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Conquer Local Roundtable | Episode 01 | eCommerce and COVID-19: What now, and what’s next?

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.

Scroll down for a transcript of the discussion below, which begins at 1:47 of the video.

Devon Hennig: I'm curious, two parts. If every one of you had to answer, number one, how have you personally felt that affect local business? And number two, what is your prediction for the next six months and the next year?

Ed O'Keefe: What I see is that every freaking business is almost open. It's really strange. And I'm driving down the road and go, "Well, they're open. It's an open sign. They're open." So for some reason these small businesses are still going to their office, just like other people we know, and they are not giving up their home turf, and they're probably doing something there that is productive. They're not staying at home. I don't think they have their doors open all of them.

All the restaurants you can see, they have a sandwich board sign and it's drive-by, pick the stuff up. But here's the places where you mail stuff, here's power tool companies, and they're all open.

I can look, like, I'm studying it in fascination because we're under rules to stay at home, yet if you, if I drive, they're all open. There's no customers, but they're all open. So it's really-

Devon Hennig: What's the next six months? What do you think is happening in the next six months to a year?

Ed O'Keefe: For us? Oh, I think we’re just going to bounce back to brick and mortar being open big time.

I think there's going to be a blitz of people, all of us humans wanting to go back and touch, and feel, and be brick and mortar customers. I think they're going to see a spike, and I hope that they've spent this time to polish themselves up, rearrange their merchandise, you know? Dust it off, re-merchandise themselves and get ready for this, you know, this blitz that they're going to have.

Devon Hennig: George, how about you? Right now over to the next six months.

George Leith: I’ve been talking to lots of partners and resellers, and It's interesting. There seems to be this common thread that, if you were putting off your transition to digital, this is the catalyst that will get you on track to be further down the road.

So there are certain businesses that are kicking themselves right now that they didn't do e-commerce when they knew they needed to do it. But then there also are other organizations that are saying, you know, "We're going to now double down on that transition, move budget, do whatever we need to do to double down on that transition because we don't want to be caught with their pants down if this were to happen again."

We'll look back at this as the moment where that digital transformation really started to rocket up, ratchet up, or whatever wording you want to use. That's what I'm hearing across the board from people. They really want to capture this opportunity.

Devon Hennig: I like the ratchet up. We might change the pants down, but that’s fine. Dale, what's your take?

Dale Hopkins: Bangaly [Kaba], he’s the EIR, he’s basically the facilitator for our Reforge course, and one of the concepts he talks about is this marginal consumer. The marginal consumer is essentially the person that's not buying your product today but would buy it in, under the proper scenario. And what's happened with Covid that's really interesting is a whole bunch of marginal consumers have been pushed to try products [and experiences] that they probably would have tried except for that they hadn't been pushed.

And then what the interesting part, I think, is going to be, is that while the Covid's happening, people are trying all these products that they wouldn't have tried before, but those marginal consumers, the question is, is whether people are going to recognize them as such, and actually welcome them, and make it a great experience.

And so for me, the two examples I have is: Click & Collect was a bulls--t experience. I didn't get any of my groceries, I absolutely hated it. I will never do Click & Collect again.

And so this is something where, like, I obviously had to try out an online grocery pickup service and they s--t the bed, and I will not try it again. However, I've had other services where it's like, "Hey I can go in, I can order something, I can pick it up and it kicks a--, I may change my behavior." So the interesting part is, I think that during covid, you have this opportunity to make a first impression that you otherwise would not have because I was never going to do Click & Collect beforehand.

So, I mean, I think that the question that’s really up to the local businesses is: you're going to have an opportunity to make a first impression. What's that first impression going to be?

And so, really what am I predicting? I don't know, it depends on each of the local businesses and how they behave when they get that first chance to make a first impression.

Brendan King: You know Dale, that's funny you say that. Because my wife, she's picky and she hates to go to Superstore anyway because it's crowded, but she used this order stuff, drive up, go to a spot, come - they come up to your car, and she thinks it's the best thing that ever happened. She's like, “I'm never going to go back in that store again."

Dale Hopkins: And that's the individual side of it that's crazy. One of the people is from Instacart at one of our Reforge classes and you had two different people, one of them said, "You know what? I went to Instacart during covid, and it was awesome. I don't think I'm ever going to buy groceries again." And then we had another person go in and they're like, "Yeah, the guy totally did a s--t job, botched all my groceries, I will never use Instacart again."

Brendan King: She'll never use Instacart again either. She will - she goes to the store, the Superstore, they bring it out, and apparently they do a fantastic job, but the Instacart is random. What my -

Dale Hopkins: Oh yeah. But this is [what] the interesting part is, is that everybody gets a chance. The craziest part is, for the marketing group, the hardest thing you guys fight for us to get somebody to give you a chance, and Covid is putting that in your lap in a lot of these cases. And the question is, what are you going to do about it?

And most businesses are utterly unprepared, and are going to s--t the bed on their first experience because they got forced into a first experience before they were ready to have a first experience.

It's like, I don't know, it was like the girl you were going to ask to prom instantly decided you're going to go on a date tonight, and the answer is, "S--t, I'm not ready for this."

Gib Olander: Dale, along those lines, what I've been thinking is that self isolation has been long enough now to break habits, right? What's the stat? It’s, like, 21 days to break a habit? And I've been trying to think long-term of how many consumer and buying habits are going to be completely broken. People were mindlessly doing just what they do, where they're now open to choice for the first time, maybe in their entire life. Because what they used to do isn't available to them anymore.

And so, it'll be really interesting, the draw after covid-19, or as we start to come out of isolation, of, what habits will we want to pick up again and which ones are consumers going to be happy that they shed and new opportunities are going to be available? So I don't think there'll ever be a going back to the way it was. I think you've got to start to anticipate what's the new - and I hate the new normal as a phrase - but what does the world look like?

We've got a whole generation of people that over the next, maybe it's not six months, Devon, but it's probably over the next five years, that are going to make fundamentally different buying decisions, behavioral decisions, because of this event. Like, it's changing their framework of what's important to them, of how they perceive the world, of how they interact with things, of how they learn. The smart businesses are going to find a way to be in front of that curve and try to anticipate. And I think that's the great opportunity that we're at right now.

Dale Hopkins: And Devon, to add to that, on Vendasta, I think the interesting part is we're giving away all these remote toolkits, and it's all about this, like, "Hey, go ahead and figure out remote." And the interesting part for you guys is going to be figuring out those users that want to talk to people in person, this whole online thing is bulls--t and they're using our platform because they have to. Versus, the people that are trying it out and potentially would actually really like to keep doing it that way. And if we can figure out who those people are and make sure that they get a great experience, that's going to mean we're going to get people that keep staying with the platform.

Brendan King: The playing field has tilted. Now, the big companies, the Googles, the Facebooks, the Intels, the Apples, they're going to take advantage of this, and they'll have a huge advantage. Small businesses are in serious trouble. They don't have the ability to adapt to these new habit changes that Gib pointed out at the same rate. So that's the third one. And then the fourth macro-economic change - and you're going to see a lot of this is - and it might lead to inflation, and it might not, but it would be two years out - um, is we're going to bring back a lot of the things that other places have done. So we're going to bring back the ability to build our own pharmaceuticals in North America. It’s just going to happen. Guaranteed, don’t care what anybody says, and it should happen. The other thing -

Ed O’Keefe: I’ve been doing it for the last six months.

Brendan King: The other thing that people are talking about, the last one I’ll just talk about really quick, I think the fifth one, is the ability to build stuff. If you look at what has happened in Asia, they've just built stuff, and then people come to that infrastructure. And North America hasn't really been like that.

If you listen to Elon Musk, he talks about his Dreadnought factories and how you can build stuff in North America with a robot, just as cheap as you could build it with people somewhere else. It's just the will to build stuff hasn't been there. Actually, one of the Kleiner Perkins VCs wrote a really good article on this that I could share with everybody, but it's just that we should be building out the infrastructure of our economy.

Ed O'Keefe: First responders are getting more respect and attention than they've ever gotten. Probably, you know, not as much as they deserve, but they're getting it. And there's also a movement to protect local and support local businesses. In fact, if you see some of these big fat cats that you mentioned, taking some of this relief money, they're having to give it back, where you've got this giant quad-zillion dollar chain and they're giving it back. And I think consumers have a new awareness of small businesses, and how valuable they are. I mean, I know personally that I literally miss walking into some places and I really want to sit down and be served at a restaurant really badly.

Brendan King: But you’re still going to buy from Amazon.

Ed O’Keefe: Of course I will. So here's my second point on that is that, there's this other thing happening that, these new breed of B2B buyers, which are the SMBs, who want to buy from one trusted place. We're already seeing it just in our own company. We're seeing company - you know, our own clients who sell to the small businesses who we've asked, "Adopt the platform, adopt the platform, adopt the whole platform, make it your own. Here you go, it's all yours." All of a sudden, we're looking, we look at their site and we're like, "Whoa, you did it. We've been begging you for six months, eight months to do it. We've been humping your leg off to do this." And all of a sudden they've done it.

This thing forced them to realize that, to serve the new breed of B2B buyer, these agencies, these cloud brokers have to be full service, full provisioning, full-scale, and expandable and scalable. And so, it's really fascinating to see them adopt a platform all of a sudden instead of a point solution. These point solutions that are out there, that are laying off people, unfortunately, are in big freaking trouble.

Brendan King: Can I, can I -

Dale Hopkins: GL and JC gotta get a comment in here and then next topic.

Brendan King: I know, I just want to take it one back up and then I'll shut up about it, I'll let you guys talk. But what about the change in sports? Like, listen to this. Gib, you're going to hate this, but I'm so f---ing happy that suddenly teachers, and health educators, and other people are more important than that bulls--t sporting people on the other side. I don't care if it ever comes back, to be honest with you. I know that's controversial, but I don't like the salaries those guys get compared to people who are teaching my kids, compared to people who are working in the hospital, compared to those things. So anyway, that's it.

Gib Olander: I've long debated that teachers should be the highest paid people in every country.

Dale Hopkins: No…

Gib Olander: So I'm with you on that.

Dale Hopkins: No…

Jeff Tomlin: There’s Brendan, the great communist.

Dale Hopkins: No one wants to pay to see teachers, so sorry - 

(Crosstalk)

George Leith: I support this 100%.

Gib Olander: You know what? With the change that's happening today, it’s going to start to make that happen. If you look at Peloton, right? Like, a great instructor on Peloton, they just said that they get 25,000 people in their class. So world-class educators and world-class leaders, with this change, they're going to get a chance to actually become the stars they deserve because access to their information and learning from the greatest whoever-it-is is going to be available to you now. And so that change is going to happen, where you're going to pay to see the Peloton instructor more than you’re going to pay to see Sammy Sosa.

Dale Hopkins: Gib, are you saying that by changing from having your only employer as the government, you change your career prospects? No.

Devon Hennig: Okay okay okay. Jackie, come on, balance us out. What's your prediction?

Jacqueline Cook: There's three points that I want to talk about. The one is we can be remote and it can be okay. And I think a lot of companies and a lot of business practitioners are waking up to this. I had a fantastic physio session remotely with a good friend of mine. And number one, actually have the time as a consumer to do physio. I've been putting it off for literally years, but I now that it's remote can find time in between bedtimes to do that. And from her perspective, she can find time in between her toddler's bedtimes to do it as well. So we see this tremendous flexibility in both the consumer side and the practitioner side, and you can apply that to many different business models. Um, the second thing - so we can be remote and it will be okay.

The second thing is I think it’s Amara’s law, we talk about a lot; technology has been slowly causing small businesses to become obsolete. And I think this “Amazon effect” is actually what's sort of slowly killing the economy, and I think what happened recently is the swift kick in the butt that we all needed to change our buying habits. And what I mean by that is, I would love to buy Lexa’s clothes, for example, from a local supplier, but it's so much easier because Amazon's one click away to do so. And the hope that a small local business could be one click away and that they're having to do it now because we are remote, I think we've actually prevented sort of a long, dark, slow death by them being forced to do it right away.

The other thing is I think, because of that, we've all started to recognize as consumers how much we appreciate local experiences and the human effect. And I think us as buyers, we recognize that, "Wow, the Amazons of the world pose an immense, like, threat to our friends and our local communities." And I think we're going to spend the extra $4 on an item to purchase it from someone local because we love the idea of being able to go into the store and knowing that they will still be there when we do want to go to it.

And the last point I'll leave with is, I think there's going to be this surge of and revival of local supply chains. We have decentralized and distributed so much of our supply chains. One cog and the wheel comes from here and the other cog comes from there, and it works really well when the economy's humming. But as we've seen, as soon as it stops, if you can't get one of those cogs in your machine, the whole thing falls apart. And so, I think everything from food and the way we source our meat, to the way that we even build our products, people are going to start looking at local suppliers and local sources, even if it means costing a little bit more. So ya, that’s it. And maybe even local toilet paper. Yeah.

Ed O’Keefe: You could go vegetarian like Brendan.

Devon Hennig: I love that. Local supply chains. Jeff, you're last. Give us some insights.

Jeff Tomlin: I mean, like the others said and the Mary Meeker, I think this will be the great levelling up event for people that - that lagged digital adoption. We're going to see commerce come to businesses that didn't have it. But one thing that maybe hasn't been talked about, so I won't dwell on that. You guys talked about that quite a bit -

(Microphone cuts out)

Devon Hennig: Dale?

(Laughter)

Brendan King: Jeff, somebody screwed you, somebody screwed you. I don't know, I did not.

(Laughter)

Dale Hopkins: Sorry Jeff.

Ed O’Keefe: Everybody show your hands.

Jeff Tomlin: I'll take my ball and go home. So Devon, what I was saying was I agree with a lot of what these people have said, and the Mary Meekers out there that this will be the great leveling up event. Oh, man, you blocked me again?

(Crosstalk)

And so, um, I think it will be the great leveling up event for all the people that lagged with their digital adoption. But maybe one thing that wasn't talked about that I wonder about will be the markets where they have interlopers, what will happen to interlopers? When we were in the real estate space, they called the lead generators interlopers that came in and started skimming money off the industry. I mean, they're also called aggregators.

I think in industries where aggregators added value because the industry itself was inherently inefficient - like travel was an example of one that was really inefficient - they'll continue to be successful and they'll grow, and they'll probably grow even more with people buying a lot more online. But then I wonder about the other industries where you have interlopers that just took advantage of laggards. And so, one example of that is, like, the SkipTheDishes. So I don't think the food delivery service was inherently inefficient.

It wasn't inefficient for Cafe 244 for me to order takeout from them, and for them to hire a driver, they just - SkipTheDishes just saw an opportunity where a whole bunch of restaurants weren’t actually marketing themselves, and they stole their brand and skimmed their audience off the top, and skimmed off a bunch of margin from the, a bunch of business from the restaurants.

So, what I wonder is, will this great leveling up event cut into the interlopers like them, that sort of intercepted or wedged their way into an industry that wasn't really inefficient. They just saw opportunities. My hope -

Ed O'Keefe: It might, Jeff, but at the same time, this is sprouting a bunch of cottage industries too, right? If you think about what's happening with some of these auto dealerships, they're delivering cars now, people are buying cars and they're being delivered to homes or businesses. There is a cottage industry already that sprouted up, that is sterilized delivery.

And then there's also these cottage industries that are, "I sterilize planes. That's what I do. I have my little smoking electronic” - I don't know what the steamy thing it is- “and I do that.” And they're rolling out these billion dollar businesses, sterilizing planes, and there's a bunch of cottage industries that are going to sprout up that just from an economic standpoint, it probably will not - it'll supplant some of the stuff that we lost that will just permanently be gone, right? So we should come out whole or better. It's just different. It's a new different.

Jeff Tomlin: Anyway, my hope with, on the interloper front is that businesses like 244 take back the margins in the business that they've lost to places like Skip.

Devon Hennig: If you were running an agency right now, if you were dropped in CEO of an agency this second, what would you do? What would you be waking up and doing tomorrow? So reverse order, Jeff, hot take, like, two or three lines.

Jeff Tomlin: I don't know, I need a minute. Pass.

Devon Hennig: Pass. Okay.

Jacqueline Cook: Hey, I'm ready.

Two things. One is I’d get really close to my existing customers, and I'd give them tools in their hands right away, and set up one to many broadcasts on how to get the most out of those tools. So for example, real practical things, I would set up a webinar with, "Here's how to get online." Basic, basic, basic, basic, basic for free. And in doing so, I would establish trust with my existing customers who help, um, who might be going through a tough time at that point. But in doing so, you don't lose that point of contact with your existing customers.

Secondly, there's a massive wave of other businesses looking to go online right now. So I would also take these tool kits, and I would get them in the hands of a whole bunch of other customers that I've never served before, and I would use the same tactics on, "Here's how to get online." And then I would simply educate, educate, educate, and be that source of knowledge. And not just knowledge about the coronavirus and COVID, because there's enough of that going around, true knowledge on ways that they can get found by customers in this time, and bring in data around – you know, like, one piece is, we were looking the other day and the search for digital agencies on Google, that keyword alone has just surged. People are looking for help right now as well, so I would look at other - what are other consumers looking for right now, and how can you match, increase in demand? We have a whole bunch of markets that are going up or fluctuating right now, and meet that with what we've got in our customer base as well.

Devon Hennig: Love it. Webinars, toolkits, teach. Brendan.

Brendan King: I 100% agree with Jackie. I would go to my existing customers if I had them, and I would make sure that I was stacking them all right up. I wouldn't even be looking for new customers. I'd be taking my existing customers and making sure that they had everything they needed to get through this because there's enough, uh, you have a relationship already, it's in a hurry, they have time, and I'd be building them up the stack if I could. I probably would buy for - break them up into courts and say, "Who's going to make it and who's not?" And go that way. I also would then, uh, for new customers, I'd pick a couple of places where I knew I could help. I'd take either a gym or a church, and say, "We can help hold the service." I'd do whatever it took to put something in place to copy what other people have tremendous success on and quickly follow behind those - and there's tons of examples - and then drive them up. That's what I would do as an agency owner. Yeah.

Devon Hennig: Good. Gib.

Gib Olander: There's three big trends I think that I would think about mostly. First, I would double down on social and be doing absolutely everything and anything I could to build an audience, and try to collect as much first party data and build those relationships so that I would be ready to communicate with those people when they were able to buy for me. And again, it depends a little bit on the vertical that you're in, but no matter what, I would be gathering and building, because I think that's the most valuable thing they can have.

The second is I'm looking at my customers and trying to help reduce both their costs and create a centralized operating system for their software basis. So I would become somewhat of a cloud broker or a consultant to them to help them streamline the operation of their business into a centralized operating system.

And then the third thing that I would do is, I would try to lean into everywhere that I could, a real true product-led approach that people, because they've got more time, and they're at home researching and learning before they're making buying decisions, I would try to find whatever product I had and position it in front of those customers so they could feel it, see it, experience it without actually having to come into my business to the best of their ability. So those would be the three things that I'd focus on.

Devon Hennig: I like that. I like the operating system, the product-led approach. Social was a bit fuzzy. What are you doing on social? What's the specific?

Gib Olander: For me, it was all about building an audience, right? So it's whatever kind of content that I can create, whatever kind of giveaway that I can do, a sign up, an education, a webinar. But the whole purpose is create content to generate an audience. Because that audience is what you own, that's the only thing you can actually get that becomes an asset for you later, right? So if you can get that audience now while people can't spend money, you'll be so far ahead whenever the flood gates do open up or if there's a V curve, or an L curve, or a U curve, it doesn't matter. You need an audience, and today's tools allow you to become your own publisher, your own voice, your own network, like never before. And many of these businesses have never thought of an audience that way. So how can you gather an audience? Because that's a long-term valuable asset that will pay off time and time again.

Devon Hennig: Nice.

Jacqueline Cook: Can I just jump in on something, Gib said? I think it's super cool, and we talked about this yesterday, Devon.

There's two trends that are happening right now as well. One is this idea of cutting costs. Like, holy cow, I've got to go through all my credit card bills and just start cutting costs.

The other is cleaning up, cleaning the house, the Clean Co Army, right? Especially people that aren't working are cleaning things with tooth- it's crazy. And I think there's a real opportunity. Everyone's taking a breath right now. A moment right now to really explore what is the foundation that I want for the future. And both small businesses and local businesses setting up the infrastructure for growth in the future as well as our own customers.

I've been on a couple of sales calls. “I'm cutting costs, I just need to cut Vendasta,” and then once we talk to them, they're like, "You guys, what do you mean you have a sales CRM, a whole pipeline management, a whole task [manager]? If I can get rid of Monday.com, I can get rid of Pipedrive, I can get - I can consolidate even all of my solutions, and you'll give me a bulk discount rather than grabbing 10 or 12 vendors for all my products. If I actually consolidate with you, you'll give me a better cost-”

Brendan King: Jackie, your internet is so much better than when you-

Devon Hennig: That's it. That's why we're different than Salesforce, HubSpot, et cetera, et cetera.

Brendan King: But we don't play that online, man. Jeff's got a plan. I know he's got a plan, but we don't do the vendor clutter thing yet or the cost cutting thing. We should.

Dale Hopkins: Come on, call out the website.

Devon Hennig: Oh, yeah, we got to move on. George, take us through the Leith vision. What is the Leith agency doing?

George Leith: There's maybe some great concepts. I agree with none of them. (Laughter) No, I agree with the majority of them, but one thing that I think: you're not in traffic driving to see a customer, you're not in traffic driving to your office, so you could take some of that time and to level up your team's learning. Because we talk about that you need to have constant learning, but now we actually have the time to do some of that stuff.

So inside your agency to pick where the gaps are in the development of those people and those teams, and really put an effort into the hours. And I've professed this for a number of years, and it's hard to do because the whirlwind gets you. And over the last six weeks, I've actually been doing it for hours and hours a day, and it's f---ing hard. It takes a lot of discipline and if you're going to do three hours of training, you’ve got to do six hours of prep. But we do have that time now to level that team up.

So that would be my one thing I'd add to all the other great concepts that have been discussed in the last few minutes is that, this really is an opportunity to level up with some of that time that you would be spending doing things in the whirlwind.

Devon Hennig: Subscribe to the podcast, everybody. That was very, that was nice. I like that. Dale.

Dale Hopkins: I would say don't change. I don't think cutting makes sense, keep your s--t tidy on a day-to-day, it doesn't make sense that now's the time that, "Oh we should think about our business." It's like, I don't know, maybe if you weren't keeping things tidy that's going to be a problem, but that isn't going to change for me. And I think that the real difference is going to be research, like I think George is talking about here, and I think really, you're supersizing your current customer focus and the idea of, "I'm not a cost, I'm a partner."

And so, that means that I'm going to be basically figuring out for my top partners how to save them. I’m going to be looking into programs, I’m going to be looking at stuff like this, but honestly, I'm not changing my day-to-day. I'm literally figuring out for my top partners the services Vendasta and other people offer, and how I'm going to help them adapt their business, but that's what I do because I'm their partner, right? So for me as an agency, s--t hasn't changed. It's just like, guess what? Maybe I got a little complacent because it hadn’t changed in a while, but the reason my partners pay me is because I’m watching what’s happening and telling them what to do. I’m going to show up as the expert and tell them what to do just another day.

George Leith: To Brendan's thing earlier today, the most frustrating f--king thing is when you've shown them something in the platform for three years and finally one day they go, "Oh my God, you have that?"

Ed O'Keefe: You have that?

George Leith: It's a catalyst that drove them to that moment, and it's that constant repetition. It's a real hard thing to make a part of your day-to-day. So I just wanted to throw that into something that I just thought of.

Jeff Tomlin: On the agency side of things, I would absolutely 100% focus on eCommerce solutions right now. And one of the biggest problems people are having right now is that their cash register isn't ringing as much as it used to and the door isn't swinging. Especially with our new solution, it is easier and easier for them to enable their business with eCommerce. And I think Brendan touched on this, but I would absolutely find one or two maybe verticals that you can put together a really good solution for that you can repeat, and have repeatable motions where you can execute on a really excellent strategy and go through that vertical.

Dale Hopkins: But I think exactly what you're talking about, Jeff, that's why you hire an agency is to get the door to swing and the cash register to ring, and what you have to do is maybe different. But in the end, the value proposition is different - is the same. Your job as an agency is to get them customers. And, I mean, while how you do that may change, guess what? Do your homework, figure it out. But they still want the same thing that they paid you to do. The question is, how are you going to do it?

Jeff Tomlin: No, no, I ... Okay.

Devon Hennig: Nope. Sorry. Ed, take us home.

Ed O'Keefe: So, agencies and media companies, they run hard. They run hard daily, every minute, we see it every day. They're sweating, working hard, and I respect them so much. If I was an agency, I would take a minute to take my vitamin C, vitamin D, and my Zinc, and take care of myself personally, eat better, and work out a little more and go for walks right now and just get, you know, a little more healthy. But I would also do the same with my business. I would certainly put all my customers on automated drip campaigns to give them ... make sure I'm top of mind, make sure that they know I'm there and taking care of them. I'd put any tools and any proof of performance that I've had in the past, in their laps on a repeated basis, so they remember me. And then I take inventory of my product set and how I'm doing business. And I would look around for places where I can be staged to be more potent and more powerful when the consumers open up, and the SMBs open up to buy faster and quicker.

For instance, finding marketplaces where they can get volume and global buying power with almost a co-op of other SMBs and other agencies, and really come out of the gate with a stronger product set that's appropriate for the times. Probably the tip of the spear would be e-commerce, but it would also have that element of freemium and trials. And that would be my thing. But I would take the time to get healthy really quick, re-merchandise myself.

Devon Hennig: I couldn't tell if that was a metaphor at the start or not, but it turns out it was both, so that's-

Ed O'Keefe: Correct.

Devon Hennig: I think that was helpful. I think that was fun. It would be really neat to know what you guys thought at even the next deeper level. Like Gib, you mentioned giveaways. What are really cool giveaway ideas, Ed, you mentioned drip campaigns, what would you be saying in those? Maybe that's something we could dig into in future weeks. But maybe last question, I guess, if it was a real quick round-the-horn, what's the biggest challenge right now? What's the most exciting thing right now? It can either be building this platform itself, from the Vendasta perspective, what's the biggest challenge, and what's the most exciting thing? And from the cloud broker side, what's the biggest challenge? What's the most exciting thing?

Ed O'Keefe: Hey, we'll go in the opposite way again? So I'll start, so I can get out of here.

Devon Hennig: Take it.

Ed O'Keefe: And that is that I’m super excited about the weak going away, and the strong and the ones that are healthy really being there to serve their customers better than the weak ones were.

As buyers at the SMB level, at the consumer level, we were okay with some adequacy, and that is weeded out. The weak are gone. Unfortunately, fortunately, sorry, that’s brutal, but they are. And the strong ones that we’re trying to serve well, that were in that chatter, in that shape, in that noise are now front and center. The consumer is going to get a lot better service, the SMB is going to get a lot more service from the agencies, we’re going to serve agencies better because we’re focused on the best ones, the healthy ones. And it’s just going to be a tighter, better ecosystem going forward. I’m very excited about that.

Devon Hennig: Right on. Thank you. Dale.

Dale Hopkins: I think exciting is our position's amazing or sitting in a tough time in the market, we've got lots of cash. We can literally do what everybody wants is to have cash in a hard time. And so, we can be a little bit more flexible and buy the market. It's crazy. To be in our position is insane compared to someone like 7Shifts that was about to close a deal. They're starved, they're hungry, and then closes right before, like, it doesn't close, they're in the worst possible position. And I think of our competitors, people like, or even partners, people like TripAdvisor, they’re stuck, whereas we're not.

And 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, help me decide which ones. Because, like this organization is so full of great stuff, how do we focus?

Devon Hennig: Gib.

Gib Olander: So I can echo some of the things that Dale just said. As I think about what our biggest challenge is right now is we're building out our platform. We've got 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 about, 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. And so from that perspective, it really brings you back to the basics, and I think that's exciting.

Devon Hennig: Hear, hear. Amen. Brendan.

Brendan King: I'm not sure I need data to tell me that my wife's mad at me. I mean, she is, but let me explain what I mean here.

We are at war, and there is a huge opportunity. And the bigger companies, I've said it before, are positioned to win because they have the most sort of mind share for this. And who are we at war with? Well, consumers need to get online. They're going to look to Shopify, they're going to look to Wix, and we can't compete directly with those guys, but we can compete with the people that are going to help with the people that they're going to turn to, those trusted local experts, we can compete.

And so, we can win that battle if we can convince those people that it's better to build your own brand and your own recurring revenue rather than a Wix or Shopify, they'll choose us. And in order to make that happen, we got to move like the wind because we weren't ready for the e-commerce toolkit, we weren't ready for our platform to be there, help teach them, and learn, and grow, and build a community. But I think we're close. So the biggest challenge is for us to be agile, get alignment, and drive it through over and over.

Like we’ve got the ideas. 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, drive alignment, continue to work, continue to push so that in six months we don't look back and say, "F--k, we missed it." Simple as that.

Devon Hennig: So it's the wind. That's great.

Jeff Tomlin: I was going to say the thing that I'm bullish, 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.

Devon Hennig: Jackie.

Jacqueline Cook: I think I'll offer something that I think will be a challenge, and then something that I'm hopeful with. I think the challenge is really going to be both 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. Even educating what we can do for our partners, what our partners can do for the SMBs. And when the SMBs are really 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, is the more we can have - all of us - a crystal clear story to connect with the consumer buying changes that are happening right now, the better off everyone will be.

The thing that I'm most hopeful about is, as luck would have it again, we just happened to be at the right place at the right time again. And it's just this incredible- we talk about when we raised a round of financing last year about how small businesses were making this shift to digital. And it's been slowly building, and I feel it's almost like this surf wave and COVID was the wave curling, and now it's like wham. And to Brendan's point, we can either be there to catch it or we can miss the wave, and we can sit back on our surfboards and see it drift away from us.

I've been reading a lot of Ray Dahlia, and Mary Meeker, and some of these economists and thought leaders, and almost everything they're saying is, like, speaking to our soul. It's like, "We're here, we're ready, we're now."

And the other cool thing is, 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, and not just do it.

Devon Hennig: Good, god. So many nuggets. Tiny movements, best story wins, we're a movement. I love that.

Hey, well I appreciate it. I had fun, I don't know about you guys. Hopefully, we can do this again. Courtney, I think we've got a lot to go off of. I don't know that Dale knows the difference between interlopers and antelopes. We’ll maybe have a conversation about that. But anyhow, have a good weekend, gu- ... I don't know, is there anything else anyone wanted to say or ...

(Crosstalk)

Devon Hennig: Right on. Okay.

Brendan King: All right. Bye.

Gib Olander: Bye.

Jacqueline Cook: Have a good weekend.

Devon Hennig: Thanks.

Brendan King: Get rid of that recording. Get rid of that recording.

(Laughter)

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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