Fickenscher 19:38
Yeah, absolutely. It was fascinating to me. So I did product sourcing, we got into bundling, we took classes together. Actually, we took the wholesale formula, Dan Meters and now Dylan, but their course, that was something that he'd already ordered, and I ended up doing their conference a bunch of times. I love those guys. but um it was interesting to start from that side of the industry, from scanning things at the end cap at Target and that was before the whole brand gating thing and it was early enough that it was exciting and...
Yoni Mazor 20:14
So you guys were doing mostly reselling or private label or both?
Liz Fickenscher 20:16
Reselling. Reselling, exclusively reselling at that time.
Yoni Mazor 20:20
Bargain hunting in brick and mortar flipping and online and using, you know, Feedback Five or Ecom Engine tools to get more feedback so, because back then getting feedback on your store level helped you with a buy box to stay more competitive and get the buy box.
Liz Fickenscher 20:35
It still kind of does.
Yoni Mazor 20:36
Yeah, I’m saying back in the day was a heavyweight. today you got more the FBA, you gotta be FBA and there are other components that so it's one of them but it's just you know Amazon's algorithm becomes more intricate over time that's something I didn't notice so having all the components along together and having all the tools all together so become a multi-tool user that's probably the game that we're playing right now it's very hard to stay with one tool you probably need a package of tools to be a good carpenter in this industry. But yeah go ahead.
Liz Fickenscher 21:02
Yeah, absolutely but it was a great opportunity to learn the inside of seller central, to learn how to pack a shipment, to learn how to create a listing, all that kind of stuff. so he taught me all of that and I’m infinitely grateful because that really gave me the bug. so Ecom Engine thought well that was really great of her to do, to learn all this stuff, so they approached me in 2016, in the summer, and said we want you to come on and do business development and i was like okay.
Yoni Mazor 21:29
So a year into the company, they see you mean business, real business, so they said alright, come to the top.
Liz Fickenscher 21:35
And they were great and they welcomed me like family and I loved them already, so it was a no-brainer to just go be there...
And just as a side note, they're also based in Richmond, am I right?
Liz Fickenscher 21:46
Yes, they're virtual, they're virtual.
Yoni Mazor 21:49
Virtual like most software companies, but they're kind of headquartered in Virginia.
Liz Fickenscher 21:54
Right and back in the days before COVID, we would all get together for a barbecue or we'd all get together somewhere.
Yoni Mazor 22:00
Is this a coincidence or there was some sort of a, you know, that you were from Richmond, they're from Richmond, that was just a from the skies or the, you know, that they reached out to you on LinkedIn because they knew that you local anything like that?
Liz Fickenscher 22:12
You know, I never asked. I never asked about that. a lot of the full-time employees were local to Richmond so maybe that's a strategy of theirs I don't know. I don't think it is anymore but it may be at that time because i was in 2016. So in 2016 I started in the marketing department at ecom engine and I learned so much during that job and I got to know so many awesome industries...
Yoni Mazor 22:37
Now let’s touch Ecom for a second. I’m more familiar with the Feedback Five tool which helps you with the feedback but touch a little bit more of the tools that they have and how they kind of helped other sellers. Cause I’m not too familiar, to be honest.
Liz Fickenscher 22:46
Well, shame on you!
Yoni Mazor 22:48
Now I know there's Restock Pro. I know the names, but I’m not sure what was the, you got me, I carry the shame. yeah, I do. So help me put it to bed, the shame.
Liz Fickenscher 22:59
So Restock Pro is inventory management and supply chain tool. So it, from restock suggestions all the way through getting your shipment into fba, it can help you.
Yoni Mazor 23:11
The full cycle that's great yeah.
Liz Fickenscher 23:12
From item stickers, print labels, print pallet labels, I mean like whatever you want to do in it, it'll help you do that. And then MarketScout is a product research tool and it's nice because it's not subscription-based, it's a pay as you go, you get credits, and you spend them but if you put up a really good get a list from if you're a reseller and you get a list from a new supplier, you can upload a CSV full of UPS codes or EANs and it'll spit out if it's on Amazon, the ASN and a bunch of other information, you know, first category and rank, second category and rank. If you put in your costs, it'll put it in your estimated margin. It just gives you a ton of data so that you can make good decisions about what you might sell. And if you're a brand and you're wondering if people are unauthorized reselling your stuff, you can upload your UPCs and see how many sellers are on them. I actually discovered that use case right before I left.
Yoni Mazor 24:10
So these are the three main legs right Restock Pro, Feedback Five...
Liz Fickenscher 24:13
Yoni Mazor 24:16
And what was the genesis of each one? They all were born the same day or what was the first leg as far as you know?
Liz Fickenscher 24:22
Feedback...well and you're gonna get this from Jay so don’t ask too much for me. So Feedback Five was first by a wide wide margin.
Yoni Mazor 24:33
So 2007, Feedback Five is launched. Ecom Engine as a company, as we know it, is launched.
Liz Fickenscher 24:37
Yoni Mazor 24:39
So the early days of e-commerce on Amazon.
Liz Fickenscher 24:40
I think Restock Pro was around, Jay’ll have to tell you, I think it was like 2012. Market Scout around the same time and others….a repricer that they were working on when i departed that i don't know
Yoni Mazor 24:56
Which is really recent, a few months ago.
Liz Fickenscher 24:57
Yeah, Smart Price, so I don't know where they are on that. But
Yoni Mazor 25:01
So once you landed in the BD, the business development position, what was your experience from that point on? This is 2016. Do you say? Correct?
Liz Fickenscher 25:08
Yeah, this is August of 2016. And I just dove in headfirst, I was obsessed, I was absolutely fascinated. I wanted to learn everything every different way you could sell on Amazon, all about Amazon's policies. I got, obviously, Feedback Five is a tool that helps you request seller feedback and product reviews. So I started seeing that if you broke the rules, you could get suspended. So I made friends with Chris McCabe very, very early, because he helps people get unsuspended. I actually just did a webinar with him.
Yoni Mazor 25:41
Let me help you, Chris McCabe of ecommercechris.com and everybody on Amazon, yeah, you get risk, you know, there's a risk of getting suspended. So Chris McCabe is one of the top industry leaders for that thing. So if you ever need it: e-commerce Chris, we give them a little shout-out here live at the show. But yeah, you met Chris, and what was uh, what was going on?
Liz Fickenscher 25:58
And we started working together to educate the seller community about what you could and couldn't do in terms of requesting product reviews, because the rules were pretty explicit in Seller Central in that you can't offer a discount, and you can't, you know, pay someone for review. And up until October of 2016, you could offer a product for a discount or for free. And all the person that reviewed it would need to say is I got this for free, or I got this at a discount and in return for my honest review. Yeah, then what I like to call review-gate happened in October 2016, where Amazon said, Yeah, no more incentivized reviews, we're not going to do that anymore. And it turned the industry on its ear, it was shocking, and like a huge deal. So after that, it was very, very important to make sure people were following the rules, because they could get themselves in really big trouble. So that kind of became my platform there, where I was all about, like do not get suspended over requesting product reviews, that is a really dumb reason to get suspended. You know,
Yoni Mazor 27:02
So you went on you know, campaign, basically, to help the sellers out there, it was cruel, yeah, that's a good term, to know the rules of the game and raise the awareness. And once you do you know how to play it. And of course, if you already got thrown into the mud of this game, you're in trouble how to get out of it. So major, major components that it's a common theme that I see too many industry leaders, once things kind of there's a shock wave into the system. First of all, you got to educate and raise awareness cuz some of them might get hit, you know, because they played the game and did that, you know, they didn't get caught. But once you raise the awareness, you have a fair chance to get out before it gets too late. So that's a very important component. Of course, if they're ready, go ahead, help them out. That triangle of awareness, be careful. And if you are already there, help you out, that's a great component for leadership in this industry alone, because if you get suspended, you know, a few hours a few days, it's gonna be a lot of money on the line where you lose revenue. But I don't know, if you or anybody listening to this episode ever sold on Amazon, the way it works, essentially, if you're not there, you're dying, right? If you're listing your product, and the listing is not there, somebody else will come instead of you and you're gonna get ranked, every listing is indexed with the rank and, and it gets changed every hour. You know, the rank goes up and down up, hyperdynamic. And it's a massive economic battlefield that's happening behind the scene on Amazon. The consumers shop around but they have no idea what kind of World War is, is battling behind the scenes. So there's a lot of leadership needed in terms of not to play this in a fairway honest way. But staying innovative and just making, creating value all around for consumers, for their organizations, for suppliers, for service providers, or for costs. it's a beautiful thing once you really dissect the components inside that world. Go ahead, sorry Liz.
Liz Fickenscher 28:47
Absolutely, I agree. 100%. And that was my main focus. I mean, I obviously evangelize the company that I worked for, but getting to know this industry, my title changed and I became industry liaison, which didn't mean anything to anybody but me. But what I really loved the most was making connections. So even if somebody needed a solution that we didn't offer, and I'm still this way, I want to know the industry well enough to be able to give you a recommendation. So that has always been a very important component of this industry for me is knowing who to connect a seller or brand owner with when they have a problem or they've got an opportunity for growth. That's been kind of my jam the whole time. So, and I had a wonderful, wonderful opportunity at Ecom Engine and I'm eternally grateful to them for that.
Yoni Mazor 29:45
This was going for 4 years straight: 2016, 17, 18 and 19, 20. Just bustling in, making connections, connecting all the dots with you and other I guess, industry leaders, service solution providers, sellers. Tell us a little bit of a horror story that you may have, that you have happened, to help others get out of. if not there, it's okay we can try to flip it into different directions
Liz Fickenscher 30:13
In any industry, there are bad actors. and I know that there are some educators in this space that are beyond reproach, Shannon Roddy comes to mind from Marketplace Seller of course. He is on the up and up, he is so honest, so full of integrity, I trust him implicitly. The Wholesale Formula guys are great. but there were some education guys that cropped up, I’m not gonna say any names, but they were charging a whole lot of money for a no longer viable business model on Amazon and they had their business development guy going after me for like a really aggressive affiliate term because I was I managed the affiliate program, at Ecom Engine, and it was like I had all this anxiety because he was so so aggressive I mean it was like really early I had.
Yoni Mazor 31:08
Your instinct, your instincts basically felt something's off.
Liz Fickenscher 31:11
I had the creeps, yeah. and I mean they ended up getting sued by multiple people including Amazon but it was, he was so aggressive and I haven't really encountered that a lot in this industry. Yes, I’ve talked to angry sellers, yes I’ve talked to suspended sellers, that are super frustrated. but I have never encountered that amount of aggression in this industry and it was really really awful and luckily I was, you know, I’m not very thin-skinned, so I was able to deal with that. but it was just shocking. it was just completely shocking so that's what I mean i could tell stories about sellers that have been suspended and it was totally unfair but save that for when you do this with Chris because he's got...
Yoni Mazor 31:56
I'm sure all along the time you're basically, it's waves and waves of sellers that, you know, they got suspended, they had an issue, but they're able to come back and you know still back into the sunset in a healthy and well so that's always good I’m sure you had a notion of that so that's pretty much it in other words what I’m trying to say is the overwhelming majority of the sellers, they face the challenges successfully and having a part of that journey with them, I guess it makes it very rewarding over time. We've maybe not stopped to appreciate it but if we can take this opportunity to appreciate it will be nice. okay so take us 2020, COVID, a few months ago you know therefore is a business development you have so many others you made yourself a real integral part of them, you know, the e-commerce community and particularly for Amazon, what, you know you moved on to where we are today so let's get to nowadays.
Liz Fickenscher 32:50
Things were great at Ecom Engine and I think they're a great company, but I ended up, I was on the phone with Jason Mcgee. and we were just talking and he said, I had just mentioned that I’d never met Alasdair and...
Yoni Mazor 33:05
And this is before COVID or after COVID?
Liz Fickenscher 33:07
This is uhh..it's a very...this is during COVID
Yoni Mazor 33:11
After March this year yeah. 2020.
Liz Fickenscher 33:13
Yeah, smack in the middle of COVID and so we get on a call with Alasdair. And Alasdair and I started talking and it just sort of clicked. So...
Yoni Mazor 33:22
So let's give some context. Alasdair McLean?
Liz Fickenscher 33:27
Alasdair McLean-Foreman is CEO of Teikametrics and founder. He was one of the first third-party sellers he started selling on amazon in 2003 from his dorm room.
Yoni Mazor 33:37
In Harvard, right? And I think he was there the same time that Mark Zuckerberg was at Harvard or around the same area or something like
Liz Fickenscher 33:44
I think so, he's pretty young. but we started talking about the future of brands on Amazon and we started talking about how to showcase those brands and this vision for more brand awareness and for consumers to really understand who they're buying from and it just all sort of clicked and it just made sense. I’ve felt like it was like I had to.
Yoni Mazor 34:13
A click, it was a good click.
Liz Fickenscher 34:17
I don't think any of us at Teikametrics talk about Alasdair or talk about the senior leadership at that company without the emoji hearts in our eyes because we all just love where the company is going. We all believe in the leadership there. and it's not like none of us believed in leadership anywhere else it's just it's a great culture and it's a great group of people and we're doing really exciting work and it's exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Yoni Mazor 34:46
Yeah, when I think of Teika all these years, you know, I started using Teika, it's around 2015 right? Maybe earlier, it's innovative it sees to the future because I remember I know that the first tool is called FBAI Insight, it was a tool for to help Amazon sellers with repricing, inventory management, you know, reporting, analytics, and I was like wow this is innovative stuff its top of the line stuff and it's making us make a big impact and change in our business when we're selling on amazon. and then at some point, you know, we were very passionate about what we're doing our sellers you know I guess passion was a key driver for us from the get-go, hopefully still today, so I remember we're meeting, even meeting with Alasdair, and we're telling them about all this stuff we have, you know, recommendation on how to take it to the next step. And he’s like no no guys, we're actually working on this thing called Flywheel, you know, what they're known today for. They’re industry leaders, like what's going on here, they're seeing something we're not seeing and they were right, they basically retired that system and then moved on to focus on and recognizing that you know what's going to steer the industry is the private label brands, right, the brand owners and then what they need is the most advanced marketing or I guess advertising management tool which will help them, you know, to run their ads and generate the sales and brand themselves. but to do it with a lot of analytics and a lot of insights. and that was a great awakening moment for us to realize how innovation gets done in this industry. I was...how we always have to look at the next step what the future will entail and I guess you guys are also doing it today. Obviously, you had a successful fade out of an old system into a new system. but two things are coming or they're already there one is the track for Walmart.
Liz Fickenscher 36:33
Walmart's already here. We've got a great managed services team that helps people succeed on Walmart. we're seeing more and more sellers get on Walmart. There's a lot of opportunities there and we actually work with Walmart a little to produce content that helps people like get started and move along and obviously amazon advertising there's absolutely no better solution in the industry I believe.
Yoni Mazor 36:57
absolutely i mean these two are the gorillas in the room. obviously, Amazon has a very very good handle, probably around 50% or more of the industry, but Walmart is up and coming and you guys have a good footprint over there which is amazing. plus in terms of amazon you are about to launch Flywheel 2.0 which i think will probably be exciting because i always, you know, really from Teika, what can we, you know, how more can you innovate? and they always prove me wrong that there's more room for innovation and by doing that helping others reach their next step and that's why the whole industry keeps on evolving is so hyperdynamic because the sellers are like that, but also the ones who are trying to help them, they have that mindset which is I think it's amazing combination once you will kind of know the characters behind the scenes helping bring in the actual sellers so there's a great component there. All alright, so I was like you mentioned that the leadership team is is something to really take note of.
Liz Fickenscher 37:48
I mean the whole, the whole, everybody and I’m a big fangirl i have a hard time hiding my feelings and I get over emotional all the time and but
Yoni Mazor 37:57
I call it southern charm but yeah
Liz Fickenscher 37:59
I do too. I do call it that. But the internal culture is fantastic at Teikametrics. they know how to treat their employees. they are absolutely transparent. Everybody knows what's going on. everybody sees the vision. Everybody understands the vision. but additionally, the whole point of it all is to create a platform that is the most useful platform that an e-commerce professional could have so started with Flywheel 2.0 it's all about connectivity, it's all about connecting because it, we’re all about data science and really digging into the data and understanding all the different things that you have to consider when you're making decisions about advertising, or making decisions about inventory, or making decisions about anything.
Yoni Mazor 38:57
But what is the opportunity that you see for yourself and all these components inside? what do you, what was driving you now what's your passion with all this? where do you see your track and trail in assisting or empowering all this?
Liz Fickenscher 39:07
Well, I want to help bring this platform to market. I want to help any way I can bring them, but I’m still all about industry education, I’m still learning about advertising. I don't come from that kind of background, but I am still keeping my eye on the news, I’m still trying to understand amazon policy changes. I bring in friends if I don't know exactly what's going on, I did my first webinar like a couple of weeks into with Ecom Engine, Mike Trowbridge, who is brilliant and wonderful and one of my best friends ever, but there was an update to amazon product review chain and I know exactly who to go to for that, you know, I’ve seen an uptick in seller forums about suspension so I had Chris McCabe on to tell us why people are getting suspended right now, what can you do to avoid it? That's the opportunity we have in this industry is to work with each other, to educate our audiences, it's all the same audience, there's enough room for everybody so I kind of see my purpose as education. and I want to put a spotlight on entrepreneurship and brands and really kind of get the stories out there about the great work that people are doing and the immense sacrifice that they've made in order to be part of this and to be successful and the journey that they've had. How did they deal with COVID? How are they continuing to deal with COVID?
Yoni Mazor 40:33
They’re continuing to deal. What I find amazing is that they're continuing to grow with COVID, not just survive, it's, they're taking things to the next step. and what I can detect with your position inside this whole mix is that A- there's a learning curve for you which is exciting because it's you know it's that's the curve that you always kind of handling from day one but all the experience you already have in your belt which connects all the dots the people the ones actually move the needle you know populating all of that into your learning curve and how things evolve and making sense of it all and make it resonate. and it’s giving the opportunity to Teikametrics to market it and the best way possible where it resonates and really helps the other sellers and as soon as possible, because when you got good help and it's available to you don't want to hey, you know, chop-chop. you got to make sure you get the right tools adapted quickly and run with it, bring the data and bring the results in and then once again start the cycle. analyze the data. what can be tweaked? What can be finessed? and then again started the whole journey again where you come in again to play relay the message through writing through webinars through affiliate through connections whatever it is to keep empowering and growing because you know this is a wild journey it's almost I do believe historically speaking that we're in the midst of a revolution you know the e-commerce revolution we're only at about 15% out of the 100% of retail itself you know it's probably surely going to go to 16, 17, 20, 25. like you mentioned there's so much room to grow. There's so much room for everybody. and these are historical times. it's exciting to be in it.
Liz Fickenscher 42:01
Yeah, it still feels like the wilderness you know? I mean it back in 2014 and 2015 obviously things were different. there were things you could do that you can't do now. the whole retail arbitrage, online arbitrage, was much more prevalent right and you could be...yeah I know people personally who are still killing it doing that...yep um. I don't have the, I don't personally have the character, I don't have the hustle.
Yoni Mazor 42:35
Liz Fickenscher 42:36
you know, I hustled a lot to be a freelance writer and now I want to apply my hustle to a greater cause than me. but if someone is like look I’ve got the hustle and I’m going to be successful then that's the greatest cause ever right? so I’m not like, you know, not disparaging anybody and I think that I’ve met amazing people in every single segment of amazon selling, from retail arbitrage all the way to great big brands that don't, yeah just amazing people and one thing that I think they all have in common is that entrepreneurial rebellious spirit and that's what makes me so obsessed with this industry is because that is a common thread among all of them.
Yoni Mazor 43:23
I call it the flame, the passion, of the real, the ones involved, the ones who do this with passion, they steam forward and it sucks you in and I think it comes from Amazon itself. also something about amazon, which is flaming, you know, Jeff Bezos out there enough, you know, for a good reason he also has a ball of fire in his own merit.
Liz Fickenscher 43:41
Look what he made. I mean nobody's ever made anything like that before. It in itself is a revolution you know? and to play there, you have to play, it's their ball field and it changes and they have grown so fast. Amazon has grown so fast that I mean I can't even get mad when amazon policy doesn't make sense or they're saying that there's a policy that you can't find anywhere because it's either changed and they haven't published it or it hasn't really changed but everybody just got some bad information. and when one seller support person says something completely opposite of another, you almost can't get mad because the growth has been so … yeah that how could they have all of their you know what together you know it's impossible. it's impossible. but it's still such an amazing opportunity for retail and it's such an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs all over and I just think it would be really cool I mean this isn't my central focus but I think it would be really cool if we talked about when I told you how people sell on amazon they're still like I tell people what I do for a living and they just kind of go blank you know huh? and I’m like google me. yeah but I think if people understood that when you shop on Amazon are not necessarily buying from amazon.
Yoni Mazor 45:01
60% chance you're not. 60% of that actual sales are third-party sellers so amazon itself is losing its own grip and its own market because there are so much innovation and growth and passion with all these third-party entrepreneur sellers.
Liz Fickenscher 45:17
But I would love to see a third party, I would love to see marketplaces like amazon marketplaces, maybe eventually Walmart, maybe eventually target, when a third party picks up there, but I would love for people to approach amazon and not necessarily search for a keyword. I've gotten to the point, because I've been immersed in this industry and I've met so many different brands that I love so much and I'm so loyal to, that i searched for the brand or I have the brands you know their storefront bookmarked.
Yoni Mazor 45:50
Brand awareness you have, yeah
Liz Fickenscher 45:52
Yeah yeah. and I think it would be really great if more of the consumer community understood that diverse and absolutely awesome different brands that are selling on amazon and had their favorites you know? and I don't think a lot of them do. I know I talked to my husband and he says I sort by prime and then I sort by star rating.
Yoni Mazor 46:16
Liz Fickenscher 46:18
I put any keyword and I sort by prime and then sort by star rating. and I’m like, don't do that. Pick a brand you like.
Yoni Mazor 46:27
There’s so much selection, so much variety, you know, immerse yourself in it. got it. beautiful Alright, so Liz, we’re coming to a close very soon so thank you for sharing I guess from 2004 your story kind of started until now about 16 years. Thank you, thank you for taking us with the stations of your growth in general. thank you. Before we sign off I want to do two things. the first thing will be, you know, if somebody is trying to reach out to you, give them a handout. somewhere they can find you and reach you and follow you, so first thing. the second thing will be what will be, I guess, at this point your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs out there. I know we kind of touched a lot of that but that might give us the final touch so go-ahead two points.
Liz Fickenscher 47:08
so first to reach me. it's hard, so I think we could probably put it in the
Yoni Mazor 47:15
we'll put in the show notes for you, have your name nicely
Liz Fickenscher 47:19
But it’s lfickenscher - f as in frank, i, c, k, e, n as in nancy, s, c, h, e, r, at Teikametrics - t, e, i, k, a, m, e, t, r, i, c, s dot com. um but we'll put that in the show notes because that's a whole lot of letters. and very active on LinkedIn, I’m not very active on Facebook anymore. but I’m very active on LinkedIn so it's Elizabeth Fickenscher on Linkedin and please feel free to add me ask me any questions. I love to meet people from the industry. I love to help make the connections and if I could give any word of hope it's: Hang in there. It's a rough ride, especially right now, it's a world of opportunity to some of you right now, but there's a lot of uncertainty, there's a lot of confusion, just hang in there. just call on the resources that you need, don't be afraid to ask for help, but keep your head above water and cyber week is coming, so hold on to your horses because
Yoni Mazor 48:19
Cyber week is by Friday? yeah after thanksgiving. got it. alright so hold your head up high stay strong. good days are coming. that's your final message for hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs
Liz Fickenscher 48:29
and let me know if you need help
Yoni Mazor 48:31
yeah reach out directly to Liz she's, you know, she's a junction, a positive force injunction for the industry. so if you're not sure where to go reach out to Liz she’ll direct you where to go. she always does wonders with that. She can't go wrong. Liz thank you so much it's been a pleasure i hope to do this again soon one way or another. Anybody who survived this far, thank you for listening. stay safe, stay healthy. until next time