Blog > MyFBAPrep Interviews > Amazon and off-Amazon Growth Levers: A Chat With Will Haire of BellaVix

Amazon and off-Amazon Growth Levers: A Chat With Will Haire of BellaVix

In this video, Rachel Go chats with Will Haire, CEO and founder of BellaVix. Will shares what drove him to start BellaVix, how they retain clients, reasons to be excited about Walmart Marketplace, growth levers on Amazon, and why merchants shouldn’t forget to look off Amazon as well.

Transcript below.

Will’s background

Rachel Andrea Go: Thank you so much for joining me today, Will, and thank you for chatting with us. To start off, can you share a little bit about your background and how it led to where you are today?

Will Haire: Absolutely, Rachel. Thanks so much for having me. I have an interesting background. I was—I won’t go too far back and bore you guys, but I’ve been doing agency work in the Amazon space for a little over 12 years and we started BellaVix back in 2018. So, my background is advertising. I like to say Google ads and SEO is the gateway to get to Amazon. 

So, I started out working with a lot of small businesses and through my agency experience, I kept getting matched up with eCommerce brands, then eventually became the Amazon guy and I got all my companies—Amazon clients and I took that and kind of just ran with it, and before I knew it, this is all I do in the world I live in. But luckily, Amazon’s great for people with ADD because it’s always changing, so it’s never the same. So it keeps me gainfully employed and constantly interested in the next shiny object.

Rachel Andrea Go: I noticed you have a really strong marketing background. What were the biggest challenges of evolving from marketing leader to CEO?

Will Haire: Beautiful. Yeah, I still do a lot of the marketing and the sales. I think the biggest transition is the ability to delegate. So, obviously, having the vision is one thing and executing yourself is fun, but as you start to scale your business, that becomes impossible. So, learning [to] delegate, hiring people that are way smarter than me — everybody on my team is so much smarter than I am, so I’ve been really blessed to be, with confidence, smart people who can help raise the BellaVix and the Will Haire brand.

Rachel Andrea Go: What was the main trigger for starting BellaVix?

Will Haire: Yeah, the main trigger was, I was working at an agency — and this happened to me a bunch of times but, as silly as it is, I got passed up for a promotion that I really thought I deserved and I was finally like, “You know what? I could just do this better myself, and if you guys don’t believe in me, I believe in me,” and here we are five years later. And I’m super blessed, my co-founder is also my wife, so we started out as a family business and we’re still a family business. And she has the corporate and operational experience and I was able to bring the advertising. So, together like in marriage as in business, we’re a good team, and I’m blessed I get to work with my best friend every day.

Rachel Andrea Go: That’s amazing. Do you have any advice for companies that are looking to grow or, you know, looking to find their first few employees and scale?

Will Haire: Yeah, absolutely. I would say the biggest game-changer for us is we hired a coach pretty early on — probably 2020 give or take — and we started implementing the EOS system, not to its entirety but the entrepreneur operating system—it’s a Gino Wickman framework essentially, and that has helped us with clarity, helped us get our vision out to our employees, it’s helped with hiring. 

So, I would tell anybody who is trying or if you’re, like, a consultant looking to grow into an agency where you’re not doing everything: Find somebody who’s already doing it and then ask them to coach. My coach was not coaching officially, he just ran a much larger agency, and I just asked if he’d be willing to help out, and you’d be surprised, most people are. They don’t work for free, of course, but you never get anything good for free. But it’s worked out really well, so that would be my advice.

BellaVix’s customer-centric approach

Rachel Andrea Go: How do you differentiate BellaVix from other marketplace management companies?

Will Haire: We’re obsessed with our customer. So, like, similar to Amazon’s methodologies being customer obsessed. So, we make sure we’re super communicative; we give lots of ways for customers to—or, clients or partners to reach out to us for conversations. And then we try to stay cutting edge, so we’re always on top of the latest media strategies and everything else that’s going on. So, our biggest differentiator is customer service, small teams delivering results, and, obviously, keeping up with the latest and greatest because, as I said earlier, we all have ADD, and this thing is constantly changing, so what worked today isn’t going to necessarily work tomorrow.

Rachel Andrea Go: I’m curious, do you work with other agencies to refer clients that, you know, might not be a very good fit?

Will Haire: Yeah, definitely. So, we’re in a couple agency circles, but yeah, we have—we’ll hit capacity, like, throughout the year. So, we try not to take on more that we can handle and when we get to that point, we have other agencies that do just as good as work as we do and we’re happy to send over referrals.

Rachel Andrea Go: So, what is your advice for retaining clients and brands?

Will Haire: That’s a good one. Results, at the end of the day—two things, like—people work with people that they like, so be compassionate, be empathetic. And something my team does really well that I wish I was better at is that they’re able to put themselves in the clients’ shoes and kind of get their viewpoint, and I think that’s a really great way to be empathetic and to really understand. I think that’s why customers like to stay with us and all that other fun stuff. Our attrition rate right now is a little over 18 months, so we’re pretty blessed that a lot of the brands that come work with us stay with us for a while, and we’re not even, you know—we haven’t been around that long either, so feeling really blessed.

Think outside of Amazon for growth

Rachel Andrea Go: So, speaking of kind of results and keeping clients on your roster, what are a few key Amazon growth levers that you’ve noticed brands commonly overlook?

Will Haire: Absolutely. So, being an advertiser, I’m gonna talk about advertising. But what we find with a lot of brands is they’ll hit sales stagnation and they’re like, “Why? We’re doing PPC.” And a lot of times, they’re just focusing on that bottom of the funnel, like, just catching people in market, and they’re not building their audiences. So, some of the advantages are programmatic advertising. Amazon as of January 29th, just a few weeks ago, has opened commercials to Prime video, the whole year before, they were building videos for brands in order to get ready so they have enough supply out there. So, it’s really cutting edge. 

So, what I would say for anybody who is looking to scale, think outside of Amazon. You can leverage Amazon using programmatic [advertising] to build audiences. Understand that you should be using, like, a blended ROAS — or TACOS as we like to say — so that you make sure you’re operating within profitability, but you’re counting for organic and and impressions. Yeah, I think those are the big things, and leverage outside sources. There’s nothing wrong with driving, even around events, your social media traffic occasionally. Messaging in newsletters that you’re also available on Amazon will definitely help feed the machine, if you will.

Rachel Andrea Go: Speaking of thinking outside Amazon, I noticed that you also have Walmart Marketplace services. Why did you decide to add Walmart Marketplace services at BellaVix?

Will Haire: Rachel, I like that you did your homework. This is great. Walmart to us is the next big thing. It’s Amazon 10 years ago, but I think that the speed in which Walmart gets market share is gonna be a lot faster than Amazon. And to give you some perspective — these numbers may be a little off, but they’re essentially—it’s, like, 500 fulfillment centers in the United States; it’s, like, within a hundred miles of every major city, whereas there’s, you know, like, 3,000 Walmarts, I think or whatever it is, and it’s within 10 miles of every major city. 

So, Walmart has the infrastructure. The only challenge for brands now is Amazon’s shopper journey is, “buy online, pick up in-store,” so they favor a lot of their 1P vendors, whereas Amazon is a hundred percent 3P, “buy on Amazon and we’ll ship it to your house.” So, there still is room for the marketplace to improve, but we want to be cutting edge and we’re getting ahead of that. And Walmart is a fun pl—it’s still the Wild West, so there’s lots of challenges and new things to learn on the platform.

Rachel Andrea Go: What’s your advice to sellers who want to expand into Walmart?

Will Haire: Beautiful. I would say it definitely makes sense to have a presence. Now, we understand, as of recently, that shoppers are generally omnichannel. They’re gonna buy wherever they’re gonna buy and they’re gonna price check across all platforms. So, when it comes to Walmart, I wouldn’t say you necessarily have to dive in deep. Generally, our Walmart customers will do anywhere [from] five to forty percent 3P of what they do on Amazon is what they do on Walmart. So, it’s still a much smaller marketplace in terms of online, but the opportunity is that you’re a first mover, you’re gonna get in there. 

And they still have these weird loopholes, like, you can connect your reviews from your website, like, using Yotpo or other things and patch that directly into your Walmart and have all those reviews transfer over and all those validations. And I guarantee that [with] the FTC and some of the rules that are going on, that’s probably not going to last forever. So, they’re just fun little hacks that you can take advantage of that definitely aren’t going to be around in the next five years.

Rachel Andrea Go: What are some of the distinct differences from the seller perspective of selling on Amazon versus Walmart?

Will Haire: Walmart’s a lot more manual. There’s a lot of issues. What’s nice is, like, some of the plugins work pretty well; I forgot the one that we use, but it’ll plug into Shopify and it’ll transfer data, and you’ll have the ability to track inventory, but obviously leveraging WFS—FSS is where it’s at, but it’s still behind the times.

They lose inventory, they destroy it, they’re not as smooth; like, we use Getida — or “Get I-D-A,” I’m not sure what the right—or, how to say that right — but, like, Amazon has these softwares and systems that—it’s automatic, like, I don’t have to chase it down, where[as] at Walmart, it really doesn’t exist and it’s just a lot more manual. So, you know, two drawbacks is, like, it’s not—you’re not gonna make as much money as you will on some other platforms, but it’s still relatively large compared to others; and it’s manual. It just takes a lot more human hours that go into—to kind of creating that. But it’s the first move. You ask anybody, like, “Hey, if you could have gotten into Amazon 20 years ago, would you do it?” They would do it in a heartbeat, and that’s kind of how we view Walmart.

Big names continue to reign, but smaller brands can keep up

Rachel Andrea Go: I know you work with sellers of all sizes. What do you predict will happen to smaller brands versus more established merchants on Amazon this year?

Will Haire: I still think that Amazon is the ultimate leveler in terms of playing field. So, like, it’s tough to compete with those big brands. You got to think, if a brand’s in Walmart, like, one Walmart store—sorry, one Target store on a corner shelf, you can get 3,000 eyeballs. Now picture that across the United States. You know, these are millions of impressions that, you know—it comes with an expense, but that’s why, like, if you watch “Shark Tank” and some of these other things, like — what’s the two platforms these “sharks” or these brands on “Shark Tank” are always on? They do their direct-to-consumer site and they’re on Amazon because the barrier to entry is so much lower than getting into brick-and-mortar retail. It gives you the ability to establish your minimal viable product, your MVP, and see what the market is before you go all in. 

So, with that being said, I don’t think much is gonna change. The tactics that are required are gonna shift a little bit, but, you know, guerrilla marketing—you know, you can really be—you could really differentiate yourself, and it could be on your listing, it could be the experience when the customer gets those packages, it could be the stories that you tell. So, the opportunity’s there. Competition is competition, but cream rises to the top, so just have confidence in yourself, your products, and your mission and it will all work out.

Rachel Andrea Go: Does your advice to brands change as they hit different growth stages?

Will Haire: Absolutely. Yep. It’s not that you will saturate the market but the strategies. So, what we know when we work with larger and larger brands is that the marketing initiatives to get exposure to new-to-brand customers or new-to-market customers becomes more challenging, and so you have to kind of spread that out. And that’s where, like, programmatic advertising makes a lot of sense. We’re dipping into some influencer marketing and working with that; Amazon has the Amazon Associates program, which is the content creator connections, which is your ability to work. So, like, Amazon is also seeing that you have to think outside of Amazon if you’re gonna continue to build that brand. 

So, depending on where you are in your growth stage and depending on what’s acceptable for your cost per acquisition for a new customer will dictate kind of the tactics that go into that, and obviously, bigger brands, bigger budget, so. Not that it’s any easier, you just have the ability to kind of spread it out differently to get your ROI, whereas the smaller brand—you know, we might just be focused on PPC and programmatic as we’re building audiences and getting validation. So it’s different.

Experiment with different advertising formats

Rachel Andrea Go: Speaking of influencers, what kind of content and different formats have you noticed perform well in different ad spots?

Will Haire: Definitely anything with comparison charts, anything that shows the application of how to use it, and anything that’s very native. So, like, if it doesn’t look like an ad, it’s gonna perform really well. And those are just some of what we’ve seen work really well. But, like, it’s so spread out because something will work really well in the beauty category and, like, it won’t resonate the same in the supplement. We do a lot of comparative marketing when we do supplements, and when we tried that with beauty, it’s just not as successful. So, you really gotta experiment. We have to be data scientists, and I think that’s how marketers need to think moving forward as we’re—as you’re considering content and how to really leverage influencers to get our ROI.

Rachel Andrea Go: So, it sounds like you have a very good kind of testing and research approach. What are some of the most interesting things you notice that happened in eCommerce last year?

Will Haire: Last year, some—Amazon rolled out some really cool programs. So, if you were in Accelerate last year, Amazon is pushing to be everyone’s logistics partner, like, “Hey, not only do we have the audience, we got the infrastructure to do same-day shipping and all this other fun stuff.” So, rolling into programs like the MCF or BioWare Prime is something that they were pushing really hard. Having worked with brands on those platforms, they’re not built out yet at all. There’s lots of issues and pricing isn’t as transparent as Amazon puts it out. But I do think, as we go into 2024, they may consolidate some of these programs and they may have their own logistics system built. 

So, I think, outside of marketing and advertising, there’ll be, like, technical changes to get exposure to more audiences, especially opening up streaming TV. But I do think Amazon is going to be making moves in the logistics space, and I’d be interested how that impacts business, especially MyFBAPrep and everything else because they’re pushing that pretty hard with their agency partners. But it’s not a very good program to be perfectly transparent at the moment. [That] doesn’t mean it won’t, but at the moment, it’s not very good.

Rachel Andrea Go: Well, my last question is, what is your advice for sellers going into 2024?

Will Haire: My advice for going into 2024 is, consider streaming TV. It—on Amazon, it’s actually a lot less expensive; it’s about $10 cheaper than some of the other connected TV platforms and—January 29th, I think I said it earlier, they have open streaming TV up to the masses, there’s now commercials with the regular Prime membership. If it’s similar to other platforms like Hulu and Netflix, about 75% of people are just gonna live with commercials, because we’ve been brainwashed by cable anyway. So, even if you have some videos that are of mediocre quality, get it out there, because it’s a first-movers opportunity, and these CPMs between $20 to $30 are pretty reasonable considering the exposure you’ll get for being on Prime and Freebie, which are the two networks that house the streaming TV for Amazon.