Vendasta: Uncensored! A complete guide and honest review from their ex-head of marketing
I am going to give you a detailed tour and my honest, unbiased opinions about the technology, the team, the pricing, the alternatives, the customer support, the vision, and more.
If you are considering Vendasta’s platform, don’t make a decision until after you’ve read this post. It’s long as hell, but I promise it’s worth it.
What does Vendasta do?
Look. I hate this question. Everyone at Vendasta does.
Believe it or not, the Guinness world record for “Fastest Time to Break a Sweat” is held by someone who was just asked to explain what Vendasta does. And it wasn’t a light sweat, either.
The short answer: Vendasta builds software to help local businesses with digital marketing.
The long answer: Vendasta builds software to help local businesses with digital marketing, but they don’t sell directly to local business owners. Instead, they sell to channel partners or so-called “trusted experts”, which is a PR-friendly term for anyone who helps small and medium businesses. These trusted experts include agencies, managed service providers (MSPs), value-added resellers (VARs), software vendors, and traditional media companies — to name a few.
Confused? Here’s an example.
Picture the owner of a local bar. We’ll call him Craig.
Craig is great at making burgers, but he sucks at online marketing.
Now picture the owner of a marketing agency. We’ll call her Jennifer. Jennifer is bad at making burgers, but she is great at digital marketing.
Jennifer helps Craig market his bar with Vendasta’s tools. Meanwhile, Craig never finds out that Vendasta exists because all the software Jennifer shows him is branded for her agency.
What kind of software are we talking about? Pretty much anything marketing-related.
Some of the solutions in the Marketplace are products and some are services.
On the products side, there are dozens of DIY tools, including website builders, social media schedulers, ad platforms, video editors, review monitoring products, and more.
On the services side, Vendasta’s Marketplace has a host of providers who will provide services to your customers on your behalf. These include SEO services, website production, social media management, eCommerce consulting, and more.
If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, think of it like this…
Pretend Moe the bartender wants a new website, so he calls Mr. Burns’ Agency for help. There is a lot that goes into building a site, from writing content to setting up WordPress to optimizing it for Google. Mr. Burns can deliver all of that through Vendasta, either by selling Moe DIY products so he can do it himself or hiring the marketing services team to do it for him.
Still confused? Here’s how the money flows:
In the Simpsons example, Moe pays Mr. Burns for a new website. Mr. Burns turns around and pays Vendasta a monthly subscription PLUS a cut of everything he sold to Moe.
Depending on what a partner sells, Vendasta gives a cut to the original vendor and keeps the rest. In some cases, Vendasta IS the vendor — i.e., they build certain products themselves — and in other cases they integrate with external vendors like Godaddy, Google, Yext, etc.
Got it? Congratulations! You now understand 1% of what Vendasta does.
Here are 7 other important things you should know about Vendasta in no particular order.
1. Snapshot Report. The crown jewel of Vendasta’s platform, the Snapshot Report is a lead gen tool for prospecting local businesses. It scans the online presence of any SMB and generates a report card for how their business is performing in areas like SEO, listings, social media, and more. The idea is that you run a bunch of these and know who to target with which products. It’s consultative selling on steroids.
2. Marketing Automation. At some point around 2016, Vendasta realized that most agencies suck at selling to local businesses. That’s not good for a company that relies on channel partners. In response, they built a marketing automation system with tons of out-of-the-box content. Don’t expect HubSpot or Mailchimp capabilities; that said, don’t sleep on it either. Vendasta’s internal team uses it for all their marketing campaigns, so if it’s good enough for them it’s probably good enough for you.
3. Sales & Success Center. Sales & Success Center is a lightweight CRM that comes included with your Vendasta subscription. They developed it when the CEO got sick of paying for Salesforce and thought they could build something better. In many ways, they did. The downsides? Little functionality for sales managers and few integrations. If you’re used to complex CRM instances, you’ll chuckle. If you’re looking for something simpler than Salesforce at 1/100th the price, it’s great.
4. Business App. Picture an app that you can give to your customers as the single access point for all their software. Even better, what if that app allowed clients to browse your products and alerted salespeople when they checked out certain tools? That’s Business App. It’s a white-label portal to your solutions as well as a store where SMBs can explore everything you sell. My only issue is that it’s a web app, not a regular app. In other words, you don’t download it from the Appstore. You access it via browser.
5. Multilocation. One of the hidden gems of Vendasta’s platform is its advanced multilocation functionality. This deserves an entire demo on its own. If you sell solutions to multilocation businesses and franchises — specifically reputation management, listings management, or social media services — this is something you should look into.
6. Task Manager. For years, Task Manager was the redheaded stepchild of Vendasta. Now it’s the cool kid on campus. As the name suggests, it’s a task management tool like Asana or monday.com | a new way of working. Except not really. It’s optimized for Vendasta’s platform, which means that tasks populate based on workflows specific to Vendasta products.
7. Local Business Online Toolkit. When COVID broke out, Vendasta rallied to figure out how they could help local businesses. One of their ideas was to create “Express” (i.e., stripped-down) versions of their most popular products so that their partners could give them away for free. It’s a clever product-led growth strategy. Basically, you give your customers and prospects access to free marketing tools, and the ones who try them and like them can upgrade to paid premium versions. You get a certain amount of toolkits with your subscription, and after you’ve used them up you can purchase more.
Got all that? Great. Now you now understand 5% of what Vendasta does.
Re-read the above sections twice and then watch this video.
Done? Watch it again. Aaaaaand one more time.
Now you understand Vendasta. See why it’s so much fun to explain?
Who is Vendasta for?
Vendasta is for anyone who helps local businesses with online marketing, including:
- Broadcast Media
- Brands & multilocation businesses
- Technology Platforms (ISVs)
Vendasta refers to these companies as “cloud brokers” or “channel partners” collectively.
They also call these organizations “trusted local experts”. Why? Because channel partners are the ones who SMBs call for help. They’ve been dealing with them for years. They know each others’ kids and support the same charities and go to the same ball games and so on.
As far as jobs to be done, Vendasta is able to help with the following:
- Going to market with new products and services
- Integrating multiple white-label solutions to sell to SMBs
- Generating local business leads and lowering costs of acquisition
- Reducing time spent educating & training salespeople
- Showing SMBs proof-of-performance & ROI
- Improving efficiency with fulfillment & order delivery
- Scaling services for multiple accounts
- Simplifying account management & billing processes
If you’re looking to accomplish any of the above, Vendasta may be a good option.
Who is Vendasta NOT for?
Vendasta is NOT for anyone who sucks at digital marketing.
You might think that is self-explanatory. It is not. Believe me.
Given the nature of Vendasta’s positioning, they attract a lot of people with no marketing or sales experience whatsoever. People see one ad for Vendasta and think, Wow, I can slap a logo on this platform and outsource all the work? I’ll be retired in no time!
If you are one of those people who’s in it purely for the money, stop.
Stop, stop, stop.
Small businesses don’t need snake oil salesmen trying to make a buck off their hard work.
SMBs need serious help, especially these days. You have a responsibility to deliver results.
Successful channel partners realize that Vendasta is like a drill — it’s better than a screwdriver, but you still need a capable carpenter to do the work. Good partners hone their craft, know how to sell, and deliver results that keep their clients satisfied.
What is Vendasta’s pricing?
Vendasta’s pricing is somewhat complicated. Here is the CliffsNotes.
1. Monthly subscriptions. Subscriptions range from $42/mo. to $1,150/mo. There’s a free tier, but it’s bare-bones and it won’t suit your needs long term.
2. Onboarding fees. All tiers beyond Free and Startup have onboarding fees ranging from $750 to $1,500 unless you’re paying annually, in which case they will wave the onboarding.
3. Seats. This is something new they started charging for after I left. Their website says $49/mo. per seat. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s negotiable.
4. Product costs. Every product you offer has a wholesale cost that you can mark up however you want. The higher your subscription tier, the better discounts you get. Also, the more volume you bring in, the better your margins for certain products.
5. Add-ons & Professional Services. A lot of Vendasta partners buy add-ons like strategy sessions and new websites for their own company. (I have my opinions about marketers who need someone else to make them a website, but I’ll keep those to myself.) For organizations needing technical assistance with APIs and SSO, that is also available.
How does Vendasta’s billing work?
Now that we’ve talked about pricing, let’s talk about billing.
By billing, I mean: 1) How you bill your customers, and 2) How Vendasta bills you.
How you bill your clients
This is an area where Vendasta is putting a ton of investment — i.e., merchant services.
Recently, they’ve made it easy for you to accept credit card payments through Stripe. You can also generate invoices according to your clients’ subscriptions and product renewal dates.
Note: credit card payments are currently available in the US and Canada only.
How Vendasta bills you
At the beginning of every month, Vendasta invoices you for all the products that were activated or renewed in the previous month, as well as your subscription for the current month.
Invoices are due net 10. A credit card is required on file for all partners, which they charge automatically. They accept Visa, Mastercard, and Amex. For the full billing story, refer here.
How good is Vendasta’s support?
Picture the nicest, most helpful Canadians you’ve ever met.
Every Vendasta partner gets access to “Success On-Demand”, a rotating cast of support people who will answer your questions or put you in touch with someone who can.
Be warned: phone support is not provided at lower subscriptions tiers, which means you’ll be stuck with email and chat. Personally, I don’t care as long as I’ve got good, immediate chat support, but some people hate not having a direct phone line.
If you’re a higher-paying partner, you’ll have access to dedicated account people. This is where Vendasta shines. If you look at G2 reviews, most of them are about top-notch Success folks.
On top of Vendasta’s Success and Support teams, I would say many channel partners get a lot of value out of talking to each other and hearing how others are successfully selling to local businesses — hence why Vendasta started Conquer Local (more on that later).
Vendasta Alternatives: What are they?
At a macro level, I am unaware of any alternative that does 100% of what Vendasta does.
If you consider the sheer volume of products and features they offer, they are one of a kind.
That could be good or bad, depending on your preferences.
Pros: Vendasta is an all-in-one solution. As long as you’re using the entire suite, you can cut back on vendor clutter and integrate everything cohesively.
Cons: In some cases, Vendasta’s “jack of all trades” approach leads to limited advanced functionality. Their Task Manager isn’t as flexible as Asana, their CRM isn’t as robust as Salesforce, etc. How big of a con this depends on which solutions you need.
Which of those you prefer is up to you. Beyond that, here is some more detailed intel.
Vendasta Alternatives: Products
Vendasta products have more competition than a guy messaging supermodels on Tinder. Here are a few comparison pages they’ve published themselves.
- Vendasta vs. WP Engine | Pricing, Hosting, and Features Comparison
- Reputation.com vs Vendasta Full Comparison on Reviews and Pricing
- Vendasta vs Advice Local | Listings Services for Agencies
- Vendasta vs Chatmeter Comparison on Reviews, Platform, and Solutions
- Vendasta vs BirdEye Full Comparison on Reviews, Pricing, and Platform
- ReviewTrackers vs Vendasta Full Comparison on Reviews and Pricing
As far as competing with point solutions like the ones above, Vendasta has a variety of products in its arsenal. For example, Chatmeter, BirdEye, and ReviewTrackers all compete with Vendasta’s Listing Builder, Reputation Management, and Customer Voice tools.
Reminder: the above examples are only a handful of hundreds of point solutions Vendasta competes against. Why did they only publish these specific pages? Think search volume
Vendasta Alternatives: Services
When I refer to “Vendasta services”, I mean outsourced fulfillment work — aka people doing white-label services under your brand. Those include…
- Why Your Agency Shouldn’t Outsource Work to UpWork’s Freelancers
- Vendasta vs DashClicks | Get a Better Agency Platform for Less
Again, these are competitors for which Vendasta has published comparison pages.
You could also consider freelancers on Fiverr, Textbroker, and others to be their competition, as well as virtual assistants via Fancy Hands, Hire the best Filipino employees and virtual assistants the Philippines has to offer! etc.
Vendasta Alternatives: Platforms
Beyond products and services, Vendasta offers a wide range of capabilities that pit it against hundreds of other platforms, many of them Goliath-size CRMs, task management solutions, marketing automation systems, and more.
Vendasta has significant overlapping functionality with the following platforms:
- monday.com | a new way of working
If you’re thinking, “C’mon, Vendasta doesn’t compete against Salesforce or HubSpot” think again. They win deals over those guys every day. Don’t underestimate the power of all-in-one.
Should I use Vendasta or go direct?
Here is the million-dollar question: why use Vendasta when you could go to vendors directly?
By going direct instead of using Vendasta’s Marketplace, you’ll get better pricing (in some cases), more functionality, and unlimited choice; on the other hand, you’ll have separate bills, systems that don’t talk to each other, and multiple logins for your clients.
G Suite is one example where you’ll actually save money going through Vendasta.
Google offers reduced pricing to premium partners who have navigated their obstacles. Vendasta is one of those partners. As such, they can pass discounts directly to you.
In other cases Vendasta marks up products and, yes, it would be cheaper to go direct.
Keep in mind Vendasta is more than just products, too. The platform includes a built-in CRM, marketing automation tools, consolidated reporting, in-house services, and more.
Think of it as dimes versus dollars.
The dimes you’d save from going direct instead of using Vendasta’s Marketplace are less than the dollars you’ll spend on CRMs and other marketing tools that Vendasta throws in for free. It depends on your DNA. Not everyone likes the all-in-one approach; others are happy to have everything under one roof, one login, and one bill. I’ll share my personal opinion later.
What the #@%! is Conquer Local?
Conquer Local is a brand that Vendasta created to bring together a community of local experts.
The vision is similar to Hubspot’s Inbound movement. It’s open to anyone, not just Vendasta partners, and the purpose is educational — although they certainly use it for promotion, too.
Today, Conquer Local includes the following initiatives:
- Conquer Local Conference
- Conquer Local Academy
- Conquer Local Community
- Conquer Local Podcast
- Conquer Local Think Tank
- Conquer Local Slack Group
- And more cropping up every day…
Here’s my verdict on each of the above, from NEEDS WORK to GOOD to STELLAR.
Conquer Local Academy [GOOD]
Conquer Local Academy is where you can take marketing courses, learn the Vendasta platform, and get certified by local experts. It’s similar to the likes of Digital Marketer. There aren’t that many courses yet, but the lessons have high completion rates, and people like them.
Conquer Local Community [NEEDS WORK]
Conquer Local Community is a forum where partners can interact. Unfortunately, like any new community, it suffers from low engagement. Most of the posts are from Vendasta employees who are encouraged to seed it with their own questions. It’ll be a while before it’s a vibrant, flourishing community.
Conquer Local Podcast [GOOD]
Conquer Local Podcast is CCO & EVP of Sales George Leith’s passion project focused on helping salespeople hone their craft. George is the host of the show and its dedicated creator. I give him tons of credit for putting in the work, even when other executives got pissy because they thought it was becoming too much of the “George Leith Show”. Screw them. The production quality, consistency, and guests are great. Keep it up, GL. You deserve the glory.
Conquer Local Think Tank [STELLAR]
Conquer Local Think Tank is a weekly training session for agencies of all types and sizes. Led by Dennis Yu, a well-known digital marketer, it’s a one-third webinar, one-third Bootcamp, and one-third accountability pod. It’s hard to explain how insanely helpful Dennis is. His sessions are unlike anything I’ve witnessed on Zoom. He has had agency owners literally in tears after helping them — and all of this training is free. Do yourself a favor and sign up here.
Vendasta Review: My Uncensored Opinions
Here is my full, uncensored Vendasta review.
There is no such thing as a perfect platform. These are the pros and cons as I see them.
Overall Value. The dimes you’d save from going direct instead of using Vendasta’s Marketplace are less than the dollars you’ll spend on CRMs and other marketing tools that Vendasta throws in for free. Plus, Vendasta negotiates favored pricing for its partners, and in cases like G Suite, it’s actually cheaper to use Vendasta.
Focus on local. Everything Vendasta builds is dedicated to helping local businesses. It’s in the DNA of their software, from all the ways you can handle locations to the preloaded marketing content to reporting focused on helping SMBs.
Robustness. Vendasta is 13 years old and counting. It’s robust as hell. There are 200+ solutions in the Marketplace, multiple user types and control centers, and tons of settings for white label configuration. Rest assured you can bend it to your will.
Rate of innovation. There are so many releases happening regularly it’ll make your head spin. Some partners complain that it’s too hard to stay updated. Boohoo. The constant stream of features and innovation is great.
True partnership. Unlike their competition, Vendasta does not sell directly to local businesses. That means they won’t compete with you or use your data for their own sales purposes. Whenever someone asks internally about selling direct, it’s shut down faster than a college campus on a holiday weekend.
Executive team. The C-suite at Vendasta is savvy, driven, and innovative. They’ve navigated COVID without any layoffs, and they care deeply about their employees and partners, many of whom they’re friends with.
Conquer Local. The conference, the academy, and everything they’re doing with the community is headed in the right direction. Partners get a lot out of interacting with each other and learning what’s working at different companies.
Long-term vision. Vendasta isn’t content with just the marketing stack. They want the whole meal deal. Think accounting products, security solutions, and connectivity services like phone and internet. There will come a day when you can offer everything to SMBs under your own logo. Plus, with their investments in product-led growth, they’re on the cutting edge of strategies that others aren’t even thinking about.
Complex platform. Robust platforms like Vendasta have one major drawback: complexity. It’s easy to get lost. There’s a big learning curve, so if you want to realize the full benefits of the platform, you’ll have to invest in training and commitment.
Few integrations. Top marketing systems should play nicely with other systems, yet Vendasta has barely any integrations. There’s a Salesforce connector and that’s about it. No Zapier, no HubSpot, no Mailchimp, no Shopify, no Workato. The list goes on.
Business App isn’t an actual app. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Business App should be a real app you can download, not a web app you have to access awkwardly via browser. It’s got a long way to go before becoming the “Local OS” it could be.
Email & automation need work. Vendasta’s email features leave a lot to be desired for those used to more advanced systems. A lot of the preloaded content is disorganized, and it takes a while to get used to their campaigns. That said, they have been building out automation functionality left, right, and center in 2022, so there’s clear investment being made to improve this area.
There you go. The good, the bad, and the ugly from my POV.
But here’s the thing: all the stuff I don’t like about Vendasta isn’t better anywhere else.
In most cases, it’s worse. If anyone tells you that another company is all roses and no thorns, they’re either a fool or a liar. Vendasta is as good as it gets.
So. Would I recommend Vendasta? Yes, I would.
In fact, if I ran an agency or media company, here’s what I would do.
- I would choose Vendasta’s Growth plan so I could access grey-labeled services.
- I would use the Snapshot Report and publish articles about local businesses to get clients via consultative selling.
- I would watch all the recordings from the Conquer Local Think Tank series and follow Dennis Yu’s advice for lead generation and scaling my operations.
- I would form an accountability pod with other agency owners and media execs in the Vendasta community to stay motivated.
- And finally, when COVID settles down, I would attend the Conquer Local Conference and do a round of shots or two with the entire executive team.
There’s more to it than that, but it’s a good start.
At the end of the day, Vendasta can be bare bones like a Ford Focus or fully loaded like a Ferrari. Either way, it’s the skill of the person driving that makes all the difference.
Vendasta Review: Bottom Line
Vendasta is a brilliant concept once you’ve wrapped your head around it.
No one else comes close to offering their breadth of solutions. If they can ever figure out a simplified story and user experience, they won’t just conquer local — they’ll conquer the world.
Still interested in Vendasta? Enter your email below and I’ll hook you up with one of my buddies who can give you the “Devon Discount”. Not because I care about affiliate $$, but because I genuinely care about helping local businesses.