In this episode of Intentwise Expert Connect, I spoke with Gary Perez, chief revenue officer at Canopy Management. Watch or read the interview below.
Alan Osetek: Let’s jump right in. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Gary Perez: Well, I broke into this business on the platform side, working for big brands like Google and Under Armour. And then also with a market-specific platform called Spiceworks. And that was terrific. And then I kind of transitioned into the agency world. Most recently, I was with a terrific Spanish-based agency called Adglow, really focused on paid social, helping DTC [direct-to-consumer] brands be successful on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Snap, you name it. But I was watching the Amazon business explode, kind of out of the corner of my eye. And then the pandemic hit. And I’m thinking maybe that’s the place that I need to be. And lo and behold, I got a call from a recruiter about an agency in Austin, Texas, that was doing it better than anybody else in terms of helping brands jump onto the platform or be successful, and that’s when I met my bosses at Canopy Management, and the rest was history. It was a terrific kind of onboarding process, we’re almost a year into it at this point, and I’m delighted to meet new partners. We call our clients partners, and we’re meeting new partners every day, and watching them grow up and and working towards a lot of different goals. And the Amazon brand acquisition world is as hot as any out there right now.
AO: You and I have similar paths—I’ve been in the digital ecosystem for quite some time, and I’m somewhat new myself to the Amazon world and Amazon marketplaces world. Actually, tell me a little bit about that. Having previously come from other parts of the digital ecosystem, and now in the retail advertising realm, what were some of the challenges and opportunities from your perspective that you saw based on the skill sets you brought to the table? And what were some of the things related to your learning curve that you experienced as you moved over to the Amazon world?
GP: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. In my previous agency, we had wanted to get into the Amazon business again, working with a lot of DTC brands that knew that all the eyeballs were on Amazon. Thus, we tried to scale the team. But honestly, the talent is pretty scarce in terms of who’s got that experience. And when I got the call and got introduced to Canopy and realized they’re essentially a mastermind—a third of the company are Amazon sellers themselves. And so to think that all of these experts were in one place. And then, as I got introduced to a lot of the partners, and saw the impact that we’re having on these businesses—who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? So I’ve been learning a lot every single day. And thankfully, we’ve got some terrific minds within the tribe—we call ourselves the tribe—that are kind of showing me the way. But I also came with a strong background in terms of talking to brands that are scaling rapidly, looking for new eyeballs. And, you know, being in the performance media business is where I cut my teeth. So that that part isn’t new to me. But Amazon has been pretty new, and it’s been a great transition.
AO: Awesome. Well, tell us a little bit about Canopy. What types of clients do you serve? What’s your core value proposition?
GP: So it’s a great story, to be honest with you. We’ve got two co-founders, Brian Burt and Brian Johnson, that actually started out more as teachers. They spun up a course teaching people how to run PPC [pay-per-click] ads on the platform. And it blew up so much so that pretty quickly, people were saying, you guys are great teachers, but will you just do it for me? I want to focus on product development, or whatever their particular passion was, and growing their brands.
And so I think they were probably a little bit nervous, but they jumped in with two feet into the agency world. And here we are four years later, and while the genesis of the company was largely around paid ads, we’re solving a lot more problems now for our partners. They’re asking us to do more things. And so really, we go to market as a full-fledged brand management agency today. So we’ve got our hands on inventory projections and creative services and all of the things that go into being a successful brand, which is pretty cool. But we’ve come a long way from where we started, and so we’re solving any and every problem that brands have in terms of being successful on the platform.
And each has its own unique story. Some people are wanting to focus on on the product development side and sourcing. And so they’re like—just take and run the rest of the business for me. Or sometimes the paid ads and the creative services are driving them crazy. They’ve been outsourcing to partners and doing it in-house, and they just want an expert that has visibility across all different kinds of businesses and different marketplaces, and that’s what we bring to the table.
So to answer your your question—I kind of rambled there, I suppose—we’re doing business with clients in just about every product category and in just about every marketplace that Amazon serves across the globe.
AO: From what you’re saying, it sounds like you’re less of an agency and more of an advisory services firm or a consultancy.
GP: It’s funny you say that. Because we spent all of last year really kind of growing into this brand management consortium that we are today. I wouldn’t say that we’re an M&A [mergers and acquisitions] advisory firm or anything like that. Sellers are coming to us because they know that we have terrific relationships across the ecosystem with aggregators in the space, for sure, and they love that perspective. But we’re not brokers. We don’t acquire brands or anything like that. They come to us usually with with a given set of KPIs [key performance indicators] or mandate even from an aggregator to say, if you can get to this point, then you’re, you know, a much, much better target for an acquisition. And they give us those things. We align on goals and we get to work and usually have a really good story to tell at the end.
AO: Got it. From your perspective, for some of the elements where you’re helping brands or sellers to better package themselves or position themselves—what are the two or three key elements you’re seeing consistently where sellers are trying to find opportunities to better themselves, to scale themselves, to position themselves better for propelling growth?
GP: Great question. So they’re having lots of conversations. There’s so much money flowing into this space right now. And each of these different organizations—call them aggregators, what have you—have different goals of their own. And so they’re providing these brands with advice in terms of what they might be looking for. Certain KPIs, characteristics to fuel their portfolio, because they’ve all got specific goals and and plans for themselves. And so they’ll come to us with pretty defined KPIs that they want to hit. Usually it’s a revenue goal or a profitability goal, and they will ask us to do a deep dive, and give them an idea of like, “Okay, what’s it going to take? What’s your point of view on my challenge and how can you help me?” And we’ve got a world-class team of analysts that dig in, and we take a look. We’re advising them on any number of things to really give them a very honest opinion of what we think we can do, set their expectations, and get to work. We’ve got a terrific partner-success team that will hold your hand through that entire process. It’s a really thoughtful, well-done client journey, we call it.
And we’ll tell them—I like to think of it as like a quarterback with the armband that has their plays—we’ll tell them what all the different plays are to really set their expectations in terms of what’s coming next. So they always know what are the things that we’re tweaking this month, what we’re going to look at the next month. We’re really transparent with that and they love that.
So we’re going to look at all different parts of their business. And the goal most of the time is to put them in a better position to be more attractive for an exit, if that’s what they want. Sometimes, it just depends on their personal goals, and that’s why we love working with entrepreneurs. We’re going to do whatever, we’re going to align with whatever they’re shooting for and get to work and work hard. And we understand that we’re in the performance business and that we’ve got goals to hit. We’ve got to pay for ourselves. And so that that works really well for us. So we’re comfortable working in that capacity.
AO: Switching directions a little bit—in 2022, what do you see as the newer challenges and opportunities for sellers as the Amazon and marketplaces ecosystem continues to evolve?
GP: Well, I think that it’s getting more and more competitive, and they’re needing to expand product lines, looking for more ASINs [Amazon Standard Identification Number], so to speak. And their challenges with keeping their listings relevant. And we have got a terrific creative services team that almost operates as a standalone business that’s really taken off for us. And, you know, we talk about driving paid traffic to your listings, but if your listings aren’t ready to convert, that’s a problem. It can be an expensive problem. Therefore, oftentimes our foot in the door with brands for the first time is helping them with their listings, building out their storefront, working on their A-plus content and their copy. All of these things continue to evolve. And so when I think about seller challenges for the rest of this year, I think it’s making sure that listings look fantastic. They’re following best practices that are always changing. And then I think going global and breaking into new marketplaces, you want a partner that can help you do that. And that’s why I think we’re really well-positioned, being a 100% virtual company, with tribe members all over the globe in every different marketplace. I think that plays to our advantage.
AO: Excellent. We’re going to jump around a bit. On the people side, you know, we both came from various parts of the digital ecosystem. I talked to you a little bit earlier about moving into the retail media sector, you personally. What about the types of people you’re hiring? As an Amazon consultancy and agency, what types of skillsets do you think are going to change in the next year in terms of who your company is personally hiring? And also just in the ecosystem in general, what types of newer skillsets do you think are needed?
GP: Interesting question. Hiring is hard and you’re constantly looking for the best and the brightest. And I think we do a better job of that than anybody else out there. We love to find people that are current or former Amazon sellers. They understand the game. They speak the language, and that’s invaluable in our conversations with our partners. They really appreciate that expert perspective.
We’re a high-touch agency. You get a whole team of real humans behind you and you’re going to meet those folks in your journey alongside us. And so I think that the perspective and experience that our team members bring as people that have been in the trenches, growing their own brands, speaks volumes to the brands that we’re working for. And so I think that’s the most important thing that we’re looking for in terms of experience—people with actual Amazon know-how. Like I said, in my previous agency, we tried to build the team and the expertise just wasn’t there. Therefore, I think that just given that we’ve got that much expertise in-house helps us attract more people to Canopy.
And one thing that we also do that’s pretty cool, that I like, and that I hadn’t necessarily seen so much, is we go to events all over the place—we bring our recruiters with us. So while you might have a brand manager in a booth talking to prospective partners, we’ve also got a recruiter there that’s got the tip of the spear helping us identify talent, brand-management talent, people that have been there, done that, that we can recruit to the tribe to make us bigger and better and move faster.
AO: Very cool. I’m going to ask you a crystal-ball question. We’ve both seen in the digital ecosystem search, social, programmatic, and how they’ve evolved. We have a new evolving, call it a new biddable media channel, so to speak, a biddable media advertising channel. We have sellers, we have Amazon pure play agencies, we have digital agencies, we have Amazon aggregators, we have the ad agency holding companies. So where are the advertising dollar flows going to happen in the next year or two? What I mean by that is, I’ll kind of clarify that question. It’s interesting to me when I look at this this ecosystem, first movers are obviously sellers where they’re spending a lot of money on Amazon. There has to be 70 to 100 pure-play Amazon agencies in the U.S. alone—and a lot of dollars—and those agencies have doubled in size over the last couple of years. We know a lot of dollars are flowing to that. We personally see the holding companies starting to really aggressively get involved in kind of Amazon media buying, so to speak.
GP: Acquiring, yeah.
AO: Yeah. So what happens next?
GP: Well, I think it’s been pretty fascinating to see as money flows into the space, and you see aggregators buying brands left and right. They’ve got their own hiring challenges, brand management needs. And so I think that while you’ve seen a lot of the holding companies acquiring Amazon talent, I think you’re going to start to see the aggregators doing the same thing—looking for small, specialized agencies that can help them solve problems not just on Amazon, but you know, call it Facebook or Shopify, they’re trying to find efficiencies, and there’s just not enough talent to go around. People that have been doing that for long enough. And therefore, I think it could be pretty lucrative for people with those unique skill sets because the aggregators need good people, experienced people to be able to run these brands that they’re bringing under their own canopy.
AO: You mentioned some of the other marketplaces players. We’ve been talking a lot about Amazon. There’s the Walmarts, Targets, eBays, and a number of other emerging marketplaces. Are you starting to work with some of these other marketplaces? What do you foresee for these marketplaces in 2022?
GP: I think that’s a real opportunity for us. Currently we are supporting several brands on Walmart, but other than that, we’ve been pretty focused on Amazon to date. But as we look down the road, these are conversations that we’re actively having every single day in terms of our current partners wanting to innovate, and helping them continue to grow and introduce them to new eyeballs that are on new platforms. So that’s definitely in our future. But if I’m perfectly honest today, it’s probably primarily Amazon and Walmart.
AO: In terms of—this is question I like to ask of all the Expert Connect folks we have on here—give us one future prediction in this ecosystem, something that you’ve been thinking about and you see as an emerging trend.
GP: Well, for us, I really think that we see a lot of opportunity with our addressable market. So as a white-glove managed service provider, we’re not necessarily the cheapest shop on the block, but we’ve got the expertise to be helping a lot more people. And so we’re spending a lot of money investing in not only our talent, but in our tech. So you’ll see that we’re going to bring best-of-breed technology to the marketplace to be able to support your burgeoning brands that are just trying to launch on the platform, all the way up to your Fortune 1000. We’re going to be a major player through the entire channel, such that we can we can solve problems for everybody. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re investing heavily. And I think you’ll start to see that over the course of this year.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.