Brian Johnson is the Co-founder and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Canopy Management, a full-service marketing agency for Amazon sellers. He has been in the e-commerce space for 15 years, starting his career at eBay.
Brian has helped over 25,000 brands increase sales by over $2 billion on Amazon using advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization, and differentiation. Over the course of his career, he has founded the Amazon PPC Troubleshooting Community, Amazon PPC Consulting Association, and Sponsored Products Academy training course.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Brian Johnson’s career background and how he started an Amazon marketing agency
- Future opportunities and challenges for new Amazon sellers
- The disadvantages of AI in product launch and management
- The role intellectual property (IP) plays in the launch of e-commerce products
- Where to learn more about Brian and Canopy Management
In this episode…
What strategies can new product entrepreneurs use to successfully launch products on Amazon? Which tools and software can entrepreneurs leverage to grow their brands?
Launching products in the Amazon space and gaining market share can be daunting for many new entrepreneurs. This is caused by increased competition on the platform, changing consumer preferences, and poor product optimization. However, there are many opportunities that can be leveraged to successfully build an Amazon brand.
In this episode of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast, Rich Goldstein interviews Brian Johnson, the Co-founder and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Canopy Management, about how to successfully launch and grow an Amazon brand. Brian talks about the challenges he faced, what entrepreneurs should know when launching a new product on Amazon, and common challenges associated with AI in the e-commerce space.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Goldstein Patent Law
- The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent by Rich Goldstein
- Canopy Management
- Brian Johnson on LinkedIn
- Amazing Selling Machine
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Goldstein Patent Law, a firm that helps protect inventors’ ideas and products. They have advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 25 years. So if you’re a company that has a software, product, or design you want protected, you can go to https://goldsteinpatentlaw.com/. They have amazing free resources for learning more about the patent process.
You can email their team at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore if it’s a match to work together. Rich Goldstein has also written a book for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work, which is called ‘The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.’
Welcome to Innovations and Breakthroughs with your host Rich Goldstein, talking about the evolutionary, the revolutionary, the inspiration and the perspiration, and those aha moments that change everything. And now here’s your host, Rich Goldstein.
Rich Goldstein here, host of the Innovations and Breakthroughs podcast, where I feature top leaders in the path they took to create change. Podcasts include Joe Polish, RO and Fraser and Mitch Russo. This episode is brought to you by my company, Goldstein Patent Law, where we help you to protect your ideas and products. We’ve advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 28 years. So if you’re a company that has software or product or a design you want protected, go to goldstein patent law.com where there are amazing free resources for learning about the patent process. And you could email my team welcome goldstein pc.com to explore if it’s a match to work together. You could also check out the book I wrote for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work. It’s called the ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent I have with me here today, Brian Johnson. Brian is co-founder of Canopy Management, and Brian has helped over 25,000 brands increase sales by over 2 billion on Amazon using advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization, and differentiation. Uh, and it’s really my pleasure to welcome you today, Brian Johnson. Welcome, Brian.
Rich. It’s my pleasure. Thank you. Thank you for having me on.
So how did you get involved in products? So product entrepreneurship, like tell me, tell me how we got here.
I mean, I was always the, the weekend, you know, the weekender entrepreneur, you know, always moonlighting, always trying to hustle on the side. I was never, uh, I was never that, that idealistic where it’s like, yeah, I was selling candy to my classmates when I was seven years old, kind of thing. I wish, I wish that, I wish that was me, right? Because I probably would’ve, uh, avoided about, uh, 10 to 15 years of paying, working for other companies, <laugh>. But, um, I could have created my own pain, right? As an entrepreneur, right? But it’s been, um, it’s been, gosh, 15 years now that I’ve been in the e-commerce space. I started out in the Amazon, or in the, sorry, the eBay space. I, I came out of Fortune 500, um, companies, and I was always solid there. Mid-management, mid technical management, you know, boring is all get out.
Uh, but I shifted over to buying and selling, you know, reselling typically businesses that were liquidated, um, from like local business auctions. Uh, I did that back in, uh, back when I lived in Arizona. And, uh, that was about 15 years ago. I did that, but for about seven years where I shifted from flipping, you know, you call it some kind of an arbitrage, right? To actually, uh, sourcing and selling, um, money county machines like, uh, coin sorters and bill counters and fraud detectors and that kind of stuff. And I started, uh, just, you know, drop shipping for a number of different brands through eBay. And, uh, a couple of the, I I do have a couple of interesting stories about that, but that’s probably for another time. Um, when I, I shifted over to Amazon, it was actually because a friend of mine had had quite a bit of success, um, on Amazon in, in the first couple of years of the heyday.
This is back in, for those that remember, this is back in, gosh, 2000, uh, 2014, I guess it was, um, like seven years ago, I guess now. Um, actually no, uh, eight years now. <laugh> time, time is flying by way too fast. Eight years now. This is back when, um, like amazing selling machine had just, you know, came out with their second, you know, like, uh, amazing selling machine too. And they had, uh, one of the big first conferences in Austin, Texas where I lived. And I went out there. Um, I was, uh, I, I jumped in and I started selling my own product, and I’ve been selling ever since. But it hasn’t been, the, the forefront hasn’t been the priority. It’s always been like, uh, I’ve either had partnerships or have had my own products in various brands. Um, but I don’t, I don’t beat my chest about it.
I just, I just do it, you know, I apply what I learn first and foremost. Uh, any theories that I have ever had, I always apply to my own stuff first. So I always try to break my stuff first <laugh> before I say, Hey, go out and do this. Um, but you know, back in, I guess probably, uh, in the early years of, of Amazon, um, I had a buddy of mine, what, this is kind of where really kind of changed from me going from, uh, just selling products. Uh, and my first product was, was great the first couple of months until I went to the, uh, amazing selling machine, um, uh, show or, or basically event the conference in Austin, Texas. And Jason Flak gets up there on stage and he’s out there and he goes, yeah, it’s a wild west. And any, you know, anything, you know, you can just pretty much go into every single product niche you can just take over cuz nobody’s doing it correctly.
And he, let me show you some examples. Crowd of like, I don’t know, a thousand people, right? And as I quickly found out, there’s not a whole lot of creativity in a crowd <laugh>, because he showed, uh, one of the products he showed was my direct competitor. And within probably two months I had, I don’t know, 30, 40 new competitors on the exact same thing, <laugh>, oh boy. And so, uh, and I’m pretty sure they all came out of, uh, out of that stage presentation <laugh>. So, um, I, that’s when I figured out, it’s like, oh, I can’t actually innovate, you know, I can’t actually just not like, just follow the rules. I can break out from what everybody else is doing and, and try to innovate. But, um, at the same time, I had a buddy of mine who’s, um, whose girlfriend at the time now, now married quite successful on Amazon.
Um, she had a, a beauty brand on Amazon, had 800 SKUs, and she ne she needed some help managing that on Amazon’s earth. Like yeah, that’s private label. 800 SKUs on Amazon was a massive thing. So what really shifted my career is finding the needs. Like, I need some way of driving more visibility. I need to like, like advertise these products on Amazon. Let me figure out how to advertise on Amazon. And of course, back then there wasn’t anything. It was crickets. You know, nobody could tell me nobody had any training. There wasn’t any training videos. Amazon didn’t even have any training. There was no software available. There was nobody even, you could even talk to about it. So I made the decision. It’s like, okay, well I, I, you know, I gotta figure out the answer. I had my own, I held my own need.
So I went out there and I created, um, just a, a group on Facebook. Um, it’s still out there now. And, uh, thought originally I’m gonna start out, you know, you know, maybe there’s 20, 30 people we’ll get together and we’ll, we’ll just mastermind, we’ll talk shop. Well, that has since grown into, I think there’s like 22,000 sellers in that group. Now, the problem that I ran into, I’m sure you run into this also, is once you start coming in with some good ideas, uh, all of a sudden you get pushed against the wall and everybody expects you to always have the good ideas. And you can either say, Hey, I don’t have all the, have all the ideas. Uh, I don’t have all the strategies that are working. Or you go out and you test everything and you try to figure out the answers that you can give the answer back <laugh>.
And so that just kind of perpetuated it. So I had this community that was growing and constantly making sure that they had, um, kind of put me at a high standard. And so I had to, I had to perform or I had to exit, you know, I had to get out. So as it turns out, uh, I had a need to, you know, help everybody. And so I went out there and just found all the answers, um, every time that I could. And of course, if I didn’t know, I, I would, I would state I didn’t know. But, uh, long story kind of wrapping up here is what that led me to do is I saw a need for, uh, PPC software, uh, for, uh, PPC training. Um, eventually now our flagship is, is an agency, you know, as far as Amazon and, uh, advertising and marketing agency, uh, that I do have, uh, you know, great business partners on.
But, uh, yeah, I had to create all this stuff that I needed my, for myself, um, you know, with the software and the training and, uh, and then now the agency. Um, and so yeah, so it kind, it’s kind of fast forward me to, to today. I’ve had, I’ve had a great run, helped, uh, a lot of brands grow. Some big numbers on Amazon. It’s, it’s kind of cool when you look back on it, you don’t, you don’t really, really see it, I guess while you’re doing it. You’re just doing it, right? You’re just like, somebody says they want help, you’re like, sure, what can I help you with? Um, but then you look back, you’re, it’s like, oh, that’s kind of cool, you know, it’s like, eh, <laugh> got myself on the back. Yeah.
<laugh> help a lot of people <laugh>. And it’s interesting that you describe it as like, well, I needed to create all these tools for, for myself, for my Yeah. Um, you know, for your own brands, but I don’t, I don’t buy it. It’s, it feels like everything that you do is the laboratory for helping other people like you do. You know, like, like
That that’ll be be true also. Yes.
<laugh> Yeah. Like, it’s like the way you describe it, it’s like you, you, um, kind of, you work on your stuff, you know, but it’s, it seems like the the focus is always on helping other people, you know, whether it is through like just organically helping them the through community to like your agency. Like that’s kind of, it seems like that’s what you do. Like Yeah, I
Mean, yeah. I mean, selfishly, I mean, I suppose there’s c c certain amount of, uh, you know, like, like public recognition and that kind of stuff, you know, and speaking on stage and you know, doing, you know, webinars and that kind of stuff. It’s like, yeah, you know, it’s kind of fun. It’s cool, right? And, and yeah, it was a very rough the first couple of years and through a lot of pressure from other people, including business partners, uh, I got a lot better over the years. But, um, yeah, I, I think there’s, it, it’s kind of cool to be, I don’t ever want to consider myself the smartest person in the room. I’d be a fool. Um, but at the same time is I have fun engaging in problem solving and try to figure it out like this can be out engineered. Um, and I’m very much the engineer mindset said my, uh, one of my business partners said, uh, he goes, he goes, yes, Brian to pass the salt and pepper shaker at a dinner, and he’ll pause because he’s thinking about how to build like a, a, you know, design a crane that will lift it over instead of just passing you the salt and pepper shaker.
So <laugh>, it’s, uh, I’m always trying to over-engineer, overthink a lot of the solutions, probably more than necessary. Uh, and I can assure you, I’ve had friends, uh, who have done quite well, uh, in various businesses say, you know, you, you know, all this stuff, how come you’re not just doing it for yourself and not for everybody else all the time. And I do hear them, but it is kind of, it’s, it’s tough to kind of pull away once you kind of get in that rhythm for years.
Yeah, no, absolutely. And, um, so like, what do you think is like the, um, I mean the biggest change that’s happening right now in the, in the Amazon world, um, that, that seller should be aware of when they’re launching new products?
Well, if you had asked me two weeks ago, I would’ve come up with a different answer.
<laugh>, that means it, it truly is the biggest change,
Uh, yeah. Changing about the change, answering that question right now. Uh, I, I used to, you know, I used to be very much of the mindset that, you know, there’s a lot of tools that are out there in the Amazon space that claim to use artificial intelligence. Um, and it’s a marketing employee for, in most cases, you know, they’re just, you know, they’re just using around an algorithm. They might be doing some data trending and that kind of stuff, but they’re not, they’re not really, you know, having the ai, the machine learning solve the, the, the broader problem. But I would say beyond changes in economics and, you know, rise of competitors, you know, to Amazon and, uh, changes in logistics and, you know, these kinds of things, honestly, I think that there’s gonna be some huge opportunities that are coming as a result of some of the new AI technology releases that are, um, that are coming out that are becoming more accessible to the general public.
Um, for those who have been using, uh, like as of this writing, you know, or as of this show just recently was the chat G P t, uh, interface that came out, which is still a fraction of what the AI technology that Google has, um, or open eye open AI has, um, that’s out there. But I fully addicted to that thing where, where I’m just trying, I’m, I’m trying to break it and I can’t so far. And, and so, you know, so I’m, I’m, I’m trying to get more and more extensive in some of the questions I’m asking. Um, and here’s where that’s gonna change the most is it’s gonna be way too easy. Uh, you know, you can apply it to Amazon, but honestly, I mean, I think initially what you’re gonna get is a high rate of, uh, service offerings and people being able to just write content about everything.
In other words, the amount of content about selling on Amazon is gonna a hundred fold in the next year, because it’s too easy just to go in and say, Hey, computer, write me an article. Write me something that’s unique, but have, and have this spin and put it in the voice of, you know, Morgan Freeman, you know, whatever. Right. And it can do it. Uh, which I never, I didn’t think it would come that soon. And so that kind of surprised me. How does it apply? It does not yet affect, uh, buyer psychology. In other words, the AI has hasn’t been put to the test to really analyze as far as things like, um, uh, relevance of a product. Most of the AI and most of the software that’s out there now, mostly they, they’re primarily looking edges to key metrics. And they’re making changes based off of rules and algorithms and, you know, know predictions as far as where the numbers are gonna be.
But they’re not looking at the audience, they’re not looking at the product niche, they’re not looking at differentiators between products. They’re not looking at the, the, uh, opportunities and, you know, the gaps and, um, between competitors. There’s a huge opportunity of the technology being able to help build that. It’s gonna require a huge effort, but I would say in the next one to two years, we’re gonna start seeing where, uh, you can go in and you can say, okay, you know, you, there’s gonna be some piece of software that’s gonna come in the market, and it’s just gonna tell you here’s exactly where your little tiny narrow gap of opportunity is within this product niche. Go exploit it.
Um, and so it’s gonna be a lot easier to enter into a product niche. Now, the trick on that is it’ll be inter, it’ll be easy to identify that differentiator that, that sub niche where there’s an opportunity where there’s money left on the table. But the failure of most sellers that I see is they fail to innovate their products in order to bring to market something that actually stands out, stands apart, and so
Yeah. They’re not differentiated, you know, which, which is a topic that I’m, I’m quite passionate about, um, is differentiation. And so that requires, it goes back to what the AI can’t currently do, and that is really understand the buyer psychology. What’s their pain that you’re solving for what’s in it for them? Um, it’s surprising how many brands take the shortcut. They, they just don’t do it. They just like, oh, I’m just gonna put a product out, um, and just let the numbers tell me. And then they wonder why it’s getting so expensive and why it’s getting so competitive and it’s hard to compete. Um, cuz frankly, they’re, they’re not taking the time to really understand who they’re offering the product to,
So I think it’ll be a separation of classes, if you will, in the product space of sellers, uh, in the next one to two years, those who take the time to really interact and, and to really understand their target audience. And those who just live by the numbers and run, run their business off, off a software loan,
Right? It’s just let, like, let the AI do it and like kind of pass off their responsibility to the ai Well, I
Guess, well, they’re over, they’re relying too much on,
Right? I let, I let the AI figure out what my product was gonna be and launch my product and like, I don’t know, like, I guess it just wasn’t possible to make it work. <laugh>, right?
Amazon doesn’t work anymore.
Right? Exactly. If the AI can’t figure it out, then how can I,
Right? Yeah, exactly. Yeah,
But the technology now, do I want to go out and build that technology? Absolutely. But <laugh>, I’m just saying is the, um, uh, it, it’s, yeah, you’re gonna get, you’re gonna get some sellers who just, you know, you can call it lazy or you can call it just not having a clear understanding, not having the experience to know Yeah. How to stand apart, how to go live outside of the Amazon ecosphere as far as where your customer base is. Right. Um, it, it requires more work. Um, it’s not like, Hey, I can just, it’s a get get rich quick thing where I can just do it on the weekends and that’s enough.
You’re gonna just be crushed
By that. I, I think you nailed it when you said it. Uh, it’s about having the experience and I think that that’s like the thing like, um, that will always be indispensable as experience. So it’s like, yeah, I, I, someone was talking the other day to me about the, like that there are these systems for writing contracts using ai, so the AI would write contracts. I’m like, that sounds like a terrible idea. <laugh> usually, like when you’re, you are looking at contracts, which you’re really looking, you, you’re not looking at what’s said, you’re looking at what’s not said. Yeah. You’re reading between the lines for like, well, what’s the thing that wasn’t addressed? What’s the possibility that wasn’t addressed here? So AI can’t read between the lines, but experience does. Yeah. And so like, that’s, that’s where in, in product launching, in product management, there will always be a need for the experienced people to say, well, wait a second, that looks good on paper except for this, this thing that, that isn’t on that paper. And, you know, but is something that I experienced 20 years ago that, uh, or whatever, you know.
Well, and that’s the beauty of the American legal system too, is that it very much uses its own, it has its own language, um, that protects itself, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, because of that depth of language required, you know, that’s one of the reasons why, you know, American contracts are on average, I don’t even know the num the actual number. There’s, let’s, let’s put it this way. I remember back in a previous industry when I was doing contract negotiation for technical partnerships, um, we would, uh, we’d always have our American 60 page contract and we’d pr you know, we’d, we’d bring it over to a partner who was out of London, you know, out of the uk and they’d come back and they’d say, yeah, here’s our two page one, we’re gonna go with that one. You know, completely different, you know, size as far as depth.
And, and, and of course, you know, there’s reasons why they’ve gotten so large, but it also requires somebody who is, you know, a qualified attorney to be able to go in there and actually understand what’s actually saying AI is gonna give you things like case law and, and the massive ability to just, you know, find case law. I don’t, I mean, I don’t know what the, the speed to, to the speed to trial with AI technology should drastically in, you know, um, decreases, well increase speed, decrease the amount of time. Um, but does that mean that there’s gonna be any more, you know, any higher percentage of, of, um, cases that go to trial? No. Cuz it’s gonna get bottleneck somewhere else.
Right? Well, I mean, that’s interesting to geek out about, and I was Yeah, it absolutely analogy to product launching, right? Like no one, no one wants to use. Well,
And the reason I was bringing that Google
System and, you
Know Yeah. Like, like IP contract, uh, you know, patent, you know, trade, you know, trademarking and patents on, on products on Amazon, that’s gonna get challenged more mm-hmm. <affirmative> over the next few years, uh, because it’s gonna get easier for people to make that challenge. And so that’s why you’ve got to sit stand apart. That’s why you’ve gotta protect what you, what you create,
Right? Yeah. Right. If AI can create an argument, even if it’s a BS argument, then it will be easy to mount, I’ll
Augmented, it’ll do it in 15 seconds.
Right? And then ultimately though you spend, um, 20 hours, um, picking apart the, the faulty arguments of the Yep. <laugh> ai, right? So yeah, no, that’s, that’s an excellent point. Um, I mean, what role have, have you seen, um, IP play in, um, in, in product launching, uh, and in, um, kind of like the, um, the growth of your client’s products over the last few years?
Usually it has to do with whether or not you, you’re gonna get other competitors that encroach. You know, you typically, you know, if you’ve got another seller that comes in with a, with a similar same product, you’re really only gonna protect them out of the market that you defended. You know, if you’ve got a trademark or you’ve got a patent, uh, within the US market, you’re protecting, you know, you have the ability to actually fight back and to protect against somebody else just coming in and saying, I’m just gonna copy exactly what you did. Um, we’ve got, uh, at Canopy, we, we’ve got, um, a few like top 10 brands on Amazon, huge. Um, and success is, is part Amazon and of course part everywhere else. <laugh>, you know, they’re, they’re omnichannel, you know, they’re ev they’re everywhere. Um, but they have to, um, I’m sure they’ve got an, uh, you know, a pretty large retainer, you know, legal retainer just to make sure that they can protect that, especially when they branch out into, you know, into Europe for instance, or into Asia or something like that. You know, they’ve gotta start the process all over again, uh, supposedly, um, in order to protect the, in each location. So prove, you know, prove a concept would be like the US marketplace, just cuz the sales volume, um, on Amazon. And then when you branch out into other countries, that’s when obviously you can determine if the legal cost is going to, uh, is merited compared to the additional sales. Um,
Is did you worth the squeeze?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. But I, it’s all very feasible for, for, I don’t wanna discourage sellers from, you know, creating new products. That’s, in fact we’ve, uh, cuz I know like at Canada, we’ve helped, I think we’re up to like 27 brands that we’ve helped get, you know, grow to a point where they’ve exited and had had a successful, uh, exit, um, one where they actually still enjoy the, the benefits of that exit, but in each case it was always a brand that continued to add on new products to their catalog. It was never, you know, if they’re, if you got a, a brand that was just sitting there with one product, they’re not, they’re not exiting because they, they can exit, but they’re, they’re not gonna have near the multiple, near the, the, the valuation as if they were more distributed because, um, you know, those who are in the business of acquiring, they may acquire a product within a niche that fits in with the rest of their catalog, that also covers that same audience and that same niche. Uh, but, uh, they prefer
To, they’re acquiring upside, they’re acquiring the upside. And so they wanna see, like if you’ve got a track record of upside, of like taking something and expanding it, that tends to show that there’s more upside that there’s an ability to
Correct. Yeah. Are they buying the product or are they buying you? Right. Theoretically you’re gonna need more valuation if it’s both.
Yeah, I agree completely.
Absolutely. Well, Brian, um, I mean this is all like really fascinating and deep. I mean, I think we can geek out on this stuff for hours. Um, and, uh, and we’ll have to do that. I’ll have to have you come back and we can geek out more on this. Um, do people wanna learn more about you or get in touch with you? How they go about doing so?
Well, so I mean, uh, you know, still, still very much in the, uh, the advertising and marketing side of Amazon House, um, canopy Management or Canopy management.com, of course is a site for, for my agency. Um, we have, um, you know, a phenomenal track record and a, and a fantastic international team. Um, and so, um, yeah, love to have that conversation. We certainly have proven ourselves and so we’d like to, to see what we can do together.
Okay, cool. And what’s the best route for them to set that up?
Uh, just going out to canopy management.com, uh, canopy management.com to enunciate that. And then there’s right on the front page, there’s a, you know, book a, you know, book a call, you know, just to get that an evaluation done because the way our process is set up is, um, we go through and we have an initial discussion just to say like, Hey, you know, what, do we even fit together initially? And then from there we take it to the standpoint with like, okay, we’re gonna dig under de you know, dig deep and see exactly what is working, what’s not working, the good, bad, ugly about how you’re running your business on Amazon. And we’re gonna come back to you and make a number of recommendations, uh, and, uh, tell you where you potentially could go. If that then becomes a mutual, um, agreement that, hey, you know what, we should work together to make this, um, to implement all this and to make it work well, cool. If not, no hard feelings.
Awesome. Well, again, Brian, thanks so much for, for being here on the show. Really appreciate you taking the time.
Absolutely. I was glad to be here and look forward to our next conversation.
Thanks for listening to Innovations and Breakthroughs with your host Rich Goldstein. Be sure to click subscribe, check us out on the web at innovationsandbreakthroughs.com and we’ll see you next time.