The Marketplace Institute was born out of many conversations I had with branded manufacturers over the past few years of running Bobsled Marketing, an Amazon channel management agency.
Many brands we spoke with wanted to ultimately bring most of the management of their Amazon channel back in-house. We could be doing the best job in the world as an agency, but brands have good reasons for wanting to directly manage this channel:
- Amazon is becoming a primary channel for brands, not just something to tinker with on the side
- Some companies have a general policy of doing things in-house rather than outsourcing to agencies/consultants/freelancers.
- As brand owners, they know their brand better than anyone else.
- The brand may be able to execute faster by removing middle-men and the extra communication & management required.
In some cases, the brand wishes to keep key marketing and operational functions in-house, while retaining an agency to handle the technical PPC advertising function, or one-off projects like refreshing A+ page content for a large catalog.
Either way, I started to see a shift in perspective: brands wanted to own more of their Amazon channel.
The issue was, Amazon is a tough channel to master. At Bobsled, new Specialists and Managers require no less than 6 weeks of onboarding & training, even if they have past Amazon experience. There are so many moving parts, so many processes to master, that the learning continues well beyond the initial onboarding period. Adding to this complexity is the constant change with this channel. Every week for our member-only “Amazon News Digest” I summarize the most pertinent news for brands selling on Amazon, and provide my thoughts on how brands should respond to each news item. There are no less than 6 big changes to policy, new features, new beta programs, or other news that brands need to take action on every week. As an Amazon channel manager – whether working for an agency or a brand – its necessary to have a love of change and constant learning!
The Existing Options
But when looking at the landscape of options for brands to educate their internal teams and keep them up-to-date, I found the options didn’t adequately address what is required to properly master and maintain this channel.
Online courses. e.g. Amazing Selling Machine, Proven Amazon Course, MarketPlace SuperHeroes
- Focused on entrepreneurs, not managers at mid-sized companies.
- Only cover the Seller Central platform.
Read industry blogs, public forums, media articles to stay current on news & best practices.
- Information overwhelm
- Sometimes inaccurate, out-of-date or not credible.
Attend industry conferences. e.g. The Prosper Show, RetailGlobal, Sellers Summit, IRCE
- Costly to travel and attend each event
- Limited number of quality events each year
- Amazon-focused events usually only cover Seller-specific content
Interact with other eCommerce professionals
- Limited to who’s already in your professional/ personal network.
- LinkedIn and Facebook groups are usually free, which means a certain degree of “riff-raff”
The Essence: “We need an Amazon Helpline”
The problem seemed big, but I didn’t want to just create another online course for Amazon. Based on the feedback, and the dynamic nature of the platform, I wanted to create a solution for brands that would meet several unique needs. And therefore, The Marketplace Institute was born in 2019.
- A need for community. Channel managers, eCommerce Directors, National Sales Managers – there are many titles for people who manage an Amazon channel internally. These folks are usually operating in relative isolation, needing to figure out wild and whacky situations on their own. Many stated a desire to connect with peers who understood the inherent challenges in the role, and to have a group of people to bounce ideas and challenges off. Enter: our member-only Slack workspace.
- A need for reliable information. The internet is chock-full of blog posts and guides to handle various Amazon tasks. But not everything is up-to-date or accurate. Enter: our extensive Amazon Knowledge Base and Masterclass training.
- A need for expert advice. Sometimes very unique situations arise, or there’s a more strategic decision you need to grapple with. Brands want to be able to troubleshoot 1:1 with an expert occasionally, without having to pay a monthly retainer to an agency. Enter: our Amazon Helpline, staffed by subject-matter-experts from Bobsled Marketing. We also conduct weekly “office hours” calls with members, to discuss big concepts & challenges.
You can learn about all of the features of the Marketplace Institute and our different membership plans here.