Hacking an Innovative Spirit in the Tech Sector

Want to catch a ride with us on our journey to the North Star?

At Vendasta, we strive to be visionaries in our industry and always work towards being on the leading edge of technological change and advancement. What does that look like? Every 2 months, we dedicate 2 full days to a "hackathon" for our team of 100+ developers. During this time, these developers have the opportunity to tackle challenges that they’ve had their eyes on, pursue the latest trends, or try and solve customer problems that don’t even exist yet.

Forget the “here” and “now” for a second. Hackathon is about the future, and Vendasta is about the future.

Nathan Poellet, VP of Platform says it best:

Graham Holtslander, Engineering Manager, explained how he is working on Lighthouse as a Service (LaaS). LaaS is a website auditing tool, and Graham took it on this hackathon to build it into our robust Snapshot tool so that our partners can be more effective in their sales routines, and so that prospects can also acquire greater value from this powerful auditing tool.

Graham’s project is one of many invisionary tasks being tackled by our talented and creative development team. The Hackathon is one of the many ways in which we seek to push the boundaries of marketing advancement at Vendasta, and fuel our spirit of innovation.

The 3 Factors in Vendasta's Innovative Spirit

There are 3 primary reasons why we have events such as our hackathon, and why we place such a strong owness on innovation at Vendasta.

1. Survival

If SaaS companies want to survive, the time to get innovative is now. It’s do or die.

^So maybe it isn’t quite that serious...

All of those movies that we watched as kids about the "technology of the future” are becoming much closer to a reality with each passing day. As follows, it’s a pretty cool time to be in the tech sector.

But, as cool as it might be, it is also a challenging time to be in tech.

We are in the era of machine learning and artificial intelligence—that is a fact. These technological advancements and others are going to revolutionize the way that we live, and the way that we do business. But, if we aren’t careful, they might also leave us behind (and quite possibly without employment). Catch-up is not a strategy for survival in the SaaS space.

It is vital that we are always aware of our customers and pay close attention to the insights that they provide, but it is critical that we also anticipate and be predictive of where the industry is headed so we can be providing value at every step.

That’s where our hackathon comes in. It is the optimal time for us to pool our intellectual capital and dream about our possibilities.

Unlike a single point solution tech company, our SaaS is broad and multi-faceted across sales & marketing automation, product, and our marketplace. We are so lucky that we get to innovate across so many angles and innovate towards tighter flows and ways to truly delight our stakeholders.  Hackathon is a unique opportunity where we take time out to foster that special innovation from our team of already brilliant individuals.

Ed O'Keefe

EVP/GM Marketplace, Vendasta

💡 Takeaway: Stay on the Leading Edge of Technology

VR and AR are real. Machines can learn. Conversational systems exist. The era of true AI is dawning on us.

When going through an era of such dramatic change, it is important to both see and seize the opportunity that these many enhancements might bring to our businesses.

A strategy might look something like this:

  1. Host hackathons!
  2. Have strategy and ideation meetings.
  3. Use the resources you already have.
    • Always encourage your teams to bring forth innovative ideas and to stay in the loop with the latest tech tricks and trends.

2. Providing the Best Customer Experience Possible

Fact: People have less and less time, so they need more and more from the apps, solutions, and tech that make their lives easier. They just don’t have time to wait 2 hours on a customer support line so that they can figure out how to use a login portal.

When we dream and invision at Vendasta, we also like to dream and envision ways that we can optimize and improve the user experience. We do this because user experience is essentially the golden nugget in terms of increased conversion rates, improved customer retention, as well as customers referrals.

This can go beyond just basic platform functionality too, as we look to create and capture moments of delight inside our products for our users. The better an experience a user has, the more engaged they will be, and the better a relationship we can build with our partners.

Since we operate in the white-label sector at Vendasta, this mandates a superior level of user experience at all times so that our partners can be proud to put their names on our solutions.

In SaaS, there is essentially one reason that customers will leave:

Source: Forester Research

Hackathon is a chance to step outside of the core value mindset. It gives Vendastians the opportunity to run down those side paths we have previously identified. For me this hackathon, that lead me to explore how we can make our software more delightful to use. Things like interesting loading screens, animations, the ability to choose your color theme—these things are not necessary to provide our users with business value but they definitely make using our applications more fun!

John Mason

Software Developer, Vendasta

💡 Takeaway: Stay UX-Focused in Your Business

Customers are the lifeline of any business. In some industries, customer satisfaction is derived from great customer service on the front lines. However, in the realm of digital, customer satisfaction is derived almost entirely from the UX and the UI—because this is where the primary customer interaction takes place.

That is why it is pivotal that all SaaS companies continue to get innovative with their UX, and don’t get entirely caught up in pursuing that “shiny new thing”.

To improve your strategy, consider:

  1. Surveying customers for feedback.
  2. Using heat maps, A/B tests, and clicks to see the words that aren’t being said.
  3. Having more ideation meetings.
    • Identify opportunities for improvement as well as delightion by generating innovative and creative new insights.

3. Just Something about Vendastians

Our mantra is not to become one of the best white label solution providers. No, it is to be the #1 platform for selling digital solutions to local businesses.

This is just a taste. There is something about our building and our people that you don’t see very often. Everyone here is fueled up with drive, motivation, and inspiration—and we all know that we can make a difference every single day.

It starts with our leadership, and it flows through every person in this organization. Our values aren’t just words on the wall, they are characteristics that you can witness every single day, and they are ingrained in all of our actions, thoughts and behaviors.

Drive. Innovation. Respect. Agility. Vendasta.

And on-top of all of that, we’re some pretty damn fun people too. Don’t believe me? I guess you will just have to pop in for a beer and we can hash it out on the Foosball court.

💡 Takeaway: Cultivate a Culture of Innovation

At Vendasta, we take great pride in our guiding principles and our core values. So much so that you can find them on display in most major rooms of our building.

To properly build and cultivate a culture of innovation, you must:

  1. Establish these principles and values.
  2. Reinforce them through discussion, through leadership, and through all happenings within your company.
  3. Hire the right people that share those innate ambitions to do big things.
  4. Take care of these people.

Final Thoughts

Want to learn more about Vendasta and how we continue to keep our sights set on the future? Subscribe to the blog to get weekly insights straight to your inbox, or head to our Instagram page to get more behind-the-scenes looks at all things Vendasta.

About the Author

Brock is a Marketing Analyst at Vendasta with a passion for the more creative things in life. He also answers to Archie - for obvious reasons... And when he's not putting his fingers in paint, or saving Riverdale, he can usually be found asking Google one of the many more embarrassing "how to" questions.

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