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Candid Partners: Why This Amazon Pet Brand CEO Stuck With Canopy After Dumping Agency After Agency

Steven was cautious after being burned by agencies in the past. To find out why he changed his tune once he started working with Canopy, check out the interview below

  • May 31, 2023
  • /
  • Chuck Kessler
Small dog laying on its back in sunglasses and a pink bathrobe

Many of the Canopy Management case studies celebrate the accomplishments of our partners through data that we share to show astounding increases in sales, or conversely, massive reductions in ACoS (advertising cost of sales) or CPC (cost per click). 

This is not one of those case studies. 

Instead, this case study focuses on the step that always comes BEFORE those amazing statistics. We’re talking about the initial process of hiring an Amazon Agency and becoming a Canopy Management Partner. 

For many successful Amazon sellers, that’s the pivotal moment. But, it’s sometimes the hardest decision to make. After all, you’re probably all successful entrepreneurs. You’re making money on Amazon. But, you’re also starting to have a suspicion that when it comes to the many different facets that contribute to a successful online business, you might not always be the smartest person in the room. 

That’s why increasing numbers of very successful sellers are reaching out to Canopy’s team of e-commerce experts. This is one of those stories. Because this case study speaks to a personal decision to hire an Amazon Management Agency, for the most part we’re going to let the entrepreneur, and new Canopy Partner tell this story himself.

The Brand

Steven Hourston is the owner of Finest for Pets, a pet supplement business based in the US. He started his company six years ago. He says it’s “one of those businesses that I never expected to be doing.” 

His background was as a pharmacist with a passion for pets. His family had a dog and he couldn’t believe the cost of some of the supplements that they needed for the dog. Also, he “didn’t think the quality was that good.”

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“That just steered me to research into pet supplements quite a bit more and I just saw there was a gap in the market. I just had the passion to fill that gap for my own benefit.

But as time has shown, it’s benefited an awful lot of customers and I love and appreciate the buzz I get from the feedback I receive from some of my long-standing customers and new customers who just rave about the difference the supplements are made to their pets.”

The Problem

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“Those of you who have your own business, and you get it to a certain stage by yourself, you increasingly realize that you come up against bigger competitors with big budgets, and big teams. You can’t juggle all the balls. I’ve got a corporate background. I’m used to delegating work, particularly work I’m not good at. Increasingly, I felt my marketing, particularly with my Amazon pay per click ads, was not as effective as they should be. 

So I started looking for partners. The first partner I started to work with was Amazon and they were very keen to spend my money. I just didn’t get the results I was looking for and I didn’t have a partner that I could build a great relationship with, a partner who would challenge my thinking. That’s what I was searching for.”

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“I have worked with other agency partners before and I’m not still working with them. I just didn’t get the results I wanted. Later, I approached Canopy with a degree of caution because I’ve spent quite a bit of money with previous agency partners and have not had good results.

It didn’t feel like I was a unique business. They weren’t hungry to understand my business and to pick my brains for the experiences I’ve had since starting the business. That’s five years of experience. A lot of mistakes, and a lot of stuff that’s worked well. 

When I started four or five years ago, you just put an ad up, it wasn’t expensive, and the ads were really, really straightforward. And they worked. It was absolutely great. As my ad spend increased, I worked a bit more, had a bit more contact with Amazon and actually got some data on how much my competitors were spending on ads and I couldn’t believe it. 

You know, my ad spend barely covered the bottom baseline of a graph compared to some of my obviously bigger competitors, but they were spending 20, 30, 40 times more than I was on ads.”

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“I just didn’t have the capability of finding where I should put my spend in a way that was profitable for the business. And during that time. Amazon, like Facebook or Google before them, found that the richness, and the money they could make from ads is phenomenal. Amazon really has made advertising for a smaller business like me a much more complicated process. 

I used to just pay to be on a page. Now I need to do brand advertising, I need to do video ads. It’s become so much more complicated. I’ve got the ability to show an ad to someone who’s looked at my product but hasn’t bought it. I just don’t have the skill set for that. And in order to grow, I actually found that the dollars I was spending on ads were not giving me as good a return as I used to get. 

It was getting progressively worse.”

The Solution

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“The first contact I had with Canopy was via an email. The tone of the email and how they looked to work with partners was exactly what I was looking for and something I hadn’t seen before. 

So, I arranged an initial conversation. Canopy said  “we don’t just work with anyone, so you need to get over some hurdles just so that we’ve got a good fit.” And I liked that. You know, I didn’t want someone just grabbing and pitching straight off. Canopy said “we want to see a bit more about your business, learn a bit more about you. We expect you to want to do exactly the same with us. Let’s see if we think we can grow your business together.” And again, that is a different approach to the majority of people that got in touch with me. 

They don’t hold back in telling me if an idea is perhaps not the best. But equally, they want to know what I think. I’m the expert with my business, and they want to pick my brain and they do that in a way that draws information and insights out of me that I didn’t pull out for myself.” 

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“These guys were not just charging an expensive fee and making off with that every month. They’ve got a base for you that I thought was really affordable for what I was looking for from the business, particularly on the pay per click advertising side the Amazon ads. If they grow my sales through those ads, then they take a fairly small chunk of the increase in sales as an additional fee. 

That’s fair to me, because I’m getting a load of extra sales and they’re taking a small slice of that pie. It just means we’re 100% aligned. We’re going in the same direction. 

I want those guys to charge me more and more every month. Because if they do that, it means I’m scoring big time. We’re perfectly aligned. No other partner came up with that same structure and we just weren’t aligned. 

It just felt like I was a cog in a machine.

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“I’ve had a few campaigns going for my Amazon ads and now I have pages of ads, Canopy has done entire subsets of campaigns. They target differently, and they’re bringing new customers to the business. They’re getting much better results from the ads I was running before. 

They’re very good at finding new keywords. It’s comparatively early days, but I’m seeing such an uptick in my Amazon sales. I think the way Amazon works now, you have to pay to advertise on them to help your organic rankings as well. 

So, I’m seeing my organic rankings growing. I think Canopy’s big appeal is for someone who is gradually getting more and more out of their depth and beginning to think “I am going to sink with these ads.”

With Canopy, it’s almost like you’ve got a life raft, or a lifeguard, someone who is just holding you up and helping you swim through these difficult currents.”

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets

The Results

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“Canopy wanted to learn from my mistakes. They wanted to know what was working. And they’ve brought their own experience. Boy, they’ve got experience. They reassured me with a process that didn’t feel as if I was being hit with too much, too soon. 

Canopy said, “look, these are the building blocks that work with our clients. We’re going to look at costs where you’re losing money, you’re spending money on ads. We’re going to save you money. Why spend money on keywords that don’t work? We’re going to find you a load of keywords that do work. And by the way, we’re going to have a good look at your listings. We’re going to make strong recommendations on how you can improve those based on our experience as a small business.”

That’s what I was missing from the previous agency partners.”  

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“That’s what I want from partners. I want them to add a big slug of value and fill in the gaps in my own knowledge. The whole process of working with Canopy in those early days just reassured me. I signed up for three months and after that point, either of us can cancel. 

These guys are stuck with me for some time and I am going to be grabbing value from them for a long period of time. I strongly recommend them. 

Now, I’ve got quite a team working for me. I have fantastic weekly meetings with Canopy. I’m a small business, and when I have my weekly meetings with Canopy, there are four, sometimes five of us in the meeting, and everyone brings something to the party. It’s just great to be able to have that. I really look forward to that meeting. 

Sometimes I’ll just say, “look, I’ve got this concern about my business, or I think this has gone really well, what do you think guys?” And I’m just surprised how it feels like I’ve recruited some people into my business who are genuinely working for me.”

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“With some of the other agencies, you sort of see them going through the motions. These guys are motivated and I get some (friendly) grief from them. The first couple of times it happened I said, “hang on a second, I’m employing you.” (laughing) But they do it in such a good way.

They’re the most motivated people I’ve come across since I started this business. If I don’t deliver something that I’ve committed to in the course of the week, I’ll be given a hard time in the next week’s meeting. My Canopy team will say, “you said you were going to do this, you haven’t done it.” (laughing) 

Now I take massive notes. We’ll go through a meeting and I’m making notes and thinking to myself, “I’m not going to be given a hard time next week because I’ve not done this task.”  

Steven Hourston – Finest for Pets:

“That is just so rare. It just gives you such a buzz if you’ve got your own business, to have a group of people who are obviously giving their all to get your business to grow and genuinely looking to come up with ideas and suggestions. 

I can see that this is going to be a great partnership because they are pushing me AND they’re pushing themselves to grow my business for my benefit. That is just brilliant to see.”

How Canopy Management Can Help

If you’re an experienced Amazon seller, you know how valuable customer reviews are. This kind of heartfelt thank you from a Canopy Partner is exactly why our team shows up for work every day with a smile on their (collective) faces.

It’s also why the entire Canopy Management Tribe is constantly working hard at getting better at every single thing we do so that we can continue to raise that bar for our Partners. Amazon’s environment is changing constantly and Canopy’s experts are determined to lead the charge!

If you want to get a big head start, reach out to the team of industry-leading pros at Canopy Management. 

Canopy Management is a full-service marketing agency for Amazon and Walmart sellers. Our team consists of former Amazonians, multi-million dollar sellers, and award-winning experts. 

When you consider the many ways that Canopy Management can help you grow your business, you’ll see why selling on Amazon is much easier “under the Canopy”

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