Developing Marketing Expertise and a Personal Brand with Dave Gerhardt
Play • 29 min

Dave Gerhardt is an expert's expert.

He's the author of Conversational Marketing: How the World's Fastest Growing Companies Use Chatbots to Generate Leads 24/7/365. He's the CMO at Privy, a leader in eCommerce marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs. He's the former VP of Marketing at Drift, a Conversational Marketing platform that combines chat, email, video, and automation to make it easier for customers to buy by helping them start the conversations they want to start on their terms.

Dave even has his own marketing community, DGMG, a place where you can "get the marketing education you never got in school," a podcast, and a community where B2B marketers join forces to learn from one another.

He's the guy who genuinely loves everything marketing, and so has found multiple ways to have fun doing it.

He's also focused on the metrics that matter most to CEOs, namely, the amount of revenue that a marketer can generate for a company. 

If you're ready for some down-to-earth, no-nonsense insights on how you can improve your performance, you won't want to miss this one. 

The highlights:

  • [2:07] Dealing with imposter syndrome.
  • [5:46] Getting it all done.
  • [7:52] Evolutions in Dave's marketing philosophy.
  • [13:08] Why you don't have to prove the ROI of every last marketing activity.
  • [19:41] Branding strategies.
  • [21:17] Branding an individual vs. branding the agency.
  • [26:44] Dave's cause.

The insights:

Dealing with imposter syndrome

If there's one thing you learn while interviewing some of the smartest marketers in the world – very few of them are immune to imposter syndrome. Some only face it at the beginning of their journeys. Some continue to grapple with it even while they're standing in front of live audiences at some of the biggest events in the world. 

Dave's no exception. 

"It's exhausting, at times, worrying about or thinking about whether someone's going to react the wrong way or be mad about what you've posted. I don't like that headspace sometimes."

Dave admits that imposter syndrome has plagued him from the beginning.

"I remember being at Constant Contact. I was 24 years old. It was when I really got into startups and being part of the startup community.

I graduated college with no clue about real marketing, or what to do. I just got a degree because I needed to graduate. I got into internet marketing and social media.

I saw a lot of people in that industry had blogs about: hey, here's what I'm doing. I wanted that. I wanted a public forum to share what I was doing."

He scratched his initial itch with a podcast called Tech in Boston in 2014.

"I wasn't even working in marketing. I was an account manager at the time. I started this podcast where I interviewed local CEOs in Boston. That's where I started to build my brand." 

Dave stresses that he doesn't feel like he did anything special.

"I was literally the only person who had a podcast about startups in Boston. That got me meetings with top CEOs and top VCs, and you know, once you get in that loop a little bit you can say: wow, that was a great interview, who else do you know that I should talk to, and all the sudden you're connected to someone else." 

From there, he went on to Hubspot, where he created The Growth Show

He wasn't even a full-time marketing person until he went to Drift.

"When I got to Drift they said: we're going to see how this goes, Unknown Guy, go ahead and do your thing."

No pressure, Dave.

"So I got to get our website out for the first time. Launch the blog. Launch the podcast, do paid advertising, do SEO, do AdWords, do events. I literally got to do all those things for the first time, myself. I think that was a great benefit to the company to have an earlier person, early in their career to grow, and that kind of built from there. 

At Drift, I got to do marketing to marketing people, as a result of that I didn't have a personal thing because I was sharing to the world through Drift."

Bottom line? If you're grappling with imposter syndrome? Keep putting yourself out there. It will pay off. It's just a feeling! If Dave, of all people, still feels it, it's not going away, so you might as well get out there and rock the world. 

Getting it all done

Let's take a moment to marvel at Dave's prolific productivity. How does he get it all done?

Dave successfully adjusted to the Covid-19 crisis.

"Right now I can use my time how I need. I can run down to my office on Saturday at 1:00 AM because I had an idea. I do not think this would have been at all possible before being unchained from the whole cubical life."

He contrasts it by noting that he used to spend up to 10 hours a day at the office.

"You're just there. You gotta do whatever's there. You're asking me how I'm able to do DGMG now? Well, I'm also able to pick up and drop off my kids now. Not that I do that every day. Go for a walk every day outside. Work out every day. This is one of many benefits I'm seeing from being fortunate enough to be able to work from home." 

Evolutions in Dave's marketing philosophy 

Garrett asked Dave how his philosophy has evolved between working for Drift and working for Privy.

"Drift is more of a mid-market enterprise type of sales motion. That requires a different type of marketing and demand gen. Privy is really focused on small eCommerce businesses. It's more of a channel distribution strategy. We get over 10,000 trials every month from the Shopify app store. That is the #1 source for lead gen. 

We gotta do things on top of that but it's a little bit of a different strategy. It's almost like eCommerce in that sense where it's very high-volume. Sales reps at Privy are closing 20-50 deals in a good month because the price is much lower."

He says there are things you have to figure out within each company. 

"Even a company similar to Privy doing a very similar thing might have a completely unique motion."

He says nevertheless, his broader marketing philosophy has changed over the years.

He compares his evolution to becoming a parent.

"When you're growing up you don't understand why your parents make you do certain things. Now that I have two kids, I wanna call my Mom and say: sorry. I totally get it."

He says that he's now had to be responsible for managing teams. Hiring. Firing. 

"I've had to do challenging things at work. I've had no budget and everyone's burnt out on the team. You learn. You start to have some guardrails around marketing."

His biggest guardrails?

"Marketing exists to generate revenue, period."

He says he often wants to go back and talk to himself 5 years ago. 

"When I was a holier-than-thou marketer saying just do the things customers love! That is bullshit. That is not how it works. You can do some of that. You've got to do things customers love. 100%. But talk to any CEO, any founder, any board, any shareholder. The number one goal of marketing is to drive revenue.

You can do that in a way that also builds brand, builds your reputation, creates raving, loyal fans. That's the rub. That's why it's the fun job. I'm not saying go buy a list and blast everyone and that's how you're going to generate the revenue. 

I think you need to build a revenue function and a brand function at the same time." 

Do you have to prove the ROI of every last marketing step you take?

ROI and proving the value of various marketing strategies is something marketers talk about a lot. Often, we get focused on proving the ROI of everything we do. Dave questions whether this is necessary.

"You have to be able to articulate the why, and the story. Why do we have...?

Well, I believe your brand is your reputation and the way you build your reputation through brand is through content. That's how we figure out who's trustworthy. So we're going to invest in our blog for that reason. In a year from now, we have 50,000 visitors to our blog. That's going to mean X." 

Dave admits this isn't the "What's the direct ROI of the content marketer you just hired for $75,000."

He says it's more about the goal.

"You have to be able to articulate: how is that time being used as a percentage of the overall time in marketing?

If the only thing you're doing is blogging, and the goal of blogging is not generating revenue, and you're spending 100% of your time there, my question would be: how are we going to get to our revenue goal. 

The only other answer is we don't care about revenue. It's less about the ROI and more about the running. Get to the core. Why are we doing this? That's important." 

He offers an example in the form of: Ross, the Agency Owner.

"He should be creating content. But you'd also better believe he's on LinkedIn, reaching out to people. Hey, here's my business. We work with XYZ companies. We think we could be a really good fit for you. They're not competing channels. They work together. They compound. 

Now that Ross has a machine going, he's stepping his game up, he's stepping videos up, he's stepping production up, he's stepping output up. What's going to happen? He's going to generate more awareness and more inbound. Over time it's going to be easy for him to measure the volume of that." 

What would Dave's strategy for getting first customers, then?

"Get a whiteboard. Write down the names of ten good-fit customers. Email them. What you're going to learn from that is which type of customer is going to be interested in you. 

What in your message resonates with them? What to actually say on a discovery call, on a sales call, that's all going to inform what you're going to do. You've got to be able to do both of those things." 

Branding strategies

Dave says there are two ways to approach branding.

"It doesn't have to be bald-headed Dave with a camera in his face walking down the street. For me? That's what I'm comfortable doing. That's a preferred format. Therefore, I can do it."

He says you can become just as successful if you become the curator brand.

"You position your brand to be the expert. They might not know the specific name of a person. They might know that's Dave from Privy. But they might say, oh, Privy, they are experts on eCommerce. That's why I listen to their podcast and follow their founder on Twitter."

Dave says you have to think about who is going to publish from what channels.

"I think it's a little bit easier when you have the founder that wants to share some of the stuff that's in their head. I think regardless, it's more important to set a more intentional strategy. We're going to position ourselves as a marketing expert. Okay. When you set that as a key objective for your brand and your marketing team, that's basically a set of guardrails."

The guardrails help you adjust as you refine your strategy.

"We're going to have a podcast with our founder. The founder doesn't wanna do it. What else do we want to do? Well, let's create the Modern SEO podcast. I think it's more important you get it set as the guardrail you can align around." 

When Dave joined Privy, his CEO gave him guardrails.

"We need to build this brand as the leader for small eCommerce businesses. There's nobody that really focuses on them. That was great. Once I had that nugget, before we talked about revenue goals, before we talked about trial goals, I now had a philosophy for: how do we need to go do marketing? 

I see so many marketers get in the weeds on the day-to-day when they haven't clearly articulated the strategy." 

And the best marketing strategy?

"Be perceived as the expert in your niche. Let's go build a marketing strategy around that." 

What's your right now cause?

Dave is concerned about bringing more equality and diversity to marketing teams.

"I have a hiring bias right now. I am trying to hire more Black people, period. If you really want to make a change you can hire people to work within your company, or you can fund investments. So I'm hiring Black people in marketing. I could probably be trying harder, 100%, but I think 1 in 20 guests in my podcast are Black marketing leaders. I think how can I use my platform and my network to build the marketing team of the future?" 

He also likes an initiative he's seen to move money to Black-owned banks.

"I'm running the whole business in a black Bank, One United. Who knows what that can do in the future?" 

Connect with Dave Gerhardt 

Check out all of the great communities and social networks that Dave has started or participates in.

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