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Smart automation now trumps the traditional sales model

5 questions with Vendastas Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Tomlin

Q. What does Vendasta do?

Vendasta does many things, but our core focus is on making enterprise-grade software accessible and affordable for small businesses. We offer a white-label platform for marketing automation, sales pipeline management and lead generation for agency partners, helping them to generate regular recurring revenue.

We also provide an exciting product and service marketplace, allowing companies who sell to local businesses to profitably market, sell and fulfil digital and traditional solutions at scale.

Through the Vendasta platform or their own, agency partners can access everything they need—an app store of best-in-class white-label digital solutions.

Jeff-Tomlin-web Q. Vendasta was named one of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 and Fast 500 companies. That’s quite an accomplishment. What led to this?

As a company, we’ve been very focused on areas where we can add value. High growth is difficult to achieve and maintain, so you have to have everyone pulling in the same direction. That direction has been toward several focused areas where we can help our channel partners grow their business. A critical component to our success has been listening to our partners and learning from them. By doing so, we’ve been able to identify clear areas where we can add real value, and that’s where we focus our resources.

Q. Can you talk about the role of marketing automation solutions for agencies and others serving SMBs?

Automation has become mission critical for marketing organizations in order to deliver personalized, relevant and timely communications to their audiences. Marketing automation allows personalization that drives engagement, and, most importantly, smart automation programs do that at scale. In order for agencies to capture market share, it’s critical to find those people that are ready to engage. By delivering smart, personalized content, agencies can identify which prospects are ready to consider the digital solutions they offer. When we provide personalization at scale, we drive efficiencies in our sales organizations, driving down customer acquisition costs. In contrast to a traditional sales model where salespeople go door-to-door or phone-to-phone, smart automation programs create a point of contact for many prospects simultaneously, while providing valuable content to SMBs. Cost of acquisition is significantly higher in the traditional sales model, as the salesperson does not have specific insights about the SMB prospects, and therefore does not know how to best allocate their time. Automation quickly surfaces the opportunities that are most ready to have a dialogue about the relevant solutions offered by the agency, so the salesperson can focus on those who have shown interest recently. Personalized and smart marketing automation is the only way to scale the sales process and make the funnel more efficient.

Q. What do you think is the #1 thing missing from email marketing?

There are two essential things missing from email marketing, and they go hand in hand: helpful content and personalization.

Something many marketers have forgotten is the very basic intent to be helpful.  Most email marketing messages are self-serving and do not provide any value to the recipient. If you sit back and consider how you can first be helpful, you will arrive at a very different set of content than if you keep thinking about how to get your message across or generate a conversion. People don’t want to be sold to, they want to be helped.

The second biggest thing missing from email marketing is real personalization, and I’m not talking about simply using the prospect’s %%First_Name%%. If you want to drive a response to email marketing, especially in local, you need to go beyond just inserting their name into the salutation. Big data can now provide us the ability to send personal insights into a business’s marketing practices, show them what’s working and what’s not, how they compare to their competitors and how they stack up against industry averages. When someone reads insights into their own business practices and sees helpful insights and analysis, they become engaged, and engagement creates response and conversion.

Q. What data points are local businesses looking for through email marketing?

SMBs are thorough guardians of everything related to their business—it is crucial to provide them with insightful data that is specific to them and their business. The four foundations of their online presence—website, social media, reputation and listings—affect the way consumers see them online. These are aspects of their online presence that they have some control over, but may not yet have a lot of insight into it. Of course, these numbers by themselves are irrelevant. Telling a business how many online listings they have is great, but if you provide context, they’ll have a better understanding of what the number truly means. For example, being listed on seven sites may sound good, but if the industry average is 27, the business has a lot of work to do. Providing this kind of data also follows the guidelines of being helpful, which is another reason relevant data is so important.

Q. Who is Vendasta for?

Vendasta is the #1 platform for agencies and media companies to sell digital marketing and advertising solutions to local businesses. The company conducts 90% of its business in the U.S., catering to partners that include radio and TV stations and newspapers. In fact, Vendasta has worked with seven out of the top 10 newspapers in the U.S., such as the Miami Herald and the Seattle Times. Other notable partnerships include Hearst, the McClatchy Company and Gannett. Their niche platform works for one-person digital agencies through to robust media giants, and that’s reflected in their partnerships.

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