EXCLUSIVE: Podium cancels its gun store customers
Text and online marketing company goes woke after pursuing firearm dealers
Podium, which calls itself the country’s leading communication and payments platform for local businesses, has dropped its customers that sell guns. The company best known for texting and messaging marketing changed its terms of service last month to make all “firearms-related businesses, activities, or transactions” to be “prohibited.”
This comes after Podium paid to advertise, bought exhibition space at the nation’s largest firearms trade show and actively pursued business with gun dealers, according to documents from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). Podium said it wanted to “lean into the world of guns” before changing policies.
“Woke businesses like Podium are choosing to side with gun control and implement boardroom policies that discriminate against the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans and a lawful industry,” Larry Keane, the NSSF’s Senior Vice President for Government & Public Affairs & General Counsel told me. “It’s bad business.”
Local gun store canceled
Jessica Keffer is the vice president of the Sportsman’s Shop, a popular gun store in East Earl, Penn. She said that she has been paying Podium $360 a month for the past year to manage their online chats and text messages with customers.
Keffer said Podium emailed her “out of the blue” to say that her account was being “deactivated.” (That email is pasted at the bottom of this story. It links to these “Terms and Conditions.”)
“It’s infuriating,” Keffer said in a phone interview. “We are a legal business, doing things the right way. And I should be able to advertise and promote my business as such. And I can’t do that because of what we sell.”
Keffer reported that Podium got her store from 300 to 800 Google reviews, which increased their search ranking.
“The irony is we had tremendous success with it. Podium had a significant impact for good for our business,” Keffer said. “And then we get -- sorry we won’t do business with you and more -- and no explanation.”
Podium did not respond to requests for comment about its changed policies.
Podium advertised to gun dealers
Keffer said Podium approached her larger buy group to pitch their services. I discovered that was one part of a much larger effort by Podium to get gun industry business.
The NSSF, which represents firearm manufacturers and gun dealers, says Podium bought exhibition space in 2021 and 2022 at SHOT Show, their massive annual trade show and pursued the industry.
NSSF provided me with emails from Podium — which are at the bottom of this story — asking for the business. One from 2020 says:
We are very interested and excited to lean into the world of guns and get many of these stores modernize in the way they do business to ensure longevity.
Also, Podium paid to advertise in one of the NSSF’s weekly email newsletters last year and purchased exhibitor space at a large range and retailer exhibition in Florida.
Keane called this decision a “180” and said in a statement:
Podium’s decision to turn tail and discriminate against lawful businesses that provide for the exercise of the Second Amendment by law-abiding Americans is reprehensible.
It’s unknown how many firearms dealers use Podium after all the advertising, but the company says in its promotional materials that it powers more than 100,000 local businesses to facilitate millions of customer interactions and payment transactions. Along with firearms, Podium now refuses to work with companies that sell alcohol.
Competitor steps in
Keffer said her store has switched to using a competitor called Otter Text. Although she said it is a smaller company and doesn’t have all the same features as Podium, she is able to speak directly to the owner which she “loves.”
Otter has an advertising campaign on this website directly hitting at alcohol and firearms customers who were “kicked off” Podium.
Keffer said the transition has been “frustrating” because Podium “made it very difficult” to extract the contact information for the subscribers that signed on with her store through the service. Otter notes that “Podium does not have an easy way to export your data.”
Asked why she decided to go public about Podium canceling her store, Keffer said she had to speak up against discrimination against her industry by social media, banks and now a marketing firm.
“My motto has always been that I don't want to quietly go into the night,” she said. “I want to make sure we don't miss the chance to correct the incorrect things.”
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