First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
John W. DeFeo: Thank you for asking, Kossi. My family and I are doing well, and for that, we count ourselves both fortunate and grateful. For me, the hardest part of adjusting to the pandemic has been the inability to see loved ones in person, especially those who live in different countries. I hope that you and your family are faring well in these difficult times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Good, Cheap, and Fast
John W. DeFeo: I’m a jack of all trades. (For years, I was uncomfortable admitting that, but it’s true.) I went to school for filmmaking, but after graduation, my student loans left me in near poverty. A friend helped me get a job as a designer in the video game industry, and, since then, I’ve worked in various publishing roles, e.g., photographer, writer, marketer, data analyst, and, most recently, an executive specializing in business intelligence and content strategy. I left my corporate job in Fall 2018 to take a sabbatical. During that time, I launched a prototype of Good, Cheap, and Fast. It was surprisingly well-received, but I didn’t pursue it as a full-time job until a year later. Now, it’s my focus.
How does Good, Cheap, and Fast innovate?
John W. DeFeo: I’d like to think that Good, Cheap and Fast innovates by putting a touch of humanity into data science, rather than relying strictly upon algorithms and automation. Several companies help filter fraudulent online reviews, but Good, Cheap, and Fast spend just as much time (if not more) focusing on real users and why they rate products in ways that are not easy to quantify.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
John W. DeFeo: During the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic, I spent more time thinking about my family and our safety than I spent thinking about business. Ironically, these were some of the best months that Good, Cheap, and Fast ever had. Web traffic and online purchases surged during that time, but for me, the surge was followed by a crash. I suspended some of my marketing efforts, not because of financial reasons, but because I didn’t like the idea of self-promotion during a time when so many others were feeling grief, confusion, and pain.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
John W. DeFeo: The most difficult choice that I’ve made during the pandemic was deciding in the beginning not to write about critical supplies that were in shortage. To do so may have resulted in a financial windfall, but it would have come at the expense of my moral code and the integrity of my brand. I despise panic buying and the harm that it causes others.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Good, Cheap, and Fast in the future?
John W. DeFeo: My answer to both questions is this: one day at a time. 2020 has been such a crazy year, and the rug has been pulled out from beneath my feet so many times. I say the serenity prayer and just try to work on things that I think will help people.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
John W. DeFeo: I have more competitors than I could reasonably list. I suppose the biggest one is Amazon itself, even though Amazon is also my greatest source of income. When customers easily find what they need on Amazon.com, they have little reason to visit a website like Good, Cheap, and Fast. Amazon also has a lot of power over independent publishers like me; Good, Cheap, and Fast suffered a 41% drop in profit when Amazon adjusted its affiliate fees earlier this year.
Beyond that, my biggest competitors are large publishing companies (like those I used to work for). A single publishing company might own hundreds of websites, and all of them are all excellent at search engine optimization (i.e., appearing at the top of Google’s results). This provides online searchers with the illusion of choice, but in reality, it doesn’t matter which link a person clicks: They’re ringing the register for the same corporation.
To stay in the game, Good, Cheap, and Fast must become a brand name that people trust and actively look for.
Your final thoughts
John W. DeFeo: I’d kick myself if I didn’t use this opportunity to explain what Good, Cheap, and Fast do: In short, I find legitimate above-average products that are selling for below-average prices, and I list those products on a website that has no ads or trackers.
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