"Leading With Brand Featuring Dave Gerhardt of Drift" (Inbound Success Ep. 33)
Conversational marketing company Drift entered the crowded MarTech space and quickly garnered a lot of
In the last year, the company has grown from 25 people to 100, opened a new office in San Francisco, and increased revenue by more than 10x.
In this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Drift VP of Marketing, Dave Gerhardt shares why
Listen to the podcast to learn what Drift is doing to get results, or read the transcript below.
Dave: Thanks for having me.
Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to have you.
Dave: I hope you're excited!
Kathleen: Well, I'm particularly excited to have you, more so maybe than my normal level, because-
Dave: Good, good.
Kathleen: In every podcast, I ask the same two questions at the end, which I will be asking you, one of which is "Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well?"
A lot of the people that I have interviewed in the last 30+ episodes, a lot of them have mentioned Drift specifically-
Kathleen: ...and you specifically. These are people, many of whom are considered to be thought leaders, and they're role models of mine, and so it came to the point where I heard your name five or six times, and I was like, "The universe is telling me I need to interview Dave Gerhardt for this podcast."
Dave: That's amazing. I mean, that makes my day hearing that, because ... Not because I have an ego. I have a little bit of an ego, of course, but ... No, but I love that because I think I'm really passionate about doing things differently, and so it means a lot to hear people recognizing that and that's awesome.
I'm happy to be here, I love doing this type of stuff.
Kathleen: Yeah, and I particularly love when talking with one person leads to talking to another, and then-
Kathleen: It's just a great way to meet a new podcast guest.
Dave: Oh, 100%.
Kathleen: That's why I'm so excited to have you here.
Dave: Yeah. I had a podcast of my own before, a couple years ago, and the number one way it grew was at the end of it I would just ... People would, they'd mention like, "Oh yeah, the person I learned the most from in my career was this person." Then
Kathleen: Before we dive too much into this, I would love it if you could tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and your background, and how you wound up where you are at Drift, as well as about Drift and what the company does.
Dave: I've spent the last seven and a half, eight years working, just by chance, at SaaS companies here in Boston.
I started off my career in PR, and I spent about a year at a really early stage company in between, but I think the story that I tell is just by chance, I happened to work for all these SaaS marketing companies and that's where I spent my career and they all happened to be marketing roles, selling marketing software to marketing people.
It wasn't intentional.
I had no idea that I wanted to do marketing, that I would love marketing, but especially over the last couple years I've really fallen in love with doing
I didn't realize that what I'm good at had a name, and it was this marketing thing, which I always thought that marketing was spreadsheets, and Google Analytics, and workflows, and nurturing, and all that stuff.
We can talk a lot more about that other stuff, but that's what I'm doing now and that's what I love doing every single day.
Kathleen: That's great. Tell me a little bit about Drift. I mean, I'm a Drift user, so I could probably do it, but I always like hearing how people within the company do their own elevator pitch.
Dave: Well, I want to hear your elevator pitch after mine, because I love hearing how other people describe
Dave: We're a conversational marketing and sales platform. I mean, for this audience, I can describe it that way, because
Conservational marketing's all about having
Kathleen: I love that. It's funny, so you asked how I would describe it, and maybe this isn't exactly how I would describe the company, but the way I think about what you guys do, and one of the reasons it appealed to me to use at Impact, was that I always liken it to the grocery store. The most valuable real estate in the grocery store is right at the checkout counter.
Kathleen: That's why vendors clamor to get their stuff in there and that's why they have to create aisles that don't have
Dave: I love that.
Kathleen: When they're ready to engage and when they're ready to quickly grab it and make a decision. If you miss that window, if you're not in that checkout aisle real estate, you miss your window to get in front of them at the time that they're most likely to engage.
Dave: 100%. I never thought of it that way, but I love it.
Kathleen: When I see that show up on your marketing, I'll be like, "That was me."
Dave: Of course. We'll shout you out, we'll give you credit. Don't worry. No, but I love that example because the thing that happens all the time is, I bet before you guys -- I know this for a fact, actually -- before you guys bought Drift, probably, you knew who we were, you knew what we were doing, and you probably had two or three very specific questions that you wanted
Does it happen after somebody fills out a form and then waits four days and gets on the phone? We've created a way for people to have that question and I see it all day. I go in our inbox for our own version of Drift on our site, and I watch conversations, and people say ... The bot says, "Hey, what are you doing here?" They just say, "Just browsing." Normally, that conversation would be over, but then somebody on our team hops in and is like, "Okay, cool. Let me know if you ... I'm here if you have any questions." All of a sudden, that evolves into a conversation, that persons
Kathleen: Yeah. I feel like we are so insanely inpatient as a society these days that if we can't get our questions answered
Dave: You nailed it. This is what drives me insane, is that we all as people, we feel this way, and I have this conversation at least three or four times a week with somebody like you, and you're like, "We're
Kathleen: People always say, "We're different," but actually your customer isn't different. They are still that impatient person.
Dave: Yeah. People say, "Yeah, well we sell something that's really expensive and has a really long sales cycle." I'm like, "Well, wouldn't you then want to have a conversation to have a personal touch if you know it's a long sales cycle, right?" If you're going to buy a car, you want to walk in the car dealership and feel like you have a relationship with that person.
Kathleen: Yeah, it's so true. We implemented Drift a couple of weeks ago. We're later to the game than I would like, but I'm so excited just to see it evolve on the site and to see what it does for our ability not only to close more
Kathleen: If we do this right.
Dave: I'm glad you mentioned that, because that's the thing, is we get a lot of conversations and obviously people want more conversions, right? Everybody wants more
To me, it's all about the speed. "Hey, I'm here right now." Especially, in your world. I mean, you guys have ... Your website is crazy. You have a ton of organic traffic from an amazing job that you guys have done with content marketing and SEO, but even still, right? I'm guessing most of those keywords, nobody's just casually browsing ... I believe that nobody's casually just browsing our website.
We sell business software. Nobody's on our website on a Saturday morning being like, "I wonder what Drift's up to," right? They're on our website for a reason, and so you just have to enable yourself to actually be able to talk to people. That's exactly that.
Kathleen: Well, you as a company have had, I feel like it's been a pretty meteoric rise, especially in recent years, or at least that's what it looks like from the outside.
Dave: Yeah, it's real. It's real, people don't believe it, but it-
Kathleen: The rocket ship is taking off.
Dave: Yeah. It is.
Kathleen: I would love to just hear a little bit more from you about what you think has contributed to Drift's success, because from the outside looking in, it can be very easy to just look at this company and this product and be like, "That's just another live chat software. Live chat's been around forever." I'm curious, you guys have coined a new term around it, conversational marketing.
Kathleen: Can you talk a little bit about that?
Dave: I'll answer that part in a second, but my first answer is, you asked about how the meteoric rise and how we've grown, and it actually has nothing to do with the feature, like live chat.
It has everything to do with a brand and we entered this space, and I'm sure you guys have talked about it a lot, you've seen it. There's the famous
That wouldn't have been a good marketing strategy. We had to think of things differently and the example that I always use is, if right now on this
The one thing that people can't copy is the brand, and so we focused from the beginning on building a
Kathleen: Well, it must be working, because not only does everyone talk about you on my podcast, but I actually answered a cold email from one of your sales reps. I don't usually do that, but I was like, "Okay, it is time. I really should take a deeper look at this. I'm going to do it."
Dave: I guess so. It's
Kathleen: How do you ensure consistency in the way that you deliver upon that brand promise? Do you have some kind of a document that is a guiding light for, "Hey, if you're about to send an email, look at this and make sure that you're doing it right." I'm not talking about, "What should it look like?" But literally, what should it sound like?
Kathleen: Is there something like that, that exists within Drift?
Dave: Yeah, there is actually.
Then also, for building out new website pages, we have a checklist that our designers and anybody that builds pages on our website and product marketing team uses that says, "Everything needs to have ... " This is really obvious stuff, but most people just skip it. It's like, "It needs to have a headline. It needs to have a compelling call-to-action. It needs to have urgency. It needs to have scarcity. It needs to have social proof." We've basically written that stuff down once we know it works and then given that to everybody on the team to say, "Here's the checklist for how you write an email, how you create a landing page." Everyone's version of it is going to be different, but this kind of allows, "Hey, you have these five or six basic ingredients in your recipe."
Kathleen: I love the idea of the
Dave: The other thing that has helped here is we have this ... We have a culture of transparency, and that sounds cliché, "Every company is transparent today." I think you have to be in order to have people who want to be there and work there, but inside of marketing, everybody shows their work all the time. You have to basically show what you're working on in our Slack channel, so before somebody sends out an email, they'll take a screenshot of it and say, "Hey team, this email's scheduled for 2:00 today. Here's what it looks like." Basically, you're opening yourself up to get feedback on that email before it goes out and you don't always have to take that feedback, but it's an opportunity. You have to show your work, and so the rest of the team knows like, "Hey, what is our style?"
It's something that isn't necessarily written
Kathleen: That's great. I love it. It reminds me of my son's teacher. He's in fifth grade and they're always saying, "Show your work, show your work." Because it's not about the answer, it's about how you got there.
Dave: Well, when I was in fifth grade I never showed my work, I just looked over at what the person was writing on the test next to me, because I was terrible at math, and so I just would write down their numbers, and I would turn in my math test with just the answers. The teacher would be like, "These are right, but you need to show your work."
Kathleen: Karma is a bitch and now you work at a company where you have to show all of your work.
Dave: Now I'm preaching show your work.
Kathleen: That's right, that's right. It sounds like what you're saying is that you guys have really led with the brand and that the brand has been the thing that has delivered the greatest results in terms of differentiating you in a very, very crowded marketplace.
Kathleen: Moving beyond brand, which is I guess the foundation of all of this, once you have your brand nailed down, obviously you do need to then engage in some more tactical activities as a marketer. You need to determine what channels are going to work well for you. I'd love to hear a little bit more about what's producing results for Drift. Are there particular channels that are really driving either visitor traffic, leads, or customer acquisition?
Dave: Yes and no. The reason I say no, is because we've grown entirely through organic, and word-of-mouth, and content. The biggest challenges for us have been, number one, our brand. You could sum that up as our content, plus who we are, or lump it up as its own channel. I just kind of lump it together and say "our brand," which, to me, is word-of-mouth. Our podcast has been the number one thing that is measurable, but hard to measure, and that makes people outside of here uncomfortable, because they're like, "How do you know? How do you know the podcast is working?" We're always like, "Well, because every single person that we see is like ..." David, our CEO, he's next to me right now. He'll literally be walking through ... Our office is in a mall in Boston and people will be walking through and be like, "Hey, you're that guy from Seeking Wisdom, right?" I'm like, "Tell me about ... " We can't measure that channel, like tell me-
Dave: Literally, every person that we talk to mentions that. Every candidate that comes in mentions that, so that's been a huge channel. The other big thing is, when you have a strong brand, and you have content like our podcast and our blog, we also have a free product, and so on top of that we have this viral effect from our free product, which is public facing on tens of thousands of company's websites, and so you get this perfect storm of people listen to the podcasts, they watch our videos, they read our blog posts, and then they happen to be browsing the web, and they come on your site, IMPACT, right? They see the little popup and it says, "Hey, we're powered by Drift," and they're like, "Oh, that's Drift." It's that combination of things, that's how we've grown.
Kathleen: Speaking of videos, you mentioned that a couple of times, can you talk a little bit more about the strategy behind
Dave: Yeah. Overall, we use video to basically support everything that we do and we're obsessed with
One of my favorite examples of a video that we've done is on our pricing page, we had a couple questions, I think it was a month or two ago. People were a little bit confused about something on the pricing page and so we said, "You know what? Let's have ... " Will, who runs ops here, he actually owns our pricing. He makes our pricing, so we're like, "Let's just make a video with him." The video on our pricing page, if you go there, it's Drift.com/pricing, the video is him and the video's literally like, "Hey, I'm Will. I'm literally the guy who makes pricing at Drift and I'm going to explain to you what our pricing is." To me, that's everything about why we love
Dave: Your other question about LinkedIn is, we've just been experimenting a lot with video on LinkedIn and the engagement has been insane. We stumbled on this. LinkedIn unlocked video in everybody's accounts and people could start posting videos. I posted a video and it got 10,000 views and I was like, "There's no way that's real. They're probably just juicing the numbers so more people use video." I made another video and in that video I talked for like a minute and then at the end of the video, I said, "Hey." I was literally just walking down the street drinking an iced coffee and I said ... At the end of the video, I said, "Hey, if you're watching this video right now, do me a favor. I'm fascinated by LinkedIn video right now, so if you're still watching this video, do me a favor and email me DG@Drift.com."
I was like, "Nobody's going to email me." Within 20 minutes I had six people email me. By the end of the day, I had over 100 people that emailed me. Think about how much effort that is to watch a video, plug in my email address, email me and let me know. They were all saying the same thing. They were like, "I've seen crazy results with LinkedIn video too, I want to know, so let me know." I had over 100 people within one day email me and say, "I watched your video." Now, we just have doubled down on video and to the point where last month we launched our marketing email product here at Drift, we had 120 people at the company all record personalized videos to go on LinkedIn on launch day, and we just completely took over LinkedIn. I think our videos were viewed 300,000 times and it led to-
Dave: The number one traffic day in history that we've had from Drift, and it was all from organic word-of-mouth traffic that people saw that. People were literally tweeting at LinkedIn like, "Can you please get Drift off of my LinkedIn feed, right? Is something broken?"
Kathleen: You broke LinkedIn.
Dave: Yeah. That was amazing.
Kathleen: Nice. When you do these videos, I mean, is it ... What kind of production value is there? Because you mentioned in one case it's you walking down the street with an iced coffee, or do you have ... Are most of the videos filmed
Dave: Yeah. We have a couple of people on the team at Drift. We have Amy who runs video at Drift and she has a couple people on her team that
Kathleen: You're just uploading those natively as an update -- an individual person's update -- on LinkedIn?
Kathleen: Great. We're totally going to experiment with that now that you said that, so-
Dave: You should.
Kathleen: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Dave: It's okay. We actually saw, about two weeks after our LinkedIn video campaign, another company, they did it, and they all were standing in their shorts in the snow in Boston trying to do the same thing. It's okay, I'm glad that other ... We definitely don't own LinkedIn, so I'm glad that other people are doing it too.
Kathleen: Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how the results differ from company to company, but definitely a great idea. Really interesting, because a lot of the people I talk to,
Dave: That's a good question. Yes, this one's called one-to-one, which is people don't like it because it takes time, but we try to respond to everybody that responds to our emails, reply to everybody on Twitter, comment back on everybody that comments in one of our groups. It's just like, those little things matter more than anything else that we do, and so that's another piece that's in our DNA as a marketing team, which is to have those one-to-one conversations with people. Most people will sit there and say, "They'll never do it because they're more concerned about how it's going to scale, then whether or not it's valuable or not," and so they just don't ever do it. We've been able to get a ton of love by just going out there and literally replying to everybody who's talking about us, or mentioning our company, and that's something that we've seen a lot of other people don't want to invest the time in doing.
Kathleen: Awesome, so having a conversation.
Dave: Yeah. The other one that is ... This is less of a channel, but it's more of a tactic within a channel. We only send plain text emails. We've done that for about two years. That fits along with the whole being real, and authentic, and human thing.
There's this great copyrighting book by a guy named Gary Halbert and he wrote a book called The Boron Letters. In the book he talks about tips for direct mail, which is a little old school, I know, but he says, "Everybody has an A and B pile." He says, "You come home from work, and you go to the mailbox, and you pull out the mail, and there's a big stack of mail, and immediately what do we all do? We separate the things that are Bed Bath & Beyond fliers, and we sort out the white envelope, the handwritten note that looks like your Aunt Mary sent you $20 for your birthday, right? It looks like a plain white envelope."
When he said that, I was like, "Wait a second. That's exactly why the plain text email thing works so well. We want to be in somebody's A pile." When you send an email that has all these banners, and design, and images, even if it's the best email ever, something goes off in people's head and they're like, "No, I know this is a marketing message. I know this is a promotion thing. I'm going to filter it out for later." I always want to be
That basically just disarms people right away and says, "Okay, well this isn't going to be a brand that's going to spam me." Even if they do get upset one day, I can always say, "Hey, that was me. Remember?" They're like, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah." That's a long-winded way of saying I couldn't love plain text emails
Kathleen: I totally second that. I used to own my own digital marketing agency for 11 years and we played around a lot with even just subject lines and the same principle was ... I would always ask, "Does the subject line sound like your friend is sending you this email, or does it sound like some marketing robot? Like, "Webinar," in brackets."
Dave: I was just going to say, the webinar brackets. Oh yeah, totally. Let me go to that.
Kathleen: Oh my God, I know. I think some of our best subject lines were things like, "Big news." Just that.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
Kathleen: Although, I will say what I can't stand is when people do send you marketing emails and they put the "RE:" in the beginning to make it-
Kathleen: ...look like it's the continuation of an existing conversation.
Dave: I mean, to me, that just breaks all the rules of everything that we're about, which is that's not real, that's not authentic, right?
Kathleen: Yeah, yeah.
Dave: That is fake. I didn't respond, what are you doing?
Kathleen: I wonder with Gmail now also segmenting so many emails often to the promotions' tab and other things, whether sending plain text emails also kind of insulates you from Gmail putting you in the B pile.
Dave: Yeah, I wonder. I don't know, I don't know.
Dave: The best part about it is I just come into work every day and have hundreds of responses from people.Typically, marketers would send from a email@example.com, but those are people who are on our list, they're interested in our business. Those are literally the best people we could be spending our time talking to. That's always going to be worth it.
Kathleen: You guys are doing so many interesting things, I'm really curious, are there any things on the horizon that you're particularly excited about?
Dave: Yeah. I'm super excited about Hypergrowth, which is our annual
Typically, the best way to market an event is you announce a speaker, you drive a big email blast, and you sell tickets for a day, and then the spike drops.
Then you spike it again and it drops. We don't want to do that, so we want to do every single week up until the event, we're going to announce a new speaker. Every single week we're going to drip something out. What's really cool about that is we're also going to sell you cheaper tickets, so the tickets will be cheaper if you buy when
Kathleen: There's a little bit of a gambling element in there.
Dave: A little bit, a little bit. What do you think-
Kathleen: People like to play the odds ...
Dave: What do you think of it? Do you think it's going to work?
Kathleen: I think it's great. I mean, we have our conference in August, so I love hearing how other people are looking at driving attendance.
Dave: Yeah. We've talked to a bunch of people. I'm sure you guys felt the same thing.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's terrible. It makes planning very difficult. Everyone gets really stressed out and nothing else getting done in the month or two before the conference if you do it that way.
Dave: No kidding, no kidding.
Kathleen: All right. Well, now we have reached that point in the interview where I get to ask you
Dave: Okay. All right, I'm ready.
Kathleen: Turning the tables on you, company or individual, who do you, Dave Gerhardt, think is doing inbound marketing really well?
Dave: Oh my God. You know what? I knew you were going to ask that and I'm not prepared for it. I've actually stopped reading marketing blogs, because I've gone back and studied more of the timeless stuff about psychology, and people, and behavior -- more of the direct response copywriters, so people like David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert, and Claude Hopkins. All these old
You can still read the blogs or whatever, but go buy two copyrighting books, either go by Ogilvy On Advertising, or The Boron Letters, or something like that. Pick up one of those books, read that one, and then tweet at you and
There's going to be new channels about how to reduce your Facebook cost per click from 80 cents to 60 cents, but the thing that's not going to change is people, and the things that they react to, and what gets a response from them. I would spend more time there.
Kathleen: Is there any company out there, it doesn't have to be in the marketing world, that you think is really doing copy well? Anybody whose copy you read or emails you get and you're like, "I love this?"
Dave: Yeah, it's not a marketing company, it's Patagonia. If you go look at any of their ads, all the images in their magazines and their ads, it's either people who work at the company, or customers, and all the copy is written like a friend. We go to our jobs in marketing and sales and we write like we work at B2B marketing automation companies. I think they're just super authentic,
The other one is Apple. Obviously, everybody says Apple is an inspiring brand, but for me, we say something internally here, which is, "Just go to the top and study it." Their marketing has always been the best and it's been the best for the last, I don't know, whatever, 20 years. When they have new product launches, we're looking at their billboards, their landing pages, their TV ads. I think people, instead of trying to find 20 role models, find one or two who are very good, and just study everything that they
Kathleen: It's so funny you say
Dave: I love that.
Kathleen: That's exactly what I did and thank
Kathleen: With marketing. You could constantly be chasing a shiny penny if you looked at too many examples.
Dave: Yeah. Honestly, ultimately you just have to ... The thing that I think gets glossed over,
Kathleen: "You do you and I'll do me."
Dave: Exactly. It's totally fine, so I love that.
Kathleen: Yeah. All right, great. Well, if somebody is listening to the podcast and wants to reach out, has a question for you, what's the best way to get in touch?
Dave: Email me, DG@Drift.com.
Kathleen: Great, there you have it. I'll put that link in the show notes. Well, thank you again for joining me. This has been a lot of fun. If you are listening to the podcast and you enjoyed it, consider giving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever platform you prefer. If you know someone doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork, because I would love to interview them. Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Love it, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
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About Kathleen Booth
Kathleen joined IMPACT after successfully exiting her own digital marketing agency, which she grew from startup to HubSpot Platinum level partner. As part of the sales and business development team at IMPACT, Kathleen leverages her 11+ years as an entrepreneur and inbound marketing agency owner to advise businesses on digital marketing and sales solutions that will deliver measurable results in the form of customer acquisition and revenue growth. When she’s not working, you’ll find Kathleen spending time with her children, taking long walks with her two rescued Labrador retrievers, volunteering on community boards, or devoting her time to mentoring other entrepreneurs and business owners.