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May 29, 2017 Issue



Seattle Washington based Web Development for SMBs specializing in the Magento eCommerce Platform, WooCommerce, WordPress Content Management System, and Custom Web Development



Jonathan Martin

President and Founder




Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
CEOCFO Magazine
Published – May 29, 2017


CEOCFO: Mr. Martin, what is the idea behind coolblueweb?

Mr. Martin: The idea behind coolblueweb is to provide eCommerce and development support for small to medium-sized eCommerce store owners.


CEOCFO: What are some of the challenges that people do not realize when they first start on their mission to be an ecommerce company?

Mr. Martin: Some of the biggest challenges we face are around driving traffic to our clients’ sites, making sure they have a steady flow of visitors and that they have the products visitors are looking for at the right price. Then, more importantly, that they have technical processes in place so, when an order comes in or a customer has an issue, the store has the infrastructure to take care of it. We often see clients who are new to the eCommerce space and are not prepared to take care of a customer return, or they don’t understand what it looks like for some of their products to be shipped from their primary warehouse or a fulfillment center.


CEOCFO: Do many of your clients come to you in the beginning when they are first getting started or do they tend to come when they have a crisis?

Mr. Martin: We get both kinds of customers. We call crisis customers the on-fire customers, meaning they’re in need of immediate fixes, and we do quite a bit of that kind of work. Most agencies do not prefer that kind of work, because it means they are stepping into a project that is not their technology stack. They did not cause the problem and it is more difficult to figure out where a problem is if you did not write the code. We love that kind of work, because we’ve found that, if we can get in there and solve one of those on-fire problems quickly for a customer, they will stick with us. We will be the easy choice on their next big initiative, because we have already earned their trust and proven our value to them.

CEOCFO: Did you understand that at day one or did you realize that over time that it was a segment you could grab?

Mr. Martin: It took us three years to figure that out. When we first started, all we wanted to do was project work. Projects that had a defined beginning, a defined end, something we could schedule, and something that was easy to manage. The kind of emergency where “I need this or that right now” or needing someone to quickly come and take a look at a problem, that kind of stuff we just turned away. We got those phone calls, people would ask for that kind of work, and we would say “no”. Finally, I got tired of saying no and hired a couple of expert developers to focus on that kind of work. We found that, at scale, the workload balances out. We have about 70 customers on an ongoing retainer, ad hoc kind of support basis where we are available fix those fire issues. At scale, the workload is steady. One customer has a fire this month and not the next, while another customer is fine this month, but has a fire the next. It balances out over time.

CEOCFO: Are there many decisions that a company needs to make before you can put together a program or are you able to come up with a program that can be expanded or contracted as needed?

Mr. Martin: We work on a couple different technology platforms and one of them is called Magento, which is an enterprise level, eCommerce and technology stack. Another is called WooCommerce, which is a rapidly growing technology platform, or eCommerce platform, for the WordPress environment. Depending on the complexity of the product catalogue for a store owner, the complexity of their sales process and how much gasoline they have to pour on the fire once their site is up and launched, we can help the store owner make good decisions from the start. We often have customers who come to us who are on the wrong technology platform, because they thought they were immediately going to be a $50 million a year ecommerce business and it turned out they are only a $1 million a year eCommerce business. They have a lot of what I would call “technical debt”, meaning they need to be unwound and potentially moved to a simpler platform.


CEOCFO: How do you reach out and how do people find coolblueweb if they are looking?

Mr. Martin: Most of our business comes directly from either of our technology partners. We were the first gold partner with WooCommerce in America. We were a partner with Magento. Our technology stack providers send us a lot of business and we also have quite a presence here in the Pacific Northwest. We make partnerships with other ancillary businesses like hosting companies, product management companies, inventory management companies and when those partners have customers who are looking for more help, they tend to refer them to us.


CEOCFO: What is a typical engagement?

Mr. Martin: We have three ways that customers engage with us. We have the project-based engagement, where someone will come to us and, for example, need a brand-new ecommerce store. Those engagements are priced from as little as $30,000, all the way up to $120,000. Those customers come to us with very specific needs in place. We have other customers who engage with us on a retainer basis. They say they want a process of continuous improvement on their ecommerce store, so they have a budget of x and want to apply 40 hours a month towards improvements for their store. Then we have what we call our upkeep program, which is more of that “just needed us here in case the house starts to burn down” program, so we can go in and take care of them.


CEOCFO: Where does the custom software development come in?

Mr. Martin: We have a lot of customers who were using paper to manage their inventory processes, or who were using paper to manage their orders. How do we automate that? We develop a piece of software that will manage the information in a manual process. We have a client, for example, who is a pension management company managing pensions for unions. The employers literally were sending in paystubs to manage payroll and union benefits, so we developed a complete online system allowing them to upload files or data sheets, making that process smoother.


CEOCFO: Is it totally out of the eCommerce space?

Mr. Martin: It is totally outside of the eCommerce space. We do some custom software, as well. Though, that is still kind of transactional in nature. I think one of the key components is that it needs to be something that, in some way, is a transaction. With the payroll processing, there is a transaction that happens between the employer and the employee, and the system is the record-keeper for that. We have another piece of software that we developed for a shipping company and, while it is not a true “add to cart” experience, we are still tracking inventory as it flows through customs, hits the Port of Seattle, gets logged into their system, moves to one of their yards, goes to customs, and then is shipped out to the client. That whole transaction of moving data or products from one place to another is something we really specialize in.


CEOCFO: How do people find you for the custom work?

Mr. Martin: What we specialize in is harder development tasks and ecommerce is one of those harder development tasks. You have to deal with PCI compliance, credit card information and quite a few moving parts in a typical ecommerce store. People are not necessarily put off by that; rather, they are encouraged. We do not actually do any outreach. We do not have a sales team knocking on doors. We do not do a bunch of marketing events, but we do some trade shows here and there. We build relationships with other agencies in town. For example, we have relationships with agencies who specialize in what I call brochure websites, simple auto repair shop websites, business websites, real estate websites, and five-to-ten-page websites. That is what they love to do. We do not do any of that kind of work, so when someone calls us and asks for that, we refer that work out. Likewise, those other companies do not want to do anything complicated, because they do not really have a deep developer bench, so they refer complex business to us.


CEOCFO: What surprises you regarding technology? What can we do today that maybe we could not do a few years ago? What do you think we should be able to do that still cannot be accomplished easily?

Mr. Martin: What surprises me is how powerful our phones are, how amazing the mobile shopping experience is and the mobile information available. Everyone is on their phone three or four hours a day, whether it is during their commute or their downtime while they are waiting for their kids in dance class. People are just glued to their phones and we all have such powerful computers in our pockets. That is what surprises me and what I expect we should be able to do, that we currently do not, is seamlessly connect those experiences across all of our devices. It surprises me that my phone experience does not carry over to my browser experience. When I go to my computer, it does not automatically pop up with the websites I visited on my phone. If I was shopping for a new jacket on my phone while I was waiting for an appointment, it should be easy for me to connect those two experiences to make that purchase on my desktop computer, or something else. We have the technology to do it; it just is not prevalent in our ecosystem for some reason.


CEOCFO: What is ahead for coolblueweb?

Mr. Martin: We are a small company of 25 people. I think one of the biggest things ahead for us is continuing to grow our talent base. We are a service-based business, so our asset is really our employees. As we continue to grow, train and develop solid programmers who are subject matter experts in the ecommerce space, we will continue getting new business and bigger accounts. That just comes. That is part of the industry and that part is easy. It is how you build your teams, so you have the right capabilities to take care of clients as they come to you, no matter their size.


“We make partnerships with other ancillary businesses like hosting companies, product management companies, inventory management companies and when those partners have customers who are looking for more help, they tend to refer them to us.”- Jonathan Martin









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