Emerging stronger from COVID-19 – Tyler Robertson of Diesel Laptops

Tyler Robertson, CEO of Diesel Laptops

Tyler Robertson, CEO of Diesel Laptops, grew his company’s revenue from around $30m in 2019 to over $40m in 2019, and was on pace for a strong 2020 when COVID-19 cut into their sales significantly.

Diesel Laptops is the industry leader in diesel diagnostic tools and repair information.

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Tyler shares how he and his team are poised to emerge stronger from COVID-19 by:

  • Knowing their financial numbers, and figuring out what they needed to do to keep costs down and sales up to avoid layoffs.
  • Keeping all their employees in the loop on what they’re seeing, what’s going on, and what they’re going to do.
  • Thinking differently and pivoting quickly.  To replace the loss of leads from in-person trade shows, they organized their own virtual truck repair expo in just 45 days, with 1800 registered attendees, and dozens of vendors and speakers.

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Malcolm Lui:
This is Malcolm Lui, from Eversprint, and welcome to another episode of the High Value Sales Show show. Today, I have a repeat guest, Tyler Robertson, of Diesel Laptops. He came on my show back in August talking about the fantastic growth of his company. And he's on our show today to talk about how his company is doing since last year, as well as what he did and what his company has done to handle COVID. How's it going, Tyler?

Tyler Robertson:
It's going awesome and thank you for letting me back on the show again.

Malcolm Lui:
So, Tyler, when we last talked, business was jamming for you, 2018, you're you're doing around 30 million. 2019 did over 40 million. How are things in 2020 before the COVID pandemic hit us?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I mean, we were having a record January. It was a record February and March was clipping along great. And we had actually just signed what I believe is the largest deal ever in the history of truck diagnostics and an off highway diagnostics customers literally buying thousands of units and then and then COVID-19 hit. So it's changed a bit since then.

Malcolm Lui:
What was the impact of COVID-19 to your business?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, so we are core product that we sell as a capital goods, essentially it's seven to ten thousand dollars. It's expensive and, you know. I was following covered up until March, I was actually founded back in December because we import a lot of stuff from China and then we're next biggest importer was Italy. And our third biggest importer with Spain, which were countries one, two and three doing this whole Kobe thing. So we had already kind of seen this thing coming over to the US. And, you know, I can tell you now, looking back on it, sales are definitely down, you know, 30 to 40 percent the last couple of months since really about mid-March. And everything is down. Right. Web site is down the number, incoming phone calls. Even the incoming number of calls for a technical support team has dropped down. Everything is kind of down by the same amount, which a lot of people think is kind of odd because we're in the trucking industry, essentially, we're supporting truckers and truckers have been keeping the whole everything running together. But it's become a yeah, those guys have. But there's also construction guys. There's guys that have furniture stores and deliver furniture. And, you know, there's a lot of other use of trucks besides food and filling up toilet paper at Wal-Mart. So it's you know, it's definitely affected our industry just as much as everybody else. And I will say this, though, to add to it, I've definitely seen a slight uptick the last couple of weeks. So things seem to be getting better as we've been kind of getting through this thing and states are starting to reopen.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now, how how did the shutdown the state does stay in place. Work from home. Impact your new business generation.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, not good. I you know, again, we sell high quality, brand new, you know, expensive diagnostic kids that are that are bought by other businesses. And I immediately in early March, mid-March, shut off all of our online marketing spend. And we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on online marketing spend just to generate new leads. And we did that because I was like, man, you know what? I don't think people they may be clicking and buying an interested, but I don't think they're going to pull the trigger on something really expensive right now. And we were fortunate enough where we have a huge backlog of sales leads that we just kind of never closed up and never circled back to X or so many new ones coming in. So in that regard, we're fortunate to have to kind of turn through what we have. And we've really pivoted to did a miraculous job here, really pivoting and saying, OK, if we're not going to get new leads, who can we go talk to or what other products we sell current customers. And it's kept everybody in the sales department plenty busy. I can say our daily number of tickets we do is pretty much the same. It just people aren't buying the really expensive stuff. They're buying substitutes and things are a little bit less expensive and trying to just survive. I think, like a lot of businesses are right now.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now, have you worked through your backlog of leads already?

Tyler Robertson:
To a degree, there was a lot of leads in our marketing team was generating thousands of sales leads a month. So what would happen before is because we had so many sales leads coming at us. Our salespeople would really only spend a minimal effort to get that guy to buy something. If not, they were like, forget it. Let me go on to the next one. I got another 20 customers here that are interested. So now they've had to kind of go back to those old customers and there's still plenty out there. And we do a lot of upside. So our customer buys a ten dollar cable. We use that as a sales lead for sales. Got a call. I'm thinking for the purchase and say, hey, you bought that cable. Tell me about your shop and maybe up sell them on something else. And then we really pivoted more towards focusing on customers about products last year. These are software updates that come out every year. You have to pay for those. So we really shifted a lot of our salespeople. Hey, go call the people who already bought from us. And trying to get more out of a current customer is a lot easier and cheaper than trying to go find a new customer and some something different.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So it sounds like just to recap. First things first, two things he did is, one, you rework your past needs that you had acquired. And to you, you upload your current customers.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, exactly. And we started to really there's always a silver lining when something bad happens, right? So, Cobh, it's obviously not good. We turned off Witley Generation, but I can tell you this, our company got super focused on figuring out the expense side of the equation, not just the daily expenses, but, hey, where are we overstocked on inventory? Let's go focus on that and generate cash for the company. That's really important right now for us to deal with turn that inventory to cash. So we got really focused on used items and a lot of other little stuff, and they got focused even on the expense side. You know, one of the great things that came up with it was you put an expense reduction committee in place with their employees. And out of that, they've already figured out ways to save us over twenty thousand dollars a month in expenses and things that we really weren't paying attention to because things were so good and flying so fast. So it's really it's really helped in that regard. And even now with our team saying, hey, why don't we get focused on selling or renewals for these other things, we're never even tried to sell on renewals. And I'm really, really fortunate. A lot of great, talented people here that really started kicking rocks over and trying to find, hey, where some were some other opportunities now that have to pivot real quick. And we were able to pivot quick.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah. Now, one of your Legian avenues was going to trade shows, right?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I mean, we did forty five trade shows a year, and these are these are expensive. Right. So every time we go to a trade show, I can't do one for less than 10 grands. And some of these trade shows, we're spending 20, 30, 40, 50 grand to go to. And, you know, it's been a big part of our marketing strategy since we first started this thing. And I was actually at a huge show, the second biggest show they do in Vegas every year, which is called Con AG. There was over one hundred and thirty thousand people there. And it's just see this five day show. And on day four they announce, hey, we're we're right in the middle. That's when they shut down the NBA season. And then course the NHL and Major League Baseball and everything else closed right after that. And then they announce on day four, like, OK, we're we're turning this thing off and we're gonna cancel day five of the show and everyone just go home. So, yeah, those shows generate a ton of leads. It gets our name out there and poof, they just they just went away. And I think they're gonna be away for quite a while. Is my opinion on the matter.

Malcolm Lui:
So was gendering lead to a trade shows? An important aspect of your new business generation?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah. So it was it. We still wanted it to be. And, you know, through that process, you know, through the years, I've really always said to myself, man, I've spent so much money going to trade shows and then I'm just a small piece of this big trade show. And our team started doing more things at trade shows instead of just going instead of the booth. We had said, hey, while we're there, let's do an off site event. So I want to trade shows. We had an axe thrown event and we invited some VIP customers, the axe throwing another one. We did a buffet and a social our rights. We've got a bunch of people there for that. And those were going great. And then, you know, the band aid just totally got ripped off and all that went away. And we really canceled all our travel and all our expenses. So the good news was I had slated a bunch of budget money for for trade shows and travel that we now had freed up to do with other things, which is what we did here going forward.

Malcolm Lui:
So what do you do in lieu of the in-person ratio's?

Tyler Robertson:
Yep, so I took this as an opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for a while. I just never felt the timing was right. And as I said before, we had so many good things going on and so many leads. We didn't feel like we needed to. So we sat back and were like, man, if everybody every trade show in the country just got canceled and our industry, along with every other industry and people still want to go do these things and vendors still want to talk about their products and offer these things. Why didn't we create our own dieser laptop virtual expo? And let's try to do this thing all digitally and let's try to really brand it around us. Let's get our partners involved or strategic vendors that we work with. And let's just see what could happen if we do a virtual event instead of the traditional trade show. What would happen was really the question that we had.

Malcolm Lui:
How did it go?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I mean, let me preface this by saying this. Most of these online virtual shows, people take six months to a year to try and plan out. Right. You've got to find how are you going to do it? Are you going to kind of build your own stuff? Are you going to piece together some YouTube videos and like, you know, a slack? Are you going to go get a whole entire platform that's already kind of pre-built? And we can we can put our pieces in there and our vendors in there. So we went with the latter option and said, let's go find a platform. And I can tell you every everybody I think that was doing anything was trying to get a hold of these vendors at the same time to try to these platforms. And they ranged anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. And we end up settling one kind of in the low, lower to mid range. But I can tell you overall, it went great. The feedback we got from our customers on how much they appreciated it, their one complaint, actually, the biggest complaint they had was there is too many training sessions and speaking things and things to do that they couldn't get it all fit in in that time slot that we had the trade show going on and our vendors gave us just some absolutely remarkable feedback as well. So overall, we were we were really, really excited about what happened. And I've already talked about it here. And this is something we're into every year now, whether there's a pandemic or not, just based on the pure demand and, you know, experience that everybody had through that whole process.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. How many participants did you have?

Tyler Robertson:
So you've got to keep in mind, we're really in a niche industry, right? We sell. We're in the we're in the transportation space selling diagnostic tools to repair shops. And that's a really niche industry. And at the end of the day, the license we ended up buying and settling on, as we said, OK, and we did this thing in a short time period. We said, man, if we get two thousand people, unique visitors to come to this event, this will be a this would be a home run event for for dieser laptops. So we ended up having, I think, eighteen hundred registered unique visitors registered for the trade show, which for us. We were ecstatic about. And the most concurrent users we had at any one point was rate about five hundred. So it was it was very busy. I can say that I hosted you know, there was a couple of tracks going on. And these expos you can have we had a live session, a live auditorium going on. We had recorded sessions going on. And all of the vendors had booths. So there's a lot of things going on. And I hosted the live session with you. And they integrate with Zoom. So

Malcolm Lui:
Ok.

Tyler Robertson:
We had all scheduled events lined up. People would come basically every hour and we do a we do a live event talking about what they did and how they that what what value they can help customers with. And all those things. So at the end of day, customers, we did a survey afterwards. And customers absolutely loved it. I think it was like ninety nine percent of the survey results we got back said they would strongly agree that they would come back to do this event again. The future, which is which is great.

Malcolm Lui:
The expo, you're your to explode Jerry business right away for you.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, yeah. Not just for us, but for our vendors as well, and that was really important part to me is I'm really one of those companies, one of those people where I want to have strategic relationships and partnerships with people in our industry. My belief is if, hey, I have a product that I'm selling to repair shop and you other vendor have a product, your sound repair shop. Maybe we should talk about how we can go doing this together. And instead of going in with just us both spending resources, let's figure out a way to work together on this. So we add a bunch of those people. And on the on the expo floor itself, with the booths, you know, you go to an average expo. You know, we're we're happy at a at an expo if we get, you know, 50 to 75 people a day, come into our booth and are interested in our product. We get a sales lead in this two day events. The dieser laptop booth itself had over seven hundred unique visitors come through the booth and talk to us. And I talk to most of the other vendors that participated. One of them said, you guys honestly tell her we were skeptical. But now that we did this thing, he goes, it was unbelievable. This is at least a six times our ally comparing going into a traditional traditional show for us. And then I talked to another vendor and he goes on and he goes, this really sucks. And I'm like, oh, boy. Oh, God. What's wrong? What's wrong goes my fingers are so sore from Taiping to so many people. I got it. I've got to figure this out for next time because this is guys is the genius. This is working out great.

Malcolm Lui:
Awesome.

Tyler Robertson:
So, yeah, our vendors, they had to pay to be there. Right. So and we took all the profits and we donated it all to the American Red Cross. So it was a good win win win for everybody at the end. The day.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So when you said you did. You had seven unique visitors to the Baeza laptop's booth. They just kind of pop in, looked around and left that that they actually have a conversation with their team.

Tyler Robertson:
Yep, yep. So there was like so there's, what, seven hundred of those people that stopped in and it ranged anywhere from them stopping in and the current customers and chatting with us. But we had we had sales employees on our side that would engage customers so vendors could do it any way they want and they could do it where, hey, when someone pops in their booth, they could immediately chat with them and just say, hey, how's it going? You know, what's your business? What do you do? Other vendors like now, I don't wanna do that. I'll just wait for him to chat with us. And then, you know, there's even some vendors that said, look, we were smaller companies like, look, we don't have someone to sit here all day. So we're just going to kind of put it on autopilot and let people leave messages or do what they want with us. So kind of kind of ranged all over the board. But I could say the average vendor had well over 350 visitors that went to their booth. And the great thing for vendors that participated is it's different than a regular trade show. So regular trade show when someone comes in your booth, unless they give you their contact information log to scan their badge, you really don't get any either convert. You don't really don't get anything. And a typical trade show, I'm sure you've been to these to some some vendors just kind of sit there like bumps on a log and don't engage anyone coming through their booth. And. And this one was a little bit different because as vendors came in, we actually were able to grab their information and provide that to the vendors later. So they knew exactly who came in their booth and they got their e-mails, their phone numbers and all the all the attendees understood clearly that that's what that's the way this thing works in the beginning, you know, when they first signed up and we explain that to them. So, again, it was a it was a good win for everybody.

Malcolm Lui:
Now we're sales generated right away like that people visit your site and start making purchases, or did your sales people online

Tyler Robertson:
You know.

Malcolm Lui:
During the expo decent deals?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah. So, you know, I never I can say this. I look at our daily sales every day and I look at, you know, it combines our Web site sales and Amazon. We sell stuff on eBay and over the phone. And during those two days, we had very, very good well above average sales days during that time. You know, I never drill down to see, hey, how much how much was directly related to the trade show. I don't if we could even track it that well anyway to see if that was the cause and effect. But I can say that we definitely noticed a huge bump up both in Web site traffic and the number of sales we made those couple days. And we do have a longer sales cycle, too. So people buying, you know, eight to ten thousand other tools, they're typically going to ask a lot of questions, maybe apply for financing. Got to talk to their spouse or business partner or they want to do a demo. So our typical sales cycle is a little bit longer. It's on an instant purchase. It's more, you know, 14 days and 21 days kind of in that range.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. OK, cool. Now, in terms of marketing your expo, how did you do that? You market it to your current customers. Do you market to others as well?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I was scared. Yes, I was scared when we first did this thing because we're all excited about it. And by the way, this was a great mental break from everything going on and a whole corona virus and state study down and people being locked down. This gave a lot of employees here something else to think about and do for for a couple of weeks. So when we first landed here, I got scared because we sent out an email and like hardly anybody signed up for it. Like, very few. And I'm like, oh, my God, this thing's going to be a disaster. I was expecting a couple hundred people to sign up with the initial e-mail blast and like 50 dead. I'm like, oh, boy. Like, this is not good. So me and the marketing team and we had it we had two of our people in our marketing team, our manager and one of our employees. And we just started having meetings every day just to talk about the pier. There was two sides are there is the marketing side. And there was the planning and execution side of the whole the whole platform. And really, two of my employees did, you know, 90 percent the heavy lifting here. And they did a superb job. So, you know, we we noticed, like the first e-mail we sent out, you know, the subject line wasn't quite right. Our open rate was low. We didn't really put the link. We had one little link. Kind of buried in there and how to sign up. So we made some tweaks and we sent out another e-mail. Just what the e-mail tweaks those e-mails goes out to everybody in our CRM database that whether they're you know, if they're in there, they're probably a customer, also one that's engaged that's in some fashion.

Tyler Robertson:
And we made those tweaks. And lo and behold, you know, three hundred people signed up on the next e-mail blast. So, you know, it's kind of on those things, like I think like everything else in marketing, especially online, is you try something. It doesn't work or does work. You kind of make little adjustments and try to get and see if you get a better result. So fortunate we able to do that. Do the whole process be kept? We kept doing that through the emails. We then put stuff on social media. We did not do much paid social media just to try to keep expenses low. And then we also did some landing stuff on our Web site and make sure it's above the fold on the Web page. But then the other thing that really helped us is we went to all of our vendors that we were talking with to be in the expo. We said, look, you know, we really need your help to make this successful. We'll knock some money off of a booth. If you guys will guarantee that you'll do at least an email blast to your customers or your dealers or whatever your customer base is and you guys support supported on social media. And so I put some stuff out there on it. So once all the vendors got onboard, that thing was really picking up steam all the way to the day of sign ups. And I think if we had one more day in there, we probably would have oversubscribed to the number of users that could have came onto the Web site.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now in terms of getting sponsors, yet sponsors for the expo as well, right.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, we did. So we didn't want it to be a diesel laptops, events we wanted and we called the we called the event the virtual truck repair expo. So I was like, you know, I don't want this to be a diesel laptops thing. I think it limits our customer base. And who's interested? We need to make this a much wider audience. So we need to go find people that will participate that are not diesel laptops. So people understand this isn't just a diesel laptops event. And we need to go find some great speakers to do both live presentations and recorded presentations so that they can help promote it and get people engaged and people on the platform and everything as well. So once they got on there, other people and we every time a new vendor would sign up, we would do another e-mail blast or we would do another social media posts or both and let people know, like, hey, so-and-so company is now on the platform with us. This is what they do. I'd love to see you there. And everytime you do that, a couple more people would sign up and a couple more people would sign up. And it just it really started to snowball there as we were going through that process.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Did you ask your speakers to sponsor the event so they get higher branding, more prominence in

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah,

Malcolm Lui:
The.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, yeah. You're going. So we ended up taking our our expo are people that were on the floor doing the expo and we said, look, when you sign up, we'll give you. We'll give you. We did two tiers. So we made a mistake there. We learned we did. Hey, here's a silver tier. Here's a gold here. The silver tier was, you know, it was a match with seven or 50 bucks. And you have a booth if you want to pay. Fifteen hundred bucks. Well, you have a booth and we'll give you a speaking engagement, either a live one in the main auditorium or we'll give you a recorded session and we'll promote you in social media. Give you some opportunities on our ad server that we have that runs across a lot of our platforms afterwards. And every customer except for two did this did the gold membership

Malcolm Lui:
Huh?

Tyler Robertson:
Wanted those speaking engagements. So

Malcolm Lui:
Right.

Tyler Robertson:
We probably left some opportunity on the table to try to, you know, monetize that a little bit better. But again, all the money was essentially going to American Red Cross anyway. So we're like, well, this is a huge learning experience for for all of us, a diesel laptop. So our team learned a ton through this whole thing. And I know with a longer, longer runway, with planning and everything, we learned this thing would be so much bigger next year.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah. How many speakers do you have, the Stemmer?

Tyler Robertson:
So we had the session was open every day for eight hours and less, 16 hours of live seminars that were going on, and there were some 15 minute breaks in between there. But there is I to say there is 14, 13 or 14 live speakers. And again, we were geared towards shop owners and diesel technicians, people fixing trucks or managing shops. Fleet owners, those types of people. And we tried to really do it around that. So we had some great speakers in there. We had we had one marketing company, a research company, I should say, come in there. And they gave a State of the Union. They do surveys with all their other clients every week. So they knew exactly where the trends were and where the industry was heading in terms of Cobbett and the impact it was having on our industry. It was the opening opening one. He did a great job. We had everybody come in there from we had a bunch of people do. And we're technical, right. So we had some people that say, hey, I'll do a one hour technical training class on how to diagnose fuel injectors on diesel engines. And people people just love that kind of stuff. It was an opportunity for them to learn as much technical, still as much as going to the industry and learn about new products and new vendors that they might not be aware of.

Malcolm Lui:
So their speakers weren't necessarily selling anything that.

Tyler Robertson:
Correct, Yeah, they were. We told them, like, this is we don't. If you're on the main stage doing a live picture, we do not want this to be a sales pitch to customers on how great your company is. Yeah, we wanted to reference your company and talk about your company and every you'll know your name and who your company is. But let's make this a real soft thing and let's give value to all the attendees, because that's why they're going to come to this. And what we found out is every time a speaker came on and from their company, right. Say it was Reb HD, as soon as they would get done with their live session, there'd be a flood of people that would go hit their booth immediately after they talked because they had questions. I want to talk to that person directly. And that

Malcolm Lui:
Right.

Tyler Robertson:
Happened with virtually every single one we did. So, no, they weren't selling. But it immediately drove a lot of traffic rate to them, which was perfect. And that's that's what we wants to happen. That's, again, kind of a win for everybody.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So how many different speakers did you have altogether over over the two

Tyler Robertson:
Yes.

Malcolm Lui:
Days?

Tyler Robertson:
So there was our twins are 12 or 13. Did the live one. And then we had a ton of recorded ones. There was probably another 12 or 14 there that had recorded ones and recorded ones where they were. Is there more technical or they were more like kind of software demo or a little more sales ish. So we tried to put them on the recorded ones, but even the recorded ones, we had them on a release schedule. So even though there are prerecorded, we wouldn't allow the public to view them until a certain time increments. And then once the session was done, people could go replay the old ones. But a lot of customers that was there big. That was their big complaint was, hey, you had a great live session going on and you had a recorded session going on. I couldn't go to both. So I was kind of a way to help them out a little bit. And even though the event got is done, we still have all this content that was created and all these people that worked with us. So even now, we're still loading that stuff on YouTube and we'll be doing e-mail blasts and saying, hey, you missed the event, you missed this. But hey, here's the recorded session. We think you may have some value. So we think we'll drive tens of thousands of YouTube viewers and people to our YouTube channel and our blog post that'll be about this and social media that we can keep using this stuff for for months and months to come down the road.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So you didn't go the route of selling the recordings to to the registrants like some other virtual events might do.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, we made it 100 percent free events for people in our industry. And, you know, part of that is, A, this is our first year be covered. 19 is going on money right now. Everyone's trying to buckle down on money. And three, we just wanted a great initial thing to show people like, hey, this there's some really cool stuff we can do here that at the end the day, it didn't cost the attendees anything. It didn't cost to use the laptops, anything. And the American Red Cross got a pretty good chunk of money out of the whole deal as well that got donated them.

Malcolm Lui:
Right

Tyler Robertson:
So. Yep.

Malcolm Lui:
Now, in terms of the the registrants, you had eighteen hundred people registered. How many of those were new TDA laptops that you had never contacted ever before?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, you know, I didn't. We didn't try to compare the two lists, but I will say we have a the Expo software had a leaderboard so people could get points if they visited a booth or if they chatted or put something their digital briefcase or watch a live webinar or whatever, whatever action it was. And there is different points assigned to it. So I went through the top 10. So I was curious, like, who are these people? And not a single one of the top 10 is a current Daeso laptop's customer. So I didn't go further than that, but I at least gave me a good feel like, OK, we we put some good value in front of people and a lot of the marketing I do and diesel laptops does. It's kind like linked in. Right. Like lets us provide value and get our name out there in front of people. And you do that often enough and people are usually like, hey, I'm kind of curious who those guys are. Let's go engage with them or check out their Web site. Let's have a conversation. And the more we do that, the more we know when they do need something. Our names. The first thing they think of and we'll be getting that phone call.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Yeah. Your partners must be quite happy then, because they they've most likely got exposure to people who are new to them as well.

Tyler Robertson:
Oh, they all got exposure, all the vendors said we would definitely do it again this year, one of them asked if he could do this thing twice a year. They were they were over the over the moon excited about how it went. And at the end of the day, it hardly cost them anything. Right. I mean, they had to pay a booth fee and had someone sit there for two days and or someone's if they were a bigger company, they had bad multiple people there. I talked to one of the bigger company is one of the companies on. That was on with us. It's called dormant products. They do over a billion dollars a year in revenue. And I was just like, hey, how did how did this thing go? Where where do you guys feel? And he goes, honestly, because we got some very, very good leads out of this whole thing for some very major players that we weren't expecting because we would totally do this thing again with you or you guys really undervalue. You should probably charge us more. We know. We know. So I think a lot of people will see it next year. And we didn't do a lot of marketing. Right. You know, we should have launched an entire new Web site called the Virtual Truck Repair Expo. We didn't we just did it like with one blog post the page on our Web site. So I think next year we tweak a lot of things and this thing gets factors larger.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now, what's a about the idea? Doing it twice a year, would you think about that one?

Tyler Robertson:
I don't know, man, we talked about it, you know, and here's the thing. Like, we did this thing in in April. Well, March through April are the busiest truck show months for our industry. Like every big vendor does, there's those months. And then there's like this big lull in the summer and there's a big spike up again in the fall. So we're like, man, like once the world gets back to normal, this is probably the worst time to do it because everyone's kind of tree showed out by the time time. April comes around. So, you know, if we're gonna do it, it almost I feel like a Midshires. I want to do and everyone's not doing theirs and try to try to hit it. Right. So I don't know about every two years. I think once a year. And we plan for this thing six to 12 months in advance. And let's just see how many people get on there. And if we do it right next year, we get, you know, 10000 people that sign up for it. Yeah. OK, maybe maybe I'm convinced then. Yeah, we should do this thing twice a year, but do it smaller or you know, we've talked about, hey, maybe we should do a a live event, a live one in person, and then six months later do the online one, just kind of keep rotating ngom or dume space them out. So a lot of ideas being thrown around and at the end of day, we'll see where it lands. But I know if Kobe didn't happen, we probably never would have done this. And, you know, this is I think is a great trajectory for our company that's going to help our build our brand for a long time.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now for the expo, you mentioned a few things that you would do differently that you talked about. I set up a separate Web site for the expo. What other things, with perfect hindsight, would you do differently?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I you know, I think we can use a lot of people at first by having diesel laptop logos all over everything. And I was trying to say this is not a diesel laptop event. This is a industry event. They had I had my logo all over everything. So we made some mistakes there in the beginning. And a lot of people didn't get it. Our our industry you're thinking these are diesel technicians and shop owners and fleet managers. Ninety nine point nine percent. These people have never been to a virtual event before in their lives. They had no idea what that entailed. Even our vendors. Every single one we talked to and that was there was like, what's a virtual event? How does it work? They've they've never done one. So there was an inability of us to educate them because we couldn't show them a video or pictures or anything of what it looks like. And we can even tell them what it looks like. We have never done one before. So I think next year we kind of have we grabbed a lot of videos and pictures and you know, that we recorded.

Tyler Robertson:
I did the life stuff here at our store and our podcast room. So we have a lot of live video of me talking and other people. So I'm pretty sure our team now understands it better when your team understands that they can communicate it a lot better to everybody else. And then the other big piece of that is just not rushing it and doing this thing in forty five days. And it was forty five days from. Hey, let's do this too. The event went live and then included us trying to find the software and figure it out and talk to vendors and all those things. So I just really believe that long runway of us really planning it out. I think we'll I think we'll have double or triple the number of vendors last year and it may end up having to be a three day thing. I think we'll have too many people that want to do live events and live discussions with us at the same time. So they'll be great to see. But time will tell how it works out.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now, are you looking to allocate six months of time for the next event? The plan

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah,

Malcolm Lui:
In.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, we are. I mean, we're already talking about it. We already went bought the domain name where to get one of our guys, like we need to start at least building something of a Web site here and we need to at least announce it now and put a date on a calendar. And that gives us a long time to run up to it. So, yeah, we're gonna start way ahead of time. And hopefully the plan is, hey, let's have a Web site out there. Let's kind of soft market it for six months. People happen to stumble across it or whatever it is. Maybe we'll sirkin's some vendors, you early sign ups and we can start just, you know, massaging this thing as time goes on and you really, really plan for it in the right way.

Malcolm Lui:
For the for this past event that you executed in 45 days, how many people were doing it full time to get it done?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, really, it was. I had my two full time marketing people. They did a lot of the. There's a lot of setup that goes, you know, you'd be amazed how much you have to setup everything and all the little intricacies on, you know, what do you want this to be? Not just the vendors booth themselves. All had to get loaded with collateral and digital material vendors and onboard and train them. And then we did do that. And for the auditorium and the breakout sessions and the help desk and all these other things. And those two pretty much did all of that. They relied on that. We have a couple other marketing people here that do graphic design and email templates and videos. So those people had to get involved with special little projects like that. Otherwise, I was involved and it wasn't much. I probably worked on it, you know, ten, fifteen hours a week and maybe 20. But I was the one that had all the relationships with all the vendors. Since I've been working with them for a while. So I had to approach all of them. Hey, we're doing this event, this what we'd like to do and coordinate with them and get them encouraged to be a vendor. And what kind of presentation did they want to do? So all in all, it was really, you know, two full time and a, you know, two or three people part time doing it for that, you know, forty five. Thirty forty five days.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. For the next round. Expec missing person hours would

Tyler Robertson:
No.

Malcolm Lui:
Be required to get

Tyler Robertson:
No.

Malcolm Lui:
It done.

Tyler Robertson:
The thing that surprised me. I mean, we had a lot of vendors like the day before saying we just found out about this thing. Can we get a booth? We want to be involved. And we had to say no, because we just it takes a lot of hours to explain to the vendor. OK. Here's the booth. Here's the Web site. We can either load all the content for you or you need to go load your own content. And even if they wanted to give us their content. I mean, you still need to round up videos, PDAF word documents, images, and to be right. Image size and weight to train them on how to man their booth. And it's a big task to get all that content on the platform, a loaded per vendor. And I think we had about 24 vendors somewhere in that neighborhood. And I can just see if you had 75 or 100 vendors. It just becomes a huge time suck all the sudden for someone just managing the vendors. And then a day of every vendor had questions or little hiccups. Right. Things weren't quite loaded. Right. Their image didn't work or their video didn't play or or what are the employees a problem logging into the Web site. So that first day was a little bit stressful, getting everyone on board. But our team got through it. I don't think we could have done any more vendors and made them all happy. We had a definite what? Dropped the balls and stuff.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. You're talking about having two to three times more vendors the next time around. Sounds like you might need to double your team.

Tyler Robertson:
We might have that longer runway to prepare for everything. And I think a lot of our vendors, now that we had, you know, the two dozen already came, they kind of know what to expect and what's needed of them. So I think we'll be, I agree, will be more help on our marketing team to do it. But we'll have more time to do it. So I just I know I know the two people we have. I mean, they were up till they were they were working crazy hours just trying to get all the backend stuff done. And the thing is, like most things, you don't see all the back into work. You just see the final thing, you know, like, oh, this is cool. Not realizing they just spent hundreds of hours, you know, putting all that stuff together.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So, Tyler, you talk about a lot of different things about how you handled COVID. What would you say would be the top three recommendations you would give another business owner?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I mean, you know, we did a lot of things at diesel laptops, so no one, I really hope everybody during this whole thing before this knows their financial numbers and they really need to figure out. And we had to figure out here at our company, hey, if we have a 30 percent drop in sales, what does that do to our gross margin? And do we have the expenses to cover this? And if we don't have we don't have the margin to cover it. We got to make some quick adjustments here. So that's that's number one. And that was a big part of the expo, is we had one of the people on there that did financial stuff first repair shops. And, you know, you just said, look, everyone in this call, you need to figure out what your business looks like, 30 percent less, 50 percent less, and prepare for worst case. So you're not scrambling down the road. Get ahead of it. Right. So so that was number one. Number two, I can say, you know, as a business owner, we have 150 employees. But even if you only got to communicate, communicate, communicate, when this thing was really weird and things were going crazy and places are canceling and headlines are going all over the place and stock market was crashing. You know, we were communicate with our employees either via a YouTube video or email or even some in-person meetings we had in smaller groups, just letting everyone know, like, hey, here's what's going on, here's what we're doing and here's what we see.

Tyler Robertson:
And we ever had to put their big boy, girl and pants on. And we were just like, look, here's the numbers. Things fall below this red line. It's gonna get really ugly and we have to start cutting employees. So we only to figure out together how to make sure our sales don't fall below this line. And we could do that to a is. We're gonna figure out ways to increase revenue through things we talked about earlier and we're going to fairly decrease our our daily expenses to try to ride this thing out as long as possible. And then the other thing is just think differently and pivot quickly. In our case, the example was easy. We're selling ten thousand dollar capital goods. Not a lot of people are willing to part with that kind of money today. That's fine. Now, what can we do to go find other avenues of sales? Because the world still needs to move on. We just can't put our head in the sand and just let our future dictators and, you know, part of it was thinking differently. And with this marketing expo and we've done some other things along those lines to say, what else can we do a difference. And you know what? They're working. So we're you know, I'm glad to say we're we're above our red line. We cut way back. We didn't have to lay off any employees. And we're still able to function as a business here. And I'm glad to see things starting to return a little bit to normal.

Malcolm Lui:
If there are other vendors out there who come across this episode and they're in your market as well. What's the best way to get in touch with you or your team to learn how they can participate in your expor next year?

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, I mean, for now, the best thing to do is if they just go to DieselLaptops.com and they just chat with us, they can call us on their own, they can click the website, the contact us button and just say they're interested, though. Trust me, they will get routed the right person. The other thing is I'm always available. I throw my email address out there all the time, which is [email protected] and some days I second guess myself for doing that for the amount of spam I get. But it's OK, I can work through it.

Malcolm Lui:
All right, Tyler, it's been great having you on the show again. Really appreciate the insights you shared today.

Tyler Robertson:
Yeah, no problem at all. Hopefully, you know, like I said, hopefully through everything bad, there's always a silver lining. There's always opportunity out there. Hopefully people can find their opportunity and find their way to make it through this whole thing and come up the side, the other side of this thing a little bit better.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah, definitely. We've been speaking with Tyler Robertson, the CEO of Diesel Laptops, about how he and his team found new ways to lower costs and generate more leads and generate more sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. For interviews with other fast growing, high value sales companies, or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.

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