The Forgotten Art of Taking The Long Cut with Drift's Dave Gerhardt

By
| |

Reading time ~ 39 minutes.

1837. Charles Darwin presents a paper at the Geographical Society of London, and in so doing sets off a curious enterprise that’ll last for decades. Work that’ll lend itself into his most successful scientific book.

A book about worms.

The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, published in 1881, began with an attempt “to conclude that all the vegetable mould over the whole country has passed many times through, and will again pass many times through, the intestinal canals of worms.”

Drawing from the unsung addressees of his research, the virtue of patience and doing the work, he studied their habits, their sensitivity towards heat and cold, sound and light.

Their role in the burial, and the resulting preservation of ancient Roman buildings. And most importantly, he documented their maddening machinery of toil that all of us benefit from.

“The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures.” ~ Charles Darwin

The days are deft at descending. Rains can be callous. Given the immensity of time, a lot can go against one’s wishes. But that doesn’t matter.

The awnings are plenty. So are the muddy boots. Discoveries are made. Epic poems are penned. There’s always a place for those who’re willing to show up, and put in the work.

Year in. Year out.

Today’s guest has become a known name in the SaaS circles owing to his work over the last 10 months or so. But these 10 months owe themselves to the last 10 years.

From wanting to be an NBA player, to the PGA tour, and then listening to and working closely with people that he admired, in companies like Constant Contact, Privy, and Hubspot, Dave Gerhardt has stuck with the principle of taking the long cut.

In this episode, we cover:

What Dave was like as a kid.

His thoughts on role models.

His fascination with legendary admen.

What to do when you’re uninspired.

How books can unlock our subconscious.

Why you should spend the first three months of a new job, just listening.

How to be a Kickfinisher.

What playing Golf has in common with running a business.

The practice of giving.

The importance of carrying the water.

The challenges presented by internet’s immensity.

The non-traditional way they’re building Drift.

What’s commonly misunderstood by most modern businesses.

Rituals.

Dave’s two words of advice for someone who is just starting out.

***

Tune in.

And once you’ve heard the episode, if your eardrums have made answer, and would want more such conversations, you can subscribe to the show on SoundCloud.

Here’s a lightly edited transcript of this conversation.

***

Hello there, Dave, welcome to the show.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Glad that you could make it, and really hoping to have a good mind-meld about a lot of things.

Okay.

Glad to have you here. So, for the first question we usually deploy the time machine, I’m going to deploy that again. I’m going to ask you a question about the past. So, if you could pick up once instance from your childhood that could tell us, a little bit about what you were like as a kid, that’ll be a great start.

Yeah, sure. As a kid I was probably a pain to deal with. I didn’t always like doing my homework, and following the rules.

But I always the kind of person who was making wisecracks and jokes, in school all the time, and then. I never really took the whole process of school and doing work until later in my life, that’s kind of how I would sum up my earlier years.

So, the changed happened at some point, when did it start happening, was it an interaction with somebody?

It wasn’t an interaction with somebody. It was just the process of growing up and after college realizing that if you worked hard, and you did your work then you could make more money, and climb the ladder of a career, and start to be more successful. I learned that pretty quickly after college in getting my first job.

You know, for the first time I felt like there was something that I could quantify from working hard whereas I never really cared about getting, you know, doing homework and getting grade on paper or homework. But when I got into the real world, and started working, got to see that there could be a direct result from my output at work.

And then also be able to make more money, and just become more successful and learn more things that’s kind of when everything kind of switched for me.

The other idea that you talk about a lot. Something that you’re vested in is the idea of role models. Does it also mean that when you were young, you didn’t really have a lot of role models?

I had plenty of role models. They just turned out to be professional athletes, I was big into sports, growing up and still am. Yeah, the role models that I had weren’t in the business world but once I got into the business world, I kind of changed gears and started reading more books about business, paying more attention to the trends, people in the space and so overtime started to get role models.

But actually the best role models that I have learned, they’re not people that… They’re not people like mentors, people you meet on a regular basis. They’re just people that are in your space and in your world. That you say, “I want to look up to. I want to be like this person.”

Who’s that person for you, right now?

That’s a good question. I don’t have one particular role model to give you an example for, but I think I just like watching what other successful people are doing, and so for in this world, people that are running companies that are doing interesting things, and are successful in the business world.

It’ll help if it’s work, for someone whose work is rooted painstakingly in the toil that they’ve put in, in the number of years that they’ve put in, and just showing up, so, if you could surface one example of that, who would that person be?

Somebody whose work that I admire?

Yup.

I’ve actually been spending a lot of time…This is actually a question that I get a lot, who’re the marketing people that you look up to. And I don’t have a good time with a lot of role models in the current world.

But I’ve been spending the last year going back and studying all of the great advertising people and direct marketers.

So the person that I’ve been reading a lot about, and learning a lot from lately, who isn’t alive anymore is David Ogilvy. Great advertiser and Direct Marketer. I’ve been so fascinated with hime because all of the things that he wrote fifty-sixty years ago, still apply today.

But I think, a lot of times, we look to apply what we think is newer and more interesting advice, when some of the best stuff is actually buried in. It’s been the same way. And those guys are really interesting because they spend a lot of time talking about people and consumer behaviour.

True. I’ve Ogylvy as well. I think, one of the reasons why, say, David Ogilvy in particular to think about a lot of things was the number of things that he did before getting into advertising.

I think, he speaks about that in one of the chapters as well. He was a chef for sometime, and he held other positions as well, so a lot of experiences.

And if you tie that back to what, I think, Joe Sugarman talks about when he says, “okay these are the important things for a marketer…” He says you gotta have a lot of general knowledge of the way the world works, and then you start drawing from that into what you’re trying to do specifically.

So, this reminds of that. And you wrote in one of your posts that up until seventh grade you wanted to be an NBA player, then in eleventh grade you wanted to pitch in the major leagues, and then you said, by the time you got into your senior year, you had to have a career in a PGA tour.

Where was that outlook coming from, within those short periods, short years, you had this goal and I’m sure you were geared up for it. Now, you had a different goal altogether, where was that outlook coming from?

The outlook was, well, that’s what I enjoyed doing. At the time I couldn’t imagine doing something… I couldn’t imagine the rest of my life having a career doing something that I didn’t enjoy, that I didn’t think about doing every day.

Those are the things that I’m spending the most time doing, at that time in my life. And that’s you know when somebody asks like, “oh, what do you want to do?” I would say, “this is what i enjoy doing now, why would I want to do something else later.”

So that’s kind of what I thought, but I know like I have shifted and I really enjoy what I’m doing now, so this is exactly what I want to be doing.

Okay. Okay. What do you do when you feel uninspired?

When I feel uninspired, well that happens every day. It happens in all different forms, it could be, you know, everybody has their days.

You’re just not feeling up for it but it could even be more specific like I’m trying to write something and I just can’t figure out what to write or we’re working on a new podcast episode and we don’t have a good topic or you know working on something for the website but don’t have the copy.

The thing that I found, and I didn’t realize this until recently, the number one thing that helps me is to go and read. And you know reading. This is like a lesson that Ogilvy talks about in his book. Reading unlocks your subconscious a little bit.

So, reading has recently been helpful in kind of unlocking new ideas, whether it’s helping you write or just giving, unlocking new inspiration to do something and try something new.

What was the last book that you read?

The last book that I read was actually, the story about Twitter called Hatching Twitter, I was on vacation last week, so I read that book. Then, I also read a book called Influence, which is all about Human behavior and why do we do the things that we do.

There are thousands, probably more, the books that you could get to in a lifetime, you make decisions because you expect a certain door to open, and you expect to draw something from the book, you expect that something would resonate, at least, you want a good story to come out of it, when you’re looking at non-fiction.

How do you, when you say it unlocks your unconscious, it affects it, it informs it, how does that happen when you’re reading, and what is that process like, and how do you think it shows up in your work?

Yeah, I think, the thing that I’ve learned the most about reading is that very rarely during reading do you actually learn something new, but it often times just re-enforces something that you’d already thought.

So, for example, one of the things that Cialdini talks about in his book Influence is, he basically talks about seven kind of key themes, and you know, one of them is an example. It’s all about human behavior.

And one of the big things is that social proof has a huge impact on human behavior, and ask any marketer or person working in this, you know SaaS or tech space, like, of course, social proof is huge, right?

And this is something I’ve always known. But at the time, I happen to be redoing my website, and it just hit me again, like wow, social proof is so powerful, we need to go and revisit all of our stuff, and make sure that we’re making social proof is a part of that.

And I didn’t learn that through this book, but it just re-enforced that. Here’s a book that this psychologist wrote in 1989, and we’re sitting here almost thirty years later. It’s still more applicable than ever today. It’s usually lessons like that.

Or it might be related, might not be something direct, but something else that you’ve known. It’s a nice way kind of re-enforcing some of the things that you already know.

So, since, 2009, since you graduated college, you’ve worked with a lot of people. And you’ve been in the tech space. One of the things that you spoke about was that you joined this community of people out of necessity, not because there was some sort of obsession, not because you loved it, but out of necessity.

Slowly, you’ve grown to be fascinated with it. And you say that it’s the idea of people getting starting with an idea and building something from nothing, to generate customers and revenue. Just trying to paraphrase what you’d said off the top of my head. You said, all this is awesome. Why was it so? When it did?

I think it’s exactly what you said, it was awesome because, you know, just being able to create something on my own. This was like a side project that I was doing, created from scratch. And got thousands of people interested in it.

That was something that…So, David Cancel who’s my boss, here at Drift. He talks about the story of the first time, so he’s an engineer by background. And for the first time, in the early days of the web, he built a website, and somebody in another country sent him a note.

And said, “wow your website is really cool,” and he talks about that as a feedback loop, and that was like the really eye-opening thing for him.

And I felt the same way, it was like, I got to experience this feedback loop for the first time, where something that I created, people that I didn’t know, not my wife, not my parents, complete strangers were interested in something that I had built. That was like, that was amazing.

The work that you’ve been doing. And the companies that you’ve worked with, you’ve been Hubspot, you’ve been with Privy, you’ve been with ConstantContact as well. And you’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of interesting people.

So, going from that right, how do you develop, the way you’ve spoken about the role models as well. The idea of learning from people, when you keep non-fiction aside, when you’re working. And when you join this organization they had their mental models, they had their frameworks, they think in a certain way.

How do you ensure that you embrace them, and figure out a way to be a part of the team, and just take the team further, and take their mission further, as someone who doesn’t really understand apart from the overall mission, what they’re all about.

Because you’ve not spent a decade with them, thinking about that idea or being worried about that idea. But suddenly you’re breathing it, you’re living it, how does that sudden change takes place, if it’s sudden at all.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s sudden. I think it starts with the, one of the best pieces of advice that I got about work was that is one of the simplest, is somebody told me, when i was taking a new job. They said, the best thing you can do when you’re starting a new job is spend your first three months listening more than talking.

And that was so effective for me because it’s easy to show up at a new place and want to serve yourself, and show your personality and show your things. There’s so much internal knowledge it takes that a company in order to be successful, you can’t possibly learn that on day one.

There’s no way you’d be able to build relationships if you just come out and pretend to know everything on the first day. So, it doesn’t have to be three months.

That’s a long period of time. But the overall lesson is to, you know, just spend more time at your early days at a new company, listening and taking it in. Then trying to be the new person on the block that’s trying to prove themselves.

It was someone who said this to you, did you learn it the hard way?

I don’t if I learned it the hard way, it made a lot of sense to me, and you know, we’ve all worked at a company where a new employee started and from day one they just took over.

And acted like they ran the place and that’s never the person you want to work with. So, it was more just thinking about that and trying not to be that person.

As I said, I’ve followed the work that you’ve done, if I were to summarize that, it’s an idea that Seth Godin talks about as well, the idea of a Kickfinisher, not a Kickstarter, that’s probably a bad name for the company.

The idea behind that is, you don’t just launch, that’s also but David speaks about, not waiting for the big reveal. And working in iterations. Working with small fragments. Just getting better by the day. When you put in four years, five years, and you show up.

And you build the community and you go after something. So, you started working at drift last year, and I’m certain that a lot of people who know you, weren’t aware of who you were before that, as a lot has happened in the last 12 months.

The work that you did before that, six years, seven years, that shows up and ends up in this work. What does it take to show up in those seven years? Knowing that it’ll all payoff. Why did you do that?

I think you have to be patient. I’m a millennial myself, but I think there are pros and cons to the millennial attitude. And part of that millennial attitude is this like idea that, “we millennials can do anything.” That’s a great mindset, and you want to hire those people.

But it’s also changed the expectations a little bit and people assume that “I’m 22 or 23, I can do everything, why can’t I be a VP of Marketing, why can’t I be a CEO, right now?” So, I think there’s a certain, I’ve worked for a bunch of different companies and put in the time.

Even compared to a lot of people, I’ve barely, I’m still super early in my career. And I still feel like I’ve been working for seven years now, I feel like that doesn’t even count, compared to some other people that have fifteen, twenty, thirty years of experience.

And so I think it’s changing that mindset, to understand like yes you can do anything. But there’s still a certain amount of like reps and sets, and work that you have to put in.

It’s the same reason why, school takes, you know, you go through twelve grades of school. And go through four years of college. It takes time to get through a certain point. I never had any false sense of like who I am, and I still think that I don’t know anything.

I still think that I’m very early in my career. So, I think that’s kind of the same mindset that I’ve had since I was 22-23. And that’s kind of given me the perspective that everything that I do is a learning opportunity for whatever happens after.

Learning. What did you learn from Golf, what did you pick up from that?

The thing that I learned about golf. Wow. There’s so many lessons in golf. I think, one of the big things I learned is that, one day, you can feel like you’re the best golfer on the planet and everything is working right.

And then you can go out to the golf course the next day, do the same exact, everything is exactly the same. You get up to hit the ball, and you can’t do it.

You’re not hitting it well. You’re hitting the ball, all over the course. And you don’t even look like the same person as you were yesterday. With no rhyme or reason. I think that can apply to the business world, like somedays, you just don’t have it.

And that’s totally okay, but when you don’t have it, you got to figure out a way. Like I’m not hitting the ball well at the golf course, what can I still do to make sure that I can still shoot a big score. The same applies to business.

Right. Certainly you could. There’s this thing about give and take that Adam Grant talks about, in his book that has the same name. You have these experiences, you’ve been a sportsperson, you’ve worked with these marketing-technology companies.

So, we have this latticework of different ideas from different worlds, all working together. and producing something unique.

And what ends up showing up in your work is the idea of giving. When you say, these are all the emails that we write at Drift, and you just let them out, you say, this is it.

What drives that behavior? Or a choice?

That’s a good reference from the book. I think the reason that we give a lot of stuff away at Drift, that mindset is the way that most marketing is done is very close. It’s very, I will give you my email, when you give me your information.

But actually, if you look around the best brands today are the ones who’re making all of their content, all of their information free. Because the way consumers buy things, and the way that we behave has completely changed over the last couple of years.

Because of the internet, and because of everything being on demand. If I wanted to sign up for Chargebee for example, or Drift, I can find out basically everything that I need to know just by Googling it, reading reviews, and talking to other people.

There’s really no gatekeepers anymore. The way that people react is different. There’s been something interesting models, that’s doing things like Louis C.K releasing his latest comedy show on his own website vs. going through one of the publishers and selling it for much cheaper.

Or there’s been a trend of giving away chapters of books for free in order to build and audience. The way that we’re thinking about this at Drift, is our mission is to give away all our stuff. So that Drift can spread it’s brand as wide as possible.

And then, when people are willing to buy for us, it becomes obvious. Because they’ve already seen our stuff. As opposed to flipping that model the other way around.

That’s great. How do you practice in your personal life? Away from Drift?

I don’t know. I try to be nice, and help my wife out, whenever she asks. I don’t know what the answer is, I don’t if there’s a personal philosophy. I was a big fan of that book. I do think that some people have taken it too far in the other direction.

You know, part of the thing that happens is like, in the Give and Take model is like a lot of people will just send you a cold email and say “can we grab coffee, I want to meet you, how does 2 o clock, in Thursday sound?”

I don’t even know who you are. Why should I take an hour out of my day to get together with a complete stranger. Because everybody has access to everyone now. We’ve kind of changed the expectations of that. That’s a different topic for another time.

This takes you to, you were talking about the point of being professional, you talk about the idea of carrying the water in the early years.

I think it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about understanding the expectations. I think, carrying the water was a podcast episode that we did just basically talking about putting in the work.

You’ve to put in. You’ve to get years of experience. You have to put in the time that it takes in order to unlock the next level of your career. This even ties back to the whole like listen more than you talk thing, as a new employee. You kind of have to… You have to put in the work first.

That started for me earlier in my career. That meant doing a ton of work. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t enjoyable. That meant doing the writing behind the scenes for people without getting to put my name out there.

Or you know, just being proactive and helping my manager do her job better. And do his job better. Without getting a lot of credit for it publicly. Those are just a couple of the examples of what we meant when we were talking about carrying the water.

Because of the whole thing that we were talking about earlier. Doesn’t happen as much today because people graduate from college, and immediately want to climb the top of the career ladder.

That’s true. One of the internet’s, if you could pin down its merits, it’s precisely the platform that it has given us. To take an idea, and just go out there and talk about it. With that comes a lot of responsibility, something that connects to what Emerson had said.

He had said, “the office of the scholar is to cheer…

When you look at your, I’m not just trying to pin down the editorial responsibility that you have as someone who writes about ideas. But someone who is interested in figuring out, what next few years in the world are going to look like.

And trying to put words to do. Trying to have the conversations that should happen around. What sort of responsibility does that bring in to you, in terms of knowing and saying that this is about to happen?

I actually think it goes the other way around. I don’t think that it’s the editorial responsibility. I think, people like me, outside of work, and inside, even me as a marketing person at Drift. It’s on me to find the best sources for me to learn.

And one of the challenges today is that, like you said, anybody can publish. And so, anybody can have a blog. Anybody can have a podcast. Does that mean that I should trust the advice on any of those blogs, and any of those podcasts. No. Of, course not.

And this has been one of the challenges with, you know, content marketing, specifically, is that because everybody has a blog, and because everybody has a podcast, you know people can just, we couldn’t trust any given outlet without giving a sense of like who is an authority on this topic.

You know, kind of, part of me misses, I miss the days of when, yes there’s way more information available now, it powers my job, that’s what I do. Even ten years ago if I wanted to find information, I would know where to look, and it will be in the newspaper.

And there’ll be one or two definitive sources on the topic. And now, with Twitter and everything, you have a thousand different opinions on everything. I think it’s more on the consumer to make sure that the people you’re listening to are people worth paying attention to.

Don’t you think it goes to the idea of taste, and that gets built up over years?

Yeah, for sure, I think it’s taste. I think it’s role models. I think it’s the influences of people around you. Who is sending you stuff. I’m always lucky to be able to work with a lot of smart people. And so they’ve kind of just become like my curators.

That’s basically, the ninety % of the books that I’ve read have come from. From David and other people at Drift that I work with. You know, it all comes back to surrounding yourself with people who’re going to make you better.

And then, this is just one example, like in this case, for me it means that I have a great group of people who can curate what I should be learning.

Again, going back to people. And the circles that we have around us. There’s this thought, of course, you can’t say that there are studies behind it, you’re the composite average of people around you. And you’ve worked with Mike Volpe at Hubspot. Now, you’re working with David now, he has what fifteen years, twenty years of experience building companies.

Now, you’d say, you have the work experience under your belt. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a point when you were starting out. And I’m sure you’re still doing a lot of things that your doing for the first time.

Especially with these people. So, when it comes to conduct, has there been an incident that you’ve not forgiven yourself for, a mistake that you’ve made.

Is there anything that comes to mind?

Have I made a mistake that I regret?

Yes.

I can’t think of one of the top of my head. That’s not to say that I haven’t made mistakes. I’ve just always tried to be really self-aware. So, I feel like that has helped me not make some of the silly mistakes, you know earlier on in my career.

I wish I had a good example of something that I screwed up to give you but I don’t.

You’ve had a pretty clear record in that regard then?

Yes.

Because I know, stuff that you’ve learned, you talk about it, I felt that is not something you’ve spoken about. That was one question on the list just because of that.

If you think about marketing, that’s your thing every day. When you get up that’s probably what you’re thinking about, and seeps through the day.

Do you have an internal conflict with an idea that you’re trying to wrestle with right now?

That one part of you, believes is, a certain way, and the other part disagrees with?

Not really. I mean, we’ve been, you know, we’ve been doing this for a year now. We’ve basically done this our own way, since day one. And that was the tone that David and Elias, the Drift co-founders kind of set.

“We’re in this for the long-run, so we want to do things differently.” So, they’ve been really pushing hard on me to not do things the traditional way. When you have a management team who is pushing you to not do things the traditional way.

It’s easier to feel better about what you’re doing. And you have more of a leash. I know, there are a lot of people who read our content at Drift. I get emails every day, and the say, “I really love what you’re doing, I totally agree with the whole no-forms thing. But at our company we’ve doing it for years, and my boss wants to do it that way.”

So, I can totally relate to that. We took a lot of heat for doing that. We had a lot of supporters. Have you tested this? How does it work?

We were lucky enough to say, this is how we decided to launch, and start doing marketing at drift. So, this is like the way we’ve done it from day one. So, we only know doing it this way.

Not playing by the book. Not following tradition. What is the proudest thing that you’ve done in this regard?

I think the thing that I’m most proud of is the decision that we made at Drift, to just basically give all of our stuff away for free. On the marketing side of things. And that has made my job so much fun.

Because it just means our mission is just spread our brand, as far as possible. That’s been the thing. And honestly, the brand that we’ve created. It takes a long time. But just in year one, the brand that we’ve created.

Right now, we might not have the biggest audience in the world. You know, we have this group of like, people who’re really passionate about what we’re doing, and the path that we’re heading on.

And so, that’s been the most fun. It just goes back to the feedback loop that we’ve talked about a bunch today is that we created something, and today thousands of people are interested in kind of this journey with us.

And, how does one that the story deserves an audience like that, of course, there are thousands of people following you, there are 8,000 people who get your emails, and the emails great, btw, people should sign up for them.

How do you know that this is important, the story that’s driving you, why do you think it’s important?

I think it’s important because I’ve seen the response. It should never be my job. It should never be me, I shouldn’t be the one deciding on whether something is important or not. That should always fall to the people who’re in our audience, our customers.

Internally, if we’re building a new product feature, doesn’t matter if we here at Drift think that this is important. It matters if we launch it and our customers think it’s important.

Kind of one of our mindsets at Drift is to basically default to being wrong, until we’re proven otherwise by our customers. And people.

That helps take some of the guesswork out of it, and so, yeah, we could’ve launched this no lead forms thing, and one person in the whole world, could’ve been interested in it. And we launched it. And we felt the response right away.

And so, you know, we’re able to double down on something.

I agree. How are things looking now, so when you look at the next three years, if you could map out things that you want to do, and going in the non-traditional realm, what are those things?

Yeah, I mean, three years is an impossible amount of time to look at. I don’t even know what we’re doing next week. Everything just moves so fast.

But, you know, the thing that we’re most excited about is the shift that’s happening in the business world with messaging, and specifically how it’s changing the way that people buy.

You know, I don’t think, either of us needs a fancy looking chart to show that messaging is exploding, and messaging is everywhere. But you try to work, you know the industry that we’re in, that’s B2B.

Go to any B2B business, you know that 99% of them are still doing this old-school, traditional way. So, you know we’re really excited about helping businesses get closed to the customers by bringing messaging into the sales and customer success world.

That goes to the idea of marketing and sales, the way they work right now, being broken?

Yes, for sure.

When you were working at ConstantContact, when you were working at Hubspot, you were, in those formative years, you were around these companies, they introduced these ideas, if not introduced they popularized these idea of building a business this way, nurturing people this way.

When you see that happening, for four years, the time that you’ve spent there, how do you get to that transition of your way of thinking? When you say, no this is the right way to do it?

I think, you have to put in the time. You have to figure out what’s right. Understand what’s right and what’s wrong, and so over time things change.

Like, should somebody, who grew up working before technology still feel that technology is not the right way to work. No, you adapt, and you adjust based on what’s going on around you.

And really that’s all I’ve done.

Things are changing every day in this world. I’m just open to learning about them. Trying new things, and understanding that, you know a lot of people in this space, you just become used to the best practices the way everybody else tells you to do it.

At times, you have to figure out your own way.

Is there something that you think still a lot of people misunderstand, after whatever has happened, when it comes to knowing the importance of understanding customers, and keeping the first in all the decisions that are made.

Tying your KPIs back to the customer’s progress. Is there still, what is that one thing, that you think, is misunderstood, outright all the time?

I think, man, that’s a tough question. I don’t know. I think customer feedback is one of the things that a lot of people talk about because it’s a hot topic, but I’m not always sure that people bring that into sales and marketing.

It’s a little bit easier on the product side. You’re building things, you’re getting feedback on, but I think it’s easy on the sales and marketing side to be driven by our metrics and not the customer metrics.

So, if my goal is leads. I could do a lot of things to game the…if they paid me my salary at Drift based on the number of leads that I got, think about how different my behavior would be. Then, you know, what it actually is.

I’m not paid on a per lead basis. My goal is to get us new customers. That’s just the way that we do sales and marketing. I think, it’s just being more in tune to how real people actually behave when we’re the ones that are doing sales and marketing.

Because I don’t ever answer the phone, I rarely reply to cold emails. You don’t either.

None of my friends in Marketing do. And none of my friends in Sales do. But then, in our jobs that’s the tools, the notions, the methods, that we all use.

That doesn’t make sense.

That’s kind of like bringing the whole customer feedback, and just standing with what you’re trying to do, and bringing that into marketing.

I think, we’re coming to a close. You talk about grind a lot. Just putting in the time, we’ve covered that. How important do you think are rituals, or habits, and do you have any non-negotiable habits?

Yeah. I go to the gym every morning. And that’s kind of non-negotiable thing. I try not to book meetings first thing in the morning. Because that’s when I get my best work done. The gym is an important thing for me in the morning.

That means that I try to go to bed early and don’t really do much at night during the week. And then, I try to block my schedule for the first half of the morning, in the office. That’s not always realistic based on what’s happening. I know that’s when I get my best work done. And most productive.

Those are the kind of two rituals for me.

This is something that the writer, Ray Bradbury said in an interview, that is connected to how you speak about your influences, he said, “I like to think of myself on a train going across America at midnight, conversing with my favorite authors, and on that train would be people like George Bernard Shaw, who was interested in the fiction of ideas.”

If you were on such a train, who would you pick to have conversations with?

Oh man, if I was on a train, if I already mentioned Ogilvy, I would probably grab him. And a bunch of the other old school marketing guys. That’s the most important thing for me to learn right now.

So, I would surround myself with them. Although, I don’t know if I can drink as much as they did. I think, they would be good to learn from.

What would you ask David Ogilvy?

I would ask him how he would cut through all of the noise that every company in this space is putting out right now.

One final question. What advice do you have for someone who has no idea what he’s up to, and is just trying to figure things out, knows that he has held many passions, none of them have turned out to be undertakings that he could pursue every day. What advice would you have for this somebody?

Read.

I never thought. I never did it. It wasn’t important to me. But I’ve been spending a lot more time reading and learning from others. Especially, today, you can find anything out, you can learn anything that you want to learn by listening to podcasts and reading.

And that’s great. But then, you have to go do it. So, reading is great. That would be step no. one but the second step is just go do something.

The most influential thing for me was starting a side project. And jumping in. Being my own boss, and having to figure that out. So, the best way to learn is by doing. Start with reading, and then actually go out, and try to apply some of that stuff on your own.

And there’s really no excuse, you can build anything online today.

And these small things that you put out, make you the Kickfinisher, slow and steady just keep putting stuff out.

Thanks, David!

Thanks for having me.

Author of the post

Akash Sharma

Product Marketer at Chargebee. An Avid Reader, Seeking Cerebral Turbulence

Hear from a team of curious beings
A team that’s bent on delivering the best stories, lessons, and observations on SaaS, straight into your inbox. Every week.
SaaS Dispatch Team

Subscription Billing Made Easy

Try for free

Recent Blog Posts

Multi-Currency Support
Step Up Your Global Game with Multi-Currency Support

Scale faster in new global territories with the Multi-currency Pricing feature. Read More >

Multi-Lingual Support
Introducing Multi-Lingual Support: Because it's a Small World

You need to go local to actually go global Read More >

Localization - Through The Language Glass
Localization - Through The Language Glass

Embarking on the localization journey? Here are a few thoughts about language, from people who inherit new worlds at will with a piece of paper and a pen. Read More >

Subscription billing software that lets startups deliver recurring happiness to customers.
How Chargebee Works