A Top 10 USA Business & Marketing Podcast
Ryan talks with Dave Gerhardt, one of the leading voices in B2B marketing and E-Commerce

October 27, 2020

Ryan talks with Dave Gerhardt, one of the leading voices in B2B marketing and E-Commerce
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It's TIME for another episode! Today's episode features author and one of the leading voices in marketing, Dave Gerhardt, CMO at Privy, the #1 sales app on Shopify.
In this episode, host Ryan Alford, and Dave Gerhardt talk about:

  1. The balance perspective on "the machine" of e-commerce versus true brand marketing
  2. Both Dave and Ryan's take on balancing work and life
  3. Marketing trends for brands and e-commerce into 2021

This episode is anything but light. There's tons of information from the moment we hit record to the end of the episode. If you listened to the whole thing, then you received the promo code for Dave's latest book, The E-commerce Marketing Playbook. Go to privy.com/book and use code RADCAST for a sweet discount on Dave's book!

Subscribe to THE RADCAST for more episodes! | Follow us on Instagram @the.rad.cast | Follow our host on Instagram @ryanalford | See you next episode!


Ryan Alford[00:00:54]Hey guys, it's Ryan Alford, welcome to the latest edition of the Radcast. We are closing out the e-commerce series. I'm joined by Dave Gerhardt, the CMO of Privy, the number one sales app on Shopify. Dave, great to have you on the show. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:01:23]And so excited. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Yeah, e-commerce is a word that I hate. I don't know what it is. I've seen some people on Twitter say it's just commerce. And I get that also. But, if I told my mom I'm just doing commerce, I don't think she would understand it. So I think you can't win either way. 

Ryan Alford[00:02:46]Yes, Well, Dave, I know we've jumped right in. For any of our listeners, it may not have followed your path and things like that. I mean, you are one of the leading voices. You never leave my feed on LinkedIn. So you're doing something right? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:03:20]Well, I would assume that nobody knows about me because I think this is like we live in a bubble inside of a bubble. So my name is Dave and I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Privy. I spent four and a half years at a company called Drift, which is in the B2B sales and marketing software space. And I've only been a marketer at marketing companies my whole career by coincidence. But now it's obviously intentional because people want to hire you to do that if you've done it for a while. So I worked at a company called Constant Contact, which is an email marketing, and then I worked at HubSpot and then I worked at Dreft and now I'm at Privy. That's it. 

Obviously, I got a job in business and marketing because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I graduated in two thousand nine. It was a terrible time to get a job. I never took school seriously. I never wanted to do business or anything. I just wanted to like, hang out, maybe, play sports with my friends and stuff. I got a paid internship that was ten dollars an hour at a PR agency just because that was the only company I would hire and it was successful because of my writing. I was good at writing emails, I was good at getting reporters to pay attention to stuff. And I was like, holy cow, this is an actual real skill. And I got to see how that can be parlayed into getting more coverage for my clients. And if I got more coverage for my clients and I would get promoted and if I got promoted, I would make more money. And if I want that, I want the next raise and be more successful. And it just became really fun. Writing communication is the most important skill in business. And I can use this to my advantage to build a business, build a career. And I've spent the last decade really doing marketing to marketers – B2B, B2C, it doesn't matter. I've got to learn B2C over the last year at Privy, but I actually think a lot of the lessons could really be just applied in either case, because at the end of the day, we're all trying to just convince or persuade people to buy our stuff. 

Ryan Alford[00:05:23]You're being humble. But, whether it's within our bubble or not, I think you're considered one of the leading voices out there.I see it now talking with you and I've been watching your content. I think there are qualities about you that are really approachable and really human, which is what you preach. But what do you think have been the qualities that have led to success? Maybe it's both intelligence and stability. In your words, what has been that led up to why you feel like you're getting the reputation as being that voice? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:06:06]There's a couple of things. So one of them is I just don't care. And what I mean by that is people I published so much because I don't care what people I don't care if it works or if it flops. And I think a lot of people are. I don't think anything that I'm saying is that groundbreaking. I'm just saying it in a world where 99 percent of people in my profession are not. And I'm able to stand out in that world and just say and so like me posting a picture of a quote from a book, people love that stuff. I didn't write the quote. You don't even know if I read the book, but I'm getting credit for that thing and I'm just publishing that right. And I've always understood how that piece of content works. And so I don't think that I'm doing anything. I just don't care. And I think, like, the problem is, most people don't ever build an audience, forget personal brands for their business because they're so afraid I'm in stealth mode. I can't I can't tell anybody what I'm doing. And I've just taken the opposite approach, which, as I said, nobody's paying attention to me. So what do I have to lose if nobody's seeing my stuff anyway? If I have all six email subscribers on my list is going to be; whatever, it doesn't matter. And so I just started posting consistently. And the thing that I did was I realized that people love to hear about marketing and they want to learn about marketing. And I'm a marketer. And so about 5. 6 or 7 years ago, I started sharing what I'm doing as I'm doing it. I love talking about marketing. And so I'll be posting on Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever about things that I'm doing in marketing. And I saw a reaction to that, a response to that. Wow, there's a community of people here who want this. Now I know what topics they want because I'm posting regularly and I see that, wow, people love when I talk about copywriting. So I should talk more about copywriting. If you own a restaurant and people always sell out of that pepperoni pizza, are you going to sit there and be like, we shouldn't make that? No, you've got to make more of it because that's what people want. So understanding social media and content and being able to publish consistently. I've also launched a bunch of podcasts on the side, and I think podcasts have been giving me a huge advantage in my career because even before drifting before Privy, I had a podcast that I started as a side project. And this is when I was at a company, I was at a big company. Two thousand people. I couldn't really do anything right. I can't touch anything or spend any money. But on my own, I had to figure out how to start, how to build a website, how to get sponsors, how to promote episodes, how to do audio, how to find freelancers to create, project, create work for you. And like I was able to accelerate my career by also doing something outside of work. And so I'm a huge advocate of just people having, especially if you're inside of a company if it's not your own thing. I'm a huge advocate of having a side project or something where you can tinker on something outside of work. And so I've always had one of those. And so in parallel to talking about work, I've talked about what I'm doing with my side stuff. And that just becomes like this marketing narrative that I'm putting out to the world. And now three, four or five years later, it's consistency that is going to continue to win. 

Ryan Alford[00:09:14]I'm wondering, having worked for the companies that you have – you chose companies that accept that you are promoting them and know that that's actually helping them, or has that ever been an issue where you felt that like this motor? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:10:06]Well, I think there are two separate questions in there. One of them is like the people at the company. “Are they OK with it?” I think like at my last company, I only talked about Drift because I was like a really early employee. They're a well-funded, venture-backed SAS company -- we'll go public hopefully one day in the future. And so I was the first marketing person there and I grew the team from zero to thirty people in the company. Three hundred. So I was wearing that jersey that was the only Jersey that I'm wearing. And the same is true now with previous definitely private first. But I have more. I think I have a more substantial thing on the side that I want to promote because it's real and there's real value there. And so I think they make me the way that I pitch it is I think it makes me better. I'm able to learn from thousands of other marketers and many other people at scale. And so there might be trade-offs. I get a lot of messages from recruiters, but that's normal. I think it's an important topic. I guess the short answer is probably. People think that and I don't care about it because I know personally how it's made me better. I'm working on it, I'm working on multiple things in marketing, I'm talking to multiple people. Here's an example. I have a podcast that's called the B2B Marketing Leaders podcast. This is separate from commerce, right? I did an interview. I got to talk to the former CMO of Slack and CMO of Zendesk for one hour. And he told me everything, how he structures his teams, how he sets goals. I got to learn all that stuff. And now I get to go back and take it back to Privy and say, hey, we're going to be better as a marketing team because I just stole all these ideas from this guy. So the tradeoff is you don't get that. That's what I guess the tradeoff is. And I think I encourage people that work with me to have side projects because I've seen how that makes them better. The only thing that I will say is I do think that I do it only because I have the confidence of results. And so if I was struggling in my job, not hitting goals, consistently having a miserable team. Nobody likes to work with me. then I would say, hold on. Is this just becoming an issue? And so, like, you've got to put the job results first with the results, you earn the credibility to go do more stuff. And that's not just a side project; that's inside of the company. First, you better stuff the pipeline full of sales. Then you can go do the crazy, fun stuff. And I think the same is true in your career. 

Ryan Alford[00:13:03]Yes, I think it's important because I think there are people listening on either side of it. I think we have business owners. We have a lot of business owners. Listen, our podcasts that need to hear that and understand that their people get better when they grow and learn from others and not be threatened by it. And then the same for people that are on the fence about whether they should do it. I think that's a great perspective. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:13:25]And by the way, you don't have to do like I think that my ability as a marketer, I think that's what I'm good at and that's what I should be doing. You don't have to be yourself. You don't have to promote your stuff as I do. You could tinker on a side project and never tell anybody about it. 

Ryan Alford[00:13:41]Yeah, well, we spend a lot of money, time and effort at our agency on our own social media and content. And because it drives me crazy when I'm pitching to a client, they've got another agency. And I just go take a look at like you're selling social media services. And they do know social media. So practice what you preach. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:14:07]Yeah. You got to. If you walk into a restaurant and that place is nasty and dirty upfront and you're going to be like, no, trust me, we're going to give this place a chance. The food is good. It's the same thing they want to see, And if you go to get a personal trainer and that person is not in better shape than you, are you in the right place? 

Ryan Alford[00:14:24]100 percent. I didn't completely realize this, but was this your second stop at Privy? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:14:32]And I didn't explain it in the intro because it blows up the whole intro. But, yeah, it's the second time I wanted to get into startups. And so I left. I was 25 years old. I left the company that I was at. I met Ben, the founder. I was there for a year. I was our customer success person, which is maybe why we ran out of money. I was responsible for making sure our customers stayed happy and paid us. The company ran out of money. I was in a position where I couldn't afford to not work and make money. And so I left to go to HubSpot, where I got connected with Mike Volpi. He is a board member and investor at Privy, and so he kind of knew what was going on. And so he reached out to me from HubSpot back in the day and said, Hey, you could come work here. I did that. Mike has been one of my closest mentors and coaches since and now I'm back at Privy and I'm presenting to him at the board meeting. And so it's pretty wild seven years later to think that I was there. There was a tearful day where, like, we had to let Ben had to let a bunch of people go. It's awful. 'm never going to work at this company again. And Ben's amazing. We've stayed in touch. He's a huge reason, obviously, why I'm here. I think CEO founder fit, especially as a marketing person is really important. And we stayed in touch. And finally, just the timing was right at the end of last year where I made the jump. 

Ryan Alford[00:15:56]Let's talk about digital commerce. It's interesting for me, as we evaluate platforms of different things for clients, Privy is I think 100 percent on Shopify, am I right?

Dave Gerhardt[00:16:25]We have prioritized that from a messaging standpoint because I would say the majority of our customers are on Shopify and Google Shopify market cap when you can and see what's happened since 2019. And so we've just prioritized that from a messaging standpoint. Like if you go to our website, you see Shopify, but then if you scroll down it says, “Hey, here's all the other platforms that we also support”. 

Ryan Alford[00:16:52]I guess you are a marketer and we push workshops by partnering. For anyone out there that doesn't understand or isn't as privy to privy talk about what he does for e-commerce brands, specifically through Shopify, I guess through that lens, maybe you but I guess it's holistic to every platform. But let me talk a little bit about what it does and how it plays in the overall digital commerce playbook, those companies. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:17:56]So the simplest way to think about it is privacy helps you get sales because just because you have a store doesn't mean people are going to come to it and shop. And so there are three products that we have a preview. One of them is a website conversion product. And so somebody visits your store for the first time. You've probably seen them pop ups on people's stores that say, “hey, join our list and get a code for free gift with your first purchase or ten percent for free shipping or whatever”. So we help you convert more visitors to your website. We have customers that are converting from anywhere from one to 5 percent with a pop-up like that on their homepage. The second product is email. It's not just it's not enough to just convert people into email addresses on your website. You need to actually communicate with them. And despite what a lot of people want to say, email is not dead. Email is still the number one sales channel, period. I'm sure you all know this like there is no better print money channel than email. If you're going to send an email to your list right now,  something's going to happen. And so Privy has the two most important tools in e-commerce, which is the ability to grow your list, to convert website visitors and grow your lists and actually communicate with them. And then last year we launched this SMS/text product. And so the way that we think about it now is, look, I think the average you might know him this morning, but we have some stuff that's like the average Shopify merchant is using 6 to 8 apps. Most people are not here to be a marketer, anyway, You started this clothing company because you love apparel and you want to start a brand. And you have expertise in that field, you're not a marketer. Let us help you with that. And so install privacy use probably for conversion and communication with your customers and we'll take care of the rest. I think there's a huge opportunity to simplify the marketing stack for e-commerce brands. You guys probably know his agency. We've seen some companies. You go into the backend on Shopify and there are like, 50 apps. You've never even heard of what it takes to run that business. 

Ryan Alford[00:20:04]Yeah, it’s an add-on. It's like the tech stack of Coca-Cola and it's like ten thousand dollars a month disbarring. What do we do to keep this together? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:20:17]I mean, think about it. That's an important thing that you're making ten, ten thousand dollars in sales to do what. It's the 80-20 rule that applies to so many things, especially business and especially marketing. There are always going to be a couple of things that are going to have the biggest impact on what you can do on your site. 

Ryan Alford[00:20:37]So I know you guys just released a book. We bought a bunch of copies for the team here. So, I've followed enough of your stuff. But talk about what people can expect from that book. Talk about the book a little bit. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:21:10]So we want this is a physical book that sits on your desk physical book. We wanted to write that because that's how real people operate. I think that you're not thinking about marketing. First, we wanted to write a book that could really sit on your desk. And so as you're making just doing business right. You can sit there with the book and say, hold on, “I got page 40 to dogeared and highlighted and I got this thing”. We wanted to make something really tactical and really practical. One of the cool things about our business is we work with a lot of small merchants. And so we get to when you work with a lot of small, we have 500 k brands that are using Privy today. And so, like across all of them, one or two things come up all the time. It's like, I don't know what I'm doing. I need help. I wish somebody would just tell me how to do this. This is too complicated. Why can't someone just tell me the marketing things to do? And we said, hey, what if we just like we've been doing this podcast now for almost a year and we've maybe had 40, 50 guests on what if we just take a bunch of the people that we already know are experts? Can we get them to sit down with us and write this book together? We want to make a practical book that people can have on their desks beyond just some piece of marketing collateral. And it's been amazing. I think we sold like a thousand copies in the first week. And the response is like, have me feeling like, oh my gosh, we've got to double down on this. People want more of this. “How-to” content. Let's give it to them. So the book was a cool way to deliver that. And there's just something about it: why do you see such a thing? It's like there's just something about giving people something physical. It just feels different. 

Ryan Alford[00:22:58]Well, we do a lot of B2B marketing and we encourage the physical aspect. We're doing a lot of direct mail that has a physical component to it still. And it's still like you said, email is not dead and neither is direct mail. The mailbox is though less crowded, believe it or not because people think that direct mail is dead. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:23:25]Yeah, of course. I mean, the hard part is now if everybody's working from home, you just gotta make sure you get the right addresses. Direct mail to companies is easy because most businesses have an address listed. 

Ryan Alford[00:23:35]Exactly. So what are you seeing? I don't know if you're a crystal ball guy or not, is there anything that you're seeing – you're getting close to the Black Friday holidays. Is there anything you're seeing or recommend that maybe people aren't doing? But as you look forward to 2021 is there any stuff that you're seeing and feel “OK, this is in the early stages” but with so many companies coming into D2C with so much digital commerce happening put your short-term holidays’ hat on and then you're in 2021. 

Dave Gerhardt[00:24:22]This is like a board meeting. So what are you going to do to grow the company right now? But then also, what are you going to do to make sure that we still have a company in six months? 

So, for the short term, we did a quick survey with customers and we found that almost 80 percent of people don't do anything with Black Friday, Cyber Monday until a couple of weeks ago. So if you're listening to this, go get started with a plan. It is going to be the number one shopping day of the year. And I think you're silly to not take advantage of that in some capacity. Even if you don't participate in Black Friday. Cyber Monday, I don't think it means running a discount. That can totally work. That could work out. You sell 50 percent off, make it a one-day insane deal. But you could also do gifts with purchases, create value, add stuff. There's a lot of opportunities. I don't want people to think that I can't participate because of a discount or not. But the reason that it works so well is that everybody, all of your potential customers are Prime right now. We all know that on Black Friday, Cyber Monday – there's going to be good deals on stuff. I don't even know what I'm buying, but I am buying something that weekend. And so you got to be part of that. You want to be part of that conversation as a brand. The hardest thing in sales and marketing is friction. And there's very low friction on Black Friday, Cyber Monday because people are in a buying mood or mode. You want to take advantage of that. So prepare now. And that can just mean mapping out a campaign. What are you going to do? Do you have the right product? Can you package your stuff? I did a great interviewthe other day and was just telling me about how they just think creatively of like, alright, what inventory do we have? How could we pack? How do you make a cool bundle by selling a bunch of different products that would really increase the average order value, but then also still give people a good deal? The other thing is building your list. If you don't have a list, you can still build one in the next month. And you could definitely do it. But you have to, you have to build the list because I think everybody falls into this playbook, which is like I'm just going to run ads and people are going to buy it for me. Well, maybe. But how often do you as a consumer buy something the first time you see an ad from a brand? Very rarely. And so the opportunity is to get somebody on your list so they can get to know you; get to like you; get to trust you. And then a month from now, when they happen to see a deal from you, then they're going to buy like that's the opportunity to build a relationship. That's short-term stuff. Longer-term –you mentioned a really important thing, which is like there's way more competition coming into D2C ecommerce right now. What does that mean? I think what it means is you need to build a brand, right? It means that a lot of products are just going to get commodities. Take a look at some companies. OK, I'm going to give you an example. Right now I'm wearing something I haven't changed yet. I'm wearing a gym shark t-shirt, a great brand. And they just get acquired for some insane price or something. That's billions, millions, billions. Let me tell you something about the shirt. It's nice. It's probably not that different than the shirt you're wearing. Honestly, they've built this brand and community around Jim Shak and that now they can do it at scale. And I'm not an e-commerce operator, so I don't know. But my guess is that there is a brand. They have people that are part of this community that they now have advocating for the word of mouth. And so the opportunity to build a brand doesn’t become a commodity, even if you only sell one product doesn't make it a commodity, but build a brand around it. I did an interview a couple of weeks ago with a shoot. The company focuses on people who grow cannabis, but they don't sell cannabis, but they make amazing journals and notebooks and paintings and pictures. And he's like, we don't do discounts. We have this clear statement about who's our brand. We don't want to be big. We just want to be for the right people. And so, like, the more you can invest in telling your story, focusing on who you are, who are you serving, like, what is your brand? You got to define all those things first, if you just try to run the playbook of I'm just going to set up hoodies and try to dropship some hoodies to people and like think that's going to be a wild business. It's probably not going to be. You got to think about the brand and you got to think about what? How can you tell your story? People want to buy from people they know, like and trust. How can you use your brand to do that? 

Ryan Alford[00:28:53]Well, a wise mentor told me the riches are in the niches and where that's where you build your brand. I know it comes up for a lot of companies in building brands. But how do, for companies out there that are starting up, whether they're starting up or not, what's the balance between because as a longtime marketer and agency guy, I cringe a little bit at the word performance marketing, and it drives me crazy just to be real. And I think there's a lot of these people that think exactly what you just said will set up some Facebook ads or set up the pay per click. We'll just bring in customers. We start selling. That's performance marketing. What’s the balance of that with brand marketing? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:30:02]Just to give you a real tactical example. This is not an e-commerce example, but maybe I hope people are smart enough to be able to apply it this year at Privy, we've invested heavily in the brand. And so we launched a podcast. We wrote a book. We do a ton of interviews like this. We have a blog. We've done it. Like all these online masterclasses, we have not really spent a lot of time in very tactical SEO and performance marketing and yet direct traffic to Privy. Dotcom has grown 40 percent this year. Where do you think that came from, because more people are finding out about us, so now it's not the problem. It's both like you got to do both, because now when we can crank up SEO, we can crank up paid. They're going to be more effective, more effective for a couple of different reasons. One, we have a bigger audience and so we can retarget audiences and there's more word of mouth. People are just going to be more people. So an ad that was an ad might now become shared organically. Right. There are lots of opportunities like that. But we've now learned through brand building and content. We can create better-paid content. How could you just go into a market and you just launch with paid? You can test paid messaging. Sure. But you're never going to do that. Be able to do that at scale. And so my preference would be to start a small Facebook group, start a community, start an email list even with 10, 20, 30 people. Get the learnings from those people. Use those to fuel what you're going to do on pay. And so it seems like it's beyond just the pay. More people are going to know about you if you build a brand. But there's also a ton you can learn from that. And I think ultimately they have to work together. But you're never going to be in a good position if you have to spend 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 percent of your budget in order to acquire people to come to your site. 

Ryan Alford[00:31:59]Yeah, I think one of the first campaigns I worked on was Verizon and work. Literally. I say that I was in the room because I think I was in the room. It was 2001. And that became Verizon's campaign like that. And I think about the performance marketers like would they ever wrap their head around why that ended up selling more cell phones?

Dave Gerhardt[00:32:41]It's a difference between people seeing your ad and being like, who the hell is this brand versus? I've also the way that for me with a B2B background, the way that I've always explained and says, have you ever done cold calling? Is it any fun? No, but imagine you could pick up the phone and say, “Hey, Ryan it’s Dave, it's Dave from Coca-Cola”. Like, you don't know why I'm calling, but you've heard of that company before. And so now you at least have a little bit more of an end than you had if you just went straight up cold with an ad. 

Ryan Alford[00:33:19]Dave, a lot of great insight. I appreciate your time. Where can people keep up with you? Where can we buy the book? Where can we keep up with everything? 

Dave Gerhardt[00:33:30]Go to Privy.com/book. And let's do this. If you buy the book by the book, we'll create a promo code specifically for you guys. So what do we do? Rad cast. Yes. OK, let's do that. So punch in the promo code. Radcast is very important. Don't do this while you're driving. Put the promo code RADCAST and Privy.com/book and we'll hook you up with some sweet discount.

Also, find me as Dave Gerhardt on Twitter and almost everywhere else.

Ryan Alford[00:34:57]Dave, really appreciate your time and I look forward to following you and we'll look for that.

Dave Gerhardt[00:35:06]Thank you. I appreciate you having me. 

Ryan Alford[00:35:10]I really appreciate this episode with Dave Gerhardt. Dave is one of the leading voices in marketing and e-commerce, especially on LinkedIn. So I definitely want to go follow him. Really enjoyed listening to the intensity of Dave at which you could see why he is so approachable and why people follow him because he does tell things in ways that really are understandable for people. Go follow along, Dave, and you can really unpack some of the stuff he talked about with branding, driving, performance. I love that and love everything. They're doing it pretty well with the Shopify platform. We'll see you next time.

Dave Gerhardt

CMO at Privy, the #1 sales app on Shopify