Why You Should Hire an Amazon Agency ⎜ Channel Key ⎜ EP 173

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This is a podcast episode titled, Why You Should Hire an Amazon Agency ⎜ Channel Key ⎜ EP 173. The summary for this episode is: <p>Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Dan Brownsher of Channel Key one-on-one about why you should hire an Amazon Agency for your eCommerce brand.</p><p>---</p><p>Crossover Commerce is presented by PingPong Payments. PingPong transfers more than 150 million dollars a day for eCommerce sellers just like you. Helping over 1 million customers now, PingPong has processed over 90 BILLION dollars in cross-border payments. Save with a PingPong account <a href="https://usa.pingpongx.com/us/index?inviteCode=ccpodcast" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">today</a>! </p><p>---</p><p><strong>Stay connected with Crossover Commerce and PingPong Payments:</strong></p><p>✅ Crossover Commerce @ <a href="https://www.facebook.com/CrossoverCommerce" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/CrossoverCommerce</a></p><p>✅ YouTube @ <a href="https://www.youtube.com/c/PingPongPayments" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/c/PingPongPayments</a></p><p>✅ LinkedIn @ <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/company/pingpongglobal/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.linkedin.com/company/pingpongglobal/</a></p><p>---</p><p>You can watch or listen to all episodes of Crossover Commerce at: <a href="https://usa.pingpongx.com/podcast" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://usa.pingpongx.com/podcast</a></p>

Ryan Cramer: What's up everyone. Welcome to my corner of the internet. I'm your host Ryan Cramer and this is Crossover Commerce presented by PingPong Payments. The leading global payments provider in helping sellers keep more of their hard earned money. Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of Crossover Commerce. This is episode 173 of this show they like to call Crossover Commerce. It's my corner of the internet, as an introduction stated where I bring on the best and brightest in the Amazon and E= commerce Industry. I don't lean one way or another. If you're talking to Amazon, if you're talking E- commerce, we're all going to overlap in cross. I'm going to say cross pollinate, that doesn't seem I care. But we're all going to be talking about the same stuff. But if you're a first time listener or watcher, thanks for tuning into this show, I'm really excited to bring on our guest today. But before we get started, I want to go ahead and just give a quick shout out to the episodes sponsor, PingPong payments. PingPong payments is helping people save more of their hard earned money when they're sending money no matter where it might be. If you're sending to a manufacturer or supplier, you're trying to get your goods on the water and into an FBA warehouse, you can do it quicker by using localized currency and that can be helped by paying out with PingPong. Go ahead and sign up for free today, whether you're an international seller or you're just trying to get your business up and running and put some more margin percentage points to your bottom line, you can do that with PingPong payments. Just sign up for free today by doing that with five clicks and you're approved, you're going to get $ 500 in your account by just getting started. Go ahead and do that sign up for free today and let them know Crossover Commerce sent you. Anyways, that being said, we're going to be talking about... Again, this is episode 173, if you're tuning in and listening to us live on our social channels, because it's a live functionality, we are able to actually look at all the questions that you might be asking or have about our show, or our guests, or the topic we are talking about today. And that topic is why you might want to hire an outside agency instead of in house. Why you should hire an Amazon agency. In the Amazon agency, there's so many different functionalities. You can talk about a PPC agency, that could be an Amazon agency, someone who runs the whole gamut, that also is name at Amazon agency, or maybe I just want them to run the functionality of certain components of my business, not others. That too is an agency. So maybe what we're going to do today is to distinguish, maybe, why I should outsource my resources to an agency in general and then also, maybe compare the two between keeping it in house and what the benefits, the pros and cons of working with amazing agencies that there are in this space. And so that's our topic today. So to cover this topic, we brought in the one and only person who has been in this space for quite a while his name is Dan Brownsher chair of Channel Key. He actually co founded... Dan is a natural thought leader in the Amazon retail strategy in emerging E- commerce trends, has been commenting on multiple different practices, policies and technologies as a opinion leader, both in media as well as other people who are talking in this space. So he actually is the co founder of Channel Key as the president and CEO, advising everyone of the clients that they're operating with today. So without further ado, I want to go ahead and bring on the CEO of Channel Key, Dan Brownsher of Channel Key. Again, Dan, thank you so much for hopping on today. It's been a pleasure,

Dan Brownsher: Ryan, I'm super happy to be here. Appreciate that you having me on the show.

Ryan Cramer: Of course. And again, everyone appreciate, the reason why we started late actually, I sent the wrong link to Dan. Dan's been chomping at the inaudible ready to go and ready to talk today. So I apologize for that again, as well. But my fault for starting a little bit later on our time. So we're going to fast forward through this real quick. Dan, tell me about the background. You actually have experience, you've been operating and running Amazon brand stores in the E- commerce space for quite a long time. Tell me about your background and why we are where we are today.

Dan Brownsher: Yeah. Thanks, Ryan. So my background, let's see, Channel Key was founded officially in 2017. January 2017 we incorporated. And what's unique, and important about us and the way we approach Amazon is our pedigree. So we spun out of a sister org that I co founded about 14 years ago with some college buddies called Trend Nation. And Trend Nation is a product company that is selling primarily through marketplaces, Amazon, Walmart. com, Target plus, around today, doing well in 8 figures annually as a private label product developer and seller through the platform. And so we cut our teeth as operators of a product business on Amazon and have been doing it for quite some time. And what we like to say is we made all the mistakes ourselves so our clients don't have to. And what we saw over the years... So we started selling on Amazon, really in 2010 ish timeframe, 2011. So we've written up the FBA or three P seller central business profile over the years and saw the changes in iterations. The business pivoted multiple times, we started this private label then became a distributor and reseller, then an exclusive reseller working with products that we own and also reselling other brands products, really well known brands. And we saw the manifestation of a lot of the changes that happened on the marketplace over the years with price degradation, really, you're trading commodities for a long period of time on Amazon, just reselling other brands products. And we said, " There's maybe a better way to do this. Why don't we go and help other brands create best in class Amazon businesses?" We've already done for ourselves, and so that was the genesis of Channel Key. And so, fast forward to today, we are a full service agency. You talked about Ryan, different types of agencies and we are the full service set of deliverables. We're a fully remote shop, we've got folks all over the world, many clients, brand owners manufacturers, we're acknowledged Amazon partner, integrator, part of their network, GAPV member, we operate within terms of service at a high level, and we meet our clients where they're at in various phases of the lifecycle. So that's the background.

Ryan Cramer: That's amazing. Well, yeah, congratulations on the success. And obviously, you've seen the whole spectrum. So first and foremost, that's perfect that you had already distinguished the difference between full service and partial in different iterations. What's it been like as you've seen this transition of, everywhere you look, now, it's almost different service or a different person who's running in operating Amazon businesses but then also taking that down to almost a niche level of PPC. And then again, you're doing photography or video only or any logistics or anything like that.

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, so it's really interesting that... For your viewers, I'm sure they're aware, there's just so much activity in the space right now. Whether it's aggregators that are buying FBA businesses or agencies that are growing, whether it's adjacent Amazon technology companies that have developed amazing software to help activate brands on Amazon, there's so much good noise and activity in the space. And I think what's generally interesting about it, is there's not a single way that's the best way. There's different iterations and ways that you can set up a business to service clients or brands or companies on Amazon. And there's a lot of options, and a lot of resources. So for us, we are full believers in this full service model. That's our structure and strategy. What we like to say is, you can have the most amazing PPC strategy in the world, you can have the most amazing listings in the world, content, graphics, all of these things. But if you can't operate your business, you can't keep your park in stock, your supply chain falls apart, you don't have the correct API integrations on the back end, you can't keep the health of your account in a good state, none of it matters. But for other agencies or other types of service offerings, that might be okay. If a brand is totally dialed in operation and they got their back end structured, and they just need really advanced help with traffic driving and advertising, that's okay. It's an option. If brands have a team and they just need software, and they want to piece together a list of different types of software's, that's okay. That's an option for you. So I think what I'm trying to say is, there's so much opportunity out there, there's so much whitespace available and brands that want to perform on the channel that naturally it's created opportunities for different types of service providers to carve out their niche and support brands on Amazon.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. So you mentioned a couple different things. You've had this background, and I'm assuming you've been like everyone else. You've seen this evolution of the aqua hire or the growth aggregators or the... They call them two different things. There's the aggregation of basically buying an hour brand that's successful on Amazon or other parts of E- commerce. And then you also have the accelerators. The people who are trying to help, in certain functionality, help that brand be more, by investing more into it or just tweaking a few things here and there as well as they operate. As an agency owner, haven't been able to ask as strictly alright, and maybe you're the person to ask this to you. How do you feel you fit in this ecosystem? Does it feel more comfortable? Less comfortable? Is it challenging or is it exciting? What are your feelings as an agency owner in this space?

Dan Brownsher: I would say, yes Ryan to everything you just said. Yes, it's challenging. Yes, it's exciting, and yes, I think we fit in. The aggregator model is an interesting model. And what's interesting, just so you're aware, is the company that we started Trend Nation was acquired. We were required relatively recently and has become an aggregator. And so I'm seeing that firsthand on the product side of things. The accelerator model is an interesting and great model. I think what you're referencing are the folks that are buying inventory. The patterns of the world, the quivers of the world, those grips. And I'm really familiar with that business model as well. And it's a great model. But others, the agency makes the most amount of sense. So it really just depends on where the brand is at and what they want. And so I've come across a scenario recently, which I think might give some insight into this. Call it a very well known global consumer electronics brand. We're speaking to them about the agency model versus the accelerator model. And bits and pieces of the agency model made the most amount of sense for them. They wanted to own the account, they wanted to control the pricing, they wanted to be the seller record. But where they really liked the accelerator model was in the international aspect of it. They had various distribution agreements, territory agreements in Europe where they couldn't necessarily direct compete with their distributors or wholesalers or retailers. And so using the accelerator model for them made the most amount of sense. They avoided dealing with all the governance of their distribution agreements and designated another merchant of record to be their provider. Now that had the infrastructure, had the warehousing, had all the operations in place to support them. And so in that scenario, it made sense for them to go with the accelerator model. In other scenarios, the agency makes the most amount of sense. If you boil it down to a margin discussion, there's a margin equation. We're talking about a wholesale relationship versus a retail relationship. There's a control element, they have to use the brand owner I want to control the account, I'm going to control the brand registry, I'm going to control the content, the ad strategy, all of the above and allocate your budget or do you want to lean on somebody else to be your merchant of record that has that control on your behalf? And so, again, we are a pro full service agency, because we're biased, and that's our business, and we believe in it. But it doesn't always mean that's the right decision or right strategy for all brands. And so you got to talk through it and you understand where you're at and lifecycle what you want and what controls you may or may not have to give up to achieve what you want.

Ryan Cramer: The Switzerland of the Econ world, right? That's why I like to say we are too. But that sounds like what this agent... But an agency models isn't. And that's where I've trying to figure out how this evolves. E- commerce, like you said, you've been doing this since 2010, before then, we didn't get into too much background. But 10 years, selling online is still so much in its infancy and still as everything swapped, someone who evolves and develops, again, you saw in the news yesterday of acquisitions of technologies across platforms, for example, I'm sure you're aware of this assembly who owns Helium 10 and a bunch of other tools and suites, owns or just acquired Pack View, which now has now taken them to another level in terms of entrepreneur or enterprise level, getting into different marketplaces, so on and so forth. So there's this consolidation but also evolution of the space, both in tools, services as well as people who are running it. So with that being said, who's... If I'm a seller and I want to get in this because of entrepreneurship, there's so many different routes that you're going to have to take. Are you seeing more people go a certain direction or is it really just based upon product brand, like we had talked about earlier? There's all these different channels at which they want to maybe be involved with in a process of being an entrepreneur. Like you said, full service agency, I'm just going to assume that it's more hands off and they're relying on you, but if they want to partner with and they want to eventually exit a business, maybe that's more hands on and they only piecemeal things together. What's that solution or how are you seeing people becoming more into the space? Does that make sense?

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, it does. I just need to put a quick clarification. So if I'm an entrepreneur and I say, I want to get into the E- commerce space. Are you asking whether or not I should develop a software, or sell a product, or build a service business or you saying, if I want to create a product business, should I manage it myself? Should I hire an agency? What software should I get? Is that the question?

Ryan Cramer: Yeah, so I'm asking both. So I would like to say first, if I'm in this space as a product based business, I know I'm getting into this, what do you think, as you're previewing the landscape and won't go product based business, is there a way that a lot more people are tending to go towards that you think in all of your knowledge and wisdom, obviously, you don't have eyes on everything. What's that trending go towards?

Dan Brownsher: I think it depends Ryan, on who is starting the company. If it's a single individual entrepreneur that is creating a side hustle that wants to learn about E- commerce, what I typically see is leveraging content that exists on how to sell on Amazon. Finding YouTube inaudible, finding books that have courses, reading blogs and learning it for yourself, sourcing products for yourself. Leveraging the Alibabas of the world in various sources and finding products and Helium 10s of the world that you can source and sell and learned the basics yourself. There's software that you can get along the way. The jungle scouts. You can a find management software but you're small and you're a one person show and you got one product, you don't got stuff. You need to learn the basics, the fundamentals and execute on it. And that's one path inaudible. Another pathway where we see is, there is a more resourced effort where maybe a company spins off a division or a manufacturer or a traditional wholesaler or a contract manufacturer says, " Hey, you know what, we would go D to C. We're really good at manufacturing kitchen utensils." I'm just making this up. " We've been doing inaudible everybody else for a long time. There's a squeeze on supply chain, there's always a squeeze on margins, we're really good at making utensils, why don't we go D to C and create our own kitchen utensil brand?" And so in that scenario where you've got an established base, you've got resources, you've got capital, you've got access to products, we typically find that their E- commerce staff is non existent in a lot of cases. And that's where we can come in as an agency and say, " Alright, guys, we're going to wrap our arms around you. You can great create great products. We can help you with data and defining what the best products are. You create the brand, you get the trademark, and we're going to build you a strategic business plan to operate and execute on Amazon at a very high level." So it just depends on who the individual or company is that's entering the market, what the best pathway is, and how much resources there are, and what their goals are.

Ryan Cramer: Right. Do you like the question if Amazon... I'm assuming you get this question all the time as an agency when they're discussing with you. Is the marketplace crowded? Is selling on Amazon still profitable? Can I make money? I saw this question yesterday in some Facebook forums, and I made a laugh to myself because they're asking a group of Amazon sellers, is this something that people still do? Is this something that people are finding profitable? And a lot of comments are coming back like no, of course. We just like to do this for fun or for hobbies or anything like that. Do you actually still get those questions quite often of, is this still profitable in terms of or we should pack up and maybe close shop?

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, so we get the profitability question all the time. It's not necessarily related to, is Amazon a good opportunity or not or from a lifecycle perspective. Is Amazon tapped out or is it too dense with brands or products? It's not necessarily that equation. It's more like, " Hey, can I actually make money on this platform given their fees?" And one of the things I think you're referencing is the rising... So Amazon pay to play marketplace, period, end of story, pay to play. Obviously, you're going to pay the toll, which are your referral fees, your distribution fees and all these things. But the variable costs that is it rising rapidly is advertising. So advertising is becoming crowded, is becoming more competitive, TPCs are going up and so that is providing a significant amount of variable margin squeeze in competition. My personal view on the matter is, Amazon is still in its infancy. There's a ton of upside and opportunity. And I don't think people... And I don't even know what it will look like in the next three to five years. It's changing very rapidly. And the way products will be sold through Amazon, Ecommerce, Brick and Mortar, More Omni Channel, leveraging the infrastructure that they keep building, it's going to keep changing. And those that are willing to do it at a high level, and be on the forefront, and take advantages of the new programs and the new opportunities, and new ad types, and the various ways to build a brand on the platform, there's a ton of upside in my opinion. As a percent of total retail, E- commerce is still a small percentage, is growing fast. And you know what, it's also interesting, too as Amazon seems to be cracking down recently a lot of sellers that aren't necessarily living within terms of service. They've banned hundreds of very large Chinese accounts. And so I don't know what that means other than that might create more whitespace and opportunity for others to enter this space, but it's an evolution. And I don't think anybody is shying away from shopping on Amazon at this point. Maybe they're leveraging other marketplaces, which is an opportunity to Walmarts of the world and Targets of the world. But there's a lot of upside here, there's a lot.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely.

Dan Brownsher: It's just getting more complex and more competitive. And so if there's an appetite to participate in that environment, there's a ton of upside.

Ryan Cramer: Well, yeah. And what you alluded to is the crack down notion of... The reason why there is a crack down again, this is both service provider as well as seller accounts as Amazon strictly has their terms of service, which again, in certain notions, it's gray, but in other notions that is pretty black and white of, " This is what we expect, this is how we reward, this is how we actually negate or we actually... It's hurtful to your business but it also our platform, therefore, we will remove you without haste." And a lot more people are saying, in terms of the holy grail. I call it the holy trifecta in terms of ranking, manipulation, review manipulation or just manipulation of either hacking or other sorts of getting into other people's accounts. Those are the three that they hold dear and near to their own heart. So if there's any sort of no no tactics, that is what they're getting rid of. It's not based upon where you're located and things like that. But I saw someone joke and say, " Hey, this people are not going over to Walmart and now are selling on Walmart and stuff on Amazon." So, again, joking capabilities of that. What keeps you as an agency owner... Maybe, what are the struggles on a day to day basis? Because you're operating as a company, tens if not hundreds of brands, I'm assuming. On a day to day basis, you have this team of people. What's the difficulties on a day to day basis for you guys?

Dan Brownsher: Man, this is a great question and depends on which they ask me, because it changes quickly.

Ryan Cramer: I know. What was on today's menu? What were the struggles today?

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, let's see. So, running any type of business, especially your inaudible it's hard. inaudible is hard. You're faced with problems every single day and the pendulum swings back and forth between having the most amazing inaudible and having the worst day ever, and it happens really quick. And so trying to stay in the middle and realize that it's not as good as you think, and it's not as bad as you think always, is a mindset that I try to live and I try to push to my team as well. So the struggles. So I'm in the people business. We're a tech enabled agency. So I'm in the people business and the technology business. I don't have physical products, I don't have a warehouse. inaudible office, simply remote. So my challenges can relate to a lot of things. Hiring is tough. Now it's better for us as we've gone remote, I hire the best people all over the world, which is fantastic. I don't worry about geography or location or finding the best talent within a specific city. I can hire anybody anywhere, which is awesome. Finding talent right now is hard, and it's getting more and more expensive. As the proliferation of Amazon happens, the aggregators come in, Rasio continues to raise their valuation by teams of billion dollars every other week. And you know what, they need people. And they got a lot of money. And these aggregators have a lot of money. And so there's just a run on pallet are on people. So finding talent is tough. We're heading to Q4. We were dealing with supply chain issues with most of our clients. And so managing a queue for strategy, at which most of our clients are Q4 seasonal, with constraints on supply chain. Furthermore, with constraints on FBA capacity, the ability to ship product into FBA, that is creating challenges operationally, structurally, we try to forecast our clients businesses every single month. And it gets really challenging and complex because the goalposts they continually get moved, they're just getting moved. And so managing expectations and trying to create the best outcome possible and Q4 is really hard. In a service business, and I serve as company that is run by people, how do you create a repeated, consistent service and outcome for your clients with different personalities and different people? That's the hard thing. So it's incumbent upon me and our leadership team to build systems, processes, train our people and be as clear as possible around expectations and what the channel keyway is. So that's a challenge for us. You want to keep going? crosstalk.

Ryan Cramer: No, I was going to say that's a lie on a day to day basis. And like you had mentioned, it's on a day to day basis. I think the people thing is the most intriguing thing to me. And I say this as a person who's worked in multiple different SAS and service companies and still working in the service company to this day is, I've constantly heard the thing of people. And you said, just the hiring of different... Not just agencies, right? Agencies, there's a lot of as well, but each aggregator which, again, are upwards of 80, that are public, there's also private. And then you have the nature of people running teams, and for each brand on Amazon, then if you want to make that channel go direct to consumer, there's another team. But I was doing math on a mastermind group. And I said I know for a fact that there for marketing team just for one brand it's our brand or a couple brands, anywhere from five to 10 people. Well, it's called 10 for a brand. And that's just on Amazon. That's supply chain, or that's branding, that is making sure that your listings are optimized, you're in charge of that brand. Is there a point of which the people power can out outweigh the nature, of what you said, unsustainable to have 10 people per brand per acquisition? Because once you start to do the math of, " I have 200 brands I'm operating, I have 300 brands I'm operating." You start to do that math in your head. You're like, " What in that nature is unsustainable?" Is it the brands or is it the people? And most often it's going to be the people, right?

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, so I think what you're referencing is scaling a service based company that's built around people.

Ryan Cramer: inaudible.

Dan Brownsher: And as costs go up and the software costs go up, the people come go up, there's a margin squeeze, in essence. And so when does it stop becoming sustainable? You are asking?

Ryan Cramer: Right, yeah. Is there an actual cap to that because at the current nature... Unless you consolidate. Unless that person who's operating one brand now operates three or five. That's the focus where you can do that. But the-

Dan Brownsher: The balance of finding efficiency and leveraging scale. There's leverage and scale. To your point if... So, let's just call real world example. You mentioned eight people to manage a brand. And it's interesting, so for our clients, they're on average eight different individuals touch for client accounts every single month in specific job function. Could be advertising, could be copywriting, could be graphic design, could be analytics, the general account management. But as you grow in scale, you find opportunities for efficiencies. So the graphic designer might not just need to focus on the one account, they can focus on seven accounts. There might be a technology that allows us to visually integrate data together to create dashboards so we can make more critical decisions faster. And so there's just this... If you continue to increase stepwise with people, it can get to a point where it becomes too cumbersome to manage and you lose efficiency. So that can happen. And so finding this balance between people and technology and where you've got economies of scale as you grow is the critical part, in my opinion, about running the agency. You build a team structure, you build a model, and then you break it. And that's okay. And so what's next? How do we tweak the model? How do we create a new role? How do we find a way to outsource a role? There's different pieces and ways to piece work together without diluting the quality of the service.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. What is, to your mind, maybe you can only speak on yourself. What's the end point to an agency? What's the ultimate goal for you? Is it a certain amount of accounts you're operating? Is it a certain amount of revenue? For me, I always get a creative agency to be in business, and you obviously want to hire more counsel at scale, you want more and more. Is there actual roadmap and end goal for you and your team? Is it to be acquired? Or is it to be, " We want to manage 300 brands?" Well, what's that goal for you as an agency or do you think for most agencies?

Dan Brownsher: Every agency is different, the goals are different, the approach is different, their ownerships are all different. And so for us, I can speak to us is, our objective is we want to develop our people. We are a culture and people focused agency. So I'm a fan of this concept of Simon Cynics, the infinite game. It's an infinite game we're playing and there's no finish line. It's not a football game where the clock starts and the clock ends. The clock just keeps running, and the players in the game change, and the goals change. And so we want to develop our people, and if they leave us for whatever reason, they are better off than they were when they started. So building our people, developing our people, whatever that means to them is one of our objectives. And the second objective is to deliver fantastic results for our clients and create value for our clients. And so if we could do those two things, we're winning in my book. We're winning. Now, is it 10 clients or 10, 000 clients, I don't have a number, we're just trying to do good work and create more and more value for our people and more value for our clients. And opportunities will naturally present themselves. Whether it's the right opportunity or not, we don't know. We just make the decision at that time. So, I met you, Ryan, through us building our partner ecosystem. And the reason we're building a partner ecosystem is create value for our clients. And that's a learning. And there creates opportunities. And so we're just moving the ball forward. I like to grow things quickly, and ultimately, there is no finish line for me. There's no finish. And I had learned that the hard way, because if you think there's a finish line, you keep working towards that finish line and guess what, it always moves, it just keeps moving. And it's-

Ryan Cramer: At the end of the day, there's no checklist. The checklist keeps on going. You keep them all together and keeps going.

Dan Brownsher: No, there is no there. And so we do good work, we do it the right way, we develop our people, we deliver good results, we learn, we change, we get better and we create more and more value for our clients as they grow and develop. That's how we operate. That's our mindset.

Ryan Cramer: I love that. I'm going back to the person and the topic that we wanted to stay within and why you should hire an Amazon agency. And I'm thinking about if I was in the market to potentially hire channel key or somebody else in this space. What Dan, would you say... I would think the number one nature for most people who operate a brand would be, " I want to make sure the attention is focused on my brand. I want to make sure that you're..." And this is unrealistic, and I get this. That, " There's going to be eyes on my brain 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People are going to be baby and nurturing this." When in fact, it's going to be a part of lots of processes, like you said. There's going to be seven, eight people touching it on a month to month basis. How do you handle that conversation with a brand that says, " Listen, we're going to pay really close attention to it and then it's going to be equal to everyone else." We don't have a favorite, money's not going to operate and channel it. But at scale, you might have to have more people to a brand versus somebody that might just need a few things to look at it here or there. It's almost automated versus a hands on approach. How do you have that difficult conversation with people?

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, you know what, it's actually not that difficult for us, Ryan. We're a super transparent shop. And the way I would approach that conversation is... There's a couple ways. One is, talk to our clients. Talk to them. We've got case studies, I've got referrals, please talk to my clients. They'd be happy to talk to you. And the second, and I think really big component here, and we learned this the hard way, is creating alignment, and creating alignment early on what the goals are. So what can happen in agency setting with clients is, your expectations are not aligned. We're not working towards the same goal. So very early on, what we do is we create a very robust strategic business plan that says, and we do this with our clients. It says what the goals are, what the KPIs are, what the merchandising calendar is, what the ad budget is. We work to the plan. We align on the plan, we agree on the plan, and we work to the plan. And if we're off plan, the conversation becomes how do we course correct? If we're above plan, we pat each other on the back and we say, " How do we keep this going or grow even faster?" And so I think the answer is, what do you want as a brand? This is that we asked the brand, what do you want? What are your goals? What do you care about? What are the issues you have in your business? And here we effectively align on expectations. And if the answer is yes, we're good. It doesn't matter. You're coming to me for a reason, or we're coming to you for a reason. What's the issue? There's a reason. Let's talk through the reason, figure out where you want to be, and we'll tell you if we can get you there or not. And if we can't, we will tell you we can't get you there. It doesn't make sense. And so I think the key is aligning on expectations, Ryan. That's the whole crosstalk.

Ryan Cramer: No, that's a great thought. And I've heard you advise lots of different brands too is, make sure you understand the upfront knee jerk. Because I hate it when... And this me personally, and I think everyone hates this, when you're over promised and under delivered. I think across the board, that should be the basis of any sort of service provider. You want to over promise, or you want to always over deliver but then also make sure their expectations are going to be say, " Hey, listen, this is going to take a lot of work, whether it be time, money or effort." We can do that if this or these expectations can be met. And I think that's always what's missing in terms of whether it's a service base in this industry or saying, " Yeah, well, we can just throw money at it and it'll fix itself." No, there could be an issue of your product itself or there can be a whole list of things and they just go around from agency to agency. And they're like, " Yeah, we can fix it." And then, " Hire us to do this and we'll throw money at deep sea," But at the core of it, they can't fix it. Again, this is a one off nature of example. But when someone doesn't meet those expectations, do you have lots of clients that come to you and say, " Hey, we were burned by this company XYZ because they said they could do this, they didn't do this. What are we missing here?" And they almost come up with more questions than they have answers.

Dan Brownsher: All the time. It happens all the time. And there's a lot-

Ryan Cramer: What do you think that is?

Dan Brownsher: It'd be great work. Why do I think that is? I don't know. It could be a number of things. Listen, it took us a while to get where we're at. I've almost 45 people on my staff and we're growing and we weren't always this way. And I'm not saying we're the greatest in the world, but we're a lot better than we were three years ago and we've made a ton of mistakes along the way. And so I don't necessarily... I believe people are good, and people aren't saying they can do things when they fully believe they can't. I believe that it's just hard. And that maybe they're not asking the right questions, or they're not having the right communication on the front side to create alignment. And honestly, I think that's it. I really think that is it. So if there's a misalignment between the client and the agency, it's not good for anybody. It's not good for anybody. It's not good for the agency, it's not good for the client. And if you want to continually churn business and build a bad reputation, it's easy to do. You can, to your point, overpromise and not deliver and you're going to build a reputation accordingly. And you're going to turn clients and you're not going to have a sustainable business. And so we've taken the approach that we were going to do a ton of work on the front side and figure out if this is the right fit. Not only for us, but for you guys. You need to be comfortable with us. " Here's what we do, here's what we don't do." If you want us to grow your business from one million to 20 million in one year, maybe that's achievable, but maybe not. And if it's not achievable, we're going to tell you it's not achievable, because for me and my staff, and my people, where you started to really win, is by building long term relationships and long term partnerships with clients. That's how you win. And if it's a constant back and forth and inflow and outflow of clients, guess what, your people are going to be unhappy and your clients inaudible.

Ryan Cramer: Absolutely. Not sure if you're still there Dan. Your screen went blank all of a sudden. We might have lost Dan. Everyone, let me go ahead and try to get him back. If he is there, we'll just wait for him to unfreeze for a second. But if that's the nature, Dan, I'm going to pull you off until you unfreeze for a second, if you can hear me. Otherwise, I'm just going go on. So right now, we were talking with Dan Brown, Chair of Channel Key, if you're watching this live. Again, this is the nature of having a live broadcast. I'm going to keep an eye on see if Dan can come back or not. But we have Dan who's the CEO and co founder and we're talking about why hire an outside agency and what's the benefits and natures of selling online and working with an agency. And again, we talk anything and everything from both full retail or full scope and full service agency all the way to just be more niche and focused and the pros and cons of running multiple brands and whatnot. So Dan hopped off in again. Before he comes back, I want to make sure that we give him an opportunity to come back. Otherwise, we'll have to cap it at that today. Again, technical difficulties on the day to day when you have live podcasting. This is what you do. Sometimes technology and we'll just blame the internet. Doesn't work on a day to day basis. So if Dan can come back on, that'll be fantastic. If not, we'll have to have him on again on a different nature. But again, if you're watching or listening to this podcast episode, again, this is episode 173 of Crossover Commerce. This is my corner of the internet. I'm Ryan Kramer, where I host Amazon experts and thought leaders in the Amazon E- commerce space where they can talk through and apply applicable knowledge depending on what's going on in the world. We talked so much about the difference between acquiring different businesses, but then also working with agencies or growth accelerators. There's actually just so many more subcategories in which that there are brands entering the space, they're choosing whom they should work with. So that's one of the natures that I want to make sure I got Dan on to talk about and say, for each brand is it as easy or as difficult as it might seem to choose between those operations, whether it be selling off your business or working with people at scale to help you grow further, like a full service agency, or using people to help you boost in certain areas. And we talked about that with the acceleration route of, " Hey, I want to be able to utilize you in terms of the international aspect of my business instead of just the domestic part," wherever you might be selling from. So we covered a lot about that in our episode, and just wrapping up to... I'm going to assume that Dan just can't get back on. Internet kicked out. I know there's a little bit glitchy there. That's okay, because I want to make sure I get him back too, maybe for a roundtable discussion to talk through some of these different topics. If we happen to catch him, I'll make sure I give him some parting words. But if you have your questions, feel free to put them in the comment section below. Or if you are listening to this live, you can connect with Dan as well. For everyone who's watching this live, I'll go ahead and mention that you can connect with Dan on his LinkedIn page, then also you can connect with Channel Key at just channelkey. com, excuse me, and just search for them on Google. It's really easy to find their content and services. If you're in the nature of looking for a business, that can maybe help you take your business to the next level in that agency world. Again, just going ahead and cap off a little bit early today in saying that due to technical difficulties, I appreciate Dan, the embrasure of Channel Key for hopping on Crossover Commerce today. Again, we're going to roll with the punches as we do with every single episode and thank him today. Now considering him a friend of the show. It was a pleasure just to pick his brain for being in the space again for as long as he has been on the space. That being said, this has been Crossover Commerce. I'm Ryan Kramer. We'll be back again live tomorrow. We're going to actually be talking about, specifically, have on, a friend of the show, Chris Freiburger of InReach. We're going to be talking about one of my favorite topics, Amazon aggregator challenges. Yes, that is what is not the sunshine and rainbows version, we're actually the challenges of so many different businesses that are coming into this space. They're coming into this space telling people that they can buy their business and take it to the next level. What are the challenges of running an aggregator or business brand growth business? So we're going to be talking through that and he's been fantastic, has his pulse on the industry, both on the service side, the agency side as well as seller side, and helping people connect the dots there as well. So we're going to be talking about that live on our channels on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. Also, you can listen to every podcast that we publish on your favorite podcast destination, or if you go to usa. pingpongnext. com/ podcast, that's where you will be able to listen to those as well. I'm Ryan Kramer, this is Crossover Commerce. We'll catch you guys next time on the... Final words from Dan, if he is there. He just hopped back on. Dan, we caught you before we get signed off.

Dan Brownsher: Sorry Ryan, my internet totally just crashed, I'm on my cellphone right now, I apologize.

Ryan Cramer: That's okay. And then no, you have to go too. Was there any parting words? I know we were wrapping up here. What's your forecast for the remainder of 2021 and going into the next part of the year?

Dan Brownsher: My forecast, Ryan, is rosy, I'm feeling positive about the economy. I'm feeling positive about the commerce space, I'm feeling positive about Amazon and other channels. And I think that the dynamic is going to continue to be fruitful with upside for the folks that perform at a really high level, whether you're a technology company or an agency or a brand, there's so much opportunity out there, there's so much capital right now that exists that I think I'm bullish Ryan.

Ryan Cramer: I like it.

Dan Brownsher: And I think I have a just a ton of excitement around it. And a ton of excitement about the space and what we're building at Channel Key in general.

Ryan Cramer: And people can connect with you. I mentioned you're on LinkedIn but also on your website, is there a better way to connect with or your team?

Dan Brownsher: Yeah, I would say follow me on LinkedIn, follow Channel Key on LinkedIn. We produce a ton of content. Sign up for our blogs on our website. So www. channelkey. com is a good place. Message me, message our team, follow our content. We're happy to help in any way we can. So stay close. It should be easy to find us.

Ryan Cramer: Well, and now I was telling people, now friend of the show, we'll have to you come back on just to go down these dark paths that we both set and set the tone for and go into more in depth on. But hey, thank you so much for sharing your insights especially for Q4. I think there was a big distinguishing difference that I loved hearing, me personally, but thank you so much for hopping on. I know you have a meeting to go to. So I was going to wrap this up naturally for people. So thanks so much for hopping on another episode of Crossover Commerce.

Dan Brownsher: Yeah Ryan. Thanks for having me. Appreciate the time, I'd love to join you again. We got plenty to talk about. So let me know when you're open or ready and I'll be there.

Ryan Cramer: Of course. Thank you, Dan. And again, thank you everyone else for calling me on Crossover Commerce. I'll go ahead and now cap this off on this episode. We'll catch you guys tomorrow again on another episode, as we talk with again, Chris Freiburger, Amazon aggregator challenges. We're going to be talking with him. He represents InReach. And we're going to be discussing, not just the rosy side of aggregator business, but the challenges of which they are operating under as well. We'll catch you guys next time on another episode. Take care.


Ryan Cramer of Crossover Commerce talks with Dan Brownsher of Channel Key one-on-one about why you should hire an Amazon Agency for your eCommerce brand.


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Today's Host

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🎙 Ryan Cramer - Host

|Partnership & Influencer Marketing Manager

Today's Guests

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Dan Brownsher

|Co-Founder of Channel Key