When someone decides to buy a product whether online or at the back of the room they have been convinced of two things: this product (from this speaker) can solve a problem that they really want solved AND that they trust this speaker – that this person really has the expertise to make a difference in their lives and will be able to communicate that expertise in a way they can use.
Products Offered by Speakers
- Physical products like DVDs, CDs and books
- Downloads – ebooks, audios
- Membership sites and community sites that people are willing to pay for
- Training webinars or train-the-trainer programs that certify people to train others
The VSA’s Role in Managing the Process
The VSA has four major roles in handling products for the speaker.
1. Make sure the client can buy from the speaker’s website – either through eCommerce right on the site or through using a fulfillment house or Amazon.com
2. Help manage vendor relationships and the process to produce the product. Many VSA’s develop relationships with resources, such as DVD or CD duplicators and printers that can print covers and packaging. To keep costs low, continue to research and help the speaker select the top three vendor options before selecting the final vendor. The VSA can send and track the contracts, making sure everything gets done and take the lead in making sure vendors are staying in compliance with the contractually agreed-to product specifications.
3. Help manage the product inventory. Speakers are traveling and busy and especially if they have the inventory at a fulfillment house, they have no idea when they need to have more products ordered. Part of keeping track of the inventory is to ask the speaker at what level do they want to start duplicating or re-duplicating their materials. It may be time for an update, and if so, the VSA can manage that process. So for example if a speaker orders 100 units at a time, if you get down to the last 25, the speaker needs to be alerted so they can authorize the production and the payment so they aren’t stuck at an event with no product to sell.
4. The VSA can also manage the fulfillment process (mailing and shipping to customers).
eCommerce/Shopping Cart Basics
Shopping carts allow web site users to purchase products directly from the speaker’s website, safely and easily. More and more consumers want to shop online and either download their purchases for immediate use or have them shipped.
There are two types of shopping cart software:
Licensed software – The user pays a one-time licensing fee and then can use it on any web site.
Hosted service – the eCommerce is actually on an application service provider (ASP) site. The ASP will charge a percentage of sales as well as a monthly fee. The advantage here is the ASP will keep the software current for security purposes and will add new features.
Shopping carts provide a variety of services, including:
Payment processing, allowing purchasers to use credit cards and eChecks
Inventory monitoring, allowing you to track purchases and inventory, including calculating shipping charge and taxes for the product
Security – Shopping cart software will offer protection by encrypting information and processing credit cards through reputable processing services that can be trusted.
There are three parts to the process. Selecting:
Payment gateways – Payment gateways protect credit card details by encrypting sensitive information, such as credit card numbers, to ensure that information is passed securely between the customer and the merchant and also between merchant and the payment processor.
Credit card processing – These can be the old-fashioned terminals you see in retail stores, an app on a smart phone or a virtual terminal where you can enter in the purchaser’s information online.
Merchant accounts – Merchant accounts are a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept payments by debit or credit cards. The merchant bank accepts payments from the payment processor for the settlement of credit/debit card transactions.
Do the research and help the speaker decide on using a shopping cart provider or PayPal for eCommerce on the speaker’s site.
If the speaker is new to selling products or maybe only has one or two, PayPal may be the easiest way to start.
If the speaker decides to use a shopping cart, then your next steps are to:
· Set up a payment gateway (such as Authorize.net)
· Arrange for credit card processing (through the speaker’s bank)
· Open a merchant account (probably through the speaker’s bank)
PayPal offers two main online payment services:
- Website Payments Standard (free)
- Website Payments Pro ($30/month)
PayPal also allows for online invoicing and virtual terminal payments for phone, fax and mail orders.
Website Payments Standard and Website Payments Pro provide all of the tools you need to add credit card payment processing to a website. Both systems accept major credit cards, PayPal payments, echecks, debit cards, instant bank account transfers, integration with existing shopping carts, selling single or multiple items and accepting recurring payments.
There are per transaction fees when you use Website Payments Standards or Pro, which vary based on the volume of monthly sales. If you sell between $0 to $3,000, your fee per transaction is 2.9 percent + 30 cents or $3.20 on a $100 sale. If you sell between $3,000+ to $10,000, your fee per transaction is 2.5 percent + 30 cents per transaction; or $2.80 on a $100 sale. If your volume is $10,000 to $200,000, your fees are 2.2 percent + 30 cents per transaction or $2.50 for a $100 sale.
It is not cheap to use Authorize.net but it is considered the gold standard and most reliable. It costs approximately $99 to set up an account and $20 per month to maintain the account. Transaction fees are 10 cents per transaction with a 25-cent daily batch fee. Included with the service is address verification, a free virtual terminal to process phone orders, free website integration and card code verification. If you need to set up recurring (subscription) transactions, it costs an additional $10 per month.
Talk to the bank and get a package of information on credit card processing and opening a merchant account. There are a variety of accounts generally available, depending on the amount of usage expected.
It is easy to set up a business bank account in the U.S. and sometimes you can do it all online. You will need to have your business name registered (in the US that would be having your DBA completed and your business license) and have an appropriate business number (in the U.S. that would be either your Social Security number or your Federal ID number).
Fulfillment means getting the product to events or directly to customers. There are three ways to do this:
1. The VSA can manage the fulfillment, sending inventory directly from the VSA’s office. The VSA would prepare all the material ahead of time, which would include the product and perhaps sales or other material to be sent with the product. It is best if the speaker has his or her own FedEx or UPS account and the VSA uses the account number to pay for sending the package.
You can use autoresponders when someone orders a product online with a receipt and upgrades for additional sales. The VSA will want to make sure that you are doing whatever is offered or guaranteed in the autoresponder (such as we ship same day).
2. The speaker can also choose to have the VSA work with a fulfillment house instead, The VSA will probably need to be an authorized user on the speaker’s business credit cards, so he or she can authorize the the charges every month. The VSA may also need to talk directly with customers in case the product wasn’t received as expected or was damaged or wasn’t what was ordered.
3. The speaker can also decide to leave the process to a full-service online retailer like Amazon.com. The best way to do this is through Amazon Advantage. The VSA will get orders from Amazon and send the product as directed in an email. You can’t sell product downloads through Amazon, just physical products.
Be careful of international orders. Just about the time you get one, if you aren’t careful and don’t check ahead, you could pay more for the costs of packaging and postage and value added tax in places like Canada, than you are charging the customer for the product. To make sure you understand all the costs involved in international shipping, check out these international business sites:
U.S. Orders and Taxes
If an online retailer has a physical presence in a particular state, such as a store, business office, or warehouse, it must remit (pay) sales tax from customers in that U.S. state.
If a business does not have a physical presence in a state, it is not required to pay sales tax for sales into that state. This rule comes from a 1992 Supreme Court decision which held that mail-order merchants did not need to collect sales taxes for sales into states where they did not have a physical presence.
You are never required to charge a customer sales tax, but that doesn’t mean it is not owed to the state. Most businesses do pass on the costs of sales tax to their customers.
If the speaker wants minimal involvement (on your part) in managing the fulfillment, Amazon Advantage might be the answer.
Amazon Advantage offers eCommerce services to people who want to sell books, CDs and DVDs. To read about Amazon Advantage or apply, go to https://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-product-page.html?topic=200329780&ld=AZAdvanMakeM. If the author/publisher wishes to participate, there is a $29.95 annual fee for an unlimited number of products. One advantage of participation is that products are listed as “ships in 24 hours”. You can also see sales figures online. CDs, DVDs and other products can be sold through Amazon Advantage, but not ebooks. Another selling point is that books can be listed there before they are released and Amazon.com will take pre-orders.
Create an Amazon Account
In order to do just about anything on Amazon, your client will need to create a user account. Go to http://www.Amazon.com (in the US) and at the top of the page, click on New Customer.
To take maximum advantage of the sales opportunities of Amazon Advantage, you will want to have a fully completed “detail page” for all products. You can include an author bio, description, editorial reviews as well as images and audio sound clips.
Creator Sets Retail Price
The product creator sets the retail price for the product, but Amazon sets the price it charges its customers. With Amazon Advantage, Amazon.com pays a 45 percent commission (products are sold to Amazon at a 55 percent discount) on the list price (the price the author sets) on each book it sells.
Please be aware that there are better ways to sell books on Amazon than by using Amazon Advantage, so if you are only selling books, consider printing them through LightningSource.com or Create Space. If you do, they will automatically be listed on Amazon without signing up for an Amazon Advantage account. The product creator (or the publisher) also pays the shipping to get books to Amazon. If you print with Lightning Source or CreateSpace (Amazon’s own self publishing company), you will not be paying shipping.
One way to get increased sales and visibility for books is for the author to ask friends and readers to put a review on Amazon.com. It is a good idea any time a book is sent on a complimentary basis, to ask the reader to post a review, if he or she liked the book.
There are also “regular” reviewers on Amazon.com. Some people review books regularly and have a regular following among book buyers. The VSA can monitor the reviews that come in and let the speaker know what others are saying. There is no way to take a negative review off of Amazon, so it is important if there is a negative review that there be many other positive reviews to offset that one.
Amazon Advantage Ordering
Amazon Advantage works on a consignment basis. When you are paid is based not on what Amazon ordered, but what customers actually bought. Amazon watches the inventory and will send you an email order based on past customer orders with instructions on how to ship. To sell books on Amazon Advantage, you will need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). If you sell other products, such as a CD or DVD, you will need a UPC code. In both cases you will need a visible bar code to put the ISBN or UPC code on the physical product.
To get an ISBN (EANBOOKLAND): ISBNs can be purchased as a single (very expensive) or in blocks of 10, 100 or 10,000. The cost per book goes way down with the more numbers ordered. There is a publisher’s registration fee of $30 if you order 10 or $65 if you order 100. The cost for the numbers depends on how quickly you need to received them in the mail.
1. In the U.S., to apply online, go to www.isbn.org. Under Order ISBNs, click on English Language forms.
2. On the next screen, you will see several options, depending on how many ISBNs you want to purchase. We recommend you select the second option, Are you a new publisher who wishes to apply for a block of ISBNs? Click to continue the application process.
3. On the next screen, you will see the application form. Fill in your email, your credit card information, and select the number you want to purchase. Here is the pricing, including the publisher’s registration fee ($30 for 10, $65 for 100).
You will receive a link to an online log where you can enter the title of the book assigned to each ISBN. You do not have to enter your titles online – you can keep your own records off-line. However, the advantage of entering the title to the assigned number online is that the title will automatically become part of Books in Print, something you might otherwise need to do separately. You can also download the logbook for your own records.
You need a newly-assigned ISBN:
1. For each new edition
2. For each separate information product (such as an eBook)
3. If the title changes.
You do NOT need a new ISBN:
1. When you reprint the book even if you make minor changes
2. If you change the price of the book.
You will need to get a scannable bar code for the back cover (usually on the bottom right corner of the book or other product). It is easy to get an appropriate EAN Bookland bar code once you know both the U.S. and Canadian retail price and the ISBN that will be used for that book.
If you are concerned about accuracy and want someone to do it for you, you can have the bar code emailed to you for $10 through www.createbarcodes.com. If you print the book through LightningSource.com, they will provide the bar code at no charge.
Here is the process to follow:
- Go to http://www.createbarcodes.com and click on “New User” to get to the application form.
- Fill out the application on the next screen which calls for your company name and address and click “continue.”
- The next screen asks for your name, phone, email, and credit card number and also allows you to set up a password that you want to be sure and note
- At this point you are registered, and can click “Use Wizard” to enter more information and order your bar code.
- On the first screen of the wizard, select the second choice “ISBN Bookland EAN” and click next.
- On the next screen, select the first choice on the next screen “ Standard ISBN Bookland EAN” and click next.
- On the next screen, enter your 13 digit ISBN. Make sure first box reflects your first three digits of your ISBN correctly. If not, click to see scroll down options, and select the correct one.In second box, type in number beginning with the “0” and including the dashes after the “0” as follows “0-XXXXXXX-X” leaving the final number off because it will automatically fill in the last box correctly. You do not need to place the dash before the “0”, only after it and then after the next seven digits.In Supplemental Data box, complete as 5XXXX with the price where as “X” (for U.S. pricing). In the box below this put in your actual price, if desired (this is optional). The preview to the right should show it as it will appear. If you do not see your ISBN number in preview, or are getting a warning, your information was not typed in properly with dashes. Click next.
- Choose the PC version as it is more universal regardless of system used (FYI-Mac’s can accept PC files whereas PC’s do not accept MAC files) Click next.
- 9. On the next screen, review the information to confirm it is correct and then click the next button to check out. You can pay the $10 charge with a credit card on the next screen.
- 10. Once you have paid, the bar code in JPG form will be emailed to you within a few minutes. You can always come back to your account to get your bar code again.
If you sell other products, such as a CDs or DVDs, you will need a UPC code. How to get a UPC Code:
A UPC Code is a bar code with 12 alternating black and white bars (13 in Europe). The not-for-profit group GS1, based in the UK, administers UPCs worldwide.
If you want to sell your physical products (other than books) through major retail chains, you must have a UPC code for each product. Large retailers use these codes with a scanning system to input inventory, track sales and pay vendors. If you only sell through small retailers, they probably don’t have scanning equipment so they won’t use UPC codes and you won’t need to obtain them.
If you use UPC codes, you will need one for each product in each unique format. You can create your product packaging to include the UPC code or you can buy stickers to add to the product if you wish.
To get UPC codes go to http://www.gs1us.org/ and click on BarCodes and eCom. There is a sign up process and the cost for the application is several hundred dollars, depending on your revenue projections. You will probably need to guess unless you have a sales history with this product. There is also a small annual fee.
Once the application is approved, you will receive, via email, a “member kit”, most importantly including your company-ID subcode which will be at the beginning of your code for each product. You will create your own UPC code for each product by using the subcode first, adding some other digits you create for your own products and then GS1 generates a random number for the last digit of each UPC.