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Conquer Local Roundtable: 5 SaaS challenges in the midst of COVID-19

In this new series, we sit down with Vendasta’s executive team and interview them on current issues facing agencies and enterprises.

Our panel includes: CEO and co-founder Brendan King, CMO and co-founder Jeff Tomlin, CCO and EVP of Sales George Leith, CTO Dale Hopkins, CSO Jacqueline Cook, EVP of Marketplace Ed O’Keefe, EVP of Product Gib Olander, and VP of Demand Generation Devon Hennig, who moderated the discussion.

What’s the economic impact of the coronavirus on local businesses and how should agencies and media companies respond? 

We challenged Vendasta’s C-Suite to tell us exactly what they would do if they were agency owners right now, outline their predictions for the future of small businesses, and elaborate on the challenges and opportunities in today’s market. The following article focusses on the opportunities and challenges they’ve identified.

What are the main challenges and opportunities of this season?

1. COVID permeates all areas of life

Ed O’Keefe: Well, Devon, you can talk about industry stuff, right? And we will. But there's a lot of stuff close to home with us. My daughter's a black belt in TaeKwonDo and karate at 16, and she sticks with her dojo, and those people are with her for life, right? So all of a sudden, I'm getting these notifications on Facebook and Instagram and other places, that they are doing live training right over social media. Having classes, and taking payment for it. And I sent them a really nice note to say, "I'm stunned at your pivot, your tenacity to keep online, [the] amazing online audience you've built, it's remarkable. I mean, I have so much respect for you." And they said, "Thanks, Ed, for the kind words. The reality was that we had to give it a try because otherwise we were out of business in one day."

Brendan King: Same thing with my daughter's music lesson. It's not as good as being there in person, but she's playing cello over Google Meet.

Ed O'Keefe: So it's not only business stuff, it's right in the home, right next to two doors down from my office. My daughters.

2. Cutting through the noise

Jacqueline Cook: I think what the challenge is really going to be for Vendasta and for all of our partners and small businesses, is cutting through all the noise. There's a ton of noise out there right now. We need to be educating, putting out there what we can do for our partners, what our partners can do for the SMBs, and even the SMBs trying to say, "Hey, we're here, we're open. We're available, we're here to serve you."

It's really difficult when there's a whole bunch of fear-mongering and noise out there. So I think that in general we all need a crystal clear story to connect with the consumer buying changes that are happening right now. And the better off everyone will be.

3. The pace of change

Jeff Tomlin: The thing that I'm most bullish about [is] the pace that I've seen. The willingness of people to make decisions quickly and their willingness to change, build, and innovate quickly. And then the thing that gets me down a little bit about the whole situation is the pace of change, the exact same thing.

4. Getting enough data in a timely manner

Dale Hopkins: In terms of challenging, I think it's how do we get more data to understand exactly what's happening and instrument the whole place? Because there's so many great ideas, I just need more data to help me decide which ones to go with. Because this organization is so full of great stuff, how do we focus?

Gib Olander: We've got a less accurate vision of what the future's going to look like than probably ever before. As we talked about earlier, habits are changing, the consumers are changing, the market's changing. But we know that we need to act incredibly fast and incredibly quickly, and iterate, and iterate, and iterate.

So it is a time to take a data-driven approach to get things out into the market and test them as fast as you can. Gather that data, and then make smart decisions on what you iterate on next and how you make things world-class. So I'm super excited that it gives us the opportunity to use data to predict and define the things that work best to solve the problems that people need solved. So, from that perspective, it really brings you back to the basics, and I think that's exciting.

5. Uniting the front

Brendan King: You might think that I'm a broken record lately and I'm just going to be one, and I want all you guys to be a broken record. We need to drive alignment, continue to work, continue to push so that in six months we don't look back and say, "Shoot, we missed it." Simple as that.

Jacqueline Cook: I think we've never, as an organization, been so crystal clear and laser focused on our mission. It's a difference between seeing a statement written on a wall or on a website, and truly seeing your favorite restaurant, or hair salon, or whatever down the street, putting up a closed sign. And I think it's been a rocky couple of weeks, but it's really allowed us to band together as a company and feel what we're doing, not just do it.

About the Author

Courtney is a Content Marketing Specialist at Vendasta who loves spending her days researching and writing about...anything really, she's honestly a pretty big nerd. When she's not blogging up a storm, you can find her collecting too many instruments while only half-learning to play them, watching too much Netflix, or planning a trip to visit all the friends she's left behind everywhere she's lived in the past decade.

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