Ep. 2: Dave Gerhardt – Conversational Marketing with Drift
SaaS Marketing Insights, Episode 2: Dave Gerhardt, Drift
Drift are out to change the way you interact with prospects when they visit your website. Out goes gated content and lead forms, in comes conversational marketing. Newly promoted VP Marketing Dave Gerhardt explains the reasoning behind this as well as what motivates him to ‘always be learning’.
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Episode 2 Transcript
Paul: On today’s show I have an interview with Dave Gerhardt Director for Marketing at Drift. I caught up with Dave at SaaS North in Ottawa just after a talk he gave on the need for conversational marketing.
Dave: Dave Gerhardt in case you didn’t know, I don’t have my name tag because I just took it off but yeah, I do marketing at Drift.
Paul: So you’ve just literally come out of your session? So where does the drift story and Dave start? How long you been there? How did you get started in SaaS, In marketing?
Dave: Yeah I’ve been there for two years, basically from the beginning they did a couple things before but I got connected with David Cancel who’s the founder of drift, I actually had a podcast that I did on the side where I interviewed founders and CEOs in Boston and I had him on my podcast and I was like this guy seems like he really knows his stuff. I found out around the time they were looking to make their first marketing hire and so you know, I sent him the note the next day and the rest was history, that’s how I started at drift.
Before that I’ve worked at HubSpot, Constant Contact, I’ve spent most of my career, just by coincidence in SaaS marketing, doing marketing at SaaS marketing companies that’s been my whole career.
Paul: That is such a great pedigree though, those three companies.
Dave: Yeah it’s been amazing, I couldn’t have asked for It. I think of it as like my my MBA, to be able
to spend from 23 to 30, i’m 30 now. That’s where I spent that time, working at those companies has just been amazing to be able to learn from the people and the businesses that they built.
Paul: So you just did a presentation on no forms, which I’d like to call a campaign but it’s not a campaign, it’s an ethos behind Drift now isn’t it? It’s a movement.
Dave: It’s a movement, I mean, I ran into five people I’ve never met before in my life today saying like I’m such a big believer in what you we’re doing with the no forms thing, so yeah I think at first it was a campaign and now it’s something bigger than Drift. So it’s a movement for sure.
Paul: Yeah and I love the way you’ve ripped off the Salesforce software no forms thing. Its trademark, we put our trademark on it.
Dave: I don’t think they invented the ‘no sign’, but yeah.
I love it, that is of course we’re big fans, I even mentioned it, at least to be fair I plugged the book in my presentation and that is one of my favorite books on SaaS and marketing.
Paul: So the whole no forms thing, I’m completely on board with, love it and it’s long overdue but you
know my background, marketing, donkey’s years and a lot of SaaS marketing but it’s exactly what you said about forms. So I’ve been, for the last five years a form hacker, basically I’ll read the source code, I’ll see its HubSpot or whatever, I’ll go right, there’s the redirect page I’ll just going to get the PDF, I don’t want to fill out a form. You can read the source code or you can just search for the PDF, it’s indexed on the website, you know there’s a million different ways of doing it.
Dave: It’s really sad because as you said you don’t want that disruption, it’s not the right time for you or you just want the content. I think, I don’t know where we’re going with the forms thing but I think it’s worth mentioning, it’s actually not to me so much about the forms. It’s more about the way that we all buy is just different than it was when that stuff first came out because we’re all on our phones, I can find anything, like I never met you before today right? but if I had known I was gonna meet you I could look you up, I could find out what you’ve done before, I can figure out everything I needed to know before I met you and then we’d meet and it would be like I already knew you.
It’s the same thing for how people buy from businesses, so it just seems silly to, basically say here’s this
fence you can’t come past here until we know you’re ready. when somebody’s telling you, I already know all this stuff, I am ready, I have a specific question I want to ask you.
Paul: Yeah, so it’s like the oldest thing in business: know, like, trust and then people buy from you right. So I guess one of the thoughts that I had around what you guys do and the removal of forms or otherwise, is forms generate leads, marketers are measured on leads.
You alluded to that in your presentation and I think a lot of marketers are nervous about the notion of being formless, being form free. So, how would you go about reassuring your fellow SaaS marketers that they can get rid of their forms, they can use drift and it will work?
Dave: Well, I think the biggest misconception is we didn’t say stop capturing leads, marketers. We just said no forms, there’s a different way to capture leads now and for us it’s through real-time conversations because those are the people who are the most interested on your site, so I think it’s just shifting the model to give away a lot of stuff and then ask for the email as opposed to email, then I give you stuff.
Paul: Yeah or… here is this ridiculously long form with like 10 fields to fill out before you get anywhere, so it’s like a balancing act.
Dave: Yeah you don’t need my mother’s maiden name so I can read your ebook on snapchat filters. But I think that also technology has gotten so good that marketers can get so much data without having to have somebody fill out a form.
So we work with a company called Clearbit who does data in richmond and we’re able to know which companies are visiting our website right and match that with what they’re doing and so you’re able to get all of these things now that typically you would have had to say: ‘no I need a form because I need to know your company, I need to know your job title’, we can figure out most that stuff before somebody even comes to our website now.
Paul: That’s cool! So going back to your career and whatever, you’ve had some great experience, HubSpot, Constant Contact. What would you say has been your biggest SaaS marketing insight, something that you
came across or dawned on you. Is it what you’re doing now with Drift?
Dave: I think so, I think it’s all related to what i’m doing now at Drift. I think the biggest marketing insight is that, the best marketing is to be real and to be yourself and that seems so obvious but to me that has been the biggest insight and it’s obvious but nobody does it. That’s what’s been liberating for me over the last two years is our marketing strategy is just… this is something that David pushed me to do from day one which is, write plaintext emails like you talk right. The first thing he had me do was, he’s like, you don’t read any of these SaaS marketing blogs, go study David Ogilvy and all the direct response copywriters. I didn’t get why he was doing it at first, but now it was like, oh my god, that has been the most influential thing on my career is to go back and study all those things because there’s two things:
- number one: those guys had to mail something to your house, convince you to buy it, you had to then mail them something back and then you got your thing.
So if you think about SaaS, SaaS is easy compared to that right. Think about that and now the hot thingin marketing is Direct Mail, everyone’s going back to doing that, so number one it that but
- number two: is just the writing style and the tone, I always thought that you had to be a marketer and what I realize is the best marketing is when I’m just being real and showing you who I am and talking to you way I would talk to you in person.
That’s helped change the way that I think we do marketing, that’s been the biggest lesson for me, more so than any one campaign or one hack that I’ve learned.
Paul: Yeah, how do you keep mentally/physically you know, what is it you do to make sure that you know you’re the best for the job, because it’s easy in business and marketing and in SaaS to get burnt out. Do you
have any kind of habits or rituals or crazy shit you do?
Dave: Yeah so I think number one is, I have this constant paranoia that I’m not very good at what I’m doing.
Paul: Impostor syndrome.
Dave: That is it, exactly, every single day and whether it’s speaking in front of room full of people, doing an interview, I don’t know creating a page, writing copy for a page that’s gonna get hundreds of thousands of views, things like that every day, I’m like, am I really the best person to do this.
So I think that all that, paired with a chip on my shoulder is what keeps me to always be going but the part of that is it’s not just the imposter syndrome, it’s the knack to always be learning, to always want to be learning, I’m just always listening to podcasts, reading books, I’m obsessed with how other people do
marketing and learn because I feel like this is always a gift and a curse for me which is, I need to know how everything works and how everybody else does it so I want to know, is this podcast set up better than
what we have, should I be doing this? Is the audio good? is the video good? These are the questions and it’s a gift of course because I can’t get outside of my own head, I have to figure all that stuff out.
So it’s the impostor syndrome, it’s the fact that I always want to be learning and just the way that I get better is I invest, I just try to invest in a lot of stuff. It’s too hard to fake it, if I didn’t love this stuff it
would be hard to wake up on a Sunday morning and read about marketing but I really do love it and so that’s the stuff that I’m reading at night and on the weekends and just when I’m home hanging out.
Paul: The podcasts that you used to do, you no longer do?
Dave: Correct, Tech in Boston, it’s retired, I got to Drift, Drift took off and I just didn’t have time to have
a side project and I have a wife and a baby and it’s just impossible.
Paul: They’re much bigger side projects.
Dave: Yeah, yeah, my vision, I think my longer-term career goal after Drift is to just be… I’m just going to be a traveling podcaster.
Paul: Okay, thank you very much for your time, that was great.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Dave as much as I did. For more info on Drift please visit www.drift.com