Sophie Howard’s Product University and Amazon Navigator

Sophie Howard is an internet marketer famous for her program on Amazon marketing and becoming a sort of Amazon listing influencer herself. (1) While the company is inspiring a lot of marketers to entrepreneurship as they see the potential for continued growth, there is a lot to learn about how the platform works.

Amazon delivered a record performance in 2020 with annual revenue up 38% to $386 billion, a yearly increase of over $100 billion.
Shelley E Kohan

In this review from IBuyIReview, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Product University and Amazon Navigator program from Sophie Howard.

Table of Contents

Who Is Sophie Howard?

Sophie Howard is a mom and entrepreneur from New Zealand who was looking for a way to stay at home more.

Her job as a transitional CEO for startups had her travelling nearly 24/7, and her life was hectic enough with a family. Sophie Howard wanted to spend more time with her husband and be a better mom for her two daughters – something many of us can related to.

Sophie Howard is the creator of the Aspiring Entrepreneurs brand, and she is currently known as the “Amazon Selling Queen.”

Of course, when she’s not doing this, she’s vacationing on tropical islands and horseback riding, which she says are two of her favorite things.

She was fed up, and one day, she decided to start making a change by utilizing the Amazon FBA platform. Once she got it working, she decided to create a course around her success, and in 2016, she made it happen.

She created both the Product University as well as the Amazon Navigator, both of which are meant to help prospective FBA students find success on the platform. These two courses are accessible through her main portal Blue Sky Amazon.

What is Product University?

The Product University course is one of a two-part course series detailing how to find products and suppliers that are “uniquely sourced” making them difficult for others to copy. This course is taught by Sophie Howard under her Blue Sky Amazon series, and is the foundation of her FBA training.

Unfortunately, while it’s commendable that this course was created during Sophie’s maternity leave, and it hasn’t been updated much in recent years. A lot of people claim that they still have success with the methods taught in this course, it doesn’t seem like Sophie Howard has taken a second look at it since it went live.

There are several instances where the interface she shows is even different from what you can see now on the platform, making some of the information irrelevant.

Still, it has a few nuggets here and there that can make the information useful – though the price point might change your mind.

What is Amazon Navigator?

Amazon Navigator is a course, taught by Sophie Howard, that will teach you everything you need to know about getting started and navigating the Amazon FBA platform.

This training material is the second of the two-part series that Sophie put out under Blue Sky Amazon, teaching people how to create a successful Amazon FBA business.

This course covers about 9 hours of material, which is a fraction of the Product University, but I believe that it has a lot better information than the other.

Of course, I do have to mention that this course was also created a few years ago and has not been updated since, causing some confusion with platform differences as Amazon updates their interface. Even some options are missing now in the new interface, which makes it difficult for me to trust a lot of the information she is providing.

What You'll Get in the Product University

Amazon FBA, or Fulfilled By Amazon, has revolutionized the way a lot of marketers (or would-be marketers) look at the ecommerce business model. (2) Amazon has taken away a lot of the supposed risk of the business model by handling every dynamic part of the process from shipping to customer returns.

Fundamentally, it’s the same as a traditional ecommerce business. But, instead of your having to fulfill orders one by one, Amazon stores your products for you and even picks, packs and ships them out to customers.
Thomas Smole

In the Product University portion of the training, you’ll learn several strategies on how to create and source unique products that will set you apart from the competition.

This training is aimed towards helping the mid-tier seller who can’t seem to cement themselves in the industry create long-term listings that build popularity as time goes on.

You’ll also learn how to build sales funnels and utilize online services to help augment your brand presence on (and off) the platform.

While the Product University definitely looks like a rough version of the more refined Navigator training, it still has some nuggets of information that new sellers will find useful along their journey.  

Module 1 - Introduction and Welcome

This foundation model is similar to what you might see in other courses, where you’ll get a warm welcome from Sophie and she’ll introduce you to her course. 

  • Read about Sophie Howard’s previous success on Amazon
  • Learn about the Blue Sky mindset
  • Discover the Annual Plan for the course
  • Explore other options

You’ll learn a little bit about her philosophy on the mindset you should have when selling on Amazon, as well as the potential earnings you can have on Amazon based on her very own sales numbers.

Sophie Howard also goes over the annual plan – what you can expect to learn in the coming year, as well as pros and cons of different business platforms, just in case you weren’t sold on Amazon yet.

Personally, if I wasn’t sold on Amazon, I probably wouldn’t have bought the course, so I don’t think this module is entirely necessary as premium content, but I appreciate what she is trying to do.

Overall, she does have some good graphs in the welcome video, and funny sales memes and interesting infographics, so she does a good job at keeping your interest, at least for a little while.

Sophie does have a hard time staying on one topic in this module, however, jumping around from topic to topic rapidly, without any sense of organization.

If you’re trying to take notes, be prepared for a rollercoaster.

Module 2 - Product Selection Strategies

This module is the course’s longest module at a little over 5 hours for a single lesson. Whew, that’s a big bite to chew. 

  • Learn what makes a good, long-term product
  • How to select your product
  • What to look for in a supplier
  • Learn why Sophie Howard opts for long-term product viability versus short-term, low-entry products.

Unlike in other courses, Sophie Howard actually goes against common advice, suggesting that you purchase from retailers with a high Minimum Order Quantity, or MOQ. While this does give you a higher barrier to entry, she claims that this is one way you can source products without getting lost in a sea of competitors.

Other courses teach a lower MOQ to give their students a chance at success with the lower barrier to entry, however, Sophie Howard might be onto something here. So long as you have the startup capital, that is.

It makes sense, because while other courses want to teach you how to sell on Amazon, Sophie wants to teach you how to sell products that will be viable in the long term, not just quick flash-in-the-pan successes.

Commendable goals, really, but I don’t feel like the differences were made clear despite being several hours into the course at this point.

Module 3 - Basics of Funnels

We’re at the fun part of the Product University – the basics of funnels!

  • What sales funnels are
  • The components of a sales funnel
  • Learn how to use Canva and Clickfunnels to set up your funnel
  • Set up a Facebook PPC campagin
  • Funnel evaluation
  • Q&A

Yes, I know, it’s not that exciting – especially since you’re only in the third module and you’re moving off of the Amazon platform already.

More than that – it’s the second longest module at nearly 5 and a half hours.

In this module, you’ll get a quick over-the-shoulder overview of several of Sophie Howard’s funnels. You’ll learn about the components of each funnel, as well as how to set up your own funnel using two tools. One, called ClickFunnels, and a graphics creator called Canva.

Once you’re in, you’ll learn how to set up a funnel for a chosen product, as well as setting up a Facebook ads campaign to drive traffic to that funnel.

As a little bit of bonus material in this course, Sophie Howard also goes through and evaluates a funnel she previously set up and walks you through what the funnel’s supply chain looks like.

If you’re already experienced in funnels from working with Google ads or another form of digital marketing, then you’ll fly right through this part.

Module 4 - Hire Your VA

We’re in module four, but we’re not moving back onto the Amazon platform just yet. This module is all about how to find and hire your virtual assistant to help you scale your business:

  • Set the right expectations for your team.
  • Evaluate prospective team members.
  • “split-test” the finalists for the best results.

If you ask me, this is way too early to be talking about this. If I were beginning the course curriculum here, having just learned about the FBA platform, I would feel wildly out of my depth.

Still, Sophie Howard covers several topics, like how to set up expectations for your virtual assistants (VA) and evaluating prospects.

I can’t be too harsh about this module because, while I feel like it’s not necessarily the course content I signed up for, it is also the most comprehensive module I’ve listened to on how to scale your business with VAs.

She goes through who to hire, how to hire them, and where to hire them with lots of detail down to an over-the-shoulder view of her hiring someone.

Module 5 - Behind the Scenes

In this module, you’ll get a behind the scenes look at what it’s like selling on Amazon – finally!

  • Learn how to set up your seller account
  • Get a business license to protect your assets
  • Use tools like LSI Graph, Keyword Inspector, and Google Keyword Planner
  • Create your product listing in full
  • Utilize Amazon PPC ads

You’ll follow Sophie Howard as she tells you a story about how she got started on Amazon, some pros and cons with working on the platform, and the basics of setting up a seller account.

You’ll also learn how to get a business license, use several tools to research your products, compose your listing, and utilize Amazon PPC to launch your products.

There are lots of different topics in this module.

Personally, I would have loved to have seen this in the first or second module. It is way too late to cover the basics here.

The order, with this module being the second to last in the course, insinuates that I need to have a fully-functional virtual assistant team before I even know what I’m doing – or what I need them to do.

Module 6 - Places to Source Products

In this module, you’ll watch Sophie Howard as she teaches you some ways to source products that have been long forgotten with the digital world. 

 

  • Learn about the “Scroll and Search” technique
  • Browse local classifieds for ideas
  • Visit markets and bazaars for ideas
  • Learn the Amazon Catalogue technique

If there’s any point that Sophie Howard is trying to get across, it’s that there are more ways to source products than simply browsing an online catalogue and hoping you find the right product.

These methods might not apply to everyone, so feel free to skip around to the methods that interest you most. The module is one of the shortest in the series at a little over 40 minutes long.

I believe that Sophie does a great job of describing everything in this module, but I also didn’t come away feeling like there was anything actionable that I could do outside of the two Amazon techniques she taught.

What You'll Get in the Amazon Navigator Course

Amazon has taken the internet by storm, and there’s no secret about it. (3) Even major retailers are seeking to earn a spot on the platform through the FBA model, and it’s only becoming more popular as the retail giant rises in profits each consecutive year.

As Amazon has soared to dominate ecommerce, many retail brands have started to inquire about how they can take advantage of the platform’s features to increase their brand awareness and online sales.
Advertising Week

Personally, I think this is the better of the two courses that Sophie offers because it is much more comprehensive and focused. Sophie does a great job explaining a lot of the concepts that come with the FBA model.

Some of the topics she covers, such as scaling your business, will also help you start selling outside of the Amazon platform to help your brand gain credibility as well.

In this course, Sophie Howard covers a few topics, ranging from how to source your products, to branding, building and promoting your listings, and – ready for a surprise – why you shouldn’t order samples from your suppliers.

She also covers general business management and some miscellaneous topics towards the end of the course.

Module 1 - Welcome

In this module, Sophie Howard welcomes you to the course once again and introduces herself.

  • Learn how to develop your mindset
  • Find your sense of “Why” for starting the business
  • Set 3 strong, defined goals
  • Learn how to know your numbers by calculating Amazon fees, product costs, and profits.
  • Learn how to get a business license
  • Learn how to set up your Amazon Seller Account.

I understand the need for something like this in case someone starts off with different courses.

I’m glad that this video was much shorter than the previous welcome video, and it really felt like Sophie got her topic organization under control a little bit. It was snappy and to the point!

She doesn’t jump from topic to topic like she did in the first course, and you can see that she has gotten much more comfortable in front of a camera.

Module 2 - Branding

Sophie Howard strongly believes that this module is one of the most important in her course, helping you set yourself apart from other sellers.

This module is a little over an hour and a half, making it much more bite sized than anything in her Product University course.

  • Learn the 4-step process on how to find a product
  • Discover what the current market looks like
  • Understand Sophie’s product branding triangle: Supply, Demand, Positioning

In a world where anyone can hop onto Alibaba and source a few products, then slap it up on an Amazon product listing, branding is the key to success on the platform.

I was really impressed with how succinctly she explained everything in this module.

Module 3 - Long-Term Salability

One thing that Sophie Howard is big on is the ability to create products with long-term salability. This is one reason why she was able to sell her Amazon account for such a large sum before she started the course.

  • Why long-term salability matters
  • Unconventional ways to find new products
  • Why travel is a good way to make new connections

So many suppliers are out of view that you really have to bring your shovel and dig them out, which is why she is big on international travel as a way to meet new suppliers and make new connections – all while having fun.

I think my biggest complaint about this module is that it’s really just Sophie Howard talking about theory, rather than giving her students any practical advice.

Luckily, the module is only 20 minutes long.

Sophie believes that these products will pave the way to a better user experience on Amazon, making customers more inclined to purchase your product, even if it is offered for a lower price from another seller.

Module 4 - Pristine Listings

In this module, Sophie will walk you through her process of creating the perfect listing that is completely filled out and pristine.

  • Do your keyword research first
  • How to craft a tantalizing title
  • Utilize formatting to optimize listing benefits

Pristine listings are one of the main ways you will stand out among the competition in an age where Amazon is flooded with sub-par listings.

Sophie provides a full Amazon Listing Guide in this module, helping you visualize the right path forward.

Module 5 - Samples VS. Shipment

In this module, Sophie Howard runs down a great list of practical times on samples and shipments.

Over a quick 20 minutes, you’ll get a series of tips to help you decide whether to utilize the Amazon warehouses or get samples on your own.

  • Learn tips on how to navigate the world of shipping
  • When you should (and shouldn’t) get samples
  • Should you privately label your products?

I wish this module lasted longer. I feel that Sophie Howard could have really blown it out of the water with some great information, but I felt like I came out lacking some basic information.

Something that I felt like Sophie missed was information on freight forwarding, which is a service that helps you avoid Amazon’s warehouse fees.

Module 6 - Promoting Your Product

In this module, you will learn everything you need to know about promoting your product, supposedly, in as little as 30 minutes.

  • Learn 5 ways to promote your Amazon product
  • Understand what you should monitor each day
  • A few tips and warnings about promoting your product

Sophie also provided a great warning about coupon codes, warning sellers away from using them directly on their listings, and to ensure they limit the number available.

Module 7 - Account Maintenance

In this module, Sophie Howard covers a lot of the dry, boring material that she says is more data-oriented than creative, but it must be done to properly maintain your account.

  • How to obtain seller reports
  • Customer relations and concessions
  • Learning about payments

This was probably one of the most informative videos in the course, and I was glad to see it in here.

I think that it could have covered more ground than what Sophie did, but it was a great starting place.

Module 8 - Scaling Your Business

In this module, Sophie Howard teaches you how to properly scale your business outside of Amazon utilizing virtual assistants, or VAs.

  • Build your team and outsource the work
  • Develop the right mindset
  • Learn how to expand your business outside of Amazon
  • Learn how to plan your exit

I am glad to see that this is one of the last modules in the course, as scaling should be one of the last things you learn in any business.

First, a good process and product is necessary to establish success, then you can expand your goals from there.

Is Amazon FBA A Good Way to Make Money?

Amazon is notorious for letting the interests of their merchants go by the wayside, and they put up quite a fight to keep most of the business on the Amazon. (4) It’s not uncommon to hear of accounts getting banned or removed from the platform because they sell the product elsewhere for even a penny less than what they sell it on Amazon for.

Despite the success of the platform, I’m not sure anyone is surprised to see the retail giant wield its power and authority in such a way. Years after people thought their spike in popularity was going to plateau, they still maintain a sharp increase in profits and sales year over year.  

For an ecommerce giant that powerful, it’s unlikely that the sellers are going to win any kind of argument with the platform, and they use that power to keep sellers complacent and selling on the platform, knowing customers won’t leave to buy it elsewhere, and a knock-off brand will just come by and replace the product at a lesser price once they see the demand there.

All of that leaves the suppliers more dependent on Amazon, by far the nation’s top online retailer, and scrambling to deal with its whims. For many, Amazon eats into their profits, making it harder to develop new products. Some worry if they can even survive.
Karen Weise

It’s a story that happens every day, unfortunately, and it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This is not the kind of competition I can reliably recommend to anyone who reads my reviews. I feel like the business model itself is flawed, and that there is no way for the small seller to recover if Amazon decides to put up a fight for a product it thinks is valuable.

I mean, let’s look at Amazon Basics – their line of products crafted after what they know sells, all sold at a lower price than even the original manufacturers of that product line.

Amazon is in it for Amazon. That’s clear as day. 

 Back in 2019 there was a huge blow-up on the internet about Amazon changing the commission structure with their affiliates that resulted in many bloggers and affiliate marketers going bankrupt due to the sudden change in payment amounts.

All it took was Amazon deciding that they wanted 2% more on each transaction, and without any warning the commission structure updated.

Just like that.

Likewise, did you know that Amazon can kick you out of the FBA platform if you get enough customer returns? But you also don’t get to know what that number is, which makes things difficult.

A business model that relies on the good faith of a major corporation does not feel like a safe bet, which is why I tend to recommend more stable models, even if they are in the same industry.

There are so many other options out there that it seems like an overt risk to work directly with Amazon like this. I can’t bring myself to go back to the old ways of being overly-reliant on Amazon for my weekly paycheck, even if I will still spend that paycheck with the platform to purchase everything from home upgrades to furniture and groceries. 

Want a Legitimate, Sure-Fire Course?

In a world where remote work is becoming more popular, it’s no surprise that you might want to find a course that is legitimate and a sure-fire thing.

Unfortunately, that can be difficult to find, and I’ve spent years searching for something that can provide me with a reliable income that doesn’t rely on Amazon’s goodwill to me, a nameless dropshipper, or as an affiliate bending to the whims of commission changes.

I might have a few opinions about both of these as a valid way of making money.

Regardless, I have spent years searching for something like this – many of you who have been reading from the start might remember when I got started writing this blog in 2015.

(Wow! Has it been that long already?)

Now that I’ve discovered a course and have tested it myself, making six figures reliably from what the program teaches, I’ve managed to get you a sneak peek of the training so you can try your hand at it too as thanks for following me on this journey.

This course teaches you everything you need to know about Google ads. You’ll learn how to close your own clients, run your agency, and learn a new skill that is useful in all other areas of digital marketing, making you self-sufficient and crushing goals left and right.

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References:

  1. Shelley E Kohan, Amazons Net Profit Soars 84% With Sales Hitting $386 Billion, https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelleykohan/2021/02/02/amazons-net-profit-soars-84-with-sales-hitting-386-billion/?sh=4f34bb3e1334
  2. Thomas Smale, Guide to Starting a Fulfillment by Amazon Business, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/282277
  3. Advertising Week, Selling Your Products On Amazon: A Brand’s Guide, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/selling-your-products-on-amazon-a-brands-guide_b_599615fbe4b033e0fbdec28d
  4. Karen Weise, Prime Power: How Amazon Squeezes The Businesses Behind Its Store, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/19/technology/amazon-sellers.html