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Unprepared Ep 16 - Real-Life Effects of the Pandemics to Ecommerce Agencies with Jordan Brannon

Timestamps:

  • [00:00] - Intro
  • [00:33] - What is Coalition?
  • [01:39] - Impact of the pandemic in Coalition
  • [03:08] - How businesses had to adjust with the change
  • [05:20] - Negative impacts of the pandemic and opportunities
  • [07:29] - Looking on what you can improve today

Resources:

  • Jordan Brannon's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanbrannon
  • Website: https://coalitiontechnologies.com

Key Points:

  • Coalition Technologies is a full-service digital agency that helps Ecommerce SMBs grow through DTC or B2B website sales. They offer help with web design, SEO, SEM and paid social marketing.
  • Coalition Technologies felt the pullback due to COVID-19 but had less concerns since they are privately owned, instead of publicly funded. They had full-control of what happens to their business.
  • First, Jordan and his co-founder Joel took voluntary pay cuts to keep the business running. But then the rest of the team also volunteered to have pay cuts in order to still operate and help their clients.
  • Coalition Technologies is still fortunately fully-staffed.
  • The pandemic mostly affected their clients more instead of Coalition Technologies’ operations since they have been working remotely for 10 years.
  • Most of Coalition Technologies’ DTC clients were affected. They had warehouses with full inventory, but they had no opportunity to sell their products.
  • Because of Coalition Technologies’ performance marketing model for most of their clients and because some of their clients were severely handicapped in sales due to quarantine, some clients chose to pause their service.
  • Some of their clients recently shifted their perspective when their clients received state and federal funding to support their businesses.
  • Coalition Technologies helped their clients pivot their focus and help their clients to effectively sell their products, move inventory, or find alternative channels to generate revenue.
  • Coalition Technologies have about 160 active clients at a given time with varying needs such as maintenance, upkeep, shopping fee activities, bug testing, etc.
  • A couple of weeks ago, things started to get better for the clients. Coalition Technologies helped them find opportunities to re-engage with existing customers, invest in new marketing activities and increase revenue through better sales or alternative revenue generation models.
  • Ecommerce is heading into a busy season especially with DTC brands. Now is the time to invest in SEO and other tools and processes to make customer experience better.
  • This difficult time is going to pass soon and we should be preparing our stores and be ready for a very busy.

Transcript: 

Chase Clymer  

All right, welcome back to another episode of Unprepared. Today we are welcoming Jordan Brannon from Coalition Technologies. I had to remember that, I just noticed it a second ago. How are you doing today, Jordan?

Jordan Brannon  

Doing really well. How are you, Chase?

Chase Clymer  

I'm doing fantastic. This is probably the third one of these I recorded in one day. So here's a word to the wise, if you are doing content marketing like this for anyone else listening, set your links up to only have one a day because then you get nothing else done. So Jordan, you want to give a little background about the company and how you help people?

Jordan Brannon  

Yeah, absolutely. So Coalition is an Ecommerce-focus to full-service digital agency. We were founded about 10 years ago, and we have about 200 people today.

And our focus is really on helping small to mid-sized Ecommerce businesses grow through direct to consumer or B2B website sales. So we're less focused on marketplaces. Really our focus on your own brand.com. And so our primary services are web design and development, SEO, SEM, and paid social.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And then obviously, about six weeks ago, the world kinda turned upside down. So I guess, I have two questions. Two specific questions for you. So, what happened with your company? Then and then now. 

Obviously, there's a big difference in these in these last couple of weeks. And then the second question is what happened with your clients' companies? Especially with my audience, it's definitely more direct consumer brands. That's very on the nose for them.

Jordan Brannon  

Yeah, yeah. And so I think for us, we were well-positioned. We're privately-owned. So we've never had sort of external stakeholders who have a say in what happens with us and so we saw some of the economic pullback and some of the things that were happening. 

We were in a position where we got to make the decisions which were really helpful. We also have been very careful about taking on external debt. So we're in a really good spot again to dictate sort of our own outcomes. 

And we've got a really fantastic team of people around us who is clearly really focused on what they can do to help our clients. And so when we saw sort of the wind-up and then the pitch, we were able to respond pretty quickly. 

My co-founder and I were able to take pay cuts ourselves to help create some immediate margin where we could keep our team members on. And then we had a really surprising response from our team and then a lot of them also volunteered for additional pay cuts just in sort of the immediate outcome of the bigger pandemic and lockdowns and things like that.

So, all in, we're still fully staffed. We haven't had people we've had to let go and really well-positioned for the foreseeable future and sort of being able to weather whatever is coming with future quarantines and infection rates and all that sort of thing. So that's been really encouraging to see. 

Our impact really did come from the impact towards our clients. So we've been remote work for most of the last 10 years. And so there wasn't a lot of change directly to us. Most of the change really happened for our clients. 

So we have a lot of clients in California, in New York, in the Northeast. And so as we saw these lockdowns declared, as we saw people have to stay at home, especially for nonessential businesses. Most of our D2C brands found themselves with warehouses full of inventory and showrooms full of inventory and just weren't in a position where they could even go into sell it. 

And so since we're doing performance marketing for a lot of them, or we're working on Ecommerce, websites and website experiences that no longer could sell something, a lot of them were in an immediate cash flow crunch where they had to pause services with us. That's where we saw the consequences of things. 

In the last week or two, we've really seen perspectives shift for our clients. Some have been able to receive federal funding and state funding to help support them. And then we've been able to help a lot of them pivot their business so that they're able to effectively sell their product, move inventory, or find alternative channels to do to generate revenue. 

And so those have sort of been kind of the key things that we've been doing in the last couple of weeks to really help kind of change the outcomes for our clients and for ourselves.

Chase Clymer  

That's amazing that you could keep your entire staff on during this and I applaud that. That's very, that's amazing. I love that.

Additionally with your clients, so with the staff that large, how many active clients, did you have, in maybe as far as percentages go that, you know, as a result of this, they had to kind of scale things back or put things on hiatus? 

And then with my follow up question to that is, how many of them now are seeing positive returns with the efforts again? I guess the direct point of that question is to essentially layout that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

The grass is definitely back. It's like working again, I don't know what that grass statement was, but it's working for a lot of our clients. And I'm sure you see it on your end as well.

Jordan Brannon  

Sure, yeah. So we have about 160 active clients at a given time, and that's across all services. So some of them are maintenance, where we're sort of doing site upkeep and health checks and just kind of resolving any sort of bugs. 

Others are sort of, you know, shopping feed type support activities or app support type activities. And then some of them are full service, you know, web design development projects, plus SEO and SEM and paid social and email. 

Others are more narrowly focused on that subset. And so there's sort of a good mix there. Really the kind of web design development side of things we didn't see much of an issue impact. Most people sort of view their website as a house. 

And so if you're going to invest in a piece of property and the upkeep of it or you know remodel, you're doing it because you're looking at sort of the long term value of it, and not necessarily sort of short term impacts, we didn't really see a big shift there. 

On the marketing front, because some of our customers especially we're kind of newer to marketing, and maybe we're smaller businesses, there's sort of a need to immediately create some cash flow opportunity. And so there were some pauses that happened. As a result of that, we had probably about, I think, 10% of our customers who needed to go into a pause, in sort of the lockdown type status. 

Over the last couple of weeks, we've seen that shift where customers have found opportunities, we've been able to help them find opportunities to re-engage with existing customers or invest in new marketing activities that are allowing them to generate some revenue, whether that's through the product that they are able to sell and ship, or through new product relationships, or alternative revenue generation models. 

So that's been pretty encouraging to see. And that's helped us get probably maybe 2% or 2% of the total 10% that we had gone on pause back in before the end of the month. So that's been really encouraging.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. And then, before I let you go today, is there anything that I've asked...that I didn't ask you that you think is worthwhile to share?

Jordan Brannon  

Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that we're really talking to a lot of customers about is the focus on what you can do today to help tomorrow. 

So we do a lot of work in the SEO space. We do a lot of work, again focused on transactional website design. And so really dialing in on evergreen opportunities in SEO. Whether we are cleared of lockdowns and quarantines in a couple of weeks or in a couple of months. Ultimately, we're heading into some of the busiest seasons for a lot of direct consumer print. 

And so investing in your SEO, looking ahead to quarter four, looking ahead to maybe events like Prime Day, which are now across all Ecommerce channels could be a really great investment. 

And then certainly, I think looking at investing in your ability to transact through your website, those are really great areas again, to invest and look at like, "Hey, this is gonna pass. I don't know the exact day, but I can put some effort here and I'm going to see an outcome when the opportunity opens up again."

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. That's a great way to look at it. Jordan, thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing your knowledge with us.

Jordan Brannon  

Yep, it was a pleasure, Chase. And thank you for having me in.

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A few weeks ago the world changed forever. Every business, every entrepreneur, every single person was unprepared for the sudden change we'd all experience. I'm going to use this time to create content focused on what you can do right now to help your business grow. We're all in this together, we're all unprepared.