The Secret Behind Drift’s Viral Marketing Success

August 17, 2018

Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of Casey and Dave’s conversation. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Casey: Hey, guys. I’m here with Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift.

Dave: Number one: you lost your phone. Number two: I’m carrying your backpack.

Casey: So, that would actually make me the queen.

Dave: At least they put the King’s crown on me.

Casey: The king’s crown. So, yes. So, because I like to think I know people pretty well, I’m assuming everyone’s wondering why I’m wearing a crown, and why I’m making Dave wear the crown.

Dave: Okay.

Casey: And so, if you don’t know Dave, you probably are not on any form of social media whatsoever. He’s basically become, or, you are the king of video marketing.

Dave: See? Normally I would be humbled and be like, “Oh, no.” But, you know what? I got so much hate for doing these type of videos and now I see everybody doing them, and so, I’m fully embracing it. If you want to call me the king of this, I will take that.

Casey: I want to call you the king, because OpenView, as hopefully everyone knows, recently got on the video train.

Dave: Yeah, I saw that.

Casey: So, I’ve been working/I should say, #weeklywalking to become the queen of video. And they do say dress for the part you want, so hence the crown.

Dave: That’s why I wear this Drift shirt.

Casey: And go Drift. All right. So, first question. Andy Raskin recently wrote an article comparing Drift to the reality TV show Real Housewives and talked about how each employee at Drift is basically a cast member and has their own mini brand. What was the strategy behind that?

Dave: I thought you were going to ask me which housewife would I be. Because I’m actually a big Housewives fan.

Casey: Which housewife would you be and then what was the strategy and why did you guys decide as a company to be so transparent?

Dave: Okay. Which housewife would I be?

Casey: That’s probably the most important question.

Dave: I’d probably be Bethenny.

Casey: Okay.

Dave:  She’s not super nice, but I like her.

Casey: She’s an entrepreneurial spirit, too.

Dave: Yeah. Although, my wife hates her … sometimes she likes Bethany. Sometimes she hates her. So, I don’t know if it’s a good answer or bad answer. I’m showing that I have knowledge beyond this. So, what was the real question?

Casey: What was the reason and the strategy behind that? Being so transparent.

Dave: The strategy was basically, like, it was never an intentional strategy. The reason why we did it was because more people … like, every company that exists today, they all have a blog. They all have a podcast. They all do social media. They all do video.

Casey: Yep.

Dave: There are very few differentiators today. And even if you have a differentiator, like, your product is better, faster, whatever, nobody believes that because buyers are just more skeptical than ever. And so, every sales rep is going to tell you that their thing is faster, it’s easier to use, it’s better, and so, for us, we entered a market with literally 7,000 other companies. If you go and see Scott Brinker’s MarTech landscape slide, there’s literally 7,000 companies in sales and marketing. And so, our differentiator was going to be brand. And to me, this is the number one form of brand, which is, like, I could pay anyone to ghostwrite a post for me on our blog, or I could have somebody manage my social media account, or do all that stuff at Drift. But, video is me, right? I hope that I feel the same. I hadn’t talked to you before this, but I hope that I feel the same in person as I do on video as I do on our podcast.

Casey: He does. He’s not lying.

Dave: It was a challenge that allowed us to really be real and authentic and human, and that’s the whole reality TV stuff.

Casey: Yeah, and I think that must be why we click so well.

Dave: Yes.

Casey: Because you can’t start out with technology. You can’t lose that human interaction piece. Has there been any downside to that strategy that you want to share? You can just say no.

Dave: No. There’s no downside to it. But, I got a question actually. I did a webinar yesterday and somebody said … we were talking about getting reviews from customers on review sites, and they were like, “Well, what if people say bad things?” Right? And I think this is you just have to open yourself up as a business today, in 2018 and beyond, and so, I don’t care if I stutter or if I say something off or do something weird or the equivalent to having a typo in an email, right?

Because this is really me, right? And this is real people at Drift. I want people to see that. That is more important than anything else, and so, I guess the two downsides are number one: you have to get comfortable sticking a phone in front of your face and taking video in public.

Casey: Yep. It hurts the arm a little bit if you’re not fit.

Dave: And number two: it can be a little embarrassing, because Boston is a small place, and I’ve been out to dinner with my wife and somebody will come up and be like, “Are you the guy that does the LinkedIn videos?” Which is ridiculous.

Casey: Crazy. All right, so, not too many downsides. Those are still good downsides.

Dave: No, there’s no downsides.

Casey: All right, so, there was another article recently published (I’ve obviously been catching up on my reading) how Boston just overtook New York in terms of venture funding. Obviously, Drift is one of the hottest startups in Boston. What do you think makes Boston so great as a startup community? Why should people be founding companies here?

Dave: I think there’s a lot. I think, for me, I’ve only worked at B2B startups in Boston and there’s a really great concentration of those companies. Specifically, companies that focus on sales and marketing. So, I think there’s a really thriving network here. But, I also think we have access to so many great schools from … you know, everybody always talks about Harvard and MIT, but at Drift, for us for example, we’ve had an amazing relationship with schools like Northeastern and Emerson. We’ve had some amazing video and creative people come out of schools like Emerson and the Northeastern co-op program is awesome.

I think there’s a hub of awesome talent. And I think we’ve been doing a better job of getting people to stay here. I do think that there needs to be more pillar companies, though. Boston won’t thrive if there’s just one or two. There needs to be three or four or five companies. I think that’s what we have to get back to. More people building enduring companies as opposed to having companies that are going to last for a year or two and then go.

Casey: Awesome. And then, I guess, some people would call you a trendsetter or a trend maker.

We think you’re a trend maker. So, what can you share without giving away trade secrets? What do you think is the next trend in marketing? You guys always seem to be ahead of the curve.

Dave: Can I say something about the trend setting thing, though?

Casey: Yes, please.

Dave: Actually, nothing that we’re doing or I’m doing or whoever is doing is new, and so, for me this all comes from just studying behavior and studying people in other channels. I find most of my inspiration as a marketer not from other B2B companies, but from B2C companies, consumer brands. We make a joke about it. But, that’s actually why I know the Housewives and the Kardashians, because reality TV, there is so much to learn from how those people get responses out of audiences that I think applying that to B2B is really important.

Casey: Okay, awesome. That was three questions. That’s all I’m allowed to give.

Dave: Okay. Time flies. Time flies when you’re making video.

Casey: I’m glad you’re having fun. If you want to see more of Dave, you guys have your HYPERGROWTH conference coming up in September.

Dave: HYPERGROWTH is Tuesday, September 4th. The day after Labor Day. Come back. By the way, if you’re watching this video and you want a ticket, just email me at [email protected] or message me on LinkedIn.

Casey: And then I obviously am going to plug OpenView. My firm. If you want to see more of Dave after that, and we promise we’ll wear crowns, come check out OpenView’s Product Led Growth Summit in November.

Dave: Oh, yeah. That’s right.

Casey: Dave is speaking and you get to see both of us and maybe we’ll even have a crown for you.

Dave: I’ll be there. See ya.

Casey: We’ll see you guys soon. Thanks, Dave. Bye.

Partner at OpenView

Casey leads the end-to-end strategy & programming for OpenView’s network of industry experts, advisors & corporate partners. Her role is focused on creating connections between founders & their teams and the partners, advisors, board members & events they need to reach their goals. Additionally, she manages the OpenView portfolio peer networks and hosts the #WeeklyWalk series.