We interviewed Gerry Brewer, Managing Director of Teamuniformorders.com, an online ordering platform for vendors of team sports gear recently. Gerry has a fascinating background in advertising at Ogilvy, and how he’s lending his expertise to this online firm, which has flourished under his guidance.
SPOTLIGHT: What was the genesis of Teamuniformorders.com?
GERRY: I was conversing with a coworker at Ogilvy, who now sits on the board of a large equity firm out of New York. I get a phone call, and he was working for an equity firm that had a new entrepreneur-in-residence group they started. They group needed entrepreneurs-in-residence. I was introduced to the gentleman who was involved with five different companies, and one of them turned out to be this thing called Teamuniformorders.com. So I did some consulting work with them for about three months, and one day, the guy acting as CEO of the company made him an offer, and said, if you want me to work more closely with you, you’re going to have to relocate to Atlanta. Much to my surprise, they actually did that, and within two weeks he uprooted his home in Manhattan and was in the suburbs of Atlanta.
He and I were sitting at a plastic table in an office park somewhere near Roswell, and with some CEO coaching, trying to help them and find out what the opportunity was, it became clear that coaching wasn’t going to turn this around.
SPOTLIGHT: When you first came on board, Teamuniformorders was in its early stages. What kind of growth had they experienced, and what did you do to make that happen?
GERRY: To say we’ve grown fast would be an understatement. The way we did it is pretty much classic. Step number one was to rebrand the company. They didn’t really have a viable brand. Two, with my background, implement a very sophisticated digital prospecting and lead generation and marketing program, with email, social media, Google ads, et cetera, developing leads using digital technology. Three, when I first met them, they were literally on the plane and flying out to meetings face-to-face. So we stopped that and said, ‘This is Sales 2.0.’ What that meant was that the sales group focused on pre-call by prospect, where prospects are qualified through the pipeline using digital content, where customers basically raise their hands and are introduced to what you are doing.
SPOTLIGHT: So no more cold calling?
GERRY: No more cold calling! Of all the things we did, that was the most important and necessary thing. Right now we have 30 or 40 leads a week reaching out to us. Out of that, we do a 30-minute online demo, and we’re closing 90 percent of our sales.
SPOTLIGHT: Ecommerce has brought about some big changes across the board. What are the benefits that smaller teams, smaller groups and smaller companies are finding when they move to an ecommerce platform?
GERRY: The demand is being created by the end-user, and we’re seeing the “Amazon Effect.” Amazon showed everybody that they could buy anything they want, whenever they want. There is no doubt that the end user is the biggest driver for our industry. The dealers, who provide the item, they are the ones who are being dragged kicking and screaming. But for the dealers who are embracing it, it’s simple. It gives them a strategic advantage. It’s not quite mainstream, and there’s a small window where they can differentiate their business. But frankly, the most important reason is scalability. What we do for most of our clients is give them a means to differentiate what they do, and give them a tool and a strategy to help them scale their business.
SPOTLIGHT: You mentioned that some groups have to be dragged into the ecommerce world. What are some of the objections and obstacles you see in getting people on board?
GERRY: Fear, no doubt. It’s a generational business. They say, ‘I’ve done it 30 years this way, with paper order forms, spreadsheets and a handshake, sitting across the table from somebody.’ The other one is fear of technology. ‘I don’t know much about it.’ ‘I don’t know what a browser is.’ ‘If I push this button, will I crash the Internet?’ there’s a lot of fear and a lot of “I’ve always done it this way.”
SPOTLIGHT: There was a great article in TeamInsight about disrupting the team sports game, where there’s a wonderful quote, where they said 2016 will be a defining year for automated, online club team and league ordering. Was 2016 what they predicted?
GERRY: Yes. I think based on the transactional results, we were certainly a beneficiary to that. And the biggest driver is the fact that the end customer is demanding our solution. Teams are now going to the dealerships and saying, we’ll order from you, but you have to have online ordering. At least 50 percent of our leads are due to a direct correlation between dealers saying they’re about to lose their biggest client, and in order to preserve that, they have to go to online ordering.
SPOTLIGHT: On your website, you say that 75 percent of the team business will be conducted online in the next three to four years. We’re seeing that trend not just in team sports, but across the board. One possible objection that people have, is that the online push may eliminate some personalization. But is that a realistic objection?
GERRY: There is a commonality between the old-fashioned way, which is very similar to technology in general. At the core, both are trying to serve. To be of service and be responsive, you have to understand the needs of the client and react accordingly. Ecommerce and technology enables you to be able to serve somebody, and be available to address their needs. A big difference between us and our competitors is that we offer online support for every shopper, for every one of our clients, and that’s 25,000 shoppers a day across tens of thousands of online stores. If the current dealer doesn’t have an online platform, and they’re trying to do it the other way, they’re going to be answering phones all night. With an online solution, using a pretty straightforward software tool and chatbots, they can be observant 24/7. The difference is in the ability to scale to service the customer.
The old-fashioned way is great. It makes it feel personal, but you’re always going to be limited in your ability to scale what you’re doing. We believe we are scaling the ability to serve more people in a more efficient way.
SPOTLIGHT: You have a background with one of the biggest ad agencies in the world, Ogilvy. You brought a lot of marketing and advertising knowledge to the table. The shift to online commerce has of course, changed the nature of how people market and advertise. It used to be in the “Mad Men” days, you came up with a clever ad, put it on TV with a jingle, you said that nine out of ten doctors recommend smoking Camel cigarettes, and you’re done. But it’s not a one-way conversation now. What are the biggest changes happening in marketing, and what’s coming in the next few years?
GERRY: My job at Ogilvy was to be their database analytics guru. I was working with Fortune 50 companies to tell them why spending $100 million on TV ads might not be the wisest thing in the world, and I was the one who had the honor of telling them that they are totally misspending their ad dollars. Today it’s more about measurable marketing. It’s all about one thing, and we know what it is. But it’s amazing how many people really don’t get it – it’s all about the data. It’s about the analytics, and the insights you can derive by having access to what people are buying, what they’re putting in their shopping carts, whether it’s your brand or the competitor’s. At the end of the day, it’s the most significant factor still to be leveraged in this industry and others. It’s the data.
SPOTLIGHT: We’re also seeing what the press calls the “Retail Apocalypse.” Those retailers are sometimes failing because they see brick-and-mortar, and ecommerce as two separate things. How can those retailers bring in those digital and data trends in their everyday strategy so they can stop losing ground? Or is it a lost cause?
GERRY: It’s not a lost cause. Why is it that small companies can disrupt large ones? It’s often because someone is smarter. It’s because of the institutional view of what your business is all about. One company built a very large and successful operation, and they’ve done it by populating their entire organization with retail experts. Everything is retail minded. To introduce a whole new idea and force-fit it into that retail mindset can be very difficult. When you’re flush with success today, it’s very difficult to let go of that, and look at tomorrow, or the next year, or two years from now, and have the guts to significantly disrupt and transform a company. That’s why smaller companies are so often disrupting bigger industries.