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Jay Acunzo: For most of my life I took airplanes for granted. I knew what it was like to fly in a plane advocated, going on a few of those obligatory family trips to Disney and similar spots. I knew some basics about the plane, obviously, just like any of us. They have two wings, they have a tail, they use some kind of science to fly. Lift, drag, stuff like that. As for how the plane actually works, I couldn’t even begin to explain it to you. Not back then and not now, even though I’m on planes twice, three times a month, to give speeches.
If I’m being honest, I kind of take for granted that a plane can even exist. When you really think about it, it’s pretty magic that a plane can exist. It’s a massive feat of human willpower and creativity. When I wrote my first book last year, my eyes were opened to a similar reality. We all know what books are, we can all guess that what it takes to make, kind of. There’s some research, some writing, an idea or a story worth writing about, and, I guess, lots of time to do it; but, we take for granted the fact that books exist. When you think about it, it’s pretty magic that a book can exist.
Here is this massive undertaking, another feat of human willpower and creativity, and while the and experience makes us go, “Yeah, of course, this is a thing,” we don’t really know or appreciate all the parts and pieces that go into making it possible. Author and speaker Joey Coleman once said, “Writing a book is like running a marathon to reach the start of another marathon.” That first marathon is the writing process. Man, oh, man, does it take a lot just to reach the point where the book physically exists. Then, you reach the start of that second marathon, the distribution.
Getting it out into the world, marketing it, promoting it, selling it, moving the product you so painstakingly created. That is like an entire full-time job. In fact, it is a full-time job for plenty of full-time authors. When a project feels like running a marathon to reach the start of the second marathon, why in the hell would a team of marketers, with a million things going on at work, set out to write a book?
This is Exceptions, the show about why brand matters more than ever in B2B. This is a special addition, too, because normally we go inside a B2B company to understand how they think about brand or customer experience; but, today, we go inside the making of the book Conversational Marketing. It’s a new book by Drift, which is the co-producing partner with me on this show. You see that Seeking Wisdom original graphic on our cover art? That’s Drift’s podcast network, Seeking Wisdom.
I sat down with the VP of Marketing at Drift, Dave Gerhardt, to talk about why exactly Drift decided to write a book, and what exactly goes into creating such a thing, and how it can springboard your brand.
Dave Gerhardt: I haven’t told this to anybody, but two summers ago I wrote a proposal, and I pitched a book idea to a couple different publishers, and nobody took it. Nobody accepted it, because-
Jay: Welcome to writing books, my friend.
DG: Totally. It’s a great process. We wrote the proposal, we had early traction in the market, we had a nice little buzz going, but it wasn’t enough where I could … Basically, you know how this is now, Jay, having written a book, but part of the book process was we had to show the publisher, here’s what we’re going to do to promote this book. Here’s how were going to promote it, here’s what we’re going to do, here is our audience.
There just wasn’t enough there yet and there wasn’t enough social proof of it; where, then, I basically came back to them probably about a year ago this time and said, “Hey, it’s me again. Can I have another crack at this?” And they’re like, “Sure, go ahead.” I was like, “Well, now, we do this, and this, and this, and this, and then we have this customer, and this … “. I think that was when … We also had a clearer story around it, too, and I think that’s when it really changes. We had the social proof from the market, from our customers, from our community; plus, we had two-three years of revving on this idea, so it was really crystal-clear.
When I initially pitched this book idea, we hadn’t yet even called it Conversational Marketing. It was more about how messaging was eating the world and it was a little bit fluffier. It’s much more concrete now and I had an amazing help writing this with Erik, who helped really put this thing together.
Jay: Erik Devaney, who used to work on the Content Team at Drift and was hired to ghostwrite this book.
DG: Kind of stitched together all the ideas, because I think what was really cool to me about this process is, it’s basically the stitching together of a lot of things that have been said over the couple years that was like, “Whoa, this makes a book.” It’s the ability to tell one story with three years of the different things, from front to back, which is a lot of fun.
Jay: When was the last time you had to go through a gatekeeper quite like going through publishers? I feel like when you’re working at a tech company, in particular, especially a newer one that’s building a new movement, a lot of things seem green field, you can just attack them. There really are no gatekeepers or you’re doing something to remove them; then you go and publish a book. What was that like?
DG: It wasn’t great. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t great, but I think there’s … Book publishers and analyst firms were the two industries that have a lot of things in common. I don’t want to knock Wiley. It’s actually been an incredible experience and there’s two people over there that I’ve worked with really closely over the last couple months that have made this great, but it’s obviously the process of getting things out the door. We made the decision to go with a publisher because I think it’s going to help us get the biggest reach out of this thing as possible.
I actually think of we wrote the book not because we want to write it for a year, and get some PR buzz out of it, and go away. To me, a book is the most timeless thing you can write and I think about myself and how I learned. Because there’s too much noise today, and too much fake news, and information, I’m now biasing my learning towards things that have withstood the test of time. It’s almost an investment of, hey, write it, let’s have it marinate, and I hope that you read this book in five years, in 10 years. Obviously, the goal for us is to write an updated version and this and that. I hope that it’s still more relevant than ever in 10 years, 15 years from now.
Jay: Yeah. There’s something to be said about … This is my New Year’s resolution for content consumption. It’s very simple. It’s slow media, right? You panic read your feed and you’re like, “I might miss a gem, but I think those gems tend to bubble up into the eventual book or you just see them in ton.” Great stuff has a way of rising to the top, but also staying there. A book is one way to consume what I’d call slow media, because, like you said, it has a shelf life, which means it’s worth having that shelf life. It’s not a Top 40 hit that then goes away next month.
DG: I love the term slow media. That’s a great way of putting it. It’s funny, I was on a train to New York last weekend and the train was delayed. You know when you’re on a train to New York, they don’t give you a lot of information. The Conductor was the worst marketer of all time. He was like, “Yep, I’ve got some bad news. We’re going to be here and I don’t know how long.” It’s funny, because I hear that, that’s literally the only thing that we … Anybody on the train, that’s all they know, is that we’re stuck here for some amount of time.
Then I’m listening and five, six people start making calls behind me. The story just gets made up. They’re like, “Yeah, we’re stuck here because there’s some power lines out. We might be here for two hours.” Another person says, “I think we’re going to be here for 30 minutes. Doesn’t look that bad.” I’m like, this is exactly what happens on Twitter, right? People take one little line and they just now have read the article. I’m totally with you on the slow media thing. I’d rather learn more from fewer, like books, and I’ve been doing that recently. It’s been amazing.
Jay: I earn a living in three different ways. I write books; I host and Executive Produce original series for brands, kind of like this one; and I give keynote speeches. Something I learned early on as a public speaker that most people don’t talk about ties directly to what I’ve learned about writing books. Quite frankly, both of those things, paid public speaking and writing books as a profession, are still somehow relatively black box material when you compare it to most industries that have been gratuitously blogged about online.
Here’s the deal. There’s this common misconception that when you want to secure a speaking gig, the thing you need to pitch is your fame. Social media followers, a title like Best Seller, or Executive of Big Brand XYZ; or, if it’s not the fame that does it, it must be the speech itself. The big idea and some kind of unbelievable performance of that idea. Here’s a 45 minute video of me talking, do you want me to talk this talk to your attendees?
In reality, especially when it comes to moving a prospect from interested to closed contract, what you really sell, as a speaker, is the speech blurb. A brief description intended to both explain the value and intrigue or motivate people to attend the talk. You customize that blurb for the client. That blurb is what tips the gig from prospect call to closed contract. It’s the very same thing when you want to write a book through a traditional publisher. What you sell isn’t necessarily your fame or your success, unless you’re a legitimate celebrity and then they just want you. Instead, what really closes the deal is what they call a book treatment.
DG: Yeah, so basically, we had to … I think it was almost like an 8-10 page marketing plan/proposal. The first two, three pages of it are here is why the world needs this book and for us we are speaking to people but we are speaking to businesses. There’s not a difference in my mind, but to the publisher, they publish business books, so it is a distinction. As a publisher, it was really about getting inside their mind. What do they care about? They want to sell books.
Sure, we want to sell books, also, but they want to sell books to business people. They want to sell books to that busy person walking through the airport that sees a book on a shelf at Hudson News and is like, “I’m going to grab this before my flight.” We really tried to lean into this … I don’t know if you ever talk to Andy Raskin, but he has a great framework for telling stories about companies. Basically, it all starts with showing the big shift, the big change, the big enemy that exists.
Jay: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Let’s just pick apart what Dave just said, because a huge part of any great brand is their story and a huge part of our story is usually goes missing. The key to what Dave just talked about, courtesy of Brand Messaging and story consultant Andy Raskin, is the enemy, the conflict. We often omit that part of the story when we tell, I guess stories as marketers. Without conflict, we don’t actually have a story.
Conflict presents what’s at stake. It’s the enemy, it’s the friction, it’s the intrigue, and that’s used to inspire, or rally, or to get people leaning forward, to make other people care. Stories just contain three different parts when you distill them all the way down to their most basic essentials. A status quo, some conflict or tension you introduce to that status quo, and a resolution. Status quo, conflict, resolution. That’s the story. The missing piece, so often, in our work as marketers, is conflict; but that’s what a story is.
Introducing conflict, or tension, or an enemy is creating, what we call in the biz, an open loop. Open loops are basically when you explain that something is happening and you raise the stakes, you get people intrigued as you go up that loop, but then you don’t resolve it, you don’t close the loop. Our brains crave that completion, the resolution part of the story. Here’s an example of an open loop. I walked into my kitchen to make a coffee this morning, but something caught my eye out the window. What? What was it?
I didn’t give you any interesting details at all, that’s such a mundane thing I just did. I walked to my kitchen to make a coffee in the morning, it’s boring, until I introduced something open ended. Some conflict, some tension, I didn’t close the loop. What is out that window? We are all in the business, as marketers today, of telling stories, which means we are all in the business of communicating the conflict. It doesn’t need to be quite so large as a giant industry disruption, it can be as simple as saying the word but more often when we write or speak.
But, way too often, we don’t. As marketers, we shy away from using conflict or an “enemy” in our brand stories. Why? I don’t know. Maybe we’re afraid of seeming negative. Think of some of the most upbeat and beloved children’s stories. In The Lion King, Mufasa literally gets trampled to death, Simba gets exiled, and his mother and girlfriend get enslaved. The Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water spout, but did he make it happily up there and everything was hunky-dory? He would have if it was a brand story, but our little eight-legged friend almost drowned.
Then, there is a book I read to my three-month-old daughter, it’s called Where’s Spot? Do I need to spell out the conflict there? Okay, fine. It’s where’s Spo- you get it. You get it. My point is that we need to embrace that enemy, that conflict or tension, to tell legitimate stories. When you write a book, you really need to dive into that problem, that conflict, that tension. You really have to explore it and flush it out in a big, broad way. Not just leap right to your solution. Dave and the team at Drift understand that and it shaped how they open their book.
DG: We didn’t talk about bots, we didn’t talk about chat bots, we didn’t talk about conversation marketing; we talked about the big change in the world that is happening, which is that, as people, we all expect answers now, but most businesses treat you like you have to wait till later. Fill out this form and we’ll wait for later. Great, book a demo for 2:00 PM Thursday when my rep is available. We sold them that and then we said, “Here is the big changes happening in the world, here’s the problem, and here’s how we’re solving it.”
Another pattern that we use for everything, which we stole from Steve Jobs, is he had a really simple framework for telling stories, which was tell a story to hook the reader, pose a problem, show examples, state the solution, and then close. We just kind of followed that and said, “Big change happening in the world, here’s how we solve it, here’s why,” and then, after that, it’s got to be like, “and here’s how we’re going to get this book out to the masses. We have our conference, HYPERGROWTH, which is going to reach 10,000 people this year; we have a podcast, which is going to reach 50,000 people; we have this; we have this; we have this; we’re speaking at all these different events.”
We had to show them good story distribution and then build a whole marketing plan around it. Then, even after that, there is a certain level of getting them exci- Even once we find the book deal, there is a certain level of getting them excited about it, because they have the hundreds of books that are going to be new around this time. I really had to spend a lot of time thinking through our marketing plan, not the high level marketing plan of here’s the 15 places we’re going to speak this year, but they want to know, because they want to get their sales reps fired up, what emails are going on which days to whom?
What are you going to do? Are you going to buy billboards, are you going to do radio, are you going to do TV, are you going to do podcast? What are you going to do? I had to create a deck and basically create a presentation to walk through them to give to their sales team, only with the goal of getting them hyped and being like, “Wow, this seems amazing. This company is behind it. Okay, yes, we’re going to go push this.” As a result, we’ve gotten more funding from them, they’re spending more on ads. They’re spending more on Amazon ads for us, now, then they were two months ago. They’re giving us more supports in stores, and window displays, and all this stuff.
That was a crazy lesson, because that’s actually something that we care, I, personally, care so much about at a company, which is I think that internal marketing is the most underrated marketing channel, because I think if you can’t … Not I think, I believe. If you can’t get the people inside of your own company fired up about the thing that you’re doing, how on earth are you ever going to get somebody on the outside to do it?
We have something at Drift that we call Show and Tell, where on Fridays, the whole company shuts down from 4:00 to 5:00. Every team, one person presents their thing. I always take back, if it’s my turn, I always take that very seriously because I want to get people fired up. Basically, just took back, applied the same thing to Wiley, and said, “I want to get your people fired up about this book. Go and take it and go.”
Jay: One of the questions I have, you hinted at the marketing, and not just getting their people fired up, but you guys have to market the book. That is some people’s full-time job and they hire teams or have teams, whether they’re a publisher, and author, to do that. Oh my God, what a problem it is at any company to get somebody to promote this latest podcast episode, because they have other agenda items to promote; let alone, a freaking book. How do you not just drop everything your team is doing as VP of Marketing, and have them just promote the book? Or do you? How do you reconcile that? It’s a Herculean task.
DG: Yeah, it’s hard, because, at the same time, people are incentivized to do what ever you incentivize them to do. If I say, “We’re going to promote this book,” then they’re going to be like, “But, where are the leads going to come from this month?” Whereas, the book is clearly a longer play. I can’t measure, today, that X people who bought this book then turn into customers two day- I don’t know that yet, but come on, somebody is buying the book that we wrote. There’s no better bet that I would take that that person’s going to become a customer.
We’ve kind of thought about it a couple of different ways. Number one is, it is everybody’s job, because it’s such a big deal that we can’t expect that all year, but the book is officially in stores on January 30. We come up with themes for the Marketing Team every month and the month of February, January 30 through February, is going to be Conversational Marketing month. Granted, that is our product and so every day is kind of Conversational Marketing day, but it’s going to be specific to the book.
That is designers are going to have to work on landing pages, and banners, and email signatures, and adds. The email people are going to have to queue up campaigns for this. Everybody is bought in that this is going to have to be some slice, but, honestly, the best marketers are able to just prioritize and juggle. Hey, okay, I might be on the DemandGen Team, but I’ve got to help out, and do my piece, and promote the book. We run it that way. On top of that, also, I think, I went out and studied … Not really studied, but talked a bunch of people who have done books that companies before.
They all kind of said the same thing, there’s got to be really one person that is running the process behind the scenes. I’m lucky that the team is amazing and they all run the day-to-day marketing, where I’m taking on the brunt of the marketing plan, all that stuff. I’m the single person to do it. My job is to go get the rest of the Marketing Team fired up to help us promote it.
Jay: With book marketing, and very many ways, it’s almost like marketing a movie you see on the Late Night Show. You see all the celebrities come out when they have a movie to promote. On the podcasts you see all the authors come out when they have a book to promote. There are some similarities and, therefore, I think you can see almost a checklist or merging of these are the things that you just do. You appear on the podcast, we send emails out, social media promotion, etc.
Jay: There is another bucket, though, where it’s a bespoke creative approach to one-off concepts, ideas, things that somehow tie back to the book. The really crude version or example is random giveaways around the book. You see some business authors, I think probably inspired by Gary V, do the barter. I will do you this favor if you buy this many books. It’s one example. What’s in Drift’s second bucket of we concocted these ideas for this book?
DG: Yeah, what you said, about was our challenge, which is we don’t want to do marketing like everybody else does marketing. Yes, there is this cookie-cutter approach that you should take. It’s the best practice stuff. There’s actually, whatever, best practices, I think, we’ve talked about this. I think we have the same opinion on it, which is if you told marketers that the best time to send an email is at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday, most people would go send an email to o’clock on a Tuesday; where I want to find the 9:00 PM on Saturday night, because I’m not afraid to send an email at that time because I think people are going to be there, because there is less noise.
We’re always trying to think of how can we rewrite the playbook and figure out how we’re going to market this book? There is a bunch of different ones, like we have a massive billboard in Times Square that is playing a looping video promoting the book. By the time this episode will have aired, we are going to New York for the day and we invited 300 customers, in New York, to come meet us. If you’re listening, when you listen to this episode or whenever it’s out, you will have seen footage of us and, hopefully, swarms of people in the Drift gear, with the book, T-shirts, whatever.
It’s really cool, because that’s the stuff that’s like that, alone, is going to give us footage for weeks. We’re going to vlog the whole thing and so we’ll vlog the whole trip from New York, to Boston, to people that we meet, to going into the stores and buying books. I think that we want to just still be us, and be on brand, and with it. That’s a big one. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes, actually. The number one marketing channel that I’m going to lean on, as a marketer, is the people at Drift and the customers that we have.
Yeah, we’ll do contests and we’ll run something like, hey, buy a copy of the book, send me a screenshot of the receipt, and I’ll enter you into a contest to win a VIP all-access trip to HYPERGROWTH, where we fly you in, we put you up in a five-star hotel, all that type stuff. It’s also, to me, really, this is so important because this is the hard work. We’ve now done the hard work of nailing down the story and I’m actually most excited because this is going to feed our content marketing efforts for the next year, two years, whatever. We didn’t just write this book and then we are going to be done with it.
I’m going to chop this book up into 15 different pieces and it’s going to be videos, and podcasts, and interviews, and decks, and speaking, and clips, and two-minute videos, and, okay, we’ll give you away a chapter for free on the blog because I want to give you a taste of it. It’s really the culmination of, I hope, it’s going to be the content marketing strategy for this year, and next year, and beyond. It’s a big piece. We already did the hard work.
Jay: People underestimate … One of my favorite authors, thinkers, I’m proud to call this guy, now, a friend, is Shane Snow. Co-founder of Contently out of New York. He has written two books, actually, both of which are awesome: Smartcuts and Dream Teams, which was last year. He talked to me about, I asked him, why are you writing about the pitfalls and how to build great teams? The ups, and downs, and how to do it well.
He was like, “Well, number one, I think this book matters.” Creating the book and then shipping it, he’s like, “Just doing that matters.” He’s like, “Number two,” and this is what most people miss, which is exactly what you’re speaking to, is, “I was comfortable and even excited by the prospect of, basically, only talking about this idea for the next five years.”
DG: Totally. That, to me, is the point that I … I almost missed that, because I got caught up in the hype of the book. Of the, oh, this is a book, we now must market it like a book. What do people do who market books? If I go to a random chapter, okay, Chapter 15 Continuing the Conversation: The Importance of Talking to Your Customers. That will be evergreen forever.
Things might change in it and in 20 years we might be outdated. I’m listening to an audiobook right now, Good to Great, which is a classic business book. I just haven’t read it yet. All the examples are like he’s talking about Circuit City and all these. That doesn’t diminish the quality of the book in the lessons. I think of that. I think all of the stuff that we have in this book is evergreen or can be updated.
Jay: Right. Joey Coleman, who is an author and a speaker, and author of the book Never Lose a Customer Again, he likens this process of writing a book as you actually are running a marathon to then reach the beginning of another marathon.
DG: Right. Totally.
Jay: You’re doing this huge thing, which is shipping a book into the world.
Jay: Then you have to grow and promote the book into the world.
DG: I remember that. I remember sending them the … We send them over the book and it was like, “Woo hoo! Oh, wait.” They’re like, “Great, you’re not even ready to go yet. Now, what’s the plan?” I’m like, “What’s the plan? We wrote the book. We’ll tell you later. We figured it out.” I think it’s just got to be a piece of everything that you do.
DG: Honestly, it’s got to be good. It has to be good. If the book is not good, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Whatever people say about this book is going to be 10 times more valuable than what ever we say from a marketing perspective.
DG: I’m praying for good reviews on Amazon and clips on social, because that’s the best way to market something, is to, hey, here’s what people are actually saying about this. By the way, they’re going to say it in ways, we always say, at Drift we say, it’s not a saying, we say, “Use their words.” Their words, meaning, whatever somebody says back to you about what you are and what you do, that is the best copy you can find. The best headlines, the best whatever stuff we’ve written, has always come from somebody else. I think this book gives us an opportunity to have more people spinning the story back to us and figuring out, yeah, we should say it that way. That’s really interesting.
Jay: Yeah. It’s funny, there’s a very blunt instrument way to measure the success of a book, which is sales, right? You can also measure, I guess, ratings. My focus with my book, since I’m not trying to … I am an author, but I’m not trying to make my money on selling books. I don’t care about selling 1 million copies, that would be an ego play. What I do care about is a million people reading a copy of my book. I imagine, you guys sell software, you don’t sell books. I imagine it’s very similar for you guys.
The way I measure the success is very similar to the way I measure the success of a podcast episode. It’s like you spent significant time with my best ideas or best work, so I’m going to look at an invented acronym, I made this up, URR, Unsolicited response rate. If you read my book and if you’re not compelled to say something about it to someone else, and easily right now you just Tweeted, or whatever, there’s low friction there, then I did something wrong. I’m looking for those unsolicited responses. Sounds like that’s what you’re looking for, as well.
My question to you is, you were heavily involved in it, you were very much either writing it or working with Erik to write it, and also working with the marketing team to market it, how do you get the rest of the company to feel the pride that you will just intrinsically feel about it? Yeah, there’s pride in being like, “We did a book. Congratulations.” Then there’s the stuff that happens after when people are reading it and excited about it. You mentioned internal marketing, how do you get the rest of the team to continue to feel proud about what should be this ongoing result?
DG: Yeah. One thing that I care a lot about is those things, whatever you call them. The URR things. I actually keep a swipe file in Evernote of just things that people have said. Anytime we present in front of the company or other people, I try to use what they are saying. Something as little as taking a screenshot of a Tweet … We do this big book launch. Were going to report back to the company on how we did this. How many podcast interviews we did, how many press mentions we got, how many whatever. How much traffic, whatever. How many people bought the book.
My money slide in that deck is always what people are saying. It’s a screenshot of what somebody said on LinkedIn, and what somebody said on Twitter, and a review on Amazon. Those are the things. When people see that, for whatever reason, two or three comments about somebody who’s like, “This book changed my career as a marketer,” always mean more to people inside of the company than somebody who says, “We got 15 articles written about us,” because it’s real. It’s a real person and that connection is always so important.
Jay: It’s funny, when we build products, we always optimize for retention. We build content, we always optimize for acquisition, which is a little bit faulty. You’ve got to have some moments of grabbing attention, but I think the new marketing mandate is you have to hold it. What holds attention better than a book? A book worth reading. Not just like you said stretch a blog post to a book, nuh-uh (negative). But have a methodology, have a big idea, and, most importantly, have this individual piece and project. A book capable of creating change in the reader. That’s what books do.
Unless you think you have somebody that can create a change in the reader … In fact, I no longer ask people, on business shows, what does your company do? I asked what changes when a customer comes onboard? It’s funny how many people actually have no answer to that.
DG: Because they don’t know.
Jay: They don’t know. They’re like, “I don’t know, we sell this thing. Now, they can do the thing the product does.” Okay. Then what happens?
DG: Totally agree.
Jay: All right. Story time. I don’t know. What was the most frustrating part of this whole process?
DG: Feeling like we only had one shot at it, because, at some point, there’s got to be some end, because you have to ship it. The hardest part is to wrangle, what’s in Chapter 1, what’s in Chapter 2, what’s in Chapter 3, why do we say this? Ultimately, somebody is going to pick up this book and be like, “Why did you guys use this example here versus this other example?” I think it’s fine. The hardest part is just to make a decision, like, oh my God, we’re writing the book on this thing. This has to be the one that we want to use.
Where, I can make a million podcast episodes and, on my own doing, I can write a million blog post, I can make a million videos, which I control. Now that this thing is printed, and there’s thousands of copies that we’ve printed, and people are buying, it’s there. There’s no taking it back. It’s the ultimate, like people get afraid to ship something. This, to me, was the ultimate, whoa, once we press go on this, there is no, oh, we can just change that. If it’s a controversial headline, people don’t like it, we’ll update it. There was none of that. There was none of that.
Jay: It’s an existential crisis in some ways. I remember, you work on this thing for so many months, or at least I did with my book, and there is a moment in time, literally a single moment, where you hit the send button, and you’re like, “I can no longer work on that thing.”
Jay: It can be petrifying.
DG: I’ve had multiple conversations with David, who he’s the CEO and founder of Drift, and really helped start this whole thing, about what things do we want in it versus not. Or what should we say? The hard part is, now, I can tell you already five things have changed since we wrote the book, because things just move so fast and things are happening. I think you’ve got to be able to pick a point in time and write things in an evergreen way, where it doesn’t matter if that’s not the word you use anymore or if that thing has changed. I think writing a book with the growing and changing business was a challenge, but I think we landed somewhere in the middle, where it’s enough evergreen that will hopefully be helpful for a lot of people.
Jay: Yeah. I think there are two ways to take a concept, an idea, a collection of ideas, and get them out into the world. You can do, what I call, and idea tour or an idea journey. An idea tour is like, right now, it’s in the book, but we’re going to take it out of the book, and make it a blog post, and I’m going to talk about it on a stage somewhere. You bring it around. It’s a tour. The journey is like, here’s this concept, we don’t have all the answers, we have some ideas and some hypothesis that we are going to test, and a lot of questions, let’s go deeper.
The process of writing a book is an idea journey and then, usually, the promotion is an idea tour. You only get 45 minutes on a stage, you only get half an hour on a podcast, you can’t present the whole damn book. You present the change, you present the big stuff, and then you’re going to be like, “All right. Well, to zoom in, this.” What are the soundbites or specific ideas that you are like, “We’ve got to give this more air time, because it’s super important and the exercise of writing the book codified it in our minds.”?
DG: I’ll give you one. I think a lot of people see Conversation Marketing, and they see what we talk about a lot, which is generate leads, book meetings, more sales. The examples we were able to pull out for this, which people don’t notice until later, is here’s an example. This is a real example from one of our sales reps. He’s sitting on the couch at 9 o’clock on a Tuesday night. Somebody goes to the website. He says, “Hey, what’s up? I’m Scott.” The person is like, “Hey, Scott. I actually was interested in Drift, but it doesn’t look like you integrate with Slack and so it’s not going to work for me.”
He’s like, “Whoa. No, no, hold on. We do.” He has a 30 minute conversation via his phone on the couch with this person and she ended up booking and meeting with him the next day. Stories like that, where the value there is actually having a conversation for 30 minutes with somebody, where that doesn’t happen if you fill out a form, for example. You either fill it out or you don’t. This was an example of somebody being genuinely helpful and that’s kind of like the common thread that we are able to show in all of these examples.
Whether you’re like, you want to use conversation marketing to run your webinars? Great, let’s show you how it works. You want to use it to run your events? Great, we’ll show you how it works. You want to use it for your blog? Great, we’ll show how you works. Where the example is not just capturing leads. I think that’s what people see on the surface, but imagine you could talk to every single person that walks into your store. Wouldn’t you do that, as a business owner? Hell yeah I would. I want to know, out of all the stores in the world, why are you in mind?
Everybody is so busy today, why are you here talking to me? Especially, in the world that we are talking about, which is B2B. Nobody is casually laying in bed on a Saturday morning browsing a B2B company’s website. You are there for a reason and I think this book shows you how the mission should be to have … Imagine this, the mission in marketing is to have as many conversations with the people who are interested in your business as possible. Not to generate leads, not to book more meetings, not to close more deals, but to have conversations. That’s the most powerful thing and I think that’s the piece that often gets missed when we just talk about conversation marketing at a sales and surface level.
Jay: That makes a lot of sense. What did it feel like to hold a physical copy for the first time?
DG: They just came in today. It feels great, except this first batch, the cover is a little bit short, so there’s a border.
Jay: By the way, that is the most DG/Drift answer ever. So awesome, okay, but this, right here, we can improve.
DG: It’s a gift and a curse. It really is. It’s a gift and a curse. The book feels amazing, it smells amazing.
Jay: The smell. They don’t tell you about that.
DG: They don’t tell you about the smell. The smell, it doesn’t smell like my house, it smells like this book. It does feel amazing to see it, and to feel it, and to hold it. The books came in today, I posted a picture on our company’s Slack and 10 people have like, “Can I get a copy? Can I get a copy?” I’m like, “Just come by my desk. Just take one.” It’s cool. Definitely something that we’re super proud of.
Jay: There is also very few things in your life that change what you are. Right now, you happen to be the VP of Marketing at Drift. Your title can change, your company can change, that’s not what you are. You are a father, you are Dave, you are an author. Does that mean anything to you beyond it helps promote Drift?
DG: No, it doesn’t, because I think, to me, I don’t know. I just have never thought about it like that, because I’m kind of frustrated, because there’s so much BS in the marketing world, where author doesn’t necessarily mean anything important.
Jay: You wrote an e-book, you gave a speech at general assembly, now you’re a keynote speaker, that whole thing?
DG: Right. Now, that’s your profile picture and so everybody thinks that you speak a lot and you’re on stage. Yeah, it’s cool. It’s cool, but I like being a marketer more than an author, because those are all related. You just have to figure things out.
Jay: You think about the decisions you have to make to come to this book, thinking back to moments of debate, what’s a decision where you could’ve gone either way? You chose it, you’re glad you chose that, and then you have any you’re like, actually, to do it again, I would’ve chosen differently?
DG: Okay, I’ve got a good one for you, Jay. The cover. You were just giving me a hard time about this little margin and the Drift thing. Can you imagine how much time we spent on the cover? Okay. We had a version that had DC’s face on it, which I liked a lot. I liked a lot. The advice that we got from the publisher was, “Don’t put somebody’s face on it unless it’s, like, Obama’s face.” I didn’t agree with that and I don’t agree with that today, because I think having a face on a book is like … It was like half of his face. It’s like, who’s that guy?
We revved on it a bunch and we landed on a good title, I think a great title, and just a simple image that appeals to everybody. The hardest part, for me as a marketer, was thinking 10 levels up and thinking about that woman in an airport in Iowa who was walking by Hudson News and sees this book at the front of the store, what is going to be interesting to her?
Not what’s interesting to me, who is a nerd in this space, not what’s interesting to you, but to her. I think we had to try to elevate all that. The nitty-gritty of the cover was a heckuva process. Because it’s a book it made me sweat every word, what does the spine look like, what is going to be on the back, what is going to be on the inside cover? It was like a lesson in attention to detail.
Jay: What would you have done differently?
DG: I think if we could have done it differently, I would’ve wanted to have a little bit more time to go out, and go on-site, and go in deep, and go in-depth and interview three, four, five people, customers, whatever, and let them tell their stories as part of this book; as opposed to pulling out stats, and quotes, and stuff. I think we could’ve told it from that perspective. Also, I think the other challenge is doing a book for business, as important as the book is, the book can’t be the only thing that we do this year.
I think it’s figuring out how to balance the marketing and the promotion of the book with everything else that matters. I think if that wasn’t the case, there is an opportunity to do a lot more interactive type stuff. One of my favorite books is called Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, I don’t know if you’ve ever read that. It’s a great book about advertising. The whole book, they give you an example and then they tell you to go to this website and go to this page. It’s actually really well done and it’s super interactive. I thought that was a really cool experience, which is not out of the picture, but it’s something we could do. A lot of people had the idea of we should’ve had Morgan Freeman do the audiobook, but we weren’t able to budget him in, in time.
Jay: Final question, here. We’ve spoken a lot off-line, but also in this interview, you’ve brought this up a bunch. There’s so much crap swirling around the marketing world, so much copycat thinking, letter of the law execution, someone said this works so I’m just going to do this blindly. Let’s prevent that. When someone is listening to this interview eventually, they’re going to be thinking, “Okay, I admire Drift, I admire Dave, I should write a book.” What are the signs that point to the fact that, actually, maybe you should. Maybe you’re actually ready to write a book?
DG: Are people asking you to write a book? Honestly, we wrote the book because people were saying, “You guys should write the book. You should write the book. You should write the book.” Enough people asking is a great … It’s why I love testing ideas on social, and saying something, and just seeing how many people respond, and if it’s interesting. Would anybody get value out of blank? If 10 people respond to that Tweet, I’m going to go do that thing. It’s such an easy way to test it.
Jay: That’s URR. You’re putting something out there and people are responding with passion.
Jay: It’s not a million people, but you’re like, “I’m onto something. I’m going to go deeper or build something larger.”
DG: It’s just enough. You can launch with three people, whatever. Then three becomes nine, and that doubles into 18, and you just go.
Jay: People were asking for the book. How about internally? Are there in the internal signals that the things you’ve been working on, the marketing, etc.?
DG: Yes. One pain that I felt was, there was not one thing that I could give you, or send you, or have you go to. It would be like, over and over, we would be like, “Here are the eight best articles we’ve written over the last three years. Here’s the email.” It’s like, “Wait a second. This could be a book. What if this was a book?” I think you talk to a lot of people, you wrote a book, I think most people that have written books, it’s not just a two-week period where you sit down and just right.
For me, at least, writing and thinking is always this combination of I start here, and then I might write this here, and then I put this thing here, and then becomes stitched together. That’s the same way that we went through the book, so I think if you are … Don’t go out and write a book, because it’s not a fun process for anybody. If you have people asking you to write a book or you have an idea that has been already tested that you think is going to change the world, do what great comics do.
They go to 5-10 different clubs in very small places and they test their stuff in bits and pieces. Nobody complains when you then go see the comic on a big stage, like, “I’ve already heard this before. “Well, yeah, no kidding, because somebody had to hear it, but 99% of the people have it. I think if you have an idea to write a book, before you write it, don’t do it yet. Go, and take your next three, four speaking opportunities, and talk about the thing you would write a book on. How did that go? How did people respond to that? Then, maybe, come back and revisit. Say, “Okay, I changed this,” or, “This went over really well. I’m going to go try this.”
Jay: To me, a book is a gift, and the best gifts in the world come from I heard you say something in here is the gift; whether it’s the thing I heard you asking for, you saw it in the window, or it’s like I know you like this, Dave, and I got you this thing, along those lines. That’s what makes a great gift. It’s not, hey, on a whim, I bought you this. I have no idea if you’re going to like it, but that’s how most people act with the content and with their books. It’s insanity. The standup comedian thing, that is the best possible analogy for lots of content and a book is the culmination. The book is the Netflix special.
DG: Totally. That’s a great analogy. It’s the Netflix special. You’ve heard it before, maybe a handful of people have heard it before, but also, those people, those are your real fans. Those are the ones who then want to go see it again, so it’s totally fine.
Jay: On a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the most fun thing you’ve ever done at Drift and zero being the thing that would cause you to leave Drift, where was the book process for you?
DG: Zero. DC, I’m out. No, it was probably like a seven, because HYPERGROWTH, to me, our conference, was a nine or a 10. Everything is similar. The only difference is there is not that feeling of walking into a venue and seeing thousands of people show up in person, which you don’t get with a book. I can see how many people bought it and it’s still just looking at a number. It’s the reason I love speaking and, I’m sure you feel the same way, just like it doesn’t matter. When it’s in-person, it’s just so much different.
When you speak in front of 10 people or 200, it doesn’t matter. HYPERGROWTH is number one. The book is definitely number two. It’s number two, because it’s been a lot of fun to just figure out to keep learning in marketing and say, “Okay, you’ve done a bunch of different things, now you have to figure out how to create and market a book.”
Jay: This special edition episode of Exceptions was written and hosted by me, and while we’re on the topic of books, head over to Amazon and check out Conversational Marketing from Drift. While you’re there, pick up a copy of my book, Break the Wheel. It’s a book about how to question conventional thinking to make better decisions faster. That’s Conversational Marketing and Break the Wheel.
As always, we’ll be back with another episode about a B2B brand that we believe is the exception based on how they built their brand. The dirty secret behind this whole show is, if you proactively build yours, well, you can be one, too. I’m Jay Acunzo and I’ll talk to you on the next episode of Exceptions. See ya.