Episode 3: Dave Gerhardt and Guillaume Cabane

In our third episode, Gil has another fascinating category creation discussion with two of the marketers responsible for Drift’s category domination. Panelists for this episode include:

  • Dave Gerhardt, CMO of Privy and Instrumental in creating the Conversational Marketing category
  • Guillaume Cabane, Growth Advisor to startups and instrumental in creating the CDP Category

You’ll walk away from this episode with an understanding of:

    • How the combination of a strong focus on brand and creativity, plus deep technical and data expertise was the golden marketing combination during Drift’s rise
    • The importance of building an audience for your product before you ever try to sell anything
    • Why marketing based off of a feature chart is a losing proposition

 

BONUS!

Find out why Guillaume has spent over 18 months sleeping in a tent and how Dave got through the worst stomach bug of his life the night before a huge New York Times feature article interview with his CEO!

TRANSCRIPT

Gil Allouche:
All right, gentlemen. Well, it’s nice to have you both. This is the third episode of the Category Creators podcast. We started it about a month back. We had some cool guests. You guys are super cool. Very, very excited to have you. Usually, this podcast goes like this. I ask the first introduction. I would love to hear a little bit about yourself other than the usual sales pitch. In this podcast, things that I like to do, tell me if it’s cool with you, is have a little fun, and jokes, and maybe even swear a little bit if you are opinionated about a particular subject. It’s always good. We talk a little bit about how to create categories and what you did at companies to make your category successful.

Gil Allouche:
And the idea is to share with the listeners kind of truths that only you know, things like, for example, I think it was Manny Medina from Outreach saying that the biggest differentiator for him was tripling the price, because then it popped up the question, why are we paying three times, and then he could explain how he’s different than the others. And so, interesting insights that are personal and maybe getting to know you… You’re both famous. Getting to know the character behind the persona.

Gil Allouche:
That’s it. Have fun, and I’m going to make an effort to speak slow because that is something I am working on. So, if I speak too fast, or my accent is too confusing, please give me a sign. I’m going to drink. Although it’s very early, I made it an item to have a drink during the podcast, so I’m going to have a little bit of a sip here and there. You guys are free to drink whatever you’d like. And that’s it. Any questions, comments, anything that you’d like me to do or not do?

Guillaume Cabane:
All good here.

Gil Allouche:
All right. Let’s begin. Welcome, everyone, to the Category Creator podcast. This is the third episode, and I have with me Guillaume Cabane and Dave Gerhardt, and I’m very excited to have you both. Maybe we’ll just start by quick intro. Guillaume, maybe you can go first. Tell everyone a little bit about yourself. You’re actually a very famous marketer, but for the ones who don’t know you, maybe a quick intro will do.

Guillaume Cabane:
Sure. Yeah. I’m a French guy, so that’s not a sales pitch. That’s 100% true. You can hear it. I do B2B marketing. I’ve been doing B2B marketing for longer than I’d like to admit. And, I try to help entrepreneurs and companies at the inflection point. I try to really come in once you’ve hit broad market fit, but you haven’t found distribution in marketing fit. That’s where I try to help, and it’s worked out pretty well, in a couple of companies like Segments, Drift, or Gorgeous most recently. And nowadays I do advisory with a bunch of great B2B sales companies.

Gil Allouche:
Wonderful. In full disclosure, work with you as well.

Guillaume Cabane:
I’m afraid so.

Gil Allouche:
Wonderful. And then, where are you calling us from? Where are you joining us right now?

Guillaume Cabane:
Right now, I’m in the South of France. I took a break from crazy California. I used to live in San Francisco, but you guys threw at me a pandemic, closed schools, crazy politics, and then fires. I was like, this is too much. This is like the crazy relationship, you’re like, “I’m out. I’m taking a break from this. Call me back when things go better.”

David Gerhardt:
Good. This is where you should be. Get out. Definitely.

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah. There’s no way I’m paying that much taxes in California for the situation that’s happening right now.

Gil Allouche:
Very fair. Understood. Dave, how about you? Would love to get a little bit introduction about you. I actually don’t know you too much from before, so it’s a nice opportunity to get to know you. I do see your posts every day, and very inspiring in getting us to also do something similar. So, you definitely taught me that.

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah. My name is Dave, the CMO of a company called Privy. We’re in the e-commerce space. And before that, I was VP of marketing at Drift. Was there for four years. Have spent the last decade at HubSpot and Drift. Kind of have only focused on B2B marketing by chance, and this is now what I love to do and love to talk about, and have worked with G and gotten to know him over the years. We’ve kind of been like a little bit… We like to trade ideas back and forth and have a little bit of a yin and yang type thing, which is pretty nice.

Gil Allouche:
That’s very cool. You’re talking about Drift, the next episode we have is going to be with Henry Schuck from Zoominfo and David Cancel from Drift. So, it’s nice to have the same family. I know that Guillaume has the crazy scientist persona. What’s yours? I know that your posts are very authentic and genuine, but what is the persona that you’re taking?

David Gerhardt:
I don’t know. The persona, I just am myself. That’s my persona. But I think from a marketing perspective, my background is more on the content, brand, product marketing, communications side of things, and so that’s the angle that I come at it.

David Gerhardt:
I think that a lot of B2B companies… Actually, let’s say this. Let’s be more aggressive. I think 99% of B2B companies are just terrible at marketing because they have no sense of a brand and no sense of creativity, and those are the two things that I like to talk about the most and bring back, and I think through some of the work that I’ve done in my career so far, that’s been the big focus, is winning through creativity and building a brand and really building an audience above everything else. I think that SaaS is a commodity, and the way that you’re going to win is by building an audience. And so, before I would even sell any product, I would be focusing on building an audience of people that I could then sell to, and even if you can’t sell to them, you can learn through that audience.

David Gerhardt:
And so, for me, if I sum it all up, it’s really not content, product marketing, community, social, all that stuff. It’s like, building an audience, I think that’s the thing that I think I really focus on and learned how to do over the last 10 years.

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah, and I think it’s pretty amazing, because when you look at DG and myself, group us together like a Drift, and it’s really a kick ass team. But if you take a step back, the learnings I have from being a few years at Drift with DG is that most B2B SaaS companies, the marketing is not creating any value. It’s there. It exists. But it’s just spreading the core message of what the product actually is. Just facts about the product, and some empty promises. Which means you’re only winning through the product. You’re not winning through marketing. And if your product is great, great. That might work. But the marketing team is not creating extra value.

Guillaume Cabane:
I think the core difference at Drift, especially in the early years where the product was good, but was it so much better than all the others? Debatable. But the marketing was creating the value, especially early on. And that reminds me of my… You go ahead.

David Gerhardt:
I think there’s a difference between marketers that capture demand and those that can create demand, and if you can capture demand and create demand, that’s the dream combination, which is you can make something happen, you can create an event, a holiday, or whatever that thing might be. The harsh reality of B2B marketing is that I think a lot of B2B marketers couldn’t actually do marketing if they actually had to sell a product.

David Gerhardt:
And so, if you plugged in a B2B marketer at an e-commerce company and you say, “Hey, you got to sell these hoodies online,” I’m not sure that they could do it, because you’re missing that direct response skill. One thing that I focused on in the last four or five years, especially through the Drift journey, especially through David and the team as Drift, is really focusing on copywriting, psychology, how people make decisions, and letting that ground most of the marketing strategy, and then applying the tools and technologies on top of that.

David Gerhardt:
What’s interesting about G’s background is he’s super technical, super growth, thinking about things that my brain can’t comprehend. However, we actually initially connected over this shared love of Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, which is the most important marketing book you could read.

Guillaume Cabane:
Indeed.

David Gerhardt:
And so, I think it’s cool to think about you can come at it from both sides. It’s not just like, oh, because he’s a brand person, he thinks about psychology. That’s the number one thing. So, if you can study that… That book was written in 1986, or go back to 1924, Eugene Schwartz’ Scientific Advertising, or Claude Hopkins, 1924. That book was written a hundred years ago, and the lessons in that book are still applicable today. That’s what is the most important piece to study.

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Gil Allouche:
Are you thinking really consumer marketing, almost, the Don Draper, the Mad Men psychological… and you’re attacking it from that angle, and Guillaume, you’re attacking it from the numbers and quantitative and technology point of view, but achieving a similar…

Guillaume Cabane:
Go ahead, DG.

David Gerhardt:
What I’ve learned about G’s take on things is there’s things that you can read about… He’s much more focused on what things can I read about my potential customers, and how can I be there. And so, he focuses a lot on intent, where that might be, how do I match the signal of what somebody might be doing based on some piece of data that you have, and I think that’s the… If you look at a great direct to consumer brand today, they’re actually great at this. They do both. They blend the creative and data really well together, and I think if you break down the piece of it, G’s not the one creating… he’s not creating beautiful designs. That’s not his thing.

Guillaume Cabane:
I’m not. That’s for sure.

David Gerhardt:
He’s wiring up the systems to do things at scale that most people would think that I have to hire a team of 50 people to do. Because look, anybody can close… The leads that come to your website, click on the Get a Demo button, anybody can close those leads. Anybody can close the hand raisers. It’s all of the in between that really make or break you hitting the number or not, and I think that’s where G has a unique skillset in finding those people.

Guillaume Cabane:
But the truth to be told, the thing is, and I think that’s where we had this magic combo at Drift, I need to have something to capture. In many companies, you don’t have the DG and the rest of the marketing team that he had to create the category, create the audience, create the intent. And so, there’s nothing to capture. And often people come to me and say, “Hey, I want the same playbook,” and I’m like, “You don’t have an audience, no one is looking for your thing, no one is expressing intent. It’s not the right playbook. You need to create the market you need to educate the market first.

Gil Allouche:
So, let’s talk about that more.

David Gerhardt:
The same way that I think about G… If the very first thing you do… That’s why G said… How did you describe the types of companies that you work with, G? Like stage wise?

Guillaume Cabane:
The inflection points.

Gil Allouche:
Inflection points, yeah.

David Gerhardt:
Inflection points. So, he’s not at zero. Because-

Guillaume Cabane:
Never.

David Gerhardt:
Because the mistake that I think people make is they over-instrument and over-implement when you have zero, and it’s like, there’s nothing to optimize there. You don’t need machine learning to A/B test a thousand variations on your website when you have seven people coming to your website. That’s not the right stage of that. And so, you have to first build an audience, then you can add on that-

Guillaume Cabane:
Absolutely.

David Gerhardt:
… that extra fuel.

Gil Allouche:
You guys are using the word audience versus community. Tell me, is this just a choice of words, or is it a different thing that you’re trying to create? I know with Gainsight, the big story is creating the customer success hero, making them your people. How is it different, audience versus community?

David Gerhardt:
I don’t think it is. I think it’s just a word.

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah.

David Gerhardt:
I could try to give a better answer, but yeah, I think of it as, in either case, you could call it audience, you could call it community, you could call it black pen. What it means is, do you have a group of people who you can market to on your terms? Not like I’m going to put something on social media and hope people see it. We have a podcast, a blog, and an email list, and I know that when I create something, it makes waves. Five people reply to my email, or 100 people download a podcast. It’s something you can build on, where an audience is something you can get a response from. And so, if you can’t get a response, a meaningful response, then you don’t have an audience.

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah. I want to double down on that. I think that’s very important. I started my career a long time ago at Apple, and I had a great run there. I had learned a ton. It’s a great company to learn marketing from, obviously. But what I learned is that you could argue the products are better, you could argue against, but you’re not arguing against the fact that Apple’s marketing is the best in our market. It’s the best. And they create the value there.

Guillaume Cabane:
When I left Apple, I thought that was a fluke, that no other company could build that quality of marketing and the sense of belonging that created on their products, that people would buy the Apple products without even thinking about it. And, when I joined Drift, there’s something that I realized. People were signing up, people were reaching out to ourselves without really knowing what the product did. But there was such a strong community, that the people wanted to be a part of the movement. Wherever we were going, they had conviction, maybe even faith, that it was the right direction.

Guillaume Cabane:
And so, eventually then the salespeople were explaining to them how the product could help, but the direction was bigger than the product itself.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah. And I actually think a lot about outbound, and I think somebody was interviewing… I think I did some sales podcast, and they were like, “How do you articulate the value of marketing?” And I was like, “Have you ever tried outbound sales, and is it any fun?” And so, does it work? It does work. But is it better to go knock on doors and say, “Hello, my name is Dave. I’m from this company, and I’m trying to sell you this thing,” and try to get your pitch in, like every cold email or cold outreach, versus, “Hey, we did this really cool interview with a CFO that you might like because you’re also a CFO. Why don’t you go just check that out?” No ask. Now you’re listening to my podcast. Now it’s been eight weeks. Now you’re interested. Now you’ve told two friends. Now you might happen to get a message from one of our salespeople, “Oh, yeah, I know you. I listened to the podcast.” Think about how much different each of those conversations can be now.

Guillaume Cabane:
And if we’re talking of outbound, I want to give some actual useful examples. One of the things that I try to explain is that I try to have outbound campaigns, which always bring information, value to the recipient, and as little as possible talk about my product. I’ll give an example. I’m working with a company called Gorgeous right now, which is exactly in the same space as DG’s Privy. E-commerce, we sell to Shopify merchants. I do outbound. Of course I do outbound.

Guillaume Cabane:
One example of a campaign that I do, we monitor for UPS and FedEx service interruptions throughout the US. We have a database with all of these e-commerce warehouses, where they’re located, and when there is a service interruption, which is going to delay packages, we know the e-commerce merchants are going to be impacted. We reach out to the VP of Success, and we tell them, “Hey, DG, your packages are going to be delivered late. Are you ready for the influx of tickets?” And that’s it. And you know what they answer? “Thank you. I was not aware.” No one has ever complained about that campaign, because there’s information, there’s value.

Gil Allouche:
It’s beautiful. That’s a beautiful campaign. Not surprised you build those sophisticated campaigns.

David Gerhardt:
Everybody that’s listening is like, “How do I do that? How do I do that campaign?” Is that a Zapier thing?

Gil Allouche:
Growth machine, Zapier, together with… those things together, [inaudible 00:24:32]. Hey, I heard a lot of you talk about category creation. You talked a lot about content, a lot about audience. If you go back in time and you try to think about that one moment that was complete colossal failure, hashtag fail, in trying to create that unique, genuine content to your audience, can you tell us about that moment?

David Gerhardt:
This is going to come off the wrong way, but I don’t have an example, and the reason why I don’t have an example is because I use social media and other ways to test content ideas. And that doesn’t mean that it’s never going to flop. This is all very meta because it all comes back to this idea of building an audience. If you have an active and engaged audience, you should always know what to go and create for them.

David Gerhardt:
So, I can’t think of one campaign… I’ve failed a million times, but they’ve been small failures. They’ve been because you can test. And so, because you’re always listening to your audience because you have an audience, then you’re learning what content to create. Okay, so, hey, this started off as a LinkedIn post. I’m going to expand on it and make it a podcast. Whoa, that podcast is really interesting to people. I’m going to go try to give that as a talk at the next thing that I’m speaking at. That’s how you mitigate the risk of the big reveal, versus, “We’ve got this idea, we’re not going to share it with anybody, we’re going to go silent for 12 weeks.”

David Gerhardt:
I’m always about sharing what ideas you have with your customers, with your audience. Here’s an example. Let’s say you have an email list. You’ve been building an audience. Let’s say you have an email list of 5,000 people that you’ve built, because you said, “Hey, we’re a startup, we’re going to start doing this podcast, B2B Category Creators.” And I don’t know a lot about your company, so I’m just making this up. So, “We’re going to do B2B Category Creators podcast, and we’re going to have the blog, and we’re going to do that for a year.” Now, you’ve got an audience. It’s not huge, but it’s 5,000 email subscribers, and they’re pretty active. 30% open rate. Whatever.

David Gerhardt:
Now you’re thinking, “We should do an event.” The way that I would de-risk that whole thing is I would literally make a podcast episode and email my list and be like, “So, my boss sat down and he said we should do an event this year, and here’s what I’m thinking. What would you want to see out of an event, and who would you want to speak at the event?” And so, before spending a dollar on this event, now I’ve tested the concept, I’ve gotten ideas for speakers, and I think just that type of thinking with content helps you do things.

David Gerhardt:
And then, by the way, when you do decide to go do that event, I already now have 250 people who have raised their hand that said, “Hey, Dave, if you did an event, I’d be there to buy tickets.” So, now I’m presenting to the CFO and I’m saying, “Here’s the budget I need for this. And by the way, I kind of already have $10,000 in ticket sales committed because I know the audience is interested in this, and I can feel really good about going bigger.” That, in one story, is how I think about content and marketing in general.

Gil Allouche:
Experimentation is something that resonates very well with me. That is exactly what our software does. It does experimentation for B2B marketers to do something similar. The two echos of thought, one of them says, “You go with experimentation, maybe testing to death,” and you really narrow down and fine tune to where you should go. And I think it works for me. I’m a quant, and that’s how I based the company. However, there is another thought that you should really make a big bet and go full force, and actually, that bet is going to create… We’re talking about creating demand, creating intent. It’s going to be so forceful that it’s going to make a big difference, like a big bet, but the huge exponential wins. What do you think about that?

Guillaume Cabane:
I think that when you do those experiments, so those big bets, people often forget to evaluate the costs of trying. There’s a cost to trying, which leads to a cost of failure. And what is the impact? I’m not against big bets. I love big bets. But I think you can break down the hypothesis of the big bets into a few MVPs. As DG said, is this the right content? It doesn’t mean that the conference is the wrong idea, but maybe you should change the content, or the angle.

Guillaume Cabane:
So, you’ve got to break down your big bets into a series of sizable chunks of testable hypothesis. And if you can then de-risk those four, five, six meaningful hypothesis, then you’re good. Then you now have enough confidence that you can do the big bet.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah, I think that’s an important point from G, which is, that’s what the best teams do. It’s not, “Hey, Gil, you’re the CEO, you go ask us to create this thing.” Okay, first thing we’re going to think about is what do we know about our audience already that we can use to just hedge a little bit? I think this is the importance of the whole thing.

David Gerhardt:
However, when you know your audience well, it’s easier to feel better about taking bets. I think it is important to… I understand the importance of you guys are more… Not more, you are quant, and I am not, and on that side, though, I think there’s something about just having conviction about an idea, which is, I don’t have data to test this, however, I just have a feeling that this is going to be a topic that’s going to resonate with our audience, and you earn the right to test those things when you’ve had success in some of the other areas.

David Gerhardt:
And so, I think if you’re just going to go into something blind and cold for the first time and make a huge bet with no data, then of course, hell yeah, that’s going to be a disaster. But if you’ve had a ton of success over here, and you’re like, “Hey, boss, I want to try some crazy shit now,” they’re like, “All right, cool, do that. Go and do that.” And it is important that this marketing thing is data and science for sure, but you have to have some gut and some instinct with it as well.

Gil Allouche:
I completely agree with that. That’s really cool. So, no big hashtag fail moment in terms of content and audience. I don’t know if you’re-

Guillaume Cabane:
I have one. I was the PM and marketing leader for an infosec product back in early 2010, ’11, all right? And, it’s a complicated product. I’m a marketer. I didn’t understand the product. So, I was like, cool, leadership hired me for this, I’m going to make a big splash, I’m going to launch it, I’m going to build… I went one year down the hole to launch the thing, and I launched it. And you know what? I had hundreds of CIOs and CCOs sign up for the thing.

Guillaume Cabane:
And during that year, the engineers were telling me, “G, the product’s not going to work. There’s some technical reasons it’s not going to work.” And I’m like, “Whatever. Leadership hired me for this. They say it’s fine. It’s going to be fine.” You know what? I launched it. Product didn’t work. And that was the end of it. The product didn’t work. We did not listen to the audience. We did not test the product with half our customers. This is before lean startup and stuff, and we did listen to the people who understand the product.

Guillaume Cabane:
So, multiple mistakes were made, and we went a very long time without validating any of those hypothesis.

Gil Allouche:
How would you do it differently today?

Guillaume Cabane:
I’d listen to the people. The interesting story is that you want to know why I’m a technical marketer? That failure is why I’m a technical marketer, because when that happened, I’d say, “Okay, fuck it, I’m going to understand the product now, I’m going to talk to the engineers, I’m going to get technical enough that I can understand is this thing salvageable, yes or no, and then I’m going to go back to leadership and explain to them what the situation is.” And there was no way I was going to do that on an infosec product without ramping up my technical abilities a ton. So, that’s what I did.

Guillaume Cabane:
So, it served me well. The product still doesn’t work. You can look on YouTube for it. You look on the very first video, on my name, you’ll find it there. But yeah. DG, have fun. it’s called Malware-Control. Search Malware dash Control, you’ll have fun. It’s like video from me in the early 2010s.

David Gerhardt:
Love it, love it.

Gil Allouche:
[inaudible] to watch, and [Nick] and Mark. It’s very interesting to hear you talk about that content and experimentation a lot. I think maybe it’s becoming more of a common ground, but definitely in the earlier days of marketing, it’s more about making big splashes and big bet and big timeline, so on and so forth, so I really like to see two marketing leaders running through the methodology. Other than content and audience, if you were to go back and think about the biggest thing that you’ve done, the biggest, I don’t know if you’d call it campaign or strategy that you applied, that made your company from a tool or a piece of software into a category creator, into defining, even, what is it that you do and who else is playing in that space, what would that be?

David Gerhardt:
My favorite way to explain this, I think this is Andy Raskin’s, or I’ve stole it, or who knows, but is basically this idea that your story, your company’s story, is your strategy. And so, what that means is, if you think of Drift and conversational marketing, by creating that category, that is then making a lot of the other decisions easier. Okay, will we have forums on our website? No. Will we do gated content? No. Can we build this type of feature in our product? No, we can’t, because that’s too closely related to this other thing that we’re trying to replace.

David Gerhardt:
And so, I think that sets the guardrails for when you have a really strong company story, a strategic narrative, I love that term, a strategic narrative, that’s more than messaging and positioning. That is like the, here’s why this company exists, and here’s how we think about things differently, and it’s not just marketing messaging. It also guides the product roadmap. It guides what you build. It guides who you partner with, the tools and technologies that you use. I think that’s the most important decision.

David Gerhardt:
And so, go back to any company who has been great at this, whether you’re talking about Drift or HubSpot or Salesforce or Apple. It always starts with a very clear vision and story from the CEO who understands how to tell that story to a market. That’s where it starts. And so, it’s going to be impossible to do this if you’re in marketing and you’re like, “I just can’t get the CEO to care about marketing.” Well, you’re not going to go build a category in this space, then. It’s got to start at the top.

Gil Allouche:
Fascinating. Guill?

Guillaume Cabane:
Yeah. I think there’s been a lot of moments in my life where I think we were able to change the direction and start developing the category. I think my particular appetite is in using the product in a different way, to differentiate. Obviously, I’ve always been a big fan of this Think Different campaign from Apple, but I believe it holds a lot more meaning than most people think. Here’s what I think. If you’re a marketer, and you use the same tools and technologies and the same channels as your competitors, how are you going to win? If your strategy is I’m going to send emails using Marketo, I’m going to do ads on Facebook, how are you going to win?

Guillaume Cabane:
If you’re winning only through the message, that’s hard. Then you need someone like DG, you need the top 0.1% of marketers who can craft a message. And even then, it’s not just about the message, because he has the whole community before. There’s a few people who can do the whole shebang just on the message.

Guillaume Cabane:
And so, my opinion of that, the shifting moments, whether it’s at Drift, at Segment, or elsewhere, it’s how I can explain that this product can be used in a different way to create different outcomes, completely different, to shift the narrative. When we talk of strategic narrative, it’s shifting the mindset. We’re not competing. Look, for example, at Drift, we’re not competing with Intercom. It’s a different use case. It might be the same underlying technology. Sure, you’re sending messages from point A to point B, from customer to sales rep, but it’s a completely different use case, and that changes the entire perception of the product and the market.

Gil Allouche:
So, when you would talk to customers at Drift, would they ask you how are they different than Intercom?

Guillaume Cabane:
I show them how to think differently. Okay, I’ll give you an example. Before I was hired at Drift, I went to Boston and I did a keynote, as a customer, and I explained how I was using Drift. I remember that one example that I gave, the stuff I was doing at Segment. I was using Drift so that I could offer coffees to the right kind of people coming on the Segment website. I would use Drift, the live chats, so that my reps could dynamically offer a hot drink delivered to your office in 20 minutes. And everything was automated.

Guillaume Cabane:
Now, was it a huge campaign in terms of volume? No. Was it super meaningful in terms of revenue? No, honestly. Was it amazing? Absolutely it was amazing. Were people wowed by it? Absolutely, because it opens your eyes on what’s possible.

Gil Allouche:
I like it. I feel what you’re saying now, exactly, about creating a new kind of campaign. You’re really good at that, combining different pieces and creating a machine that maybe was not intended to be used that way, but being very successful.

Guillaume Cabane:
I’m just a plumber. I’m just plumbing, I’m just connecting pipes.

Gil Allouche:
Data plumbing is a luxury job today. Tell me, so you said it was not necessarily a big revenue maker, but it did raise a lot of eyes. Are you saying that going back to that… It’s a tough question, and I want to go back to it. You’re saying I created something so that people… I educated them so they didn’t compare me to Intercom. That’s great, but I do. And Drift, I use Drift, I’m a very happy customer of Drift. But at least in the beginning, before the playbooks, before the sophistication in product differentiation, I did compare it to Intercom. And I wondered, did you really get to a place where you would hop on calls and people would not ask you, it’s like, “Who is your competition, or how are you different than Drift?” That was not the standard? Because I know that’s what companies-

David Gerhardt:
It came up, but this is like, look, you can’t just have marketing. You have to have a great product. I can tell you that it’s different, but if it’s not different, then it’s not different. And so, I can tell you that it’s different, but you’re going to have to actually go in, and then we’re going to have to match up that vision. And so, this is why going back to the top of that story of strategy thing, how are we different then? So, what is going to be the defining thing? And the wedge that we created was, we’re going to focus on sales and marketing. We’re going to be the first people to really focus on sales and marketing.

David Gerhardt:
And so, that then drives the prioritization system for what we’re going to do. So, should we do this thing or that thing, or this thing or that thing? Okay, well, which one is for salespeople? Okay, so we’re going to do that one. And that’s how you do that. The marketing and the product have to match. If I have ads that say, “Hey, this is the world’s comfiest jacket,” and you come into my store and you put on the jacket and it’s not the world’s comfiest jacket, then dammit, then you can’t tell people it’s the world’s comfiest jacket. There has to be a one-two punch.

Gil Allouche:
It’s very intentional what you said. You said we focused on sales and marketing, versus Intercom is more support and success, or believe in product, and they said every decision, hey, we’re going to be around those… Is there something else that was decided in-

David Gerhardt:
On that thought, though, that was important. It was sales and marketing. It wasn’t like, well, in this app, the way that you share is you right click, and in this app, the way that you share… It’s very easy to… From a competition standpoint, I hate playing the feature wear. I never want to play the feature war. If I have to send you a feature chart about how we compare to x, then I haven’t done my job as a marketer, and that’s the mind frame that I take.

Gil Allouche:
That’s a very important comment, and one that our listeners are going to read. So, that’s a nice cheer, take a little break for that wisdom.

Guillaume Cabane:
I think you’ve got to realize that I advise a lot of companies, so I see a lot of sales floors and a lot of sales teams, and I think creating the marketing, the vision, the picture is super important. Making sure everyone who is talking to the customer is aligned on that story might be even more important. And so many companies don’t do a good job there. I don’t have it with me here, but I do remember that every time that there was either a future launch, a new vision, a new way to pitch, a new presentation, a new vision, DG and his team would print out a one-pager that would explain, and they put it on the desk of every salesperson at Drift.

Guillaume Cabane:
And so, when they had the calls, they had the reference sheet, of what is the pitch, what’s the story, and that, I think, is really critical to the alignment. And there could be so many SaaS calls that I have. You listen to the recordings. You have five AEs, you have five stories. And that is not category creation.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah. It also has to work. So, the reason… It’s not like we knew something about training sales reps to get everybody on the same page. It’s not like I made a prettier laminated sheet that we put on people’s desk. It was like, they were using the product, they were demoing the product. When they showed the right stuff with the right use case, it was awesome. And so, that makes it easier to want to share that message. And so, this goes back to everything has to be able to line up. It worked. And so, therefore, if it works, the reps think, “This works. If I use this pitch, I’m going to close more deals. If I close more deals, I’m going to get paid more. If I get paid more, I can buy a house.” It’s that whole progression.

Gil Allouche:
Conditioning. Very interesting. So, that’s a big secret for category creation. If you go back to Drift days, both of you working together, creating a category, one is representing more the data side, one is more creative, a messaging crafting expert. How do you measure yourselves? What’s your North Star to think that you are actually making good progress?

Guillaume Cabane:
Want to do it together?

David Gerhardt:
Yeah. Revenue.

Guillaume Cabane:
Revenue.

David Gerhardt:
Period.

Guillaume Cabane:
100%. Always revenue. It’s the only thing that matters.

David Gerhardt:
Here’s a part of this. I got to do a lot of creative random one-off things, but that was because revenue was growing. Nobody was like, “Wow, man, DG came up with that cool billboard. We haven’t gotten a new lead in six months.” It doesn’t work like that. And so, you have to first be able to deliver, and I think ultimately, the thing that is great about G’s setup is everything’s going to be measured… If he could have it his way, he would measure every one of my tweets directly to revenue and really be able to quantify it. But I think that-

Guillaume Cabane:
I do.

Gil Allouche:
That’s how it is.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah, it’s in one of his secret spreadsheets somewhere.

Gil Allouche:
That’s fascinating. Revenue, of course. I guess if you [inaudible 00:44:56], and I couldn’t agree more. When you’re generating [inaudible] that closes then you can experiment with new stuff, you can be creative, you know that-

David Gerhardt:
We should go one level deeper on the revenue thing, because I think at some companies, it’s easier to measure revenue. If you sell hoodies online, it’s easier to measure revenue, because everything you do is direct response. And so, it can be harder. However, your job then is to go and find the leading indicators to revenue. And so, that could mean, oh, pipeline. Okay, if it’s not pipeline, then it’s meetings. If it’s not meetings, then it’s leads. If it’s not leads, then it’s traffic. If it’s not traffic, G’s telling you that some industry intent signal is way down, and holy shit, that’s going to mean in six months pipeline’s going to drop. It’s got to be some type of thinking like that.

Guillaume Cabane:
It’s got to correlate really well with what’s going to happen when the revenue hits. So, why are we doing that? What are we trying to avoid? By pushing for metrics that are tied to revenue as much as possible, if not direct to revenue, I’m trying to avoid vanity metrics where the marketing team can succeed while the business is failing. And that happens. There’s many companies where that happens.

David Gerhardt:
Of course.

Gil Allouche:
100% it happens. Let’s talk about that for a second. Some marketers are being educated, maybe, that vanity metrics are important, that you can somehow correlate in an indirect way your vanity metrics to the fact that your ACV is going up, and so and so forth. I don’t personally believe in that approach, but that’s something that is becoming more and more popular, don’t measure the leads, don’t measure the meetings. There’s a different way of calculating it. How do you tackle that when that North Star revenue is how you do things, and how do you tackle that?

David Gerhardt:
I think people misinterpret that don’t track leads, don’t track traffic, don’t track subscribers. You need to track all of it. Those are all inputs that you need to understand. Those just might not be the thing that you should present to the board about, or in the executive meeting. You have to know those things. If you run a restaurant, you don’t just know about the food. You know about the people that you’re hiring, the security, the cleaning crew. You’ve got to know all those things, but you don’t have to share that level with everybody.

Gil Allouche:
Interesting. What experiments do you run, other than content, other than audience? Things are going well. You’re generating revenue. You’re generating pipeline. What kind of experiments do you try to do, to differentiate, to try new things that are not linear, some exponential value?

Guillaume Cabane:
I think I want to share three good experiments that I remember from my time at Drift, that were really cool. And I think it started by understanding what were the friction points in our discussion with customers. I had identified three with the team. People were wondering, “Is it going to look good on my site?” Then people would wonder, “This chat conversational marketing thingy, I don’t need it. I’m okay with forms. I have good performance.” And the third is, “Oh, you say it’s going to double my click rate or double my engagements. I don’t believe it’s going to have an impact.”

Guillaume Cabane:
So, we had those three things. What did we build? For the first one, it’s not going to look good, the team built Drift Test Drive. Input your URL. We’re going to show you how it looks on your site. So, that removes that friction point. For the second, we built something called Get My Response Time, where you would enter your URL, and then we’d have a freelancer who would submit a demo request on your site, and we would measure the time that your sales team took to respond to that demo request, and we’d measure you against the industry standard. And if you took longer, we’d say, “Hey, Gil, your sales team is taking three hours. If you moved to five minutes, you would have that much more conversions.”

Guillaume Cabane:
And for the third, I don’t think it’s going to have a big lift, we built our iCalculator. You input a couple of metrics, and it spits out the impact in revenue for you based on your ACV, your product, what not. But we were removing friction elements so that eventually when somebody walks themselves through those three experiments, and they get to the AE, they get to the sales team, they’re already convinced. They’re already your champion.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah. Well, that approach is important, because it’s like, that’s how you grow… If you just have a website that says Start a Free Trial, or if you just have a website that says Contact Sales, those are the dream leads. Yes, you should always have that. You should always have a meta data .io, get a demo button, or whatever you guys have on your website. But you’re not going to be able to consistently grow that group. There’s just going to always be that group of people, hand raisers.

David Gerhardt:
This goes back to I think one of the greatest lead magnets of all time is HubSpot’s Website Grader, where they didn’t want to get you in the funnel. They said, “Hey, you’ve got a website. We’re going to tell you how it performs. We sell to small businesses. They don’t really know about websites, so we’re going to spit out a report and it’s going to be like, you need to change this, you need to change this, you need to change this. And by the way, we can help you.” That’s why those three experiences matter.

David Gerhardt:
The most important thing in marketing in really any go-to-market strategy is understanding the stages of awareness. And so, people who already know you who are super fans, give them the fast lane. They can get a demo. What G’s talking about is building up experiences to grow your funnel beyond just contact us to start a trial.

Gil Allouche:
I think that’s amazing. What you’re revealing here are ways to handle the objections before the objection rise in the digital experience. That sounds amazing. What process did you go through with your sales and customer success, perhaps, to learn that those are the top three friction points?

David Gerhardt:
Well, I think this comes back to the beginning. We knew those things because we had an audience. And so, when you’re always putting out content to that audience, you’re learning, and we’re like, wow, we hit on something. We came out and we started talking about no forms, and when we hit on no forms, the response to that was crazy. People were just like, “Yes, take me with you. I don’t know where you’re going, but I’ll go.” And so, you just have to keep building on that.

David Gerhardt:
So we’re like, okay, if we have this one kind of paradigm, this no forms thing, how can we create on that and keeping bridging that gap for people? And so, we already had that message out there, and so how do we deliver on that experience? So, let’s keep testing. Okay. Hm. We keep telling people that speed wins. All right. They don’t believe it, though, because nobody likes to be sold to, nobody likes to be marketed to. So, how could we show them that? Oh, huh, what if we measured the performance of their speed? Okay, how could we do that? And then you keep going down that path.

David Gerhardt:
This is the holy grail to me of creativity and the growth wizardry stuff. That’s where this comes together.

Gil Allouche:
Do you find yourself joining sales calls, joining SDR qualification calls, looking at the playbooks, looking at the actual chat between the prospect and the chat bot? Do you look at things like that from more of the sales perspective, or do you usually focus mostly on the customer journey stages that are within the marketing?

Guillaume Cabane:
So, generally, I used to. Now we have call recordings. And so, I generally ask my sales team to select sales calls that they have had which they think are specifically useful, and I’ll go through those, absolutely. Listen to your customer.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah. I’ll give you an example. So, I haven’t been on a live sales call in a year, and don’t need to, because… I don’t want to make this a plug, because it is a plug. Because I use Gong. This is so ridiculous. I haven’t been on a sales call in a year because I use Gong. But, anyway, the point is-

Guillaume Cabane:
Can I tell Udi to take that for [inaudible 00:52:57]-

Gil Allouche:
[inaudible 00:52:57].

Guillaume Cabane:
Udi’s going to love it.

Gil Allouche:
He’s going to be very happy.

David Gerhardt:
I plug them. That’s a good product. I plug them so much, and it was nice, they sent me a pair of sneakers. That was really nice. So, I try to keep plugging them because I’m like, I need some more. But in all seriousness, I’m going to give you a real example. I joined Privy, new company, last year, and I really needed to get up to speed on the company, the product. And so, what I did is, when we got Gong, I have the Gong app on my phone, and I put the Gong app on my home screen on my phone, and for two weeks, I said every time that I would be listening to music or a podcast, I’m going to put on the Gong app and I’m going to listen to customer calls.

David Gerhardt:
The beauty about that, it was a dead sprint for two weeks. I probably listened to 50 calls in the course of two weeks while I’m going stuff. And what you start to learn… So, a, I don’t have to be on sales calls, but b, what you start to learn is that it’s just like anything, the 80/20 rule applies. It’s the same three or four or five concepts and questions that keep coming up. And so, you can go really deep, learn the market, and then do what G did, which is then tap into a couple of really good reps inside your company or people who are really plugged in, and say, “Hey, CS team,” find one person on the CS team who you have a relationship with, or whoever, and say, “Hey, every now and then, can you send me a call?” And then you just have a library, and just make it part of your keep-up. “Oh, I haven’t listened to calls in a month. Shoot, I’ve got to block off a couple hours and I’ve got to get back to this habit that I have.”

Gil Allouche:
I think that’s very insightful. And more than that, it’s very actionable. I think marketers and CEOs and take the time and actually go through some of these things that you just mentioned.

Guillaume Cabane:
Just to plug Gong one last time, if you think of category creation, and you want to see another successful company, look at Gong. Look at Gong, and look at who they were competing with, who were they competing against. And, they just burned the competition down. Did they have a better product? Honestly, at that time, I don’t believe so. Because I’ve used both products, and Drift used the competing product. They eventually, just the sheer power of Gong’s marketing team, is just amazing.

Gil Allouche:
It is. It is very strong, and it is very impressive. I’m looking forward to talking to Udi about that. Tell me something that no one else knows about you, outside of category creation. Guillaume, let’s start with you. I heard from [Godard 00:55:17], the CEO of [inaudible 00:55:18], that you went to jail. That was an interesting story. A really interesting story of what he did when he was younger to get one night there. Tell me something that no one knows about you.

Guillaume Cabane:
I’d say I did more Boy Scouts than most people, and I calculated recently how many times I slept under a tent. You know what’s the answer? A year and a half. When you aggregate it, I spent a year and a half sleeping under a tent by the age of 20. So, a meaningful part of my life was spent outdoors. And I think it’s connected, because I spent a lot of time finding creative solutions to actual problems I was having there, and that’s been the defining thing of my life. I like solving problems, complicated problems, in a way that most people, you would usually give up. That’s my thing.

Gil Allouche:
What I would give to get a glimpse of Guillaume in Boy Scouts, A/B testing solutions. That’s awesome.

Guillaume Cabane:
There were some failures.

Gil Allouche:
Dave, what about you?

David Gerhardt:
Not that interesting of a person, honestly. Nobody wants to hear, “I like to play golf and I like to work out.” Nobody likes that person, and that’s the truth. But, I’ll give you an interesting story that I’ve never shared before, just because we’re talking a lot about Drift today. So, one time, we got this interview at the New York Times. The New York Times, in print, they said, “Hey, come to New York with David,” the CEO, “and we’re doing a feature in the New York Times for this CEO Corner Office thing.”

David Gerhardt:
We get down there, go out to dinner, night before I’m in my hotel room, stomach bug. The worst night of my life, stomach bug, worst night of my life. The next morning, he’s raring… We’re going into the New York Times to do an interview. It’s insane. Everybody dreams of that. And I went out to the little corner store, and I had to get Pedialyte at 6:00 in the morning. I just was a mess. And I had to sit through this moment, the photo shoot and the interview at the New York Times, just thinking about how am I not going to throw up and the CEO is here with me right now.

Gil Allouche:
I love that one. Oh, that’s hilarious. I wonder if it was just a stomach bug or you just got shit faced.

David Gerhardt:
No. I wish. I wish. I would’ve done anything in that moment.

Gil Allouche:
That is a funny story. I hope that went well. That’s cool. Is there anything else that you would like to tell to our listeners before we finish, something about category creation, something about creating a unique company? You said a lot about being genuine and authentic, constantly testing. There’s a lot of learning on that aspect. Is there something else that is a unique truth that you guys experienced that is not talked about [inaudible 00:58:26]?

Guillaume Cabane:
I’d say on my end, I found that most of the success I’ve been able to reproduce in the past couple of years has been by understanding who’s my market, who’s in my market, and who’s buying right now. And then focusing my marketing efforts, budget, content, to that small portion of the market who is likely to be buying it. I think there’s really two things. You have DG and all the amazing marketers who are doing long-term education and category creation. But on the short-term, you’ve got to go after the 10% of the market for this month, which is likely to be willing to listen to your message in a way that they’re going to buy. If you spread your marketing efforts and dollars on 100% of the market, then it’s too weak of an effort.

David Gerhardt:
Yeah, and this is where aligning with the whole management team is so important, because what happens is, especially in the early days of the company, it’s like, no, no, no, but we’re not just for that segment of people. We’re building a game changing, revolutionizing platform that applies to everybody. And it’s like, great, you can work up to that when you are Salesforce, when you are HubSpot, but you have to pick a wedge, and who is that core persona that’s going to deliver the goods on an [MRR] perspective today.

David Gerhardt:
My answer to that, that’s a good one, G. Mine is just think for yourself, and that seems like a very corny aspirational thing, but just don’t follow… You’ll do better if you just don’t blindly follow what happens in B2B marketing. Just think for yourself, what is the goal? How do we get more people to buy from us? If you are not a B2B SaaS company, what would you do? And I’m obsessed with studying people and consumers and popular culture and seeing how those things make people make decisions, and then figuring out how I can adapt the B2B version of it as opposed to going the other way.

David Gerhardt:
The last thing on that is just, also just know that almost everything has been done, ever. And so, the most important thing you can do is find one or two role models that you can study. It could even be competitors. How have they done it? What have they learned? And then what can you learn from that, and what is your unique take on that? So much of marketing and being successful is being curious and pattern matching what has already been done out there.

Gil Allouche:
Gentlemen, I learned a lot from you. This was a really insightful podcast. Thank you very much for sharing your lessons learned from category creation, and your work as marketers. Thank you very much. I really enjoyed this episode, and thank you everyone for listening in. Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, friends.

David Gerhardt:
Thanks. See you guys.

Guillaume Cabane:
Thanks, everyone.

David Gerhardt:
Bye-bye.

Guillaume Cabane:
Thanks, Gil. DG, it was a pleasure.