In April, Bloobirds Marketing Manager Marc Gassó welcomed Dave Gerhardt, CMO at Privy for an exclusive interview. He answered questions from the audience about how to maximize your return on investment with a small marketing budget, as well as provide insight on best practices in messaging and Saas marketing strategy during these challenging times.
Dave Gerhardt | CMO of Privy
Marc Gassó| Marketing Director at Bloobirds
Below, is the full transcript from Bloobirds’ webinar with Dave Gerhardt. Keep reading or check out the full video here.
M: Thanks for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to have Dave Gerhardt with us today. For those of you who don’t know him, he is the current CMO of Privy and former VPO of Marketing at Drift. He is regarded as one of the leading brand builders in B2B. For those who are unfamiliar with the webinar’s format, we have gathered some questions to ask Dave. So, once again, thanks Dave for being here.
Dave: Thanks for having me.
M: So, the first two questions must be asked, and as you can imagine, it’s related to the coronavirus. The first is: what should be changed regarding channels, messaging, target market, etc.? The second question: What has been the biggest lesson that you have learned from this whole crazy situation?
Dave: So, I think to answer the “what should change”, I think that every business has to respond to that question on a business-by-business case. For example, if you’re in the travel industry, in this case, everything might have to change. On our end, we are in e-Commerce, and we do not need to make as many changes. So number 1: you don’t need to make banket changes. This is similar to Saas marketing advice. People tend to take it as blanket statements, but in reality, what is important is what industry you are currently in and how much cash you have at your disposal.
You have to throw out the playbook that you’ve been using until now. Because it’s now a whole new world that we’re operating in, and there’s so much uncertainty.Dave Gerhardt
Dave: Nonetheless, you can’t market in a vacuum right now. You have to address what’s happening in the world right now, so if you keep going on and doing everything the same as two months ago, you’re going to look tone-deaf. For example, “Hey Marc, look. I know that the situation is not in a good state. But would it still be okay if we had this call in any case, because I think we can help…” You have to find subtle ways to address it; however, I wouldn’t make the situation as your go-to hook. It’s really about going out there, talking about the issue, being human …. That’s number one.
M: So, for sure, there’s this need to change something. You can’t just continue doing the same, right?
Dave: Right. So you have to throw out the playbook that you’ve been using until now. Because it’s now a whole new world that we’re operating in, and there’s so much uncertainty. So you cannot just blindly continue to operate the playbook that you used to run.
M: And, what would you say is the biggest lesson that you have gained if any?
Dave: The biggest lesson is that you need to own your audience, speaking from a Saas marketing perspective. You need to build an audience and have an email list. Because these elements will give you a safety net, as well as a competitive advantage if things go badly in the business. So, there are two recession-proof marketing channels: copywriting (the ability to convince, persuade the audience through writing) and owning your audience (including an email list in order to continue communicating with them).
Dave: So let’s imagine, for example, you’re a travel company, and nobody is buying your products right now. It doesn’t mean that you can’t still keep a relationship with them; remember, everyone still wants education and entertainment. So, if you have an email list, you can continue to add value by creating content. It doesn’t mean you have to stop communicating with your customer. I know this is a hard lesson to remember at the moment, but you have to build an audience and be able to own that as a marketer.
There are two recession-proof marketing channels: copywriting and owning your audience, including an email list in order to continue communicating with them.Dave Gerhardt
M: I totally agree. And very related to what you mentioned, that is, copywriting, you always say how important it is as a skill. What other 3 top skills would say are also important in the B2B space, especially for those companies who are starting from very little?
Dave: Copywriting is one, obviously. Curiosity is also really important. I believe that the best marketers are super curious, and they want to know what competitors are doing; what are they publishing; what do your customers want; or what patterns or models can you integrate? The best marketers are super hungry to know more. You also need to have an opinion, that is, a stance concerning what you should be doing. Today, you can be successful in lots of different channels; however, I want to work with a marketer who has a stance about what channel to use, why to use, this is how it’s going to work, etc., and all of this with reason.
Dave: On top of that, another important skill is creativity. AI and automation will replace so many things in Saas marketing. So, for example, Facebook has changed so much that if five years ago, you were building Facebook ads, you would spend so much time building the audience, etc. Facebook now wants to take away those efforts and automate those processes. But it’s the creative element that will make people focus on your stuff. The other skill is the desire to own a number, that is, your results. What am I accountable for? What do I have to deliver on? If you are not aiming to answer those questions, it will be really hard to be successful.
M: I agree with you. It’s funny because in some companies, creativity and copywriting can even be considered as soft skills. But I would say that these are mandatory skills for sales and marketing. Moving on, I love the next question that’s about to be asked. Of course, it may depend on the company and industry, but what are the metrics that you Dave measure every week? There are just so many metrics that can distract you, so what would you say are the leading metrics for you and your team on a continuous basis?
Dave: Revenue. That is, social media does not matter. Podcast downloads don’t matter. Saas marketing exists to help your company sell more. And, if you can’t show how marketing is impacting revenue, then there’s no point. So it all goes back to revenue. But of course, it differs according to the type of business. If your enterprise sales is really tough to own revenue, but maybe the proxy metric is pipeline. Ok, so then I’m going to think about owning pipeline and consider what are the two-three leading indicators that I can show in pipeline, e.g., traffic, new leads, new opportunities, etc.
Dave: At Privy, for example, we have a high-velocity freemium funnel. So we’re focused on revenue but we also have a sales team. So we’re looking at sales-assisted revenue and touchless revenue. Then, marketing basically helps both of those buckets. So ultimately, if we’re ahead or behind on revenue that week, we have to have a story around why it’s like that.
Dave: We also look at all the leading indicators: weekly traffic, weekly conversion rate, etc. It’s traffic-to-visitor conversion rate, free-to-pay customer rate, etc. And of those individuals who became customers, where does the revenue come from? Is it the sales team directly or marketing self-served? That’s what we look at weekly.
M: I couldn’t agree more with what people say: Saas marketing not only works with sales, but also for sales. So if marketing is not helping your company sell more, then maybe there is something that needs to be changed.
Dave: It doesn’t mean that you don’t do the brand stuff that I love a lot. But you can’t go into the meeting and say “let me show you how traffic has gone up”. Ultimately, the lesson I have learned is to cut through all of it and get right to the more-or-less reasons for revenue increase or decrease. You don’t need to have an exact answer. So typically, we’ll show the numbers first and then we’ll announce the “sexier” stuff, such as the number of podcast downloads for this week.
If you can’t show how marketing is impacting revenue, then there’s no point. If marketing isn’ helping your company sell more, maybe there’s something that needs to be changed.Dave Gerhardt
M: Cool, great! We asked Trish a question last week concerning whether SDRs should be under marketing’s watch.
Dave: What did she say? Let me guess! She said no, right?
M: Not exactly. She said that it depended more on the leader, not if it is marketing or sales. It depended on the skills of the leaders overseeing those SDRs. What are your thoughts?
Dave: Trish knows her stuff. I do agree with that. My approach would be about considering how revenue is coming in, how SDRs could get more of that revenue, and where they should sit. So, if you are doing more enterprise and fields sales, and you have a much stronger sales DNA, then it probably makes sense to sit over in sales and qualifying leads and booking meetings. But, if you’re in a much more high volume model where you are using SDRs to qualify leads and then pass them to sales, I would want to own them in marketing.
Dave: Going back to what I was saying earlier about owning revenue and pipeline being a metric, I could own more of the revenue piece as a market leader if I owned SDRs. In this case, you don’t just own the lead generation but also the qualifying and booking meeting aspects. So you can say to your sales counterpart, I own everything up to the meeting. Every great salesperson that I know.. Well, all they want to do is sell. They don’t want to be qualifying leads or dealing with no-shows; they want to be selling.
Consider how revenue is coming in, how SDRs could get more of that revenue, and where the SDR team should sit – in sales or marketing.Dave Gerhardt
M: Exactly. I agree with you. Here at Bloobirds, we have the same structure. Most of the best content, in fact, fares well is that which receives feedback from SDRs. When you have that type of alignment as you mentioned, SDRs can help the marketing team a lot. .. so moving on. There are a couple of questions left. How much do you think personal branding can benefit the company, especially in your case?
Dave: I think it’s helping from a company awareness standpoint. But I would say that you can rely on it. Our customers don’t care that I am the CMO at Privy. They want a product that works or to be successful. They want to run campaigns and sell more stuff online. So, I think that that is what they care about. But from a brand’s perspective, it can be a boost. It’s like in sports when a player changes team. The fan might follow the player more than the team itself. I’d be lying if I said I don’t think it helps.
Dave: However, if I were a CEO, I wouldn’t go and hire someone for their personal brand to help the company. I have seen that happened a couple of times. There was a trend about 5-10 years ago, with tech companies wanting to hire well-known journalists. I have seen a bunch of those examples not work out. So, if it’s a good fit, you can do it.
Dave: But I think you should have multiple people inside of your company be the face of your brand. I was having a conversation with somebody from Privy about our social media strategy. She was like, “Hey! We haven’t been posting a lot from our brand accounts. Is that ok?” And I was like,” Yea! I’m posting a lot. Dan, who runs our brand and product marketing is posting a lot, etc. ” Through those people, you’re going to be finding out about Privy. The bigger opportunity is more about how you can get executives and key players to be advocates for you, and not just sharing an automated link, but that each person is sharing something different.
M: I would say that it definitely helps…
Dave: Also, I have a unique situation for me. The topic that I’m going to talk about forever is marketing. So that’s the thing that I’m known for. Privy is a track in that for me, but I’m always going to be talking about Saas marketing regardless of the project.
M: I saw a post from you a couple of days ago. You recommended that people have a side project, and I couldn’t agree more.
Dave: A lot of execs are scared of that because if you have a successful side project, people are going to see you as more attractive and try to get you to leave. But, that’s a good thing because it means that you are somebody super valuable for the company. A side project gives you the ability to go and touch things that you usually wouldn’t get to do in your day job. So, for example, let’s say that you’re an events manager and your job has just been rocked. You could go and start a podcast and grow a big following, and now you have become this star in this event space. Should your company be mad or happy about that? Regardless, it will make you a better marketer because you’re doing things outside of that day job.
Dave: The reason why I posted is to test different ideas, concepts, or topics. So I asked recently, “Where should I add a group to this… where should we do it? Fb? Linkedin? Slack?” And that was just a sneaky way of figuring out where we were going to launch our Privy group in a couple of weeks. So I now have a lot of feedback and a bunch of ideas. Now, we have a Facebook group for the Patreon thing, and I’m going to be able to learn when we’re working with the marketing team at Privy and figuring out the launch. Well, guess what? I have already done this, and now I can help.
A side project gives you the ability to go and touch things that you usually wouldn’t get to do in your day job. You can test different ideas, concepts, or topics.Dave Gerhardt
M: It’s probably the best way to learn faster. So let’s see. We have a few minutes left, and a couple of questions for you. How important is it to use the service of data enriching companies when your biggest channel is Facebook? We have match rates of 15 and 20% of our customer audience, and we haven’t been able to improve beyond this.
Dave: The best match rate is between the 30 to 40% range. So even if you’re great, you’re still not going to have data and be able to enrich half of the accounts… half of the audience you’re going after. It’s especially hard on Facebook. At Privy, we’re Saas marketing to small businesses. We don’t have company names. It’s important but not the most important. Enrichment becomes more important if salespeople are trying to reach out and figure out what to say to the right person.
M: Ok cool. So Dave, you recently made a post on LinkedIn about going live on Instagram as a B2B strategy. In general, why do you seem to backpack things that would usually be considered to work well in B2C? I know that you have always said that there is no such thing as a B2B or B2C in Saas marketing, but I think that that’s an actually good question.
Dave: Cause I think B2C, B2B is irrelevant. We’re all people. If I’m just thinking as a marketer, I have to reach people… like right now, you have to reach people. My Instagram time is way up…my wife and friends’ as well. So who cares about B2B or B2C, when in reality, I wonder if there’s a way to reach those people. The platform or channel doesn’t matter.
I want to go to where the people are, and right now, people are on Instagram. The challenge is that most B2B companies take whatever content they’ve been doing and try to use it on Instagram, to only later say that Instagram doesn’t work for us. We tried it… well, wait no. You have to rethink what content works really well on Instagram live, Instagram stories, etc. Then, go figure out how you can take your stuff and translate it there. It’s not going to work if you blindly post your content.
I think B2B and B2B is irrelevant. We’re all people. If I’m thinking as a marketer, I just have to reach people.Dave Gerhardt
M: There’s no such thing really as B2B or B2C when it comes to targeting your audience, especially when you know where to reach them. It’s actually really cool, because a lot of the questions that we are covering today can be found answered on your Patreon. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s quite useful and there’s a lot of insights. Ok, moving on, one more question: is requesting company emails for product videos the best practice? How do you effectively follow up on private email?
Dave: There’s no difference between a company or a private. If somebody puts in their email, it’s the same nonetheless. You’re going to reach out to them regardless. So you can require business email and try to exclude domains from your form, but the conversion rate is going to go way down. We have seen 20-30% of people submitting a Gmail address. You can’t require it. You might have to just send a more generic email address.
M: I don’t think we have more questions. It’s been a pleasure and quite insightful. Thank you so much. Let’s keep in touch!
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