Alina Vlaic is the Founder of AZ Rank, an agency that helps sellers on eCommerce platforms, including Amazon, Etsy, Walmart, eBay, and Shopify, successfully launch their products and crush their sales by top-ranking their products. They have launched and scaled revenues for 4000+ products on Amazon (USA, Europe, and Canada) and 500+ products on Walmart, Etsy, and eBay with a 98.7% success rate. She started AZ Rank to help Amazon sellers at every stage of their business with customized ranking, launching services, and more, to boost their chances of success.
Alina is also the Co-Founder of PressX, which lets brand owners leverage press articles to launch and rank products on Amazon and other eCommerce platforms.
On this episode, Alina and I discuss the most valuable type of press, how to grow a brand on and off Amazon, how to launch a product in 2023, and much more.
What is AZ Rank
Alina Vlaic: So I've been in this space in the Amazon crazy jungle, but beautiful jungle since 2017 and somewhere in 2018 due to a lot of stuff. Like failure of my first brand, you know, that sensation that you know stuff, but you actually realize that you don't know anything when you actually get to it.
This is when I started this company, which came from the need of, I mean, came from something that I needed at that point. It was the good old days when ranking products and launching products on, on Amazon was pretty easy. Now it's not that easy anymore.
But we're still here and we're trying to adapt everything that we do to the current market and idea and trends and AI and everything that is happening in this space with like so much speed and yeah. So what do we do? We basically help Amazon sellers launch products on Amazon and off Amazon, too.
We work with a lot of marketplaces. We also work with European marketplaces from Amazon launching and ranking products in different ways that it was back in the day and all kinds of strategies. It's custom strategies based on every seller's needs and every brand's need. That's in a nutshell.
The Resilience of Entrepreneurs: Embracing Failure and Achieving Success
Alex Bond: And you mentioned something that I find entrepreneurs are kind of the extremely best at almost in the world or in history to my aspect, and that's failing and totally holding themselves accountable to it and being able to bounce back from it. I think it's really something impressive about people in this field.
I'd like to ask about that, you've mentioned that you've had great success because of this first brand that didn't work so well. So why don't you dive into that a little bit for us?
Alina Vlaic: Sure. So I'm currently based in Europe, in Romania, been here ever since my husband and I, which we're in this together, we own a business here from for a long time.
So when we started the Amazon, the online, I mean, we were in the online, we still are in the online space here, but we weren't on Amazon. So back in 2017, when we discovered this, okay, say since we were in Europe, let's start looking into Amazon Europe because it's closer, we can handle the shipments and everything easier.
So that's what we did. And since we have this business here with physical, the business was with physical products, toys, and articles for children, especially we took some of those products, which were under a brand, which wasn't on Amazon. So the brand existed, but it wasn't on Amazon. And we got the acceptance of the brand to sell those products on Amazon.
And we did pretty well, one and a half years. And in 2018, we said, okay, now we know enough. Now we're very good at Amazon. Now we can start a three, a private label in US on the Amazon because that that's why, where we wanted to actually get, but we started with the European as a learning process.
And then doing a private label was in the baby category because I just recently had my daughter, baby daughter. So I'm a new mom again. So I know everything about baby category. Let's do a brand name baby, which completely and totally and abruptly was very big of a fail.
But I mean, in terms of numbers, in terms of the product being wrongfully chosen in terms of market being wrong, I mean, not wrongfully, but you know, not enough knowledge, not enough experience to know what Amazon really means. So that's what happened.
And at that point I realized, we realized that this is something serious. I mean, Amazon is not like a, it's not easy. You cannot get rich overnight. You cannot drive your Lamborghini and zip cocktails from the beach in front of your laptop after two years, like a lot of gurus in the space were saying, right?
So we realized this needs a lot of work. This needs a lot of study. Basically, that was the work that we could do research and all that. So what I can say, 100 percent sure is that if it weren't for this to happen for the brand, for everything, for that experience, I wouldn't be here talking to you today.
I wouldn't have the agencies, agencies. I wouldn't have my two other two and a half. I like to say two and a half brands that we currently own. They're doing very well on Amazon, Walmart, and so on. And so if that were to happen, that was my lesson from what I learned. Okay. This needs more.
And yeah, we started doing it and in six months, not six, I think it was nine months, ten months, we started working on our second brand, which we still own to this day and hopefully for another while. So yeah, what I can say to our listeners is that things happen and I've seen a lot in this time that I've been in the space.
I've seen multi million dollars businesses going down overnight from, you know, suspensions and whatever, you name it. I've seen not everything. Amazon is always very resourceful, full of surprises, but we've seen a lot in the space. And since we're in touch with so many sellers of so many levels, it's a very interesting world. And even if something happens, it may happen one day.
You know, you wake up one morning, like I did at one point, those campaigns, when you put like discount codes and you put in, you give the code to an influencer and then you do another one and you give another coach to a different influencer where I don't know what I did at one point, my products were selling at zero. The code when I woke up in the morning, I said, wow, this was a crazy day. I was, I saw like 500 units or I don't know.
Alex Bond: I crushed it today. Yeah.
Alina Vlaic: Yeah. No, no, no, no, no. It's not good. Anyways. This is just a funny example, but things like this can happen and can you know, impact sometimes they do have a powerful impact on your business, but you have to find it in you to move forward. There's always room. That's what I like to say. If I got to this point, I'm pretty sure I can go forward, but you know, you just need to find the ways, the right ways.
Driving Revenue: Exploring the Unique Identities of AZ Rank and Press X
Alex Bond: But one of your other successful companies, that's the newer one among, you know, AZ rank. And press X is I'm talking about now. It's kind of like a sister company is what I would consider it because on paper, their goals are the same, right?
I mean, AZ rank and Press X, the goal is to increase a brand's revenue and kind of in short, but the way that they do it is what gives each company, it's identity a little bit. So could you elaborate on that for me? What is press X? And if my assertion that their goals are the same is accurate or not?
Alina Vlaic: Yes, pretty much it is. So in this ecom world and Amazon world, things are moving very fast, right? So in the last few years, we started hearing about things like external traffic. Back to the days, it was nothing. It was just reviews and a few good photos. And that was it years ago. Now, at one point people started talking about external traffic.
Now, 2023 it's AI and so on things will evolve. So a couple of years ago we started hearing this external traffic and there were a lot of things happening around the external traffic. What is the external traffic, right? It's traffic that comes to your Amazon store or products or listings from an external source, be it Google, Facebook, Instagram, you name it, whatever, right?
Basically what that means is that Amazon likes it's for you as a seller or as a brand owner to bring people to their platform, to their website from outside. So people don't necessarily go on Amazon and search for garlic press. They are searching for it on Google or they're looking at it on Instagram or on Facebook and they're seeing an ad and then they're going to your Amazon garlic press listing, right?
So that's the external traffic. And long story short from this need again, a need that the market had at that point, and not necessarily the market, like the sellers. Usually let's say let's bring it down to the sellers. We try to do something with press because again, there's a lot of sources that you could bring this external traffic from press is one of the best ones, powerful ones.
And I'm talking about 2023 is press, not 2000, not written press. This is online press. They have all kind of very powerful ways of getting an article or a product or something that they write about in front of a lot of people's eyes, newsletters, SMSs, whatever. With huge, huge, huge, huge audiences.
Now, what we do differently and what we try to do differently than other people in the space is that if I don't get you featured in one of these publications with your brand, you don't have to pay. Basically. So we're not charging like huge amount of money huge, huge amounts of money as I'm missing that word as those fees, retainers, right?
I think it's called retainers or monthly subscriptions or stuff like that. We're just, you know, you give me your brand. I'm trying, I'm talking to all these publications that we have, and they're pretty much high domain authority publication, like Buzzfeed, like Bustle, like Refinery29, Forbes, and so on. So if I'm getting you featured there, you're just going to pay for the clicks you get from that.
And those clicks can get through your attribution inside Amazon. Everything can be tracked. And it's pretty much like a no play, no pay, you know, something like that. It's pretty much the model that we wanted to create in order to help sellers bring this external traffic in a more efficient way, cost efficient way. And also, you know, to get that brand awareness that it's needed in the space.
Unveiling the Power of Press: Identifying Valuable Publications and Platforms for Brand Success
Alex Bond: And with your time and experience doing that, and again, that is like the newer company of the two. Do you have any sort of assertions or data that suggests certain press is more valuable than others. I mean, are there certain publications or platforms or mediums that are more just better for brands than other ones are?
Alina Vlaic: Well, it's not a general thing, unfortunately, because each brand is different and each brand has their own goals. For example, talking about a brand that it's newly launched, let's say the brand exists for a while, but they're launching something new, a product that they want a lot of focus on, then we're talking about a different type of articles.
I mean a certain type of article and some specific publications from all that we work for all that we work with. And usually that's something that goes towards the brand, you know, like an article talking about the brand and how great the brand is and blah, blah, blah. If your focus would be to get some traction, do some push on the sales, stuff like that.
So like an instant movement on something, then it would be different. I cannot really give like 100 percent guaranteed recipes. What I can say though, outside the press thing, but still related to the external traffic and everything that's happening today is of course TikTok. This would be a solution that I would not a solution like a strategy that I would recommend every and any brand.
Doesn't matter how experienced or how beginner they are because Tiktok is huge they're investing a ton of money into everything and being there from the beginning because we're still in the early days, it's going to matter a lot in the future. That's something that I think it would be a nice takeaway.
And of course, TikTok is generally, you can do a TikTok shop. You can do TikTok influencer, just find some influencers in their own creator hubs. I mean, there's a lot of resources there that you can work on. You can simply build an account on TikTok, a page on TikTok and start doing some content on it and people start seeing you.
Building a Strong Brand Presence: Key Requirements for Growth on and off Amazon
Alex Bond: So now that we were talking about Press X and or AZ rank at the same time, we'll kind of go back and forth on them a little bit with some of these questions. So that way now we have kind of our foundation for the rest of the show.
But I am curious from your experience, what you would consider some of the base requirements are for growing a brand on and off of Amazon. Because you've done a lot of product launches at the same time. So I'm curious about kind of that side of things and growing the brand from that.
Alina Vlaic: That's a hard question. So growing a brand, you're probably talking about growing it from scratch, right? Now we're building a brand first product or first two products.
Alex Bond: Let's say you've launched like a product or two and then you're still trying to find that identity a little bit.
Alina Vlaic: That's very important. And I'm glad you touched that because from one product or two, and that's something that a lot of sellers do, you know, I'm going to start a brand and I did it too in my previous experience.
So I'm starting a brand and I'm doing one product. You know, I'm just launching one product because let's say maybe that's everything that I can afford within my budget. That's totally different than if I were to launch brand and launch five products at the same time, all together. I'm not saying to launch just one product is bad.
No, it's very good. But when I launched my first product, I should already know which the other four are, even if I don't have the budget to launch them. Now, I think that's something, this is something very important and something that a lot of sellers are not paying enough attention to. Amazon can get you very fast and abruptly distracted from everything because a lot happened.
So if you have this plan and if you have this budget, even if you're building it on the way, just have it in your mind, I'm going to go into that direction and I'm going to do those products because then you can, you know, make connections between them. Actually, as you said, build the brand's identity.
If you just start with product and then six months from there, I'm starting thinking what my second product would be, it's going to take much more effort, much more resources, and a lot more money to get to the same point, if compared to the other thing, so that would be one thing.
Second, don't try to do it all yourself. That's something that I also learned on myself. You know, a lot of us do, oh, I'm not going to hire VAs because I have to explain them. I have to build SOPs and it's, it's faster if I do it myself, right? A lot of us say that all the time. I'm not going to hire an assistant because maybe I can afford it right now.
So I better sleep just five hours a night because I still can't do it myself, where at one point we're going to get, get burned out. It's important to actually realize that we, for example, myself speaking from the agency's point of view, we're there to help and take some parts that we know very well and we're experts at, take that away from you and help you do a better job with probably less money that would cost you if you were trying to do it yourself.
I think if you start with these two things, it's going to be way more easier. Of course, details, we have a ton like good listing, a good product and successful, blah, blah, blah. But that can be very, you know, subjective as you go. But if you have this background with don't try to do everything and have like the bigger picture of your brand in your head.
And I would actually add the third one. I would add, be prepared to never stop learning in this space, in this world. There are podcasts like this one and so many others out there. There are webinars, shows, fairs, events, people, networking. It's very important.
Alex Bond: Absolutely. No, I mean, on our last episode, I was talking with a gentleman about the necessity for small business owners and brands to be coachable essentially is to, you know, that's something that I've heard in my professional career. That is the best asset that an employee I'm a freelancer currently.
And so, especially with a freelancer is to remain coachable. And that's what I hear you say a little bit, Alina, is these brands need to be able to still be able to be a sponge, despite any and all success. It's not all of the success.
Alina Vlaic: And I've seen this a lot. I mean I have clients and friends and partners, which do eight figures, nine figures year revenue on Amazon, and they're still learning and they're still going to events and they're still testing and strategizing and trying new stuff, which part of those will be successful, are successful part of those aren't, but they're doing, they're not stopping.
Okay. I know everything I've done enough. I'm doing eight figures or nine figure. Now I can go to the beach. No, essentially you can basically never go to the beach without your phone or without your laptop ever again, ever again.
Unlocking Amazon Success: AZ Rank's Proven Strategies for Top Product Rankings
Alex Bond: So, you know, with AZ rank, that's kind of your bread and butter is with millions of sellers, we're all trying to rank on Amazon. How do you guarantee that you can help a brand's products rank closer to the top?
Alina Vlaic: We have our own internal processes and analysis that we do for the brand. Because as I said, everything is pretty different. We've had over 5, 000 launches in all our years of being here. And I can swear I have never had identical or at least similar ranking campaigns even for the same product.
There are so many movie parts so many it's so dynamic everything is so dynamic so whenever we have a seller coming to us for help with this everything happens on the spot if you come to me today and talk to me and we we arrange something for a campaign to start in a few days.
And you're telling me, okay, let's wait for a little bit. I have some issues and you're coming back over in a month from now. It's a whole different story. Amazon first page of results looks different now than it's going to look a month from now and all the data, everything is different. So we're going to need to start over again.
That's why I said everything is done on the spot in a matter of days. How we can guarantee, well, there isn't 100 percent guarantee of this because it's very volatile, let's say, but as Amazon is, there's not a single thing on Amazon that is 100 percent guaranteed. So we're trying to get as close to this 100 percent guarantee, but we have pretty good results on all our campaign and campaigns.
I think it's almost 99 percent in terms of success. Now, how we, how we measure success is. If I get your keywords, your product ranked on your keywords, that's the way we measure success. I cannot measure success by how good your product is going to sell after you finish the campaign with me, because maybe you have bad photos or your PPC is not that great, or, you know, a million things, or you get hijacked or whatever from another seller.
So that's how we measure success. Another thing that I would like to mention is that we're always in touch with the seller on during the campaign. Everything is done manually. We have no bots, no robots, no many chats, no nothing. It's like real manual thing. The way it should be, in my opinion, on this side of things on Amazon, we always check and get back to you and say, Hey, something's not working, right? Let's try this or this. What do you say? Stuff like that.
Adapting for Success: Empowering Brands to Pivot and Thrive with Press X and AZ Rank
Alex Bond: you have to be able to, especially as a business pivot on a dime at times, you know, as soon as you see that something isn't working, sitting around and being patient and waiting for something to work has not usually been a successful business maneuver from all these interviews that I've done, a lot of people have said things didn't just change overnight. It required a lot of anticipation and building that momentum manually.
So my question is, how do you help on that side of things? How are you able to help these brands? Whether it's on the media side with Press X or whether it's kind of on the ranking side with AZ Rank, how are you able to help them pivot and adapt very quickly when they're kind of not seeing the success that they hope for?
Alina Vlaic: Again, everything is pretty custom in terms of the ranking. We look at the current scenario from that moment in time and make a decision whether, you know, maybe Amazon doesn't see you relevant on specific keywords. And then we're going to try to make Amazon see irrelevant, or maybe try to switch to change the keywords. So then you get a different set of eyeballs on your product.
And then afterwards we're going to get back to these keywords and try to make them those work as well. That would be one general solution, let's say, or we can be more specific and we can make changes. We can suggest the sellers make changes to this listing to the listing in certain ways, or do stuff with your PPC campaigns that also are impactful on the ways Amazon, the way Amazon seize that listing.
So there are a bunch of things that can be done according to the specific situation, but as you very well mentioned, you have to pivot on a dime. It has to be like in a matter of days, not in a matter of weeks. This needs to happen. And the same with the press. I mean the press, since you don't pay nothing, that doesn't happen with the article.
So what can happen with the press is that, for example, you get featured in a publication. I mean, the article goes live, but it doesn't get that many clicks. Well, in that situation, you still get the article and you just pay for the clicks that you get. 5, 10, 50, 5, 000 depends on what not so many clicks means.
But usually that's how we do it. And after a small period of time, we're just talking to the brand and saying, what do you want to do next? Let's do a different article or let's try to push this one again, if possible, not always possible and stuff like that, you know, it's like marketing strategies adapted to our point of Amazon things.