227: Local vs the Big Guys, with Brendan King | The New Marketing Stack

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Equip your clients for battle against the Amazons of the world with the new digital marketing stack.

Our very own Brendan King, CEO of Vendasta, is passionate about local businesses and ensuring they have the tools to succeed. In this week’s episode Brendan shares his knowledge on how to equip the local sales teams with the new marketing stack and provides insight on how to compete with the top dogs like Walmart and Starbucks. Brendan explains how local businesses have an advantage by giving a different kind of experience, a personal experience. With a well-rounded digital marketing stack from an agency, it allows local business to do what they do best: focus on their customers and develop relationships.


George: We are going to take a complete look this week at the entire digital marketing stack. Mr. Brendan King, CEO of Vendasta Technologies, joining me on the Conquer Local Podcast. We’re 45 episodes into the Conquer Local Podcast. Recently ranked in the top five business podcasts on iTunes. And we’d like to ask Mr. King about this digital marketing stack. I don’t know if he invented the phrase, but he definitely has made it popular in the last couple of years. And we’re gonna dig into it each and every piece of it, and give you some new ways to articulate the value of the local digital marketing stack. It’s all coming up next, here on the Conquer Local Podcast.

It is the Conquer Local Podcast, and I learned a long time ago that if you’re gonna ask for budget to do something, you damn well better get the person involved in giving you the budget as a part of the project. So, my guest this week, with that in mind is my boss, the CEO of Vendasta Technologies, Mr. Brendan King. Welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast, it only took us a year to get you on.

Brendan: Thanks for having me, George.

George: Seeing that you’ve been paying for it, I thought it’d be a good idea to have you on the podcast. But more importantly, what I wanted to do, Brendan, was talk about the local marketing stack. So we have had a series of guests from Sandy Lohr, to Christian Ward, to Dennis Yu, Will Scott, all talking about the various pieces of the local marketing stack. And I remember the first time that you put on a screen, the graphic around the local marketing stack, it really helped to explain those pieces that a business needs to be involved in. So I’d like you to talk a little bit about what was the culmination of you creating the story around the local marketing stack?

Understanding Your Local Market

Brendan: Local marketing is a hard thing to understand. The changes that have embraced the…that have happened to the industry over the past while, you know, in the short term, were sort of overestimated, but in the long run, they were underestimated actually. People didn’t really realize how dramatic those changes were, you know, Google everywhere, mobile phones, access to information anytime you need it, has really changed the way that consumers shop and buy. We needed to build out some kind of paradigm to explain that to folks. And so in the past, you wanted to buy something and all you could do is phone the company or go visit them, and it just isn’t that way anymore.

So we wanted to redefine that sort of marketing stack that needed to happen. So we talked about, you know, do they know about you advertising? Can they find you, listings and SEO? And after they find you, will they trust you? And that’s, you know, what your website looks like, your reputation, and then can you convert them, whether it’s in-store or whether it’s online? And then lastly, can you keep them, CRM loyalty? And sorry, and then maybe lastly would be the social stack, will they advocate for you and tell others about you? So really, we wanted to redefine it in a really simple way. But there’s 6,000 products out there, and we wanted to have a really simple way to explain what the marketing stack looks like.

And it’s important because small businesses, you know, they need help. Starbucks, for instance, my wife and child though, love Starbucks, so I end up going there once in a while, you know, to get her a steamer. And as I stand in line at Starbucks, we got a lot of millennials that are running by me because they’ve ordered online. You know, Starbucks is able to provide that kind of an experience to their customers. And we need the local businesses to be able to provide the same kind of experience. So we need to provide them with that marketing stack. And we needed a way to explain it, and that’s really how we came up with that sort of simplified stack.

George: So when you talk about…I like the Starbucks example because when I think of Starbucks, it’s a pretty good experience, although, I’m not necessarily that sold on the coffee, but I am sold on the experience. And they also have the…I think what you’re referring to is they have the ability and the wherewithal to have the latest and greatest marketing technology at their avail. So what you’re saying is, you see an opportunity to help everybody that’s competing against these larger organizations that have the access to that technology.

Brendan: Yeah, I don’t want Starbucks to be the only place, you know, that I can get a cup of coffee. I really wanna help local businesses. And it’s not just in a coffee shop, if you look across the spectrum, you’ve got Amazon is replacing a lot of local retailers and, you know, we’re not gonna be able to stop Amazon from selling goods. But what we can do is democratize technology and help those local businesses compete. And I think local businesses have a ton of advantages. You know, they can give a different kind of experience than a Starbucks or any online retailer could ever give, and they can win.

George: So you sound very passionate about helping the local business.

The Importance of Local Business

Brendan: Yeah, I mean, you know, local business is important. There’s a whole set of local businesses that are gonna be around forever. All the service type businesses, you know, they’re gonna be there, and places where you get fresh goods, and things you just have to show up to get. You can see the strain happening across the board to goods and commoditized goods. The big boxes are giving way to the online retailers. There’s a lot of changes happening.

George: There’s 19 different countries where salespeople are subscribed to the podcast, and it’s actually an interesting list when you look at it. In some of those countries, the SME, the small and medium enterprise, is the driving force. And so you know exactly where I’m going with this. You were there in the latter part of last year. Tell us about your experiences in Southeast Asia, and what you saw those business people struggling with, and the challenges they have.

Brendan: The challenges are really all the same as they’re running into this technology. It’s interesting. In the rest of the world, small business is a bigger deal than it is in North America. There, people hang in their shingle everywhere. And there’s a lot…you know, it’s just such a chaotic environment everywhere in the rest of the world. The addresses aren’t the same, it’s hard to find things, but they need the same types of technology. I mean, they need websites; they need to be able to advertise; they need to be able to attract customers; they need to be able to keep customers; they need salespeople too. And I always like to go back for salespeople, they’re always going to be needed because small businesses are…it’s really overwhelming when you look at that spectrum out there of what it is they need.

When you’re a small business, if you need help with legal, you turn to a lawyer. If you want accounting software, you’ll likely turn to an accountant. But if you need help in advertising and marketing, you turn to a media company or an agency that’s done that in the past. And so, the salespeople at these companies, they’re under pressure too because they used to have a smaller set of products to sell, and it’s just ballooned. So, salespeople, they’re the hope for these local businesses to survive. So we need salespeople to go in as real experts with solutions and look at the environment and understand it. In Southeast Asia, it’s way different than it is in, you know, New York, and it’s way different than it is in, you know, Fairfield, Iowa or, you know, wherever it is you wanna go. So there are many, many differences and the salespeople have to be able to be that point of contact.

Looking Back

George: Let’s talk about your past and what brought you to be the CEO and found Vendasta Technologies 10 years ago. I think it’s really interesting for you to talk a little bit about your retail experience because I think that really crafted problems you’re trying to solve today.

Brendan: It’s funny, I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. Well, you know, even when I was in university, I was selling these long sort of board shorts to all Student Associations, and I had a pretty good second-year university, made quite a lot of money. When I graduated, and my degree is in physics, so it’s really got nothing to do with commerce or retail. But when I graduated, I opened a clothing store and promptly lost all the money I made in university there, learned a lot of lessons about retail. I did work for a while in the geophysical side of the business in a Uranium Company, in Northern Saskatchewan. The call of entrepreneurship came to me and I opened a business called Dell Ron, which was a computer retailer.

So from 1989 to 1999, I had a store, we had two stores, so I could call it a chain of computer stores. And in that time frame, you know, the internet was just starting to change the behavior of how things happen. So, we still had yellow pages in the newspaper, and the bus boards, and the radio, and the TV were the main ways that we drove customers into our stores, and sold computers, personally, face-to-face.

By 1999, I could see the change coming in and I wanted to get out of retail because retail’s really hard. And I went into software and was at a company called Point 2. And we made a platform, before Software as a Service really was a platform, to provide websites for real estate agents, and allow them to send their listings to the MLS’s, and the Trulia, and Zillow. And from 1999 until 2007, you know, we had about 150,000 realtors on that platform, you know, it really wasn’t much different. You know, we were servicing…it was a particular vertical, real estate agents, to help them market online. And so that saw the changes, that’s when we went and built out those foundational products and started Vendasta.

George: So 10 years is a long time, especially, in Software as a Service. Where do you see this local marketing stack going in the coming years because, you know, we sit here today, we’ve got awareness, we’ve got, can I find you? Can I trust you? Do I like you? The conversion point, and when we look at that customer journey, we’ve got, can I turn you into an advocate? Meaning, can I get you as a fan that will talk about my brand? Where do you see this going as we move forward in the coming years? Because the rate of change and the rate of innovation are, you know, 10-fold to 100-fold year over year.

Brendan: Yeah. So, we like to think that…you know, when we think of other small business, we look across everything they need. Marketing and advertising, call it the martech stack, is one small part of what they need. Of course, they need that, but they also as a business, they need, you know, productivity. You know, they need to have email; they need to have an HR system; they need to have things to make their people more productive. They also need an operation stack, you know, they need accounting software; they need legal, so they need protection stacks; they need connectivity.

There’s a whole bunch of different stacks they need. We kind of wrap it up into, you know, sort of five stacks, so we say the martech stack, the productivity stack, the are-you-productive/operation stack. Can you operate connectivity stack? You have telephone, and internet, and protection stacks, you know, legal security alarms. As we see small businesses looking for help in those areas, we’re looking to bring that into our platform, and we’re looking to build the trust for whoever our reseller is across all of those stacks. So today, if you’re a media company or a web company and you sell someone a website, they’re gonna say, “Geez, you know, I’d really like a branded domain.”

And so, you know, now we have G Suite so they can move into the productivity stack. We’ve just added, you know, GoDaddy so they can buy a domain, Constant Contact so they can, you know, give them an email marketing system. And then, you know, the next thing might be an accounting package, or maybe HR, or will they be able to sell internet connectivity, you know, business telephone service through things like Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer. So we’re looking to allow our partners to really service the small business from one place, with one login, one UX UI, and one way to scale or trust.

What’s Next?

George: So as the CEO of Vendasta Technologies, you made some big bets over the last 10 years, what’s your next big bet? Can you let it out of the bag or do you wanna keep it under wraps? Or what’s the next big bet for Vendasta as we look forward?

Brendan: You know, we keep changing the landscape. So in 2011 to 2013, we provided point solutions, reputation, listings, and social. In ’14 and ’15, we realized that marketing and sales automation was really the biggest problems that our partners had, so we built out our marketing and sales automation. As we did that, in 2016, ’17, ’18, we realized, “Wait a second, this sales and marketing automation could sell any products.” So we started to build out our marketplace and we did it in the martech stack first. And now in 2019 to ’21, we realize we have to be a complete digital business automation platform for our partners. So they need to be able to market, sell, fulfill, bill, and deliver proof performance to every product to their local business. And we’re allowing them to be a recurring revenue machine. So we like to call it a recurring revenue engine. And so that, for us, is really this whole idea of a digital business automation platform is our next step.

George: Well, we really appreciate you joining us to kinda put the wraps on our digital marketing stack series. We’ve had a number of great guests talking about specific areas and nobody puts it all together in a complete package like you, Mr. King. So we appreciate your time today and joining us here on the Conquer Local Podcast.

Brendan: Thank you, Mr. Leith.


George: There are very few phrases that I’ve heard in the last seven years that resonate with a potential customer as well as the Local Digital Marketing Stack. It is a great way to tell your client about the things that they need to be considering that maps directly to their customer journey. And that’s probably why it’s so powerful. There is a customer journey that consumers are going through, that has been adapted by our availability to have technology at our fingertips. And that’s really what’s changed for those local businesses is marketing is super hard. And the local marketing stack explains the various tactics that help solve the problems and reduce the friction inside the consumer journey. I don’t want that to get lost as we talk about listings, and reputation, and various tools, and the 7,000 pieces of bloody technology you could use to work around the local marketing stack. We have to put it into buckets that very clearly articulate to the client the value and how that maps to their customer journey.

Really important pieces and thanks to Mr. Brendan King for helping to explain it today. Conquer Local 2019 is coming soon. It’s just around the corner actually, June 10 through 13th. I know we’re in the middle of winter right now, but I’m thinking about the beach. And I love San Diego, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world, and I can’t believe that we’re actually going there. So Conquer Local will be on the beaches of San Diego, California, June 10th through 13th, and you can get your tickets today at conquerlocal.com. My name is George Leith, I’ll see you when I see you.

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