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Inbound Success Podcast

What do the most successful inbound marketers do to get great results?

You’ve heard the stories about companies using inbound marketing to dramatically increase sales, grow their business, and transform their customer relationships, but not everyone who practices inbound marketing knocks it out of the park.

If you want to know what goes into building a world class inbound marketing campaign that gets real, measurable results, check out the Inbound Success podcast. Every week, host Kathleen Booth interviews marketing folks who are rolling up their sleeves, doing the work, and getting the kinds of results we all hope to achieve.

The goal is to “peel back the onion” and learn what works, what doesn’t and what you need to do to really move the needle with your inbound marketing efforts. This isn’t just about big picture strategy – it’s about getting actionable tips and insights that you can use immediately in your own marketing.

Apr 9, 2018

Conversational marketing company Drift entered the crowded martech space and quickly garnered a lot of buzz. 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 brand is the company's key differentiator and how leading with brand has fueled Drift's growth. 

Listen to the podcast to learn what Drift is doing to get results, or read the transcript below.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth and I am your host. Today, my guest is Dave Gerhardt, the VP of Marketing and Drift. Welcome, Dave.

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-

Dave: Wow.

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-

Dave: Totally.

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 of course, what would I do right after that? I'd go email that person. 

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 worked at Constant Contact. I worked at HubSpot and now I'm at Drift. 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 marketing, and figured out that's what I'm good at. 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 it, because it doesn't matter what we say.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dave: We're a conversational marketing and sales platform. I mean, for this audience, I can describe it that way, because basically the reason Drift exists is, a shift in how you and I communicate and buy. Okay? You and I are on video right now, so nobody else will see this, but I have my phone in my hand, and we all spend our days communicating in real time, on demand. I can call my wife right now. I can call my mom and text my mom. I can order a car, order food, order anything. I can basically do every single thing in my life in real time on demand, except buy something from another business, right? That's what we believe is broken in marketing and sales, and so that's what we are solving with conversational marketing.

Conservational marketing's all about having real time conversations with the people who are interested in your business. When I explain it that way, sometimes it sounds so obvious that people are like, "Yeah, but I can't have conversations with the people who are interested in my business. It doesn't scale." It's just crazy, because if you think about your website as a brick and mortar store, you would want to have conversations with all the people that came into that store, right? But over time, people have just gotten this thing in their head where, "It's not valuable enough," or "There's too much noise, I can't talk to everybody." We're all about helping you scale that and have one-to-one conversations with everybody that's interested in your business. 

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.

Dave: Totally.

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 candy, because it's so powerful to put that candy in there that your kids can't ... They can't help themselves. I feel like the conversation that Drift enables a company to have on their website is the equivalent of getting the most important stuff in front of the potential customer in the checkout aisle.

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 answered. That's exactly why we exist, because that's how I buy, that's how you buy, is I'm going to come to your website, I'm going to do all the research. I'm going to listen to your podcast. I'm going to watch your videos, read your blog, and then when I'm ready I'm going to show up at your store, which is your website, and I'm going to say, "Hey Kathleen, I have two very specific questions. Does it integrate with Slack? And your pricing is just confusing, does it work for $1,000? I can get it?" Then you're like, "Yeah." If you just think about the traditional marketing world, where does that happen?

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 ends up buying something or booking a meeting. In the traditional marketing world, there was no term for that, there was no mental model for how people come in. It was just like, "Nope, you come in my funnel, you come in this way. You put your first name, last name, company, role, budget, in this form." Then I talk to you and now we've just opened up the funnel and said, "Come on in, ask what questions you want and we'll get you routed to the right person."

Kathleen: Yeah. I feel like we are so insanely inpatient as a society these days that if we can't get our questions answered in that moment right away, we're out of there. 

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 inpatient. We want answers in real time. We want this and that." Then something happens where then we go into our jobs in marketing and sales and we become like, "No, now I'm marketing Dave and I'm going to do all the things that I hate as a person, but I'm going to make you do them in my job as a marketer." I think that the thing people get caught up on a lot is, "Yeah, but we're a B2B." People ask, "Yeah, but how does this work for really large enterprises?" I'm like, "What? Those are still humans, right? Those are still people."

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 deals, but honestly, to shorten the sales cycle. Because yes, we are a company that has a longish sales cycle, but I think we could probably make it shorter.

Dave: Yes.

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 leads, or more revenue, but I think sometimes we go too deep in that hole, and we worry too much about the conversion piece of it. I think the biggest value prop of Drift is speed. It's the speed of somebody coming to your website who has a very specific question right now and they're ready to buy. How do you handle that, right? The traditional model would be they fill out a form, they wait weeks, or days, weeks, or months, and then you talk to them.

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.

Dave: Yeah.

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 martech landscape slide where there's literally 7,000+ vendors in the marketing and sales space. For us, in the early days of Drift, we knew we were coming into the most crowded market, and so we knew that we had to do things differently. We weren't going to be able to win customers if our strategy was like, "We're going to get more people to download eBooks than this other company," right? 
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 podcast, if you and I had said that the best time for marketers to send an email was at 2:08pm on a Tuesday, they would all go do it at 2:08 on Tuesday. We're trying to find maybe we could ... Could we send an email on a Saturday night when nobody else is doing it? From the beginning, we tried to go in a completely opposite direction, and this all comes from David, our CEO. He has this talk that he's given where he talks a lot about how we're in the third wave right now, which is like everything in marketing and sales is a commodity. You and I could both quit our jobs and go start our own marketing and sales software company, and build almost 80% of the features that any company has out there, because it's so easy to copy any of that stuff.

The one thing that people can't copy is the brand, and so we focused from the beginning on building a brand, and creating that emotional connection with people. Because you and I as buyers, we're more skeptical than ever. I don't want to talk to any sales rep and I do this for a living, right? I don't want to get a demo. I don't want to answer cold calls, I don't answer cold emails, so it's harder to sell to me than ever, but the companies that I do buy from, there's always a personal connection with them and something deeper than something about a feature. From day one, we focus on building a brand. That was what set us apart initially, especially in this very crowded B2B martech space.

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 funny, because the brand secret actually has been, we haven't tried to manufacture anything. We've just been us, we've been real, we've been authentic, we've been human. There's a quote from Patagonia's founder that I love, which is ... He says, "It's easier to write nonfiction than it is to write fiction." For us, you can see it, it's LinkedIn videos with us talking. It's a podcast, which is like the most intimate marketing channel you could have. I mean, you know. You're hosting one, right? You could literally walk around the street and somebody's listening to you.

Either our faces, or our customer's faces, are in all of our marketing. We write, we talk, we only send plain text emails. We don't use any banners or design in any of them. Everything we've done has all been about being real and being authentic and that's what I sum up our brand as being. It's not something that we manufacture, say, "We really want to be a cool B2B tech company." No, we just want to be human, and we want to be real, and that ends up being a perfect fit with the product that we're selling, which is all about having conversations. 

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?

Dave: Yeah.

Kathleen: Is there something like that, that exists within Drift?

Dave: Yeah, there is actually. There's a couple things. Well, we're on video right now so I won't show you, but I have a stack of copywriting old school books out on my desk and that's something that David, our CEO, put me on a couple years ago and really said, "Don't study all the SaaS marketing stuff, study that stuff." We've taken those things and basically we have an internal checklist that we use, which is our copyrighting checklist. It's just a Google Doc and we're always adding to it, but I has about seven or eight key principles like, "Make sure it's urgent, unique, and ultra specific. Make sure the headline has this." It's nothing that we've invented, but it's kind of like a collection of our favorite copyrighting tips, and so people have that that they can rely on.

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 checklist, because this is something that I'm working on tackling at IMPACT. We're growing really fast and as you scale, you're introducing new people into the mix, and every time you introduce somebody new, there's that element of uncertainty -- especially if they're doing copywriting, or if they're customer facing in communications, there's that element of, "Are they going to deliver the message in the way we want it delivered?" You don't want to make it so consistent that it sounds robotic, but to have a set of guardrails like that in the form of that checklist, it just sounds super practical.

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 down, but just organically within the team you'd know, "Ah, that doesn't sound right. We wouldn't use that word, or it doesn't look right." You build in this culture of accountability because everyone is always showing their work, and even writers are sharing drafts of their blog posts, even if it's just 500 words in a Google Doc before it even makes its way into WordPress, for example. We built that in, which has been super helpful in kind of just scaling the feedback and the knowledge across the team.

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.

Dave: Yep.

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-

Kathleen: Yeah.

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 video? Because I heard you mention you're doing it on LinkedIn, using it in a couple of different ways. I'd love to hear more about what your plan is there.

Dave: Yeah. Overall, we use video to basically support everything that we do and we're obsessed with video, because back to what we were saying earlier about how our brand is real and authentic, we love video because it's the hardest channel to fake, right? I mean, you and I, we don't have this. This is a podcast, the video won't be on here, but we're looking at each other, we're talking to each other. It's the most real thing that ... The most authentic form of marketing, and so we try to have video that supports everything.

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, 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 video and how we use video.

Kathleen: Cool.

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"

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-

Kathleen: Wow.

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 in house and do you have an editing team, or is it all really just kind of spontaneous?

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 are making videos. That's typically more of our higher production stuff, which is our launch videos, any ads, but even honestly our ... The videos that have been performing the best are not as high ... The stuff that people are doing now on an iPhone walking down the street is out-performing a lot of the other high production stuff. I think there's a different use case for either one. For every product launch, we have a two minute, more of an overview video. That video needs high production, but for a lot of announcements that we make, it can just be somebody going for a walk or getting the team to record a video. 

Kathleen: You're just uploading those natively as an update -- an individual person's update -- on LinkedIn?

Dave: Correct. 

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, there's very mixed feelings about LinkedIn. I think for a while people kind of got off of it. There was a time when everybody was hot on LinkedIn groups, and then it got kind of spammy, and I feel like people are starting to get back into LinkedIn now in maybe a more curated way. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out with these cases like this. Great stuff, I love that tip. Any other really high performing channels or strategies that you all are using right now?

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 in the top of somebody's inbox and I always want it to feel like it's a real conversation from me. Even when you register for our newsletter, you get a video from us that says, "Hey, I'm Dave. I send all of our emails here at Drift, and so if you don't ever like what you're getting, just unsubscribe, or just tweet at me, or reply here."

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 any more, because everything we ever write should be like, "I'm emailing my wife to ask her if we can go to dinner with some friends at 2:00 on Saturday," or something like that, right?

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-

Dave: No.

Kathleen: ...look like it's the continuation of an existing conversation.

Dave: 100%, or they do the fake forward.

Kathleen: Yes.

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.

Kathleen: Yeah.

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, 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 conference, because this year we're doing it twice. We're doing it once in Boston in September and then three weeks later we're going to San Francisco to do it there. The reason I'm excited about it is because -- I haven't told anybody this yet, so I'll tell you for the first time -- we're announcing it next week. We're going to take a totally different approach to doing event marketing. I love thinking about Hypergrowth not because it's an event, but because any new marketing challenge is fun to me, and so it's just a different muscle to think about how are we going to get 5,000 people to commit a day to somewhere.

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 there's fewer speakers announced, so if you're willing to take a chance on us and bet that it's going to be worth your time, you're going to get a better deal. But if you wait to the end when we've announced all 25 speakers to make your decision, it's going to be more expensive. I'm super excited about doing that and hopefully we can come back and talk more about event marketing later. 

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. There's two things that always happen. It's like every time you send an email, you sell tickets, which is good and bad, because then it's like, "How do you prioritize that against your existing business," right? Then also there's a huge spike in ticket sales the last month before the event and it's just like, I don't want to live in that world.

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 my two questions that I ask everybody.

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 school copyrighting lessons have made a bigger impact on me in two years than I think five years of reading about SaaS marketing and inbound marketing blogs. If people will take anything from this, it'd be make a commitment for this month and say, "I'm not going to read ... "

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 I, and let me know if you've learned more than that. I bet you will. I would just spend more time there, because all the tactics and everything in the market are going to keep changing.

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, super human, and so we try to draw inspiration from them.

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 do, and pick one or two that you can have in your swipe file. 

Kathleen: It's so funny you say that, because when I had my first child, the advice I got was that, "You're going to get a lot of advice from other parents." A good friend of mine said, "Pick one person who has amazing kids and only take their advice." 

Dave: I love that.

Kathleen: That's exactly what I did and thank God, because you would drive yourself crazy. I think it's the same-

Dave: Totally.

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, is you just have to do what's going to work for your business. Somebody's going to listen to this podcast and be like, "Yeah, we tried plain text emails and they don't work as well for me." Okay, great. We don't have to argue about that, right?

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,

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.