My guest today is Dave Gerhardt, Director of Marketing at Drift, a conversation-driven marketing and sales platform that works as a virtual assistant for your website. Dave joined Drift as their first marketer two years ago, and he’s also the cohost of the podcast Seeking Wisdom with Drift CEO David Cancel. Dave is a true no-nonsense marketer, and on today’s episode you’re going to learn how to actually connect with people in your marketing and drive sales for your company.
Listen to this Episode:
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Growing immunity to bad marketing
- The importance of side projects
- Conversation marketing and Drift
- Offline vs. online sales
- Sales barriers and how to avoid them
- Empathy and connecting with customers
- Company alignment and building a brand
- Dave’s recommended resources
- Seeking Wisdom
- The Boron Letters by Gary and Bond Halbert
- Tech In Boston podcast
- A Side Project Helped Jumpstart My Career by David Gerhardt
- Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield
- Ca$hvertising by Drew Whitman
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
- Noah Kagan Presents podcast
- Behind the Cloud by Mark Benioff and Carlye Adler
Louis: Dave, thank you so much for your time and being on the show. There’s one story that I discovered in your Twitter feed I think or on a blog post that you wrote. It’s a guy called John Westonbear who followed 150 digital marketers on Twitter. If you remember what happened, he followed those guys and then what happened once he followed those 150 people?
Dave: This is almost a year ago. I almost remember this. Did they all auto-send him DMs or something like that, auto-tweet or something like that?
Louis: Yeah, he received more than 100 DMs from digital marketers.
Dave: I love that, good for them, I’m sure that’s working out well for them. It’s actually funny because I log into our Drift Twitter account every now and then, we do all of our social on a different platform. Sometimes, I log into the native app and I just go to the inbox. I’m like holy shit, there’s literally hundreds of people, hundreds of these DMs from people that are just automated, it’s awful.
Louis: Why is it awful?
Dave: Because I don’t know who actually would do that. It’s a good example of marketers just over rotating on automation. It’s actually the reason why the welcome email for Drift, if you subscribe to our blog, everybody sends a welcome email. In the welcome email, I say hey, I know that you know that this is an automated email. I’m a real person and I am a real person who had to write this. Reply and I’ll say hi back to you.
I think that’s one of the ways that I’ve tried to de-mask the automation. It’s still work, I still want to send in a drip campaign to new people that sign up. I know that they’re so used to the shit that other marketers do that I just want to say we’re not like everybody else.
Louis: That’s a good example of what’s going on in marketing at the minute, people tend to forget that people are people. When we put our marketer hats on, we forget that they are and we just treat them as leads or potential sales.
In a wider, more strategic or why type of question, what’s going on in marketing at the minute? Why is it so shady?
Dave: I actually don’t think anybody is intending to do bad, marketers. I think we’ve just, ten years ago, 2007, everything in internet marketing was still pretty new. If you’re one of the few people who had a podcast or had a blog, your advantage in building an audience were like you were one of the only people that did that. Part of it was for good. This is before I was even doing marketing, I can’t really relate, I was still in college. Marketing used to get a bad rep, it was like arts and crafts, nobody actually knew what marketers did everyday.
Because of digital marketing and all the marketing tools on the internet, marketers started to get a lot of credit because they could actually say hey, all these things that we did generated this many leads, was turned to this many sales. All these companies started being like oh, marketing is legit, it’s not just arts and crafts.
I think then what happened is just like anything, human nature, we take a good thing and if you do too much of it, it becomes a bad thing. We just over-rotated. We said oh, we automate our emails, I can save a bunch of time if I automate my tweets, why don’t I automate when somebody follows me I DM them. There’s just however many ways you want to cut it, but that’s the story that I think. I think that’s the reason why, we’ve been given all these tools that allow us to automate things. It’s partially like the person who’s using it that can be responsible, but most of the time it’s human nature to want to be as efficient as possible. If I could do no work and get the same amount of results, guess which one I’m going to pick?
Louis: I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody who bought something from an automated DM on Twitter.
Dave: Absolutely not.
Louis: There’s something happening at the minute in marketing and it seems like people are getting immune to it, immune to the bad marketing type, the bad automation or the bad content. People bullshit parameters getting much more sophisticated.
Dave: It’s funny. When I started at Drift, we didn’t have a blog, we didn’t really do any marketing, I was the first marketing hire. I started to build an email list and I started to send weekly emails. I had developed this writing style that was just very personal, that’s just how I write. Before Drift, I had a little side project, a podcast and a newsletter that I had grown in the community in Boston here. Every Sunday night, I would send an update to the list and it was just supposed to be a personal email, personal note from me because I wasn’t a business, I was a person.
Then when I came to Drift, my boss, our CEO David, cancelled. He was like, “Do that same thing. Replicate that same personal tone and do it for our marketing emails.” I just started writing. To your point, I just didn’t capitalize my subject lines. I sent an email like I would email my mom, “Coming over tomorrow to see the baby?” Then I would start the email. That’s how I started the marketing emails at Drift.
So many people thought that I must have found some growth hack. They thought that I AB tested the list and found that lower case subject lines performed better, and that’s why I was doing it. The truth is they did perform better but it’s not because I tested it, they performed better because they felt like personal emails.
I didn’t know this at the time, but after this, I got really into copywriting books. I read this book called The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert. In the book, he talks about how everybody has two piles as people, we used to get a lot of mail. I’m not that old but younger people used to get stuff in the mail. When you’d come home, you would separate the pile of mail. You’d have your A pile, things that clearly looked like letters from friends, they weren’t really fancily packaged or didn’t look like laminated mailing pieces. Then you had your B pile, which was obviously marketing email. That was like oh my god, I didn’t even realize that that’s what we had been doing but that analogy is just something that I think about everyday now.
That’s why we send plain text emails at Drift. Honestly, there isn’t a real big science behind it, the science behind it is something in our brains goes off when you get a perfectly designed HTML email with a banner and buttons. It’s like I know this is a marketing email. The bar is going to be even higher for me to get a response.
Louis: I’m laughing at myself and my own joke for the last five minutes. I have to say it. When you said, “Are you coming to see the baby tomorrow?” I was thinking if a marketer with a marketer hat on will write the subject line, probably be like, “You won’t believe what’s happening tomorrow…” or something like this. It’s fairly an all capitalized letters on first words.
Dave: I would be okay with that subject line if the content in the email delivered on that. But the problem is the disconnect, it’s a bait and switch. It’s a subject line to get you to open it, and then I switch it once it gets you in the email.
Louis: In this episode, what we’re trying to do is solve the problem of how to actually do marketing that will really connect with people. It seems like more and more people are getting immune to it. This is the overall theme of this episode, how to make sure that your people don’t get tired of your marketing, how to make sure to connect with them.
Before that, let’s talk a bit about you. Just prior to recording this episode, you were telling a good story. You’re based in Boston, you used to work for HubSpot and Constant Contact which are two major SaaS businesses. You also had this side project of a podcast newsletter.
Dave: Yes. It was called Tech In Boston. I was working in product marketing at Constant Contact which at the time, now they’ve been bought and a bunch of subs happened. They were a bigger company, a bigger publicly traded SaaS company that had 1,500 employees. We were outside of the city. As I started to get really interested in SaaS and tech, I wanted to feel a part of the community and there was a growing startup community in Boston. I just came up with the idea of starting a podcast. This was in 2014. For those listening, before Serial, there was Tech In Boston. It wasn’t Serial that blew up the podcast world.
I started this podcast because I was actually really interested in Jason Calacanis’ This Week In Startups. I would listen to his podcast all the time. I would love all the stories but then I’d be like damn, there’s a huge startup community here in Boston but there’s nobody represented from Boston on this show. Maybe I could just start my own thing.
I actually interviewed my CEO at the company I was at. I went to his startup called Previ at the time and I interviewed him as the first episode. Week by week, I started to just make more connections with people in Boston. Every Friday, I would do an interview with the founders, CEOs in Boston. That thing grew.
And then built an email list, started a newsletter. Every Sunday night, I sent out an email that was basically like here’s what happened in the Boston tech community over the last week. I think people liked it because I wasn’t a journalist, I wasn’t part of the media, just a guy who happened to work in tech in Boston. I just shared what was going on. “Hey, I heard this thing. Here’s this link.” It wasn’t really about the news, it was about, “The director of marketing at this company wrote a really interesting Medium post. The head of design at this company made this really interesting SlideShare deck.” I just try to curate all of that.
Long story short, that’s how I met the founder of Drift, David Cancel, I had him on my podcast and then we connected. A day later, I had just looked at their page on Angel List and I saw that they were making their first marketing hire. That’s when I sent him a note. That’s how I got here.
Louis: It’s a pretty good story, pretty similar to mine. I started a podcast, this podcast, and I got in touch with the guys at Hotjar (and David Darmanin in particular). It’s quite fun because it’s rare to meet people who have done podcasts in the past, it’s not a channel that a lot of people will overtake because it takes time. It’s not as easy as publishing a Medium post.
Dave: There’s actually something else that I think is worth unpacking in there. We talk about this a lot from a hiring perspective. Hiring for marketing is really hard. There’s not always a test you can do. It’s not like an engineer; you can come in, you can go through a coding test and you know what it is. You can design something and show me. Even if I give you a project, it’s really hard because you need to see how somebody reacts in day to day and has the ability to just generate new ideas all the time.
I fall in this trap all the time and I’m still not good at it. I look at somebody’s LinkedIn profile and I expect a LinkedIn profile to have this perfect resume. Worked at Google, then worked at SalesForce, then start a blog on the side, and now is looking for their next job at Drift. It never works out that way. What I realized, and this is the same pattern you have. The same thing I realized is what I should be looking for is people who are doing interesting things and have built an audience on the side, and then you can teach that person to almost do anything.
I’ve never ran a marketing team before, I have never done almost all the things that I’ve done in the last two years now at Drift, but what David saw, and this is something that we talk about a lot is on my own on a side project I built up an audience of thousands of people. He’s like, “I don’t even care how you do that, just come here and you can learn and do that at a bigger scale for us.” I think there’s a lot of lessons in there for hiring marketers for sure.
Louis: Absolutely. I don’t mean any disrespect to the listeners who are in this type of position, but I believe that you can’t be a full stack marketer, per se, without having started a project on your own, without any money to invest in ads or anything like this. I believe that marketing starts when you have nothing and you have to offer something of value and email ten people that will then like it so much that they email another ten people. You know what I’m trying to say?
Dave: Yeah, oh my god, I want to jump through this right now. I actually wrote a post on Medium about a year ago. It was the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It was called, “How A Side Project Helped Me Jumpstart My Career.” It was all about how Tech In Boston led me to Drift. The bottom section of the article was exactly what you just mentioned where because I was doing this on my own, I was at a 1,500 person company. They weren’t going to give me access to the backend of the website and a budget. I was 23, 24 years old at that company, there’s no way.
When I started Tech In Boston, I had to figure out—this is going to sound really silly. I don’t think a lot of marketers can do this stuff on their own. I had to figure out how to set up a website, I had to figure out Google Analytics, I had to figure out how to build an email list, I had to figure out how to cold email people I don’t know and get them on my show. I had to figure out how to sell sponsorships, I had to learn sales. Those are all things I had to figure out on my own without a playbook or without a template. I think that I’m just getting fired up about it again right now and I almost want to go re-write about it. I think that is just such an underrated thing.
Louis: I lectured in a college recently and the graduates were asking this exact question. “How do I find my first job in marketing?” I was telling them exactly this, try to invest in a side project, something that you strongly believe in. It doesn’t have to be about marketing, it doesn’t have to be marketers talking about marketing like we’re doing right now. It can very well be, like your sister has an immune condition, something that she will have for the rest of her life and there’s a charity that needs your help. Just get involved in this charity and do a side project for them, set up the website for them, help them design their newsletter, whatever it is. Show that you are not just following the path that you’re expected to take and show that you’re taking a bit of risk, and you will learn so much out of it and then you’ll build a network that will then enable you to get the right opportunity, like what happened to you and what happened to me. It’s perfect examples.
Dave: Yeah, I love that advice. I think it’s one of those things that sounds obvious, but I would say 99% of the people will hear it. They’re even going to listen to this podcast and hear it. They won’t’ actually go out and do it, or they might go and do it and they might do it for a week. That happened to me, I started Tech in Boston, I did it for a month, and I hated it. I quit. It wasn’t until I quit after doing it for a month. I got two or three emails from complete strangers, people I had never met or known in my life, and they said hey, I was a big fan of what you were doing with Tech In Boston, why did you stop? It was when I got those three emails that I was like wait, what? This is somebody other than my mom or other than my wife that thinks this is cool? That got me to re-look at it from a different lens and then I recommitted and really just doubled down on it after that.
That’s my way of saying you’re going to start something and it’s going to suck. Everybody knows if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of whatever you’re doing, then you’re not doing it right. I think that’s the reality of it. The only way I was able to get guest number two on Tech In Boston was because I got guest number one. Same way you started this podcast. “Here’s the link to the interview I did with so and so, I think you’d be great, check it out.” It just starts to snowball and all that stuff builds on itself but it doesn’t start anywhere unless you actually get started yourself.
Louis: One thing to remember as well, it’s important to say that there are some things in this podcast that are being repeated by people and that I keep repeating. Because I know that even if you have heard of it before or listened to the exact same sentence before, it’s important to repeat stuff. I’ve realized that it takes time to digest this information, it takes time to then action it. I don’t have any problem mentioning what I’m gonna say once again, people don’t care about you. That’s really hard to say.
When you start a side project, people won’t care. Your job is to make them care, that should be a challenge. It’s okay if some of them don’t, but this is what you start with. People don’t care about you whatsoever, this is your job as a marketer, how do you make them care?
Dave: I think it’s the reason why I read so many business books even though they all say the same thing. It’s because it just needs to be repeated, impounded into my head. I forget all the time.
Louis: Exactly. We haven’t talked about Drift too much. I’m going to try to explain it in my words, that could be a good exercise for you. You can then repeat that and say this is how it’s explained. To me, it’s basically a software that helps you to communicate with your website visitors better, to really be able to have one to one conversations and be able to meet their needs faster.
Dave: Pretty good.
Louis: What’s the real definition?
Dave: No, that’s pretty good. The way that we talk about it, I’m a big fan of using the words that other people are using to describe what we’re doing. We were talking to a customer the other day and he’s like, “I know what Drift is. It’s like a virtual assistant for your website.” I would’ve never described it like that.
Basically, the reality of it is what we’re focused on is reinventing marketing and sales using conversation, messaging, instead of traditional form. Traditional marketing and sales platforms are all built on forms and followups and gated content and cold calls and cold emails. We’re trying to connect you with the best people while they’re actually live on your website.
Louis: Pretty good, pretty good proposition. In five years, where is Drift going to be, what’s the big idea for the software?
Dave: For us, the big idea is completely rewriting the way that everybody does sales and marketing today. It’s not a major shift for you as a business, it’s actually bringing marketing back to the roots where marketing used to be about people and having conversations with people and talking to people and getting to know you and figuring out how I can best match what we have to fit your needs. But because of all the tools and technology that we have today, it’s just become about gaming the system.
How can I put this landing page up and increase the conversion rate by 2% in order to get six more leads so I can hit my number as a marketing person even though the sales team is going to miss their goal? Our VP of Sales and I have this conversation all the time. He’s been doing this for 20 years and he’s been at five or six companies. He’s like, “Every company that I’ve worked at, the VP of Marketing, whoever is in charge of marketing and sales, they argue about the same thing every time. Marketing says why don’t you follow up with these leads fast enough, I’m giving you the good leads. The sales team says maybe if you didn’t bring in shit leads, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
That’s the reality of it. We’re trying to bring it all back to conversations, make it about people. Throughout the technology, it’s all about I’m on your website right now, I’m interested. The big disconnect that we’re going after is the way that you and I buy and communicate with businesses is the exact opposite of how we communicate as people. Anytime I’m offline for a little bit, like right now or doing a webinar or something, I always say this is the hour of the day when I’m getting the least amount of Slack and iMessages because it’s turned off.
Messaging is how we all communicate every single day, but for the majority of businesses, I got to go to their website, I got to fill out a form, maybe if I’m lucky I’ll hit some magic lead scoring threshold and get connected to a sales rep and then earn the right to talk to their team. All of those products were built to solve company problems. The company problem was I have 100 sales reps, I have a million visitors to my website, I can’t possibly have them wasting their time with people who aren’t actually going to buy all day. What do we do? We threw up forms, we put all these complex rules in.
But now, all the power has shifted back to people, to customers. It’s ridiculous that I can order a car, I could use TaskRabbit or something to send you a coffee within the next hour. I don’t even know where you are right now, I could figure that out and send you a coffee, but I can’t go get a demo of a software product without waiting four days to get qualified from the sales team.
Louis: I want to hug you as well. It’s great to talk about the same thing. I agree on that.
Can you describe a little bit more the things that we do as marketers that are completely the opposite of the way we actually talk to people? You mentioned briefly the landing page, the form, gated content. Can you elaborate on those?
Dave: The example that I love to us is the Apple Store. You can go to any mall and just walk into any Apple Store and pick up a MacBook, a phone, or an iPad. You’ve probably done a little bit of research before that, you’ve probably talked to your friends, saw what other people are saying on Amazon Reviews or in forums, or you’ve done a bit of research to know maybe you want the MacBook Pro versus the MacBook Air but you’re not sure about the space. Then, you go into the store when you’re ready and you check it out yourself. That’s how things happen in person, in real life.
The way that happens online is even if I know all the answers to those questions, I go to your website and I have to fill out a form that has 10 fields on it just to let the sales team know that I’m qualified. I have to say here’s my name, here’s my email—my work email, it has to be—here’s my phone number, here’s my domain, here’s how many people are on my team, here’s the marketing budget, and then I hit submit.
First of all, there’s two things that are wrong with that. Number one, it’s 2017. You can find out all that information without having to have somebody fill out your form. We partner with a company at Drift called ClearBit and I know your domain, company size, revenue, I know all that stuff before you ever say hi on our website. That’s the reality of it. Technology is so good you can figure all that stuff out today.
Second part of that is the way that consumers buy has changed. We all know these things. I’ve been doing webinars for six months at Drift right now and we had webinar software from this one company. I needed to upgrade, needed to buy more seats for the platform. I went to their website and they already had my credit card on file. The only way to upgrade was to call them. I was like I’m doing this webinar in the next hour, what did I do? I did what everybody does. I Googled, I typed in the company name, I wrote alternative. I got the best, the top, then I got some lists, somebody wrote here are the five best webinar softwares, and I read a list for two seconds. I went to that company’s website, they got me an answer right away, and I bought. That just says everything.
Our ops guy, I’m not going to mention the tool. He had $15,000 in hand on this company’s website. He said, “We had a hole that we needed to fill. I need to buy this.” They made him wait two weeks to go through a process. Those things are crazy. As people, we all get fired up about those things. But then in our jobs in marketing, we’re like well, this is how it works. This is what the process is.
Louis: I know the company you’re talking about, I’m not going to mention them either even though I could, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. The reason I know them is because I had a similar experience where instead of having to upgrade, I wanted to cancel the account.
Dave: I’ve had the same…
Louis: I had to call them. I literally lost it. The person on the phone, I was like, “It’s no disrespect to you, I understand it’s not your fault, it’s just a job, but fuck me.”
Dave: The best part was after I had already switched to the other account, then this sales rep called me. Everyday for two weeks straight. I’m like buddy, I’m already gone. That example has given me enough content at Drift for the next year because that’s exactly what we’re solving. What we do as marketers is we ignore the people who are in our store, that’s the equivalent of I’m in the Apple Store and I can’t get anybody’s help. But the second I leave the Apple Store, somebody calls my phone, and then I get home and there’s a piece of mail waiting for me. They’re telling me to come back and I’m like wait, why would I come back? I was already there. I was already in your store.
Louis: Right. I think we’ve described the problem pretty well. We’ve described what’s going on in today’s marketing and Dave has to drink some water cause he’s getting really angry at the minute, and me too. We have the problem. People are getting immune to it, people are getting sick and sicker, and companies are struggling to find ways to connect with people better. They still use those tricky, scammy tactics, in your face tactics to try to get more sales.
Now, let’s describe what marketers and listeners should do instead. Let’s try to get a step by step methodology that people can take away. How do you actually do marketing that people genuinely connect with?
Dave: I’ll mention how Drift fits in but I just want to mention the first part. I think the first part is empathy. I think it’s a word that a lot of people use a lot but they don’t really think about what it means. The way that I think about it is I am doing marketing at a company that sells to marketers. The number one marketing technique that I can use is I can tell them what I’m doing and explain to them how I’m doing things and share what we’re doing, and make it all about education and selling. If you think about it, helping is the new selling today. The companies that win are the ones who are just genuinely helpful, the ones that we want to go tell our friends about.
I think it starts with being helpful, being genuinely helpful. The empathy part is how many times do you actually think before you write a blog post, before you send an email, or before you put up some Facebook ads? Is this really good? Are people actually going to click on this and then buy? And then if they do click on this, is it going to deliver on what I’m telling them? Because the backlash could be just as bad if you just completely lie about something and then send them to a landing page.
For me, it’s those two things that I try to think of everyday. Is it helpful, and is this something that I would actually click on as a person?
Louis: Try to take distance from what you’re doing and take off your marketer’s hat and ask yourself if it’s genuinely good.
Dave: Yeah. There’s a book by Steven Pressfield called Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit. I’ll sum up the whole book for you right now. He was a guy working at an ad agency and all these clients would come to the ad agency and pitch them on we need ads because this podcast is the best podcast on earth and that’s what you need to make your ad campaigns about. What he realized was his job in the ad agency world was to actually tell the clients nobody’s going to give a shit about this. They have to help them connect the dots.
I think the best thing you can do as a marketer is be a little skeptical. We just built a new feature at our company. I have to go market it. I’m not going to go tell them no, guys, I don’t think this is good so I’m not going to market it. I like my job and I want to keep it. Then, I have to think about okay, what’s really in it for people? It’s not about us, it’s about them. Then, you just basically start to reverse engineer the whole story. I think just taking a step back for five minutes and just trying to map that out and think what are you really selling?
My favorite analogy, there’s another great book on copywriting, it’s called Cashvertising. In that book—the title is corny but it’s a really good book—there’s a great example on it. It’s like what people don’t understand is that you’re at a hardware store, people aren’t going to come to a hardware store to buy a long handle and an aluminum thing on the end of the handle. They’re not coming to buy a shovel, they want holes in the ground. If they could just snap their fingers and get holes in the ground, they don’t care if it was a shovel, if it was a person you had to hire, if it was a bird that dug the hole. I just try to think about that and all the things that we do in marketing. How do we understand that it’s not about what we’re selling, it’s about what people can do with what we’re selling.
Louis: The jobs that they are using your solution to perform, which is the same type of thinking than the jobs to be done methodology which I found really helpful. It sounds a bit simple and silly but it’s really exactly what you said. It’s not about what you’re buying or what you’re using, it’s about what you’re doing with it. As soon as you think this way, marketing gets a little bit easier.
Dave: The other point that’s worth mentioning there—the only challenge though, even with jobs to be done, you can start to go down this feature hole. The problem is even if I did make the best remote and I did have the best features and I can tell you that it’s this much thinner and faster, consumers are just so skeptical. I don’t believe you. If you tell me it’s the fastest, is it really the fastest? The last iPhone I bought was 16gb and I opened it up and I turned it on, I clicked on Software, and it was 11gb. People are just skeptical about what people are selling.
The big thing that we’re really passionate about at Drift, and this came from David, is the only way to really win in marketing today is by building a brand. You have to have an emotional connection with somebody beyond your features because the world of competing just on features is over because anyone can go start a company today and then just go look at Producton and see how much noise, there’s hundreds of new products being launched everyday. Whereas five years ago, a new product would be on TechCrunch just because it existed, because it was so rare. You’re just always fighting this noise. You have a lot of things working against you as a marketing person today.
Louis: Step one, remember to be empathetic and really understand whether what you’re doing is really good. Step two, I would summarize it by being honest, is a good way to think of it. Not trying to oversell it or not trying to lie to people but being very honest with it. I know exactly what listeners are thinking right now because I talked to a few of them. I know that one thing when we mention good marketing and how to practice it, the big objection that they have is okay, how do I actually convince my managers to do this? How do I convince them?
Dave: I’m laughing because this is the number one question that I get whenever we talk about this stuff. It’s not a pretty answer. The number one answer is it’s going to be really hard. If you’re at a place that doesn’t think about marketing the same way you do, it’s going to be really hard to swim upstream and try to fight that. I got really lucky and it was part of the reason why I joined this company. I was talking to the CEO, David, and we were on the same page. He’s like I don’t care about traffic, I don’t care about blog subscribers, I don’t care about Twitter followers, I care about customers and I care about building a brand. He’s like I don’t want to see any of those vanity metrics. I just knew right away that we were on the same page.
In any business, alignment is key. You want your sales reps to sell more, they need to be aligned. You want your customer success team to be better, they need to be aligned with customer success. The same thing in marketing. I can’t give you some checklist of three things that you can do here, it’s got to be based on alignment. You got to be at a place and be at a company, work with other people who feel the same way and understand what marketing really is. If you’re not, we’re hiring. There’s plenty of other opportunities out there. Unfortunately, that’s the best piece of advice that I have for that question.
Louis: You did give a checklist. Number one, if you really feel that you cannot change people’s mind, which by the way is incredibly difficult to do, you just simply cannot an SEO’s mind who has 30 years experience in the field.
Dave: Also, think about if you’re at the company, if the company is doing well and sales are good, product is good, but you’re this lone marketer on a pedestal about we need to be doing brand, they’re not going to listen to you. Things are going well. Nobody cares, why change it if it’s not broken?
Louis: True. If you feel that people don’t connect with your vision and your culture, your values and culture, then step two is obviously to try to find a new job in the meantime, work on a side project and get a job in a company that has the values that you have.
Dave: Amen, yes.
Louis: I know you want to say it but I said it for you. It’s tough to say, obviously, because some people might have more difficulty finding a job, others might be tight in terms of money, it could be a bit difficult, I completely understand. It takes time. If you have the patience to go about it, then you could wait months or even years to find your next opportunity and make sure that this one is a good one.
Dave: Honestly, I would argue that if what you’re doing is not making you happy, don’t do it. Especially as a marketer today, I see them, because they pitch us all the time. If you’re a marketing person and you’re not getting along with your company or you don’t believe what they’re doing, go out on your own. Be your own video production company, be your own copywriting company, be your own podcast production company. You can make six figures doing that. Especially today, when anybody can create a business, there’s really no reason—this is why it’s hard to listen to people who just sit and grumble about their job, because more than ever today, you can go and change, you can go and do something about it.
Louis: I like to come back to the dialogue that you were mentioning between typical VP of marketing and VP of Sales, VP of Marketing. We’re giving you leads, you don’t turn them into customers, the VP of Sales will say we would like to but the leads are shit. Do you have that conversation inside Drift, or not? Honestly, do you ever have this conversation?
Dave: The honest answer is yeah, of course. If I said no, you wouldn’t believe me. I will say yes. We do, the conversation is a little bit different. The reason it’s different is because our conversation and our arguments—love you, Arman, it’s not an argument—is really just about because we’re building a whole new way of doing sales and marketing. The biggest pain points we have are around who gets credit? If somebody shows up on our website and says I want to buy and they spend $1,000 and they buy right there, was that marketing generated, was that sales generated? I think there’s a lot of it that comes down to—what we’re on the same page about is revenue and customers.
Those are our shared goals. If we’re short on leads that month but we hit our customer goal, great. We’re aligned on that. He doesn’t care about the vanity metrics. I think things that we do disagree on, at the end of the day, they’re the sales team and we’re the marketing team. We, marketers, tend to think a little bit in longer cycles than sales people. Okay, why are the leads that are coming in today not buying right now? It’s like well, when was the last time you went to somebody’s website and decided to buy a new business software?
It’s hard. I think that’s always been the battle between marketing and sales. We have an amazing relationship. It’s because we have the shared vision of revenue. The thing that he was telling me about was the reason they used to always argue is because they had two separate goals, marketing’s goals was to generate MQLs and sales’ goals was revenue. It’s all about what you incentivize. Marketing was just incentivized to generate MQLs, not looking at are those people actually converting, are they the right people. That’s when you really start to get into the issues.
Louis: You would argue that typical SaaS software with sales team and marketing team, marketing team being measured on MQLs and sales being measured on customers, you would argue that they should actually share the same goal, i.e. number of customers, and that it’s okay that certain quarter number of MQLs are not as big as another quarter because you just simply cannot force certain leads to turn into customer, or else you create bad profit.
Dave: I think no CEO is going to be okay with you saying oh, we had fewer leads this month. Once you start growing, you’re not going to be able to stop. I think it’s more about coming up with a better metric for sales and marketing. You could make up your own number at your own company. It’s really just about can we get in the same room and be in agreement. MQLs could work if the sales leader is completely aligned with yes, I sign off on this, this is the goal. What happens when you get to bigger companies is that that stuff doesn’t often happen in the same room.
Louis: You would argue that the solution to this problem is not necessarily finding a metric that everybody will get behind, it might be difficult to get into disagreement but at least organizing bi-weekly sales and marketing meetups where you actually get aligned, saying this is what we’ve been doing, how can we help you, and vice versa.
Dave: Yeah. We do a daily at Drift. The sales team has a meeting at the end of every day to just recap what they’ve done. Marketing is at that meeting every single day. Bi-weekly, bi-monthly, we’ve made it daily. The reason why is because we just don’t want there to be any bullshit. Every problem in business comes down to people. When you just put people together and say what are we really talking about, can I grab you for a second? You can hammer out all that stuff, but it will never get done if they have their meeting and they’re grumbling about marketing, and we’re off somewhere else. You bring everyone together and you say let’s surface this.
Louis: I want to go back a little bit about something that you said before saying that landing pages with forms are a thing of the past, people don’t really like doing it, it doesn’t feel natural. You also talked about gated content which is pieces of content that you cannot access unless you give an email address of some sort, or that you share it with somebody else or anything like this.
The first example, what’s the alternative to that? What would you tell listeners to try instead of doing landing pages with forms, like the typical inbound marketing methodology.
Dave: I would say Drift.
Louis: How does it work, typically? Instead of creating a landing page with a form, how do you go about it yourself?
Dave: This is actually something that I want to go deeper on, I haven’t done it yet. You could actually just get rid of landing pages and just use messaging, conversations. You can have just one page and funnel everybody into a conversation. What you can do is you can target those messages based on everything, literally everything. The reason why you’ve seen chat tools or live chat not work for sales teams before is because they would just get all noise. It would be 80% support and they wouldn’t want to do it.
It’s gotten so good now. One of the things that we can do with Drift is I can say hey, only show this to people who are at B2B SaaS companies with greater than 100 employees. We know that those are going to be pretty good leads for us. If you’re not in that category, you might show up on our website and you might see nothing. If you are in that category, you might show up on our website and you see that. The reason why is because we want those people to have a direct line to our sales team versus have them show up, fill out a form, wait for five days. You can do a lot of stuff like that.
Another really creative way that people are using messaging is with all the paid marketing that they’re doing, because you can do things like pull in AdWords Keywords. I could have a message that’s, same way you might personalize a landing page, but you could have the string of URL parameters bringing the keyword that somebody’s actually searching for. If the AdWords Keyword was podcast software, the message could say, “Hey, looking for podcast software? I can help,” when somebody hits the site.
Louis: I like it. Obviously, you can talk about your product or the way you want to. It’s good to talk about it because it really fits into the conversation. It’s really about when you take a step back and think about the conversations we have with sales people, you took the example of the Apple Store. You wouldn’t enter an Apple Store and be faced with a world that says, “If you want to see those products, tell us the following information. What’s your first name? What your last name? What’s your email?” You wouldn’t do that.
Instead, you would look at the person in the store and see what she or he is looking at and then maybe approach and say can I help you with this MacBook Pro in front of you? Did you have any question about it? That’s the normal way we do it, which sounds pretty similar to what you just described there.
Dave: It’s funny. People are like alright, I’m going to use Drift. Just curious, I’m really excited but what should I say? Our answer to that is always what would you say if this was your store? If your website was a store and somebody walked in, you’d say, “Hey, thanks for coming by. Let me know if I can help you with anything.” That would be the first thing that you would say. That’s how easy it can be to start. As you get more specific, I see Louis, he’s looking in the sneakers section. I’m not going to send him a message about our t-shirts while he’s in the sneakers section. I’m going to say by the way, this is our most popular snicker right now, why don’t you check it out?
The thing I’m really fascinated in that we talk a lot about at Drift is B2B and B2C and all that stuff is going away. It’s just B2P, business to person. We’re all people selling to other people. I think there’s a lot to be learned from what can B2B companies learn from how B2C companies do sales and marketing.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, or even 50 years?
Dave: Go back and learn—don’t study so much. You need to know about what’s happening today and you got to know about what tools people are using and technology. My advice would be go back and learn two things.
Number one, learn what’s worked about marketing in the past because people are always people. There’s things that worked 100 years ago—last summer, I went on this kick and read all of these old school branding and copywriting books. That just completely changed my perspective because what I realized is that what somebody like Claude Hopkins who wrote a book called Scientific Advertising in 1924. What he said in 1924, I’m sitting there on my couch reading and I’m like oh my god, we’re still talking about this today, in 2017, completely different worlds and we’re still talking about the same thing. I would go back and read all those.
Then, I would just study people. There’s a couple different ways you can do that. A lot of people love to really dig into the Cialdini, Influence, those type of books, human psychology. My take on that, I’ve read those books but I’m a person and I look at what other people are doing. When I’m on my train ride home and I see everyone buried in their phones, I don’t ever see anybody talking on the phone. It’s little things like that. Pay attention to what people are actually doing and just be curious. Be curious about people. Why do you do that thing? Oh, you send an email that way, why?
Combination of those two things.
Louis: What are the top three resources you would recommend for digital marketers? You mentioned a lot of books in the podcast. If you have to pick three only that you would recommend to listeners, what would it be? It doesn’t have to be books, it doesn’t have to be a podcast, it doesn’t have to be an article, it could be anything.
Dave: I’ll give you one thing that I’m enjoying right now is Noah Kagan’s podcast, just something else. If you listen to podcasts, you probably like others. I’m a big fan of his podcast because he has an interesting take and gives it to us a little bit real.
The second one, I’m going to plug my podcast with David at Drift, talked about him a bunch. It’s called Seeking Wisdom. We do it weekly and we talk about a lot of the stuff that we’re talking about right now and just try to give it to you real. It’s a fun perspective because I don’t have a ton of experience in this space, seven, eight years, David has started five companies and been a CEO twice. We riff on a bunch of different topics from different perspectives which makes it a lot of fun.
And then a book that I’m actually re-reading now that I think should be required reading for anybody that’s working in tech, especially in marketing, is Behind The Cloud which is a story about SalesForce. It was written in 2009. They don’t do a lot of the things that they talk about in the book today, but it’s just an amazing story about Marc Benioff is a freaking genius on marketing. There’s three sections in the middle of the book about their marketing playbook, their events playbook, and their sales playbook. If you just go and read those three chapters, you’re going to be ahead of everybody else that you sit with every single day in marketing. Go back and get that book.
Louis: Amazing, that’s the best way to finish this episode. Dave, thank you so much once again for your time.
How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers
Insights from Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, David Darmanin and 6 other world-class tech marketers.
I’m a no-fluff marketer living in Dublin, Ireland (but yeah, I’m French).
I believe you can treat people the way you’d like to be treated and still generate results without using sleazy, aggressive, hack-y marketing. This is why I’ve started Everyone Hates Marketers – a no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast – as a side project in April 2017.
I’m also the Content Lead at Hotjar – a powerful way to analyse people’s behaviour on your website or app and understand how you can improve their experience.