The biggest expense last year at e-commerce company Mac of All Trades, which buys and sells used Apple products, was in advertising and digital marketing.
That's by design. Those costs are something founder and CEO Michael Snyder feels passionately about. “It separates the real players from the wannabes,” he says.
Getting the word out about Mac of All Trades, even with a big budget, is Snyder's No. 1 challenge. The 26-employee company, with a national office and warehouse in Tampa, had $10.9 million in revenues in 2014, up 43% over 2013. The firm projects revenues will grow an additional 19% this year, to $13 million. Snyder declines to say how much the firm spends on advertising.
Snyder, 50, learned the value of making marketing a priority when he first started working in the industry in his mid-20s. He learned plenty of business lessons working for a man in Atlanta who bought and sold used computers. “Part of his business plan was not to pay for advertising,” Snyder says.
In the early 1990s, the company published price indexes in different publications to tell people what different computers were worth. Publications such as Mac World, San Jose Mercury News, Atlanta Computer Current and PC News would include the company's phone number, which drove sales leads.
After working for the company for a couple years, some investors approached Snyder to start his own used computer business. By 2001, his company was making around $1 million a year in sales and he was able to buy the investors out. Snyder brought his four-person business to Florida in 2004.
There was some quick initial growth, and then sales leveled off to around $3.5 million from 2007 to 2011. Snyder knew he needed to make some changes.
His senior sales person resigned around 2011. That forced Snyder to take over all the accounts and get back on the phones. The challenge helped him decide to make a big investment in expanding his sales staff, hiring younger, more trainable employees.
He also decided he was neglecting a real investment in digital marketing by always trying to keep it within a tight budget. He went back to his marketing agency — Michigan Brand Labs — and told them they are the experts, and to “pretend like you own the company and you take over the marketing.”
Snyder says that was key to the continued growth at Mac of All Trades. It helps, too, that Snyder sells products constantly in demand. “We're not talking you into buying something; they want it and we know we have a buyer,” he says.
Snyder still goes up against some stiff competition: Mainstream listing services like Craigslist and eBay, for instance, sell more than $1 billion in Apple products every year. So Snyder knows he needs to do whatever he can to help the customer find his company.
“Even though Apple has gained a lot of success over the last decade,” he says, “our business is still a niche.”
- Traci McMillan Beach