In this Prime Talk Podcast Sponsored by GETIDA – Bret Darby - Director of managed services at SellerLabs talks about The Importance of Honesty & Focusing on Data When Selling on Amazon, also more information about his life's journey. #BretDarby #SellerLabs
About Bret Darby of SellerLabs - Charged - Exceeds expectations with energy and enthusiasm. Inspires & gives energy to those around them. Continuously Improving - Passionate about pursuing growth & continuously exploring opportunities to increase efficiency, drive change & teach others. Collaborative Team Player - Relentlessly strives to be reliable, responsive, courteous & flexible. Customer-Centric - Obsessed with understanding our customer and their perspective. Proactively advocate and deliver solutions that enhance the customer’s experience and contribute to their success.
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of prime talk today I have a special guest that I'm having Brett Darby. Brett is the director of managed services at cellar labs, seller Labs is a leading solutions platform for brands to manage their Amazon business. So Brett, welcome to the show.
Bret Darby 0:22
Hey, thank you so much for having me on. It's great to be here.
Yoni Mazor 0:24
My pleasure. So today's episode is going to be the story of you, right? The story of Brad Darby, you're gonna share with us everything, you know, who are you? Where are you from? Where were you born? Where'd you grow up? As you begin your professional career, station to station until we hit the moment where you, you know, hit the world of E-commerce, and what are you doing with it today? And yeah, so without further ado, let's jump right into it.
Bret Darby 0:46
Very cool. Where do you want to start chronologically back at the beginning? Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 0:48
That’s as if you're writing your life story of God and the angels above you kind of looking to see the whole show of your story. Always start from the early beginning. So let's start there. Where were you born?
Bret Darby 1:00
Awesome. I was born in a town called Kirkland, Washington. It's right outside of Seattle. In the Pacific Northwest, my home in my heart, I've always loved that place
Yoni Mazor 1:11
That we're at Costco is
Bret Darby 1:12
From, that's where the cost comes from. Oh, yeah, that's
Yoni Mazor 1:15
What the Kirkland brand based in where they're based out of right. So if you guys ever shopped at Costco in the United States, or even online, if you see all the Kirkland brands, that's the story. That's where he's from because the cost was based in Kirkland. So that's a little bit of FYI, for everybody here for your information.
Bret Darby 1:30
Yeah, there's another little business that got started there called Amazon. I don't know if you know that one. But
Yoni Mazor 1:34
Never heard of it. Never heard of it.
Bret Darby 1:37
Super cool. Just community, I've always loved the Seattle area and getting to grow up, there was a tremendous experience getting to kind of get immersed in the changes in technology, the changes in the world, you know, the changes in what Amazon has done with the ability to deliver products quickly. And so I started just humble beginnings normal school, went to public school, and nothing private, nothing fancy,
Yoni Mazor 2:01
My parents, so what can industries where they're involved with?
Bret Darby 2:04
So, my mom, my mom has worked in teaching education for pretty much her whole life. My dad has worked in many fields, but primarily in like electronics and manufacturing. But both of my parents kind of came from humble beginnings as well. Started, you know, didn't finish college, eventually, they went and got their degrees and kind of pursued their path. But for me, it was very much just a normal American upbringing. You know, I just want
Yoni Mazor 2:31
To kind of reiterate on the Seattle and Kirkland area and in Washington, until the appearance of I guess, the and the 80s, that's when you had the appearance of Microsoft. And Amazon's charges started to change the dynamics towards technology. But until then, up until the 80s, I would say it was a manufacturing hub, and especially big industries, like aviation, like Boeing, it's famous that Boeing is, is based in Seattle, it's you know, it's huge manufacturing, you know, organization, and around the union, all the parts and all that stuff. So it's a big hub around Seattle and Western Washington to be able to accommodate the aviation industry, or aeronautics, all that stuff. So it's very into manufacturing engineering. And so I assume that your father was kind of involved there. But the, you know, in the areas that when a Silicon Valley software technology kind of was born, and in the Seattle, the domain was, you know, Microsoft does have I think it was that was it early 80s. And then Amazon 1990s, five, or seven, I believe, and then the rest is history. Now, it's a kind of, you know, its hipster. It's upbeat, it's techie, industry, finance, or in all the above, I got
Bret Darby 3:37
Lucky, when I lived there for 30 years. And so I got to witness that growth, I got to see, you know, the Redmond campus of Microsoft go from really nothing to this massive campus that sprawling of hundreds of acres. And it was amazing to not only just be surrounded with people who are working at these companies, and, you know, pursuing their careers there, but also to kind of watch just the overall population expand and grow. And you start to see a centralization of more people invested in these areas, all coming together, you go to a cafe, and you're bumping into people who are working on some of the world's most exciting problems. And I think that's what's so cool about those areas, whether it be Seattle, you know, in Silicon Valley, there are all these areas where people are so invested in the same problem, you get a great collaborative thought process, and you get some new ideas coming out that otherwise might have never come to,
Yoni Mazor 4:27
but you know, when the population was growing, so people were coming from all over the world or all over the states or both, or it's a cosmopolitan right now or is it more homogenous and to a certain type of breed?
Bret Darby 4:40
Yeah, it's all across the board. I think these tech companies have done a fabulous job of attracting top-tier talent, you know, the cream of the crop in the world. And so you've got people from all over coming to participate, and I think it does help kind of help both grow the community help grow the business opportunities available to everyone in the area. Yeah. But you know, to go back chronologically to the younger
Yoni Mazor 5:03
Guys, I'm back to Yeah. So this is kind of the shadow vibe of flare, which I find unique. I think I've mentioned a few times I was very impressed. But I'm passionate about your story of being from that place, close to my heart. Because when they were in the Amazon domino world, your experience is very interesting to me. Because you're one of the first I made that 30 years you said, it's not like you came after I know, people were there now, but it came from other places. But you were born and raised in 30 years. It's amazing. So let's go back to chronologically growing up. When you were growing up, you know, parents will you mention your mother was in education? Your father was engineering, manufacturing? What did you do with anything that was an entrepreneurial spirit? Were you trying to make money on the side? Or are you mostly focused on school sports and music?
Bret Darby 5:44
Yeah, so I had an affinity for music early on, I was just enthralled by it. I love the idea of playing guitar, piano, or drums. I love doing it with friends as well. So that was always a passion of mine. But I was fortunate to have parents who didn't just give me anything, you know, they've made me earn it, they made me work for it. So starting at 12 years old, my mom made me go get a summer job. And I was working in an organic farm, picking dill, you know, harvesting shallots, literally every single thing you could do, getting it prepared to take to a farmers market and sell it on the weekend. And it was hard work. I mean, eight hour days bent over all day, pick
Yoni Mazor 6:22
It's all up, but back then hold it well, years old.
Bret Darby 6:24
I was 12.
Yoni Mazor 6:25
That's amazing. I think that's a great education. That's real life. Harnack. Yep.
Bret Darby 6:29
And that was the catalyst was music that got me started was my mom said, hey if you want that guitar, you gotta buy it yourself, go get the job, make the money. And I had to. And I remember, you know, earning the money to buy it, I still have that guitar, because it means
Yoni Mazor 6:45
You get what you get. That was a good
Bret Darby 6:46
Life lesson. It was a Yamaha Pacifica, one of their off-name brands, and then modified and replaced pickups and everything over the years. But it was, you know, the sweat equity, it was having to earn it, that made it worth it. But from that point, I gravitated to music more and more. And I saw that this, this experience of being able to collaborate with others, and find a way of being in harmony with them, you know, really trying to make something that we feel good about and sounds good or feels good to us, was a really rewarding and satisfying experience. And I kind of took that with me throughout the years and other things that I went and did. I was very fortunate in high school to get, you know, elected as a class president and get on ASB, get to go attend leadership summits and webinars and things like that, as a representation or representative of our school to learn some of these lessons and learn how people work in the psychology of groups.
Bret Darby 7:42
And, you know, how can you affect change when people don't want to change when they're motivated by really simple? You know, catalysts, like the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain? And how can you get people to do things effectively? And how can you get them excited about those things? So I'm very fortunate for those opportunities that were presented to me to go learn those things. Because I do feel those have helped build a foundation that's allowed me to continue to pursue things like E-commerce with a passion and a zest for it. You know, there's always something new. And if you can get close to the cutting edge, where you can kind of see the frontier and see the open space where nobody's done anything yet. I think it's really exciting because you get to use your creativity to come up with what's going to come next, you get to have a voice or a say in that by just taking actions day today. Nice, nice. So
Yoni Mazor 8:29
I want to touch on it. So growing up, you said you got your sweat equity, I love that. You got your guitar, you develop the music, and also to kind of took leadership to the school, in high school as well. And then what I want to, I guess, touch into the university years or higher education to pursue that also, or what was the trajectory after high school?
Bret Darby 8:48
Yeah, I'll go back a little bit, though, because I think it sets the stage. I've always loved working, and I've worked since I was 12 years old. There isn't a year where I've taken time off and just said, I'm going to relax. I've always had a job. And
Yoni Mazor 9:01
In a nutshell, it goes over the roster of the jobs you had.
Bret Darby 9:04
Yes, you're farming, right? Farming, I did a bunch of odd jobs. I taught guitar lessons. So doing music lessons. I worked for Bank of America for three years, I did luxury automobiles, consignment and sales. I did ski bum I was a ski bum for winter and ended up breaking my back having to go back and live with my parents couldn't walk all sorts of craziness. And all of that taught me what matters. What do you want to get out of this? You know, because along that time, I was also dabbling with school, taking some CS courses, taking a lot of MOOCs online, just trying to find any content to engage me. You know, I knew that my mind loved problems. I loved finding them and I love trying to solve them. And so I just needed to stay engaged. So I never followed a clear path or trajectory through college just to say I'm gonna go get this degree. I started I stopped for a little while I went and did the skiing, got injured, had to come back and went back
Yoni Mazor 10:00
Getting started pursuing a broker back here means you broke your back.
Bret Darby 10:03
Yeah, l four, l two, and Lone. All of them fractured. I broke my sternum and cracked a rib. I had a lot of problems with it. So
Yoni Mazor 10:12
Oh my goodness. Okay, so hold on. So let's slap the years on this. So what year did you go to college?
Bret Darby 10:18
It was from 2007 through 2009 ish.
Yoni Mazor 10:23
So I did about two years. But and when once you get injured 2009 2010 2009.
Bret Darby 10:28
And then I went back for a little bit right after that, and quickly realized I didn't need the degree that the world had changed enough that the information was available. You just had to go dig and have that zest to go find it and pursue it.
Yoni Mazor 10:42
That's when we segue so you got injured and they're already touching 2010 You try to go back, we then we realize you don't need higher education. What you discover was that moment
Bret Darby 10:53
Where it's, it's like hitting the reset button on life. You know, one minute you're skiing down a hill having fun with friends. The very next minute, you're in the back of a private plane that's airlifting you to a hospital because the one you were at couldn't care for you. Like, that's a pretty big change.
Yoni Mazor 11:10
And what was this was when he just got what where are you? This is a Washington State.
Bret Darby 11:14
No, I was in California, Mammoth Lakes, California,
Yoni Mazor 11:17
And Florida to where we're where they fly to. They flew me to Reno,
Bret Darby 11:21
Because they worried. Yeah, they were wearing a punctured lung. And so they, they couldn't care for me, they sent me off. And then my parents had to come down, pick me up because I couldn't walk, I was going to be in bed for a little while. And that was a huge opportunity to kind of rethink everything. And so were you
Yoni Mazor 11:40
Living in California back then was a part of your job because you're a ski bum.
Bret Darby 11:46
Yep, working at the ski resort, you get a free lift ticket every day. You can ski whenever you want. I do recommend that to anyone who enjoys skiing or snowboarding. It's so and
Yoni Mazor 11:54
Everyone’s skiing and full disclosure and everyone's skiing might go skiing this year for, the first time. And maybe in Jackson Hall and Wyoming, which I know work that out with the team. But so you okay, you live in California or Utah, Nevada, and Reno, your parents come and pick you up and they take you back to Seattle? I mean, you're Glen?
Bret Darby 12:12
Yep, that took me back home. I ended up spending about three months, kind of just at home couldn't do a whole lot. I had a whole big brace and everything. And I realized, you know, a few weeks into it, this was going to suck no matter what. There was no, you know, it was too glass, you just had to do it. It was gonna hurt no matter what. And I said, Well, I can either just sit here or wait, or I can do something about it. So I started Googling, what do people do to get better from this. So I started finding my physical therapy programs and just applying them and saying, I'm going to start working out I'm gonna start trying to get myself back into a shape where I can function as a human being, I can walk, I can do everything I need to do. And that was an awesome opportunity to think about what matters in life. What do I want out of this? And I quickly gravitated to again, learning and education and trying to pursue new endeavors and new ideas, something that would challenge my brain keep me engaged, and be something that possibly could be lucrative as well. And that's when I stumbled across eCommerce,
Yoni Mazor 13:15
Take me there. That's when e-commerce is one what I call it, that's when eCommerce came knocking on your door and sucked you in. And that's it. The rest is history. So take us what happened?
Bret Darby 13:24
Yeah. So, you know, I was looking around for what I wanted to do. And I saw a couple of companies that I thought would be decent opportunities to work for applied, didn't get the roles because they didn't have the requisite experience. And I finally found a company that didn't seem polished. I mean, their website was underwhelming, you know, the products collect catalog and everything didn't seem great. And I said, wow, I can affect change. Here. I have ideas. I mean, just looking at this, I already have a dozen thoughts of ways to improve this and make it better. And I applied, and fortunately, had the interview got the opportunity, and helped grow that business on Amazon from about $3 million to over $50 million a year in revenue.
Yoni Mazor 14:08
So a lot of you jumped on. So this was 2010 or 2011.
Bret Darby 14:12
This was 2011 12 Somewhere in there.
Yoni Mazor 14:16
So for a year or two you kind of try to rehabilitate yourself right from the injury and get back on track and, and then apply to jobs. So today's life in 2012, you land a job with that company, and they were mainly focused on selling on Amazon or E-commerce or what was that.
Bret Darby 14:32
So they were just eCommerce it was all either directly through their website or through Amazon or eBay. And you know that a couple of other channels here and there. But it was primarily focused on Amazon.
Yoni Mazor 14:43
And so when you came in no first few weeks or months at work, what do you do it? What would you do for them?
Bret Darby 14:51
So I actually had the interview, and there was another candidate who they were looking at for the job already. And I just decided you know what honesty has good got me far in life, I'm going to be as blunt and honest as I can. And I told the CEO of that company, Hey, man, I'll take the trash out if you want. Like, I just want the opportunity to work with people on cool problems. Like, if you need little odd jobs done, I'm happy to do it. Nothing's below me. I just want the opportunity to learn and grow and build a future for myself here. They liked that. And it resonated with them. And they said, Okay, let's, let's give this guy a shot. So I started out doing product photography of all things. You know, I use my dad's camera over the years, he was into photography. I've been
Yoni Mazor 15:31
There done that, just for disclosure, I've been there done that I did. Geography. I, you back in the early days. Yeah. It's great. It's a good start.
Bret Darby 15:39
Yeah. And, you know, through doing that, and through just kind of, again, some sweat equity putting in the time, I started learning Photoshop better, I started learning all of the little pieces outside of actually just running the business that makes it run more optimally. And I started figuring out ways to make processes out of those, and ways to make things work a little bit smoother. And as we started to grow, we started to just pinpoint what areas needed to be changed to grow a business on Amazon. And you know, I won't take 100% credit, there's a bunch of people that helped collaborate to make that all happen. But I felt very fortunate to be in those rooms where the decisions were made. And
Yoni Mazor 16:17
Those years don't moments, what was the effect of change that you saw that evolution went for within the inside Amazon?
Bret Darby 16:23
You know, a lot, you know, this was early days of sponsored products like Mike Ziggler. And you know, the first couple accounts, getting them, you know, it was an infinite product at that time. And so I got a great opportunity to jump on the ship early and see that evolution from day one. And at the same time, I had already spent some time before that dabbling as a kind of a freelancer on like Google and learning how Google Ads work.
Bret Darby 16:48
And so I got this nice contrast, of where Amazon was, where Google was, and the evolution of each of their products. And I feel like I had a great opportunity at this company, and just through my friends and colleagues, to learn that Amazon was building something similar to what Google already had. And that if you just watched their moves, you could start to see any kind of forecast of what was going to change and what you needed to do about it. You know, we're seeing it again, with video, video is going to be the future, you know, you have to think about how I'm going to create a video to be successful on Amazon in the future. And you know, a year ago, we might not have even been talking about it very much because it wasn't an important piece. But you can see those moves broadcasted and I got to watch everything from sponsored brands get kind of talked about in broadcast to some of the UI changes and things that happened to just improve the experience of running a business on Amazon
Yoni Mazor 17:38
One of the elements that because you mentioned you know you're when you came in around 2011 12 into the company there were 3 million and then I guess when he left right there, they were doing 50 million so what were those areas of growth? Like was an Amazon was it eBay the website all three was a perfect triangle Delta, or mostly Amazon, and I want to start with Oh because he did some more than 10 acts. Right. It's a 30 Next I wrote so take me there I want to touch on that. What worked out what was the explosion? It was Amazon
Bret Darby 18:09
Is Amazon it was being an early adopter of their tools, being willing to like to lean in and say okay, well, there's
Yoni Mazor 18:17
A product or reselling or their brand are both
Bret Darby 18:21
A mixture of both we ended up having vendor accounts and three P accounts as well majority was done through three P though. Which I love I think three P is for their
Yoni Mazor 18:31
Own private label brands or brands the at the ability to buy and resell or both. Were a private label. Private Label and yeah, so sourcing was you know, domestic overseas,
Bret Darby 18:43
Overseas. Yep. Primarily out of China and a couple of other locations in Indonesia and stuff. But yeah, really strong factory relations in China. I think that is one
Yoni Mazor 18:51
The category you guys selling it or if you want to mention the name of the company. I know.
Bret Darby 18:55
I won't mention the name Home and Kitchen now. Anybody can find it if they look me up. And now
Yoni Mazor 18:59
All my kitchen is a big boom category on Amazon. Yeah. So you were so the way you had a few here aces and products that ballooned or just being able to keep launching more and more. And that brought the volume. What was the dynamic of the volume growth?
Bret Darby 19:14
It was catalog expansion. Yeah, you know, definitely going deeper in specific categories with products that were already doing well, thinking of ways to broaden the appeal as well, or the functionality of products. But for the most part, it was expansion. It was looking for areas that are untapped or underutilized and saying, what can we do here to differentiate we had some formulaic ways of thinking about what products mattered and how to make them effective in the marketplace.
Yoni Mazor 19:39
Yeah, so you can basically from you know, a clean slate and then you started to kind of touching all the elements and all the functions, and over time, what did you discover you excelled at? What was your legacy superhero for them with your performance?
Bret Darby 19:53
You know, I think it’s a couple of things. Number one was ads. I've always gravitated to them. I have a lot of fun. Running them. And it's very engaging to me to try to figure out the story behind the why, you know, I love being able to dive into account and put the pieces together and then solve it and say, This is why this is the rationale, here's the opportunity going forward, my brain just gravitates to those types of problems. If I can find that nobody else has a solution, and I can find one, you can bet I'm gonna be thinking about that
Yoni Mazor 20:22
Problem. Yeah, you're in the perfect space. That's amazing. Yeah. And what else besides advertising.
Bret Darby 20:26
Beyond that, I think it's a willingness to be very candid, and be very direct and honest about what you're doing. You know, we oftentimes, as product developers, or designers, as in like a sole co-founder type situation, you're treating these products like they're your baby, you're going to spend a lot of time, you know, protecting them from the honest harsh truths of the world. And I found that I was open to just saying, No, even if I've done my best effort today, I shouldn't be able to critique that tomorrow, I should be able to learn from that and recognize that it wasn't perfect. And having that type of attitude applied to your products, allows you to cut things with more ease, and not drag a product through a really slow growth cycle that maybe just isn't going to work.
Yoni Mazor 21:10
If I can understand you correctly, you're kind of saying well, in other words, be more data-driven with this, leave less room for emotions, this is in technology base database, data, data doesn't lie, the data is available, you got to harness it the right way that tells you where the demand is, what they're looking for, what the, you know, keywords, you know, traffic, all that stuff, it's all there, it's less about the arts, it's more about what does the consumer want, in there's so much data, that's what's amazing with the Amazon platform, that the use of data and analytics, to be able to formulate all together and create a real brand.
Yoni Mazor 21:45
And then a real, because that's what they want. That's the engagement, they're telling you. This is the magic, we want that product, right. So you gotta be able to provide their product, and in a very, you know, straightforward way, but of course, if the product is well designed, performs well, and there's you know, a good touchpoint, and there's a good website that is gonna resonate, or everything else will become, you know, that harmony that you want. And over there, there's room for creativity, but you gotta know what you need to launch, how to launch it, how much is spent on it, if there's even demand, if the credit the most beautiful, artistic product in the world, you've invested endless resources, but nobody wants it. There's zero demand, they have two options, and either create demand, meaning it will be innovative groundbreaking. Maybe you try but after you try and see there's nothing there, you got upset, cut your losses, and move on something like that. So that's kind of a, what you're referring to. But you know, that being brutally honest, right?
Bret Darby 22:38
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's, it's the data-driven mindset. But also, something you said in there that resonates is it's the harmony, it's harmony between all of those pieces, you can over-invest in photos upstream and have the best photos in the world, but no strategy to promote and get your product seen and fail. So it's about balancing those inputs and making it a harmonious, you know, equation. And I feel like that's one of my strengths has been able to look at those pieces and say, well, your price might be a little bit high. But you can negotiate that down in the future, here's where your strengths are. Let's lean on those a little bit more and see if we can get overcome that one deficiency by using these other strengths that we already have.
Yoni Mazor 23:17
Got beautiful stuff. Okay, so you started there, let's say 2011. Right. And what was the next station for your stay there? Or what do you do after
Bret Darby 23:26
Stayed there for a long while, I spent some time kind of solo doing my own FBA as well. Just trying to see if that's really where I wanted to be.
Yoni Mazor 23:36
And you know, in other words, you launch your product, your brands.
Bret Darby 23:39
Yeah. Well, I was doing mainly OA and RA. Retail arbitrage online arbitrage. Yeah, yeah. But I wasn't necessarily, you know, just looking on Alibaba and finding the commodity I was looking for, like the narrowish niche of this random thing. So for example, I found a book that wasn't in production anymore, wasn't available, and had a premium price. And so I just use the price tracker to tell me when that price was high. Then I found the manufacturer who initially printed it in China, and made a special request to buy some copies from them that they had in old bucks, they sent me like 25 copies, and I was able to go sell those for 200 bucks a pop. And no one else even knew about the supply. All I did was continue to track down that rabbit hole until I found somebody that had some of these. I knew they were in existence, but not everyone was looking for that little opportunity. So very lucrative in the short term, but unscalable to have to find that specific of a product. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 24:36
My question to this was, once you find a supplier, you're not able to arrange a constant supply of this or,
Bret Darby 24:42
Yeah, that's the hard part. Yep. And, you know, I realized through that whole journey, because I tried dabbling in other stuff, you know, trade from stores buying online from Alibaba and stuff. I realized that that wasn't something I was passionate about, that I wasn't enjoying spending my time outside of work on those things. I would much, much rather just run ads for people. And that led me to sell it Labs is looking at what I enjoyed about the process and saying, Where am I really strong? And where can I thrive? And how can I build something from this that can help grow a business and scale?
Yoni Mazor 25:15
So all so your 2011 until one 2018 that’s when you transition this a ladder? To 2018? Yep, yeah. 2018. And then those seven years you were with that eCommerce company, once again, the growth was phenomenal, from 3 million a year to over 50 million a year, you kind of started from the bottom, you know, the whole spectrum, discover what you excel in what you succeed in, you know, create your core fundamental and abilities within eCommerce, and 2018 we transition into cell labs, what was the master for you? What was the challenge? What was the expectation? What was their expectation, take us there.
Bret Darby 25:48
So I had always worked on the brand side, I always spent time, you know, I ran the advertising for a vendor account, ran it for a three P account, I did it myself, but I never really done this at scale with a multitude of brands. And that was what got me super excited was looking at being able to learn even quicker. You know, it's great when you can sit down with a CEO and C suite and say, hey, what did we learn from this? What did we learn from all of our product launches this year, it's way better when you can do that times 100. Because you're going to learn a lot more, you're going to start to see trends in a different light. And that was one of the big selling points for coming to seller labs. Beyond that, it was the people. We have an amazing group of individuals here who not only are passionate about what they do at work, but they're passionate about their pursuits outside of work as well
Yoni Mazor 26:33
As you come across a luxury using their products. The company, you're working for was the point of connection.
Bret Darby 26:41
Yeah, believe it or not. So I was using cellular labs tools. And I was looking to upgrade our plan. I wanted to just move up, I wanted some more functionality. And if
Yoni Mazor 26:51
You want, I can shout out to the tools which tools were used back then
Bret Darby 26:55
I was using feedback genius. And I was using Ignite and which is now all under the tool, seller labs Pro, we've kind of consolidated each of those individual tools into one main tool. But at the time, they were each desperate tools. And I was like, Okay, how do I get all the tools I'm going to need for my team to run this effectively. And again, to go back to what I said earlier, like, I decided to be brutally honest and open. I felt like being candidly open and honest with people was working out for me in the long run. And so I told the individual that I was talking to on that call, Hey, I'm thinking about jumping ship, probably gonna leave this company on that not digging everything day today. And they said, Hey, what are you doing? Are you looking for a role? I had no idea. I was like, Sure, let's talk about what a role might look like. And that conversation took a couple of months for it to come to fruition. But I look back on that fondly. Because that was a great choice, just say, openly now, like, I'm not happy with what I'm doing, I'm trying to find tools to replace me, I'm looking to lead this company, I just want to find tools for a different team to use on my behalf.
Yoni Mazor 28:00
So I guess after seven years, you find a lot of success, and you pick so to speak. And then what's my next move my next challenge professionally, economically, and all that stuff. So looking into solo labs, or you know, when you have the relationship, you know, building up or for you know, the matter of few weeks, maybe a few months, you were able to really at that point identify that, if you made the transition to cell labs, you're gonna be able to be challenged with solving the problems of not just one brand. A lot of brands that were kind of the passion or the driver, the other elements,
Bret Darby 28:35
I think that was one of the main ones, you know, just beyond that, being able to talk to that many different business owners is a unique privilege, it gives you much more intelligence than you can get from talking to one brand. And I remember having problems that would take weeks to resolve. And the whole time, we're kind of just in this muck, you know, walking through wading through this trying to solve it. Now I get to see that at a high level across a myriad of accounts. And I don't have to be in that muck all the time. I just get to hear about what that is, and what is the complications that brands are facing? Where are the challenges in the marketplace today? Where's the economy impacting what we're doing, or is the supply chain disruption causing problems. And I get to see that and hear from a multitude of brands who are all having their own experiences and their challenges. And it's a much more fun, worthwhile pursuit than realizing there's one big problem that's going to affect your business. I
Yoni Mazor 29:32
Sort of Gotcha. And so you feel is a cross-pollination effect or aggregation effect where because you have some, some experience with all these brands all at the same time, you're able to borrow what works for them and use it for the others to solve problems quickly for everybody. So there's a network effect where that's compounding you find that to be, you know, reality. Absolutely.
Bret Darby 29:50
And we had a choice earlier this year to bring in an Operations Specialist. You know, what we do day to day is run ads. We're not running everything. We do have some channel management to clients where we run their entire Amazon business for them. But we need logistics sourcing everything. Yeah. Well, not sourcing but logistics we work with them. But running the ad side, you know it, it opened up this door to say, well, there are so many other problems outside of that that we can facilitate that we can help solve. Even if it's just sharing knowledge and information and helping one brand recognize that they're not alone that other brands are facing similar challenges, you know, whether it be case management, and Amazon, which everyone has a headache with, or updating your product description or titles, which again, everyone has a headache with. Sometimes it's comforting or helpful just to know that you're not alone in that. But it's even more helpful when we can bring the proven strategies and tools that are working to those businesses and say, here's what we're seeing everyone else have success with, you should maybe try this as well, yeah,
Yoni Mazor 30:52
So because they're all struggling together, but once one of them can break through and get the solution right away everybody else in the network, within your group within your local you know, your book of business, and that you work with able to enjoy that right away is that that's why this is happening over time.
Bret Darby 31:06
That's what we're working towards. Yeah, I think it's always a work in progress. Because you've got different levels of communication with different clients, some lean on us very heavily. And they do just trust our decision-making and want us to make a lot of the calls. Other ones, you know, they've been burned by agencies in the past. And it takes a little bit of time for us to build an effective relationship together. But that's what I'm all about. That's what I think we are all about. It's about people. It's about processes, it's about having tools, you know, we've got some amazing tools with the SAS tool that we have, as well as the custom tools we built on top of that, to complement our job. We've got amazing people who are very detail-oriented and focused on making sure they find success for their clients. We built motivators inside of our ecosystem to make sure that our clients are aligned with our goals as well. So we try to align the expectations with what the client needs to see.
Yoni Mazor 31:56
Nice, nice. So I want to head back into a team when he wants you to settle into the cell lab. So why don't we sell into that position off to the races? Or was there a different evolution within cell labs? Yeah,
Bret Darby 32:07
So I started as an account manager, I had plans already of becoming an account director and leading the whole book of business myself. And over the first year, I was able to make that transition and step into that new role. And believe that the team here just saw that I had a lot of knowledge around Amazon, I'd spent so much time on it, there was a wealth of information I could bring to the team if I was put in the right position. And over the next year, it was the change changes made to put me into this position to lead the team and try to bring seller labs managed services to this next level or next iteration of what it needs to be
Yoni Mazor 32:43
Good. So when did I sell allows managed services arm was born in 218, or before what was the evolution there?
Bret Darby 32:50
It was late 2017 when it was formally kind of launched, it was at lunch under a different name. And it was just a very simple idea. We recognize that brands are going to have trouble using our tool when they've got really big catalogs. So we can do it for you. That's the beginning. Very simple idea. But it's evolved a lot since then Yanni is changed from just we will run our software on your behalf to we hardly use our software, we use a myriad of custom reports and custom processes that allow us to affect change in your account more meaningfully. You know our SaaS tool is amazing if you want to get it done yourself if you need a DIY solution, and you need it to do most of the things you need your business to be operating on. Perfect. But if you need a white glove approach, you need somebody to be thinking about the strategy and making executive decisions on your behalf. That's where it makes more sense to use a managed service like us because we can bring the thought to you bring recommendations to you and have a more productive relationship and discussion about what needs to change.
Yoni Mazor 33:54
So let me get this straight. So if the sellers want to take the lead issues, the tools, but if they want somebody to take leadership should use the managed services. Absolutely. That's a fair way to say it. Yeah. Thanks, guy. Very cool. Okay. So today manage a team. How big is the team?
Bret Darby 34:09
Got about 32 on the team right now?
Yoni Mazor 34:11
Wow. It's pretty heavy. And you've based still in Washington State Washington. Where are you based now? Yourself?
Bret Darby 34:17
No, I live in Madison, Wisconsin. So my wife got a job out here. I've worked remotely. My last role in this role. I've been remote for a long time. So it just made sense. I can move anywhere I want.
Yoni Mazor 34:30
But where's the seller? Yeah, where're the loves that are technically located or headquarters
Bret Darby 34:35
Headquarters was in Athens, Georgia, home of the UGA Bulldogs for the longest time. When COVID happened, it expedited our decision-making to say, we don't need an office. We need kind of a Hoteling office where we can get together occasionally. And we've made do without the need for an actual full-time office. Everyone went home. We put together programs and plans to make sure that people had what they needed to have effective working work. Like bounce, and gave them the tools and the all the equipment they need to do it effectively. We haven't looked back, we've just said, The future is kind of this at the home hybrid working environment where you got to have a lot of trust with your employees, which means you might have to change some of your hiring processes. But once you get the right people, they'll amaze you. They'll run it will do great things.
Yoni Mazor 35:20
Nice. Okay, so now we're 2021 on the cusp of 2022. So by the time we're gonna probably air this episode's gonna be 2022. So if you can just give us the landscape of advertising, where it is today, what are the main fundamentals and especially for the newbies kind of listening and not 100%? sure that they understand what is going on with advertising, what are the available elements? So where are we today in a nutshell, but what do you see, it's all going to the future, because you did touch on how you kind of be able to gauge the difference between what Google's doing and Amazon the whole evolution. So I'm wondering if you have any take on that. Go for it. Yeah.
Bret Darby 35:54
So today, for most brands, if you're just starting with ads, sponsored products are still the bread and butter. Even if you're not starting with ads, sponsored products are still the bread and butter, it's the most effective ad type super low in the funnel, high converting very effective. So most every brand is going to need some combination of sponsored products. Now how do you break that out, whether using auto or product targeting, accent targeting, etc? Like that's really up to the strategy you're building for that product and that account, I won't go too deep on that. But that's going to be the foundation, you need that to be showing up in front of customers. Now on top of that, you're gonna layer on some of the higher-end funnel initiatives like sponsored brands, sponsored brand video, or sponsored display, even potentially adding in DSP for those brands that do need a large consideration or awareness play, whether it be the high-cost product, or just an FMCG or something that does require that type of marketing.
Yoni Mazor 36:49
Bret Darby 36:51
Fast-moving consumer packaged? Good?
Yoni Mazor 36:54
I wasn't sure Okay, good.
Bret Darby 36:55
Yeah, like to face it whenever it's something that people buy regularly and often. Gotta gotta gotta stay top of mind. Keep in front of them. Yeah, ubiquitous
Yoni Mazor 37:02
Coca Cola type, you know, products where it's a right, it's Oh, it's always relevant, it's very broad. So you've got to top of mind the brand, the brand new level.
Bret Darby 37:13
But I think for most brands, just given that that general advice and how you should break this out, you're looking at probably like 70% of your spend, and efforts going into sponsored products, then maybe a quarter 25% or so going into sponsored brands and sponsored brand video, and then the remainder that 5% or less going into the sponsored display. You know, for some brands, it doesn't even make sense if you've got a brand new product, don't waste your money right now. But those kinds of heuristics do work across a variety of categories and stuff, certain ones are going to be skewed where you're going to have more display than other stuff. But for the most part, and Amazon business is going to have those similar types of investments, they're going to be investing heavily in sponsored products, because it is converting highly, and they're going to be investing a little bit less in sponsored brands watch more video, and even less than two sponsored display. And that is kind of building that full-funnel approach. If you're VC-funded, and you've got endless money, maybe you stack more of that in the display column or DSP. But for most brands, you know, cash is a real concern. And so they're going to have to think about what produces the dollars quickest for me so that I can keep this engine going for them to products is still the staple of it.
Yoni Mazor 38:23
So that's where we are today. But looking. I don't know, I don't know if you can do it three years into the future. It looks like science fiction, everything is so fast. And the three years like 30 years of conventional business, where is this all going with advertising within Amazon
Bret Darby 38:34
Is going to take you back a year or two to
Yoni Mazor 38:38
Do that. Yeah.
Bret Darby 38:38
So let's go back to the past couple of years and the changes happening with Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, all of them launching stories. And they've all had this same idea. We need content that's easy to create. Just pick up your phone, just point it and just start recording, then you got a story talk, tell your friends what's happening. That's a very easy medium to create. And it's also really engaging. we all gravitate to it. People will scroll endlessly to these feeds just watching mindless stuff. And so what these companies all recognize is the perfect kind of connection where the medium is easy to create. And it's just engaging enough that it works well. Low cost high enough return. It works perfectly. And so if you take that, and you extrapolate that out and think about what Amazon's done, they're not the same as a social network. They're not the same as a media platform. They've got a little bit different play, but them still going to need to gravitate to some of the same creative tools. So you look at SBV sponsored brand video ads, that are broadcasting and forecasting a future where the video starts to become more and more informative.
Bret Darby 39:47
You look at Amazon live the same thing. It's a lower cost to create. You just need a phone and some tools to put it all together. And you can start doing live videos like QVC years ago that would have taken huge orcas station cameras and a lot of equipment. And as Moore's Law has helped bring down the cost of all these electronics, equipment, and processing power, we've started to see that we can kindly change the way we apply these content pieces on a platform. So it's gonna be a little bit of a bold prediction. But when you look at Amazon in the future, you're going to start seeing it move more, it's going to be more visual, whether it be automated tools that Amazon adds that allow images to quickly flip through so customers can see more of story stuff that's already being tested today. Or it's just making a video more prevalent piece of search, where you might just scroll through a list of videos instead of a list of products. Those are going to be the most effective, engaging I caption types of content. Now, whether it just changes the current search, or it changes to a whole new page or a new way of engaging with the platform, I think you're starting to see it's already broadcast that that is an effective enough tool that they're gonna have to start entertaining some of those changes. So I'd say to the brands that are thinking forward and thinking even a year out, video better be top of your list on something you need to learn to create and create. Well,
Yoni Mazor 41:06
Got it. And that's super intriguing. But I want to stretch even further. Facebook, no matter is bidding on the metaverse. Where does that take us shadow? This is science fiction almost even though I mean the moment they announced that and declared that they were going to the metaverse just a matter of time, they're going to do everything in their power. You see Amazon barring or also merging into that. So beyond videos, you're able to put, you know, what's called virtual reality goggles or whatever. What do you call that device? Or machine Oculus, right? So you put in and then you can touch the product field the products been around. And that's paid or not paid to play or that's the listing or both those come in, you can see what's going on with the product. And then also on the ads come in, and even the ads are, you know, they're beautiful. There's a 3d and they're even more engaging. Do you think that's a possibility in the future somewhere?
Bret Darby 42:00
I think we're further out from it than people want to entertain. I think, unfortunately, you're looking at the user adoption of that tool being kind of far out,
Yoni Mazor 42:11
I would say a decade or two. Right? So and then in three to five years video, as I mentioned, so it's more engageable. But beyond that, that's kind of the other spectrum where it's going to be the real future. You know, as we perceive it today, the Virtual Reality of Things is the metaverse.
Bret Darby 42:27
Yeah, I think you can look back at stuff Jeff Bezos has said over the years, like what do customers want cheaper products quicker, you know, as long as that continues to hold. And with the rising cost of inflation and material costs and shipping costs going up, that's still kind of what people are going to gravitate to. And if you look at a change in wealth disparity, as well in the country, you're going to have a lot more people who do have to be a little bit more conscious about their buying decisions. And so now you've got a little bit of change in the buying power in the country to come just about us specifically. But you've also got those tools that are so catchy and so cool seeming, but they're not tangible yet. You know, I don't want to put on VR goggles and buy jeans yet, I'd much rather just order some. And you know, or try them on at a store and make sure they fit and feel right.
Yoni Mazor 43:18
But just to be fair, I got my first smartphone, it already the first iPhone came what 2007 or eight, I got my first one, I believe 2010 or 11. So, two, three years into the revolution I got you to know, I was I got swamped. So today we're not I think even the devices now they're primitive. I think there was there going to be but yeah, a few years later, and what's the, there were a few layers that are adopted, and it's working. And it's amazing, that's when we're going to be all swapped in. That's usually how the technological revolution plays out. But that's deep into the future. Okay. I want to kind of, so first of all, thank you so much for sharing, you know, everything so far, it's been fascinating, and appreciate it, I want to kind of do a quick recap, see what we got, and see if we got it correctly so far. One reason to Kirkland, you know, one state of Washington, run by Seattle, and then 2007 and 10 to 2009.
Yoni Mazor 44:09
Went to school, college, right University, and then you know, transition to California to do a ski you got injured around 2009. And then 2010 2011, you kind of recovering and then by 2011, you're able to kind of look what's out there for you. And then you discovered, you know, an opportunity within e-commerce with this company. Then you stayed there from June 2011 until 2018. The company when he started was doing about 3 million a year over seven years in Washington and ballooned to over 50 million a year. You're able to get your head around all the components and aspects of you know, e-commerce at scale. And then you discover that you are found gravitated towards advertising. All the data about it is very data-driven, how you can deconstruct everything and create the right strategies in place to make the needles move in the right direction. And then in 2018, while trying to upgrade your plan with cell labs, you're able to develop a relationship we know because you're the honest, open, straight-up guy that developed to a completely even more challenging new opportunity to be able not to just manage the challenges of one brand, a variety a myriad of brands. You and now it's a team that with you, it's 30 Plus strong that we get everything up so far.
Bret Darby 45:27
Yeah. Oh, yeah. There are some things I left off. I went and played music professionally for a year or two there. But no worries.
Yoni Mazor 45:34
That's all right. Well, we know Yeah, passion for guitars you got, you know, you're able to sweat equity, while your guitar, the Yamaha we recorded that. And then you still have it, and then you're able to agree to better and better but that's on your creative, creative, and spiritual soul is on a daily, you're in the hardcore into the data and solving problems through data, and technology and tools and setups. That's another professional level on a spiritual and creative level you do, I'm sure you still do a lot of music. That's pretty much also the play. So thank you, once again, for sharing everything so far, I want to finish up the episode with two points. The first will be if somebody wants to reach out to you and connect, where can they find you? And the last thing would be is what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there?
Bret Darby 46:15
Yeah, so if you want to find me and connect, I think LinkedIn is probably the best place you can just look up my name Brett Darby bert at last name, Darby DDRB, why? Send me a message or just add me to connect, I'd love to meet every one of you. But my message for hope is, you know, there's been a lot of tumultuous moments. In the past two years, we've seen a lot of change in the world. And I think it's important for brands to have some kind of hindsight, to look back and see those moments before. Where there were scary moments back then, you know, I remember moments in 2015 2016, where there are some concerns about tariffs and problems coming about that everyone hyper exaggerated and had, you know, major effects coming from them, the world continues to change, it's always going to change. And I think that's one of the most beautiful things about it is it's not going to be the same tomorrow as it is today. And that excites me. And I think my message of hope is to get brands to learn that that should excite them as well. That through up or through chaos comes great opportunity. And if brands can look for the opportunity, instead of putting on their blinders and focusing on the negative, there'll be a lot more fun that can be had and there'll be a lot more growth that can be had especially even on Amazon and beyond the marketplace. Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 47:29
If I can add on to that change is the reason why they have a chance. So right so you get into the game, step in changes, always the only thing that doesn't change and change, and the more you adapt into that and realize that and utilize it in your favor and leverage it to your favor, you're gonna be extremely successful. Nevertheless, you have to put in all the hard work and stay on it just like Fred did all these years. Beautiful stuff. Brett, thank you once again, I hope everybody else enjoyed them safe and healthy. So next time.
Bret Darby 47:58