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Drift Exec Discusses Value Of Conversational Marketing Ahead Of ABM Innovation Summit

dave gerhardtB2B buyers are increasing turning to peer reviews (65%) and social media (47%) to cut through marketing speak and gather honest, relevant insights during their decision-making process. Marketers must adapt to these changes and embrace conversational strategies that enable them to reach the modern B2B buyer.

This topic will be highlighted in detail at the ABM Innovation Summit, held March 14-15 in San Francisco. Drift’s VP of Marketing, Dave Gerhardt, will be speaking at the event and shared a sneak peek into his session. In an exclusive interview with Demand Gen Report, Gerhardt discussed how conversational marketing can help B2B companies get ahead in a digital age, why VIP customer experiences are table stakes and more.

Demand Gen Report: What are your current thoughts on the account-based landscape, particularly in the B2B marketplace?

Dave Gerhardt: ABM is a term that’s been everywhere, but I think it’s always been a key part of marketing. One of my favorite books is called “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes. He talks about the concept of “the Dream 100,” which is that every business should have a list of their top-100 dream clients hung up on a wall. There’s been so much thought about ABM, but when I read that book, I thought, “that’s really what ABM is, right?” We all have some subset of people that we want to buy from us because we think they’re a good fit. ABM is just about targeting those people.

The part that I’m super excited about and I’ll talk about at the event is that conversational marketing piece. So many companies are doing ABM and they have an ABM strategy, but when they actually drive traffic to the website, they treat those accounts just like everybody else. That’s like going out and promoting an event to yourVIP prospects and customers,but when they get to this front door, they have to wait in line, which is crazy.

With conversational marketing in ABM, we kind of think of it as real-time ABM, which is talking to a sales rep. I get so much personalized email, direct mail and ads that take me to a long-form landing page. Then, I have to go wait in line and I’m like, “Wait a second. Aren’t these people trying to talk to me? Why do I have to jump through all these loops to talk to them back?”

I think the biggest thing that’s changed in the last couple of years is that because information is free now and there’s so much competition in any market, your buyers have all the power and you have to meet them where they are. That means having conversations with them in real-time, when they are on your website.

DGR: It’d be great to get a little bit of an overview of what your session is going to entail and how conversational marketing is starting to become important when it comes to an account-based strategy?

Gerhardt: My whole session is about real tactics. I call it “15 Conversational Marketing Examples That Would Give Your Business An Unfair Advantage In 2019.” That’s not a click-bait title because it’s real. If you take advantage of the things that I’m going to show in that presentation, you are going to be able to run laps around your competitors because you’re creating a fast lane for the best people that visit your website.

I will talk about why Blockbuster went out of business, why Borders went out of business, why taxi cabs have basically become irrelevant and what that has to do with your marketing strategy. Then, I will show you 15 very specific examples of plays you can run on your website. A couple of them are specific to ABM, but I want people to walk out of there with a new perspective on what they could be doing on their website. It will include some new ideas for ABM and overall ways you can boost conversions on your website by focusing on conversations that are more sufficient.

DGR: One of the things that caught my eye the most was around the idea of providing every visitor with an experience that leaves them feeling like a VIP. Based on your view of the marketplace, why has offering this type of a VIP treatment become table stakes?

Gerhardt: There are two reasons. Number one is options and number two is information. On options, there’s more competition and more noise than ever before. As a result, customers don’t have to wait in line to talk to you. I do this all the time. If I’m going to go buy new webinar software and I go to that company’s website and I can’t get an answer, what do I do? I go to Google and I type in their company’s name and alternatives. Or G2 Crowd shows me a different product to use. I do this even on my phone.

I have Uber and Lyft on my phone and every time I take an Uber, I pull up Uber and I pull up Lyft to see who’s going to get me there the fastest and I go with that one. The same thing is true for how people buy.

Because there are so many options now, you have to meet customers where they are and match how they want to buy and not control the buying process.

The second point that I mentioned is information. There’s more information available than ever before. Content is now table stakes. Every company has a podcast, they’re doing video, on social media, has an email list and has a newsletter. You can’t just win by having content anymore.

We now live in a world with infinite supply. There’s an infinite number of competitors and an infinite amount of information. You have to treat people like they have most of the information before they go to your website. There are so many studies from the Boston Consulting Group, to Forrester, to the Harvard Business Review, that are all saying 80% of the buying process is done by the time somebody gets to the website. Think about how you buy, but then think about how most websites treat you. They treat you like this is the first time you’ve ever heard anything about their business.

DGR: What are you hoping to learn more about at the event next week?

Gerhardt: I try to go to every event without a plan because I just like to be there and talk to people, and the best learning that I get is when I’m around other marketers like me who are doing the same thing. I’m most interested in hearing about what challenges people are facing. I know that sounds like a cliché, but the best stuff that I learn is when I’m around other marketers who are doing the same thing that I’m doing. It’s like therapy, where everybody is talking about what’s happening in their life and that’s where we can figure out where our stuff fits in and how we can be better at marketing and sales here at Drift itself.