228: Conquering Tomorrow, with Brendan King

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Winter is coming to the marketing landscape, and change is inevitable. So, what will tomorrow hold?

This episode is a special one as we reflect on the first full year of the Conquer Local podcast. We bring back the big guy, CEO of Vendasta, Brendan King. We address everything from why we branded the show “Conquer Local,” to our formula for giving agencies and enterprises the tools they need to turn themselves into recurring revenue machines. We also discuss the DIY and DIWM models and why it’s beneficial to get your clients engaged in the process of digital marketing. And lastly, we explain why SMBs demand more performance from digital marketing compared to more traditional ways of marketing channels.



George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local podcast starring our CEO Brendan King. We’re gonna get Mr. King in here to talk about the year in review. 2018 is in our rearview mirror. 2019, 2020 right around the corner and Brendan always seems to be thinking a couple of years down the road so we’re gonna dig in to that head of his and see what he sees coming down the road and some of the things that worked and some of the things that didn’t work in 2018. We’re trying to think of what guest could we get to do a wrap up of the year of conquering. No better person than the guy who’s paying the bill for this and that’s CEO of Vendasta Technologies, Brendan King, joining me on the line.

Mr. King, let’s dig into the year in review. It’s been a little over a year since the brand Conquer Local was created. You know we’ve 45 episodes of the Concord Local podcasts. We’ve had guests from all over the world. We now have listeners from 19 different countries. We are in the top-five ranked business podcasts on iTunes. We really appreciate all the feedback. We’re getting tons of comments. I just got one today, this morning on LinkedIn about an idea for a future episode and I wanted to look back and I wanted to…when we had the vision of coming up with Conquer Local little over a year ago, did this thing reach where you thought it could go in the first year?

Brendan: You know what, I think it’s exceeded expectations and I’m really excited about the Conquer Local brand and I think our partners are excited about the Conquer Local brand also.


Conquer Local: Bringing us all Together

George: Why another brand? I think we should get that out there so people can… Like why do we have to create another brand? We already have a brand called Vendasta Technologies, but this has all been done out of the Conquer Local brand.

Brendan: Well, you know, Vendasta is the brand behind the brand. We’re a white label company. You know, that’s one of our key differentiators. We don’t promote our own brand. We promote our customer’s brand. That’s why around Vendasta you often hear the phrase, we don’t succeed unless our partners succeed. And that’s why we don’t call them customers. We call them partners because truly unless our partners are building their brand and selling products, you know, we’re not going to succeed. So we didn’t wanna promote the Vendasta brand directly. And I’ll give you a good example of how this manifested itself. At the last VendastaCon, which is now gonna be Conquer Local… But at the last VendastaCon, you know, we have a lot of our vendors there and our partners love our vendors’ products. You know, their best of breed products. But our partners wanna promote their own brand. They’re used to dealing with Vendasta products and they want to white label, you know, all the other products, whether it’s a website or SEO or whatever other products that we have.

But our vendors, they were partaking in the VendastaCon conference. We had it in Banff, as you recall, it was a fantastic conference. I was climbing the mountain with a group of vendors. We’re looking at the streams that had turned to ice and they were saying, ”You know, this is a fantastic conference.” They said, ”We’ve always have wanted to have our own conference, but, you know, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of effort and we feel like as a vendor of yours that this is our conference too.” And it really took that to heart and said, you know, why don’t we create a brand that we can share, you know, with our partners and with our vendors that we can use together? And Conquer Local came to be. And so now, you know, when our vendors come, they can be part of the Conquer Local and it can be their conference too and the same with our partners. And I think, you know, that’s really what you’ve done here, George, with the Conquer Local brand, is you’ve taken it to the sales world and provided them with a forum and an area where they can really learn and discuss sales.

George: Well, one of the things that we ran across when we were doing webinars in the early days was I would always get a request, “Hey, can you put my branding and my logo on that webinar?” So then we’d have to record a new webinar. And what we’ve tried to do with Conquer Local is to give a piece of content that doesn’t give away the brand. So it protects the white label that could be used from start to finish in a sales meeting for a salesperson. That’s also one of the reasons why I’ve tried to keep them around 15, 20 minutes because that’s about as long as the sales person’s attention span is, is about 15 to 20 minutes. Those of you who know salespeople, or might be involved with salespeople, would know that we just don’t have that long of an attention span.

Brendan: Well, I mean, I think as soon as a salesperson hears a good idea…and if it really resonates with them, they’re pretty much done. They wanna go give it a shot.

George: No person easier to sell than a salesperson. What are some things this year that you don’t quite think that you got to that are important? Like, you know, we always talk about we’re winning here and we’re winning there. What are some things that turned out to be a challenge of getting across the line that you wanted to accomplish when it comes to the Conquer Local branding and helping people conquer local?

Brendan: I think we need to get more prescriptive on how we can help our partners’ salespeople succeed. So, you know, we’re working very hard with the vendors and with our own products to be able to package them together and give a really proper go to the market. And I think everyone, wherever there’s a change of behavior, it’s tough. So we go out to sales forces and we sign up new partners, and they have the best intentions to change their behavior and do different things. But whenever you try to do that, it’s super hard. So I think we really need to get better at helping our partners understand what their salespeople are selling, how they’re selling it, you know, what metrics are around it, including, you know, lifetime value and churn and really turning them into recurring revenue machines. We didn’t quite get there. And in 2019 I’m confident that we’re really gonna put together a sales machine platform, where we’ll be more prescriptive to help salespeople really pull their company and change the revenue trajectory.


The Shifting World of Agencies

George: Two customers that I want to talk about, and let’s start with what we call at Vendasta an agency. We’ll get to the enterprise organizations in a moment or two, but you have this agency, customer and partner I guess is the term that we’re going to use. They have a different set of challenges than maybe those large enterprises. Can we talk specifically about the agency? And I’m sure you’ve got a couple of stories about really successful agencies that you’ve heard about in the last year.

Brendan: Yeah, sure. So mostly when agencies come to us, you know, they’re smart people, they’re trying to help local businesses succeed. And the way that they’re doing that is they’re looking at all the problems the local business has and they’re trying to turn them into “A” players across all aspects of that digital area. So whether it is their website or you know, their online presence or whether it’s their reputation or whether it’s their advertising or their, you know, their loyalty programs, these agencies are trying to do that. And how they do it is they try to find the best products they can, and they sell those products to the local business. There’s a challenge there. And the local business has three or four different products. They don’t tie together very well, and the agency then ultimately runs into a scale problem. So they also, you know, they try to prove performance. So they’re knitting together all these different reports, and they’re spending a lot of time with those customers reporting on what they’re doing and trying to prove performance. And so they always hit a scale wall.

You know, that is really the problem that we’re solving. And I’ve had, you know, I do have a couple of guys. I’m gonna call out Joe. I was going down to meet a vendor, which is Zenreach. And I thought I was just meeting the vendor for dinner, but as I walked up, I saw that Joe was there and I’ve never met Joe. And Joe’s going, ”Is this Vendasta, is this Vendasta?” And, he’s saying, ”You know, my girlfriend won’t even let me say the words Vendasta anymore because you know, she wants me to stop talking about you guys.” The point was, is he actually said to me, he goes, “You guys saved my life.” He said, ”I had an agency, and I had 12 or 13 people working for me. I couldn’t scale it and eventually, I almost lost the business. And I was gonna quit and walk away.” And then he goes, ”But then I found you guys.” And I’ll tell you the feeling you get when you realize you’ve actually really helped somebody, nothing can be better than that. Nothing. And you know, he was truly grateful that he had a way that he can actually run his business. He knew the names of four or five people at Vendasta on a personal basis that basically, you know, when he sells a customer, you know, we’re doing, we’re building the website, we’re doing the blog posting. We’re responding to reviews, we’re doing the social posts and Joe’s using our agency to do that and he’s scaling and he’s able to stay in business and make money, and he’s happy as ever because he’s running around the country just selling. It was an amazing story. I was humbled.

George: You know, when you talk about agencies, sometimes old school media people are thinking ad agencies where you know, they make 15% on every ad that they place and they come up with some sort of strategy. But this whole idea of being a digital marketing agency, this is an exploding industry around the world

Brendan: And there’s so many different kinds. You know, we have all our personas here, like you know, website Wanda and you know, Shelly’s Social and you name the different sort of personas that we have. But there are many kinds, like Joe, his work starts as an Instagram influencer. So he goes to his small business customers and says, ”You know, hey, you’re selling hiking and mountain gear.” And then he says, ”When we place an ad, we’re gonna amplify it by having people who are experts. So he’ll go find Instagram people who have a following for outdoors posting about outdoors and equipment and stuff. And he has them sort of endorse the ads that he runs for those customers, and he amplifies them. And so there’s that. There’s a new type of agency springing up all the time that, you know, website is still growing and growing. You’ve got social, you’ve got, you know, some that are doing just reputation, others that are doing, you know, Facebook and Google ads. There’s so many kinds. When I think about agency, I don’t even think about the traditional agency really all that much anymore.


All Systems Go for Enterprise Partners

George: Let’s move to the enterprise type of partner because we do have a lot of listeners that work for enterprise organizations that are making this switch from selling the newspaper ad or the online banner or the radio ad or the television ad into selling the full stack. We’ve seen a lot of challenges in that space over the last seven years. What do you think is… are they winning? Are they starting to get this thing moving in the right direction?

Brendan: I think they are. I think it’s a tough job. I mean to switch your product mix from a few products to thousands of products, get them right and then be able to have the knowledge that the salespeople need to be able to deliver those, whole different problems. So when you have a large salesforce, they used to all be on-premise mostly, and you know, the ticket sizes of a yellow page ad, newspaper ad, radio or TV spot is large enough to support that, probably still is for some of those larger advertisers. But as you move into the smaller companies, you really need to change to what I like to call SaaS whenever Software as a Service. But it’s a recurring revenue thing. It’s like what insurance agents sell when they sell insurance, they don’t make any money the first year until they built up a base where they get those renewals.

And that’s much the same in today’s world of digital solutions. Even if they’re low ticket, they build up over time and provide a lot of opportunity. In order to be able to sell that, and win and be cost effective and efficient and make money, you need to have a system in place. That’s what Vendasta does. We use data about the local business in that snapshot report to actually mine the entire customer base and look for opportunity. When a small business is interested in something, then you’re able to contact them at that time, in that moment. And that is when you can, you know, solve a big problem for them, write a solution, which in turn will lead to more opportunity down the road and will, in turn, turn those little companies into the advertisers that do spend big bucks on even traditional advertising. So in order to do that, you need a really integrated, scalable platform that a sales manager can see the pipelines and understand where the dollars are and understand where the opportunities are and be able to help their sales teams find that and deliver over it.


Local Businesses and Their Digital Expectations

George: I wanna ask you a question that I’ve never asked, but I’m interested to get your take on this. Why do local businesses grade digital so harshly? Meaning you give them the report and you show them that there’s been some value there and, unless it’s 100% done, it seems that they have a problem with it. I’m wondering if you have a take on why this has happened.

Brendan: You’ve never asked me this. So this is interesting because look, let’s face it, I was an advertiser in the old days back in my previous life; I had a retail computer store. And I spent a lot of money, you know, newspaper and radio and TV and bus boards and I never knew which of that advertising worked. You know, I knew 50% of it worked, I just didn’t know which 50%. With digital, you can actually see the results, but people then demand even more performance from that. It’s a really weird…. it’s really ironic actually. Look, when you can measure something, you’re gonna wanna expect the results from it. Whereas if you’re used to spending money and you know it, some of it works you just don’t know which, but you have to spend that money anyway. So the truth of the matter is that, you know, I don’t really have an answer for you, but I think it’s because you can measure it. That’s why they expect that measurement and that’s what they need.

George: Do you think that salespeople are leaning on the fact that you can get that measurement to help close the deal and to really deal with the elephant in the room with the prospect because they’ve been buying this stuff as you mentioned, and I’ve sold a lot of it? T bone has produced a lot of it where we’re like, I don’t know if that ad’s really gonna work for the customer, but that’s what they want. So we’ll run it and we’ll take their thousands of dollars and then we’ll deal with it after the fact. And now the fact that I can measure it to kind of lean on it during the sale, so now it’s really important at the end of the month. Could that be it?

Brendan: Well, no, I think some of it’s it, but I think I want to make a really big distinction. What’s happened is that people have in the past used to spend on advertising because that’s what there was to drive people into their store. But as this sort of access to information has changed things, you’ve gotta worry about a reputation that can spread super fast. You have to worry about all these other platforms. What’s happened is that the money that goes into pure advertising is, you know, it’s still growing but at a really reduced rate. The money that people spend on marketing solutions like on a website, on a Facebook page, you know, on in-store Wi-Fi or any of those SEO, those things have grown dramatically. As a salesperson selling advertising, you’ve got two problems. One, you know, you’re selling things you’re not used to selling. They’re a lower price point. They’re recurring, so they do build over time, and you have to come to grips with that and understand how to do that and how to compensate on it as a company. And that’s what these big enterprise companies are struggling with, right, switching to this, to these other products. But you also have this transition to this digital medium, which is whether it’s AdWords or Facebook. In the past you, when you couldn’t measure it, you didn’t know. And now the creative is really important. It’s really important that it actually works because it can be measured. So it’s not an easy game.


Online to Offline – The Holy Grail

George: How important is offline attribution going to be? You and I have run into people over the last seven years that, we’ve figured out offline attribution and we kind of look at it and go, okay, have you really, because we’ve heard it so many times. Do you think we’re gonna get there anytime soon?

Brendan: Look, you know Google’s doing it right now, but only at huge scale. Look, O2O, online to offline attribution is the Holy Grail. I mean if I could spend a dollar and I knew I was getting back four dollars that’s my perpetual money machine I spend… you know I like I say to our marketing department if you can prove that ROI, you have an unlimited budget. You know the same thing is with local businesses. If you could actually prove it and prove that attribution, you know, of course, you just spend more. The problem there is if everybody can do it, the effectiveness goes away because everybody will do it, right? It still comes down to the offer. It still comes down to what is it you’re offering and what value you’re providing your customer not just…not straight advertising. I mean if you advertise a crappy business and people know it’s crappy and it’s not worth anything, I don’t care how much you spend on advertising, it’s not gonna help you out.

If we step back rate to ONO there are technologies moving forward, but you know, so are privacy laws. So it’s always gonna be, you know, if I can connect you to a credit card transaction, I can get that sort of online to offline attribution. I can see you saw the ad; I can use your phone to track you into the store, so I know you went there. And then I can use your credit card or your phone to track the purchase. You know, I don’t know where we’re going necessarily with that. I think there’s privacy concerns, but boy, it certainly is the Holy Grail. You know, we’re working to be able to help our partners help their businesses track that as best they can. If you’re putting money into advertising, you really wanna make sure you’re getting the return and you know, like you said, George, we’ve got people coming in every day telling us they can do it. I’ve yet to, you know, to see it to be 100% accurate, but it’s getting better.


From DIY to “DIWM”

George: You have a famous statement that every piece of software that touches a small business’ hands, we build in a DIY format and then put a do it with me layer over top of it. Why have you been so adamant that the company from its inception builds DIY first?

Brendan: People don’t give small businesses credit. They say, oh, they’ll never do this. They won’t do that. They don’t know what they’re doing. They need our help. Well, it’s true they need your help, but small businesses are a lot smarter than people think. I think today, oftentimes a salesperson walking into the business is walking into a trap because you never… you know, he’s walking into a guy who’s spending his cold hard money on, you know, whatever it is Instagram ad say, he’s gonna know quite a lot about that. And why it’s important to me is that businesses invest their time where they get a return. Now, if there are things that they can say, I can offload that and have somebody else do, they will. No business wants to sit there and fix all their listings online. They’re gonna hire somebody to do that. Whether it’s automated through a product like Yext or you know, Uberall, or whether you actually wanna go above and beyond to do some actual claiming. They’re gonna find that out because they can because it makes sense.

So, and I’ll give you a perfect example. I book all my flights. You know, I am old enough to remember a time when the only way you could get a flight was to call a travel agent. There was no online, it was super hard and they took a very long time. Well no business person in their right mind would do that themselves; it just didn’t make sense. So you outsourced it and you went to a travel agent through your secretary. The next sort of step was as soon as it became easier for me to do it online myself than to explain to somebody else to do, it was the day that I was gonna do it. And I have to this day. And I believe that that’s the same with all of the tools directionally we’re providing these local businesses. They’re gonna look at it and they’re going to say, ”Oh, the guy’s asking if I have, you know, a pet-friendly environment,” whatever it might be. For me to then explain to my marketing agency how to respond to those things doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I want that connection with the consumer.

So there has to be that do-it-yourself connection built into the product and then the small business is gonna say, ”You know what, you guys figured me out. You’re running these ads. I’m not gonna build these ads and run these ads. I want you to do it.” So there always has to be that different component too. So that’s why we coined and trademark the term, do it with me. We believe that there’s this do-it-yourself aspect and you have to have it. There is permission to play. Small businesses want to log in, go see, check and see what their…. you know, what their agency is doing and that’s great. And they should be able to do that. And then there’s the do it for me aspect where they’re saying, “Hey, you’re the expert. I want you to do these things for me. Go ahead and do them.” And then there’s the things in the middle where it says, you know, I’ll write the review but I need you to approve it. I need you to make sure it’s right. And so that’s the do it with me. And so we have all three of those aspects covered.

George: The thing I really like about DIY, do-it-yourself as a, as a sales tactic. Here’s what I find. You sell to a customer; you’ve got them running; you’re six to eight months into the contract. Things are going well; they have zero clue what you’re doing. You just bring them a report at the end of the month and do your song and dance as to why it’s working, and here’s the metrics that we’re measuring. If that customer starts to log in and do some of the things and take some of the ownership, they’re way more engaged.

Brendan: You got it, you got it. And they’re going to see the value. A lot of our partners in the early days were saying, ”Geez, we don’t even want the small business to do it.” They were scared they were gonna lose their value. No. Exposing them to what you actually do just increases your value.

George: Well, it’s been a heck of a year in conquering local in 2018. Is there anything that you want to touch on that you see happening in the future? I always like to ask this question of our guests. What if we were to put you in front of a crystal ball, where do you think we’re gonna be in 24 months?

Brendan: We’re a white label platform and our goal is to turn our partners into recurring revenue machines, turn them into a sales growth engine. I think that as we bring products in, we’re going to allow our partners to provide an end-to-end solution at scale and the ability to make money as they do it. It doesn’t sound like a big change, but it’s a fantastic thing that we’re gonna do in the new year.



George: Really appreciate you joining us on this year in review edition of the Conquer Local podcasts. We’ve been speaking to CEO and founder of Vendasta Technologies, Mr. Brendan King.

Brendan: Thanks George.

George: The Conquer Local conference coming your way, June 10th through 13th and Mr. Brendan King will be there as always kicking off our conference and wrapping it up, and he usually likes to look in the future and that’s what we tried to do here in this episode. It’s interesting, the DIY thing, he loves to use that analogy and just think about this for a moment. We did use to go to a travel agent to book all of our travel. The moment that it became easier to go online and book your travel, we stopped going to travel agents. So I think that’s gonna happen to marketing. I think it’s going to happen to online marketing at least pieces of it, and we can start to see that today where we have a group of millennials that are starting to take over their parents’ businesses and they’re looking at… they don’t look at social media like, “Oh my God, social media. I don’t know.” They look at it like, “I understand this thing inside and out and I wanna participate.”

So we need to continue to learn as salespeople and we need to continue to meet the needs of our customers. And what I’ve been finding in the last few months when I’m out on four-legged calls with reps, I always try to get them to log into something while I’m on the call. And I always show them the value proposition of digital marketing on my phone. I very rarely bring the laptop out. Now sometimes I will bring the laptop out, but I always start the conversation on the phone because the minute that we can get our clients to start consuming this information on the phone, we’ve got them hooked. We know that they’re going to start to rely on that information on a day-to-day basis. So I thought it was really interesting to get Brendan in here talking about it because he’s been talking about it for a couple of years now and to actually see it start coming true is really, really valuable. Conquer Local, the conference is coming your way on June 10th through 13th where we’ll talk more about these tactics of how to present digital marketing solutions in front of your customers. You can get details at conquerlocal2019.com. Buy your tickets today. It’s right around the corner. I can’t wait to see you on the sunny beaches of San Diego, California for the 2019 edition of the Conquer Local conference. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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