#106: Silicon Valley's Mad Scientist (AKA The G)

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This is a podcast episode titled, #106: Silicon Valley's Mad Scientist (AKA The G). The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- Guillaume Cabane is a mad scientist. He was the VP of Growth at Segment, he’s worked at Apple, and he joined the Drift team in September where he holds the crown as VP of Growth today. And on the heels of the Drift Sequences (email that helps customers buy) we thought it was only right to have the G on Seeking Wisdom while he was in town a few weeks ago to talk marketing, selling, growth, and the future of email. Say hi to G on Twitter and make sure to let him know you heard him on Seeking Wisdom @guillaumecabane, or tweet at @dcancel & @davegerhardt. PS. Stay tuned for a big announcement about HYPERGROWTH coming next week.

Speaker 1: Okay.

DC: When do we start?

Speaker 1: Now. All right.

DC: We're here?

Speaker 1: We're here.

DC: Who's this guy in the room with us?

Speaker 1: We have G. He's from France.

DC: He's from France?

Guillaume: ADG.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Guillaume: I am from France.

Speaker 1: You are from France. I'm going to turn you up a little bit.

Guillaume: French.

DC: Turn up his mic, Mike.

Speaker 1: So, we're lucky to have here our own G, Guillaume.

Guillaume: Yes.

Speaker 1: Who is the BP of Growth at Drift, is a superstar, and is a former Drift customer with... You've probably seen him on the Mad Scientist videos that we have on our blog. If you haven't, go back, watch that, but we're lucky to have the G here and he's going to drop some science on us.

DC: Yeah, we've been wanting to have G in for a minute, but he's here. We figured we wouldn't Skype you, you're here in person. So, G, glad to have you here.

Guillaume: I'm super glad to be here and I'm super proud to be on the Seeking Wisdom podcast which I've been listen about forever now.

DC: Forever? Yeah.

Speaker 1: That's what I'm talking about. All right.

Guillaume: It's more than 100 episodes now.

DC: Yes, over 100 episodes now.

Guillaume: With awesome guests.

DC: That's right. And now you're one of them. Superstar.

Speaker 1: Actually, I just looked at the most popular episodes from the past year, 2017...

DC: Bro, you're giving away secrets on the air?

Speaker 1: I looked at it all, all guests. The top five episodes, all guests, so we're doubling down. Makes sense?

DC: So you're saying G has to be in that list?

Speaker 1: I don't know. I'm saying no pressure.

DC: No pressure.

Guillaume: Definitely pressure.

Speaker 1: So, you're here right now, we're going to publish this episode in a couple of weeks. We've got some big news that we have coming out. We are launching a brand new product to make it easier for sales reps to have better conversations with the people that they're trying to sell to. That news will all be out, but G you're here because this is the thing you've been working on since you actually got to Drift. And I don't... People don't listen to Seeking Wisdom because we're going to get into weeds and the tactics, but I think there's something bigger here, which is that marketers and sales people, we've broken the tools that we have relied on so much over the last...

DC: Uh- huh( affirmative), that's why we can't give them any good stuff.

Speaker 1: That's why we can't give any good stuff.

DC: Yeah, yeah. The nice things, we just break them, we just abuse them.

Speaker 1: This is like the fundamental... This is the core of why you guys started Drift in the first place; this... What do you call it?

DC: Arbitrage?

Speaker 1: Arbitrage. Yeah.

Guillaume: The thing that's important is that it's not the channel that's broken in most cases, it's the tool that's broken. When we think of all those channels of the chat, the email, the web, often we marketers have broken, say, the relationship with the customer but the channel itself is still valid.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Guillaume: I mean, if someone comes to me and say, " Email isn't working for me," or, " Web isn't working for me," I say, " Get out of here." Email's working great, you're just not using it right.

Speaker 1: Yeah, we were talking last night and you used an example where you were like, " If you knew X, Y, and Z, if the email was perfectly relevant..." If DC had an amazing conversation with somebody, he loved the person, the person loved him, and that person emailed him an hour later with something, he would reply and respond right away because it's all about intent, it's all about relevancy. That's crosstalk.

Guillaume: Those are my principles as a Growth person. That's what I look at when I try to create a good campaign, is that do I know about the intent of that person, is that person the right fit for my product, and am I sending the right message on the right channel? And if I have those four things locked in, I'm good.

DC: Because it's all about relevancy, right?

Guillaume: Yeah.

DC: So, back to your example, if someone were to send me... I don't read emails, so please don't send me an email. Please don't send me an email because I don't read them.

Speaker 1: Please don't.

DC: But if you were theoretically to send me an email and say, " Hey DC, I want to sell you this map. This map is a map to your house and on the map it shows you a location of a buried treasure in your yard," I would say that's a damn good email.

Speaker 1: Yeah, that's a damn good email.

DC: I love email in that case. You would love that, right? Why? Because that was relevant to me, that fulfilled a selfish need that I have to find buried treasure in my back yard, and I would say that's the world's greatest email. So, no problem with the channel, right, in that case; the problem is with the message. And I think the thing that we always do in marketing is... we all do it, but especially in marketing, right? We're all chasing tips and tricks and hacks and shortcuts, and this and that, and so we all read... or a lot of us read things that have, " Use this marketing email template. Use these words. Use this subject line. Put emojis here," and so we run out and do that. And we do it probably too much, we overuse it, and then the effectiveness goes down. Why? Because the relevancy isn't there. So then we walk away and say, " This shit doesn't work any more. I'm onto the next thing."

Guillaume: Yeah. And if we take a step back to that, even, I think my life goal...

DC: Damn, this is getting deep.

Speaker 1: I like it.

Guillaume: My life goal is to create good experiences for prospective customers and for actual customers, for people, right, whatever their willingness to buy, whatever their budget is. And the problem is, these past years we've been pretty good at doing that on the very high end; people have huge budgets, they get great experiences in store or on the web.

Speaker 1: That's an example we use all the time. I'm not lucky enough to own a Porsche, but if I had a Porsche I would walk...

DC: Are you pointing at me?

Speaker 1: I didn't point at you, I pointed in this direction.

DC: Okay.

Speaker 1: I've heard that that's an amazing experience, though. In all seriousness, that's an amazing experience. They call you and let you know you have an appointment. When you walk into the store, they know who you are, right? You didn't ask for any of those things; that is the experience, but that's only high end.

Guillaume: And that's because they know that when you walk into that kind of shop, they predict that your fit is very high, that you have the means. And so they are investing the time of those awesome sales people, relationship managers, on you because they know that. And the problem is that, in our world, or internet world, we don't know anything and so we're not investing anything. That's why the answer of marketing these past 10 years hasn't been to improve the experience, it has been to decrease the cost, all right?

Speaker 1: Yes.

DC: Oh, I love this.

Guillaume: And so, massively decrease the cost so they can create yield. My job... Why did DC hire me, all right? That's the question that I can answer. It's not to generate a ton of leads, it's not to generate even a ton of sales, whatever the cost, because I can offer a Porsche to every person that comes to Drift. This is not happening, I'm not offering a Porsche, but say that I did, all right? Of course people would convert and I'd have sale.

DC: All day long.

Guillaume: But the yield would be negative.

DC: Yes.

Guillaume: My job is to generate the max yield in dollars. That's my job.

DC: Yeah.

Guillaume: And the answer from people like me these past years has been to decrease the cost to do that yield, and the problem is that decreasing the cost creates awful shitty experiences. That's the problem.

DC: Listen to the man.

Speaker 1: Well, this is the fundamental... This is everything, right? This is why BDRs exist, this is why marketers are incentivized to just blast an email out to 100s of 1,000s of people. We had a... I think this needs to be an infographic, but we were talking yesterday... The average conversion rate on a cold outbound email is less than 1%. And G was like, " Do you know what the average conversion rate on a scam phishing tactic is?"

Guillaume: No.

Speaker 1: It's roughly the same.

Guillaume: It's one type of that. But it's in the same range, and the crazy idea is that in both cases the marketer... think of the person who does the scam as a marketer... is trying to convince the other person that the message is legit and that the product is good, and that either you've won the Bill Gates Lottery... and this does not exist but they're trying to convince you of that, or that their product is the best one. And the reason why I like to compare both, is to prove that in both cases those are awful experiences. If you have 0. 1%, 1% conversion rate on your email, it means that you're annoying 99 people, real people, to be able to sell your product to one person. And that's pretty close to scam. That's awful. And if you look at the other end, people who do really good experiences, people who know how to use that channel, they get 15 to 20% response rates, positive response rates. I've seen a company which has 44% response rate to their outbound cold emails, and it's not because they've actually spent more time, it's just because the message is more relevant. The relevance of the message, it's good, there is value in reading that message. It's valuable to the person that receives it. It tells you where is that buried treasure in your garden.

DC: Yes. I love that idea of turning the conversation towards what you just said there; towards what value are you providing. That should be the thing that we ask ourselves in marketing and sales and growth, and just as businesses. What value are we providing. In every interaction, how does this provide value?

Speaker 1: Actually, this is unrelated to this but I wrote a note to myself this morning because the number one... We were just talking about cold emails and emails that our sales reps have been sending. The number one email that they've been sending that gets response, it goes something like this. The subject line is, " Only forms?" And I would email you, I'd say, " Hey G, I noticed you only have forms on your website. Is there any particular reason for that? I have two ideas but I just want to hear back from you first and I'll let you know."

DC: Yeah.

Speaker 1: And there's so many... And there's three different things, I think, in there that...

DC: Now, don't go and just copy and paste that because it won't work for you.

Speaker 1: It's not going to work for you. Don't copy and paste it. But there's a couple of things in there that I think why it worked. Number one, it actually asked for permission, right? The value thing; most people email you and say, " Hey David, you're a CEO. Here's my product, here's what it's going to do. I need to get on your calendar, here's the link." The most effective... We do a lot of content promotion, right, and so most people who do content promotion, they send you an email and say, " David, I wrote this article. Here's a link, can you share it?" If you just flip that on and say, " Hey DC, I saw you often write about this. I wrote an article that I thought you might like. Would it be cool if I send over the link?" That flips the entire conversation.

Guillaume: Totally.

DC: And conversation's the key, which is kind of what I've been obsessed about, which is there's this... When we think about email, there's this thing that's broken between the two. There's what we think about as marketing emails, and then there's these sales communication emails, right? They're all the same thing, they're just emails. But if you're a sales person, ideally you know that the most important thing for you to begin your journey is to start a conversation, and that's why we're conversationally marketing. But we as marketers in growth, we've just been taught to throw up and... show up and throw up, all right. Sorry, I'm ESL- ing, which is a second language just like G. And instead we just blast versus doing what you just did in that email, which is all you're trying to do is start the conversation. And that's a big problem that I've seen in the way that we send marketing emails.

Speaker 1: What is the... But this is the core of Drift. Your vision five years out, whatever, two years out; how does this play into what you think the future of... And just forget us at Drift... The future of how businesses are going to do things?

DC: I think it's all that wave pattern, right? It's all cycles. And I think the cycle has been to do what G has said, which is we've gone so extreme on one end of the cycle, which is the blast, blast, blast, to drive everything down to the cheapest commoditized approach, which is this blast approach towards email. And at the same time, if you do that, anything that's a commodity, like if you go buy a commoditized item, by its very nature, because it's a commoditized... it is probably not relevant to some portion of the audience. That's why we have specialized things that are relevant to them. And so, same thing when you drive it down to a commodity, all of a sudden you're driving down relevancy, and I think, so now what's going to happen is we need to drive back relevancy because it's just a cycle, we need to go back the other way. And the way to drive back relevancy, we all have ideas on doing that, is probably by starting a conversation with someone with some kind of knowledge, which is... this is what G talks a lot about and I'd love for him to talk about it... which is understanding someone's intent, right?

Speaker 1: Yeah.

DC: That's how you start a conversation.

Guillaume: And I can dive into that, but first I want to piggy back on what you just said on the conversation, and on the channels we said earlier. I think a few years back I had this light bulb moment when I was able to predict the fit of people during the sign up process once I knew their company, I knew their email. I knew their intent because they were trying to sign up, and I knew they were likely to pay, and the usually motion for a marketer was to follow up with an email from a sales rep to try to get a meeting. And I felt that just sounded stupid because, " They're on my side right now and they're trying to sign up, and I know that they're likely to get a bad experience in my app because they're very high end, and we just need to customize, we need to help them." And so we were all planning for them to have a bad experience and try to save them the next day. That just sounds weird, right?

DC: It is weird.

Speaker 1: The example DC hit me with over a year ago was... This is the best example that I've heard, is like... That's like getting someone to come in your store, and then they go home and you send them a postcard and it's saying, " Hey G, great seeing you the other day. We'd love for you to come back."

DC: After you have a shitty experience, and you're like, " What?"

Guillaume: So, put the shitty experience first and then try to save them. And I thought, " Okay, now if I can do the analysis, the fit score, the intent score, fast enough, how can I change the experience to make it more relevant, to make it better?" And the thing I did is just to offer them a one- on- one immediately, and that can be a chat, that can be a video call, that can be whatever, so the channel is not so important; use the channel that is most relevant to where the customer is right now. If the customer's on the website, do something on the website. If the customer has left the website, then do something else.

DC: Totally.

Guillaume: I don't care, but something that has less friction.

DC: Yeah, meet them where they are.

Guillaume: Exactly. And so going back to what you said on intent. I think my second lift goal, I'd say probably bit more grander than just giving better experiences, is trying to predict the intent. And so, if you think like marketers, what we all do... we're marketers, which is the old terms for growth marketers... for these past 15 years, is we drive people to the website, and once they're there we try to optimize the funnel. And we just wait for them, super passive. We create different traps in the website, we publish horrible things where we try to trap people into giving us their contact details. And the problem is we do that because we only find 1% of the total market that comes to our website, maybe less, often less, and all the others, they're just never coming to us, we don't know where they are. They're on Google, they're maybe on a competitor's website, they're somewhere else, right? And they're expressing that intent, you just don't know about it. So, once you've optimized the funnel, there's nothing else to do, and that's a horrible thing to say because there's 99% of your potential market who just are never going to know about you unless you do spray and pray advertising, spray and pray cold Gmail. And that's something that a lot of us have been doing, is we have been spraying and praying a ton these past years, and it just doesn't work. It's still a bad experience. And so, what I've been trying to do is to try and discover the intent of my potential customers before they come to my website and to try and identify who they are, what is their pain, and contact them before they contact me. That's good selling. I try to solve that problem before the problem gets too big and before they look into my website or even my competitors. I can pull the rug from under my competitors and I can do that in a very, very positive way, by being helpful to them and giving them value.

DC: Interesting. I think once you have that power to predict intent or to identify intent, I should say, then all of a sudden... to me, it breaks the model. One idea I've always had in my head, which is like, " What about if I told you that the funnel never existed," because this funnel ideas has been good and bad for marketing. Good in that it gives them a construct to use, but then bad in that it teaches everyone to think that there's this linear process in this funnel, and then...

Guillaume: Do you know why it's bad?

DC: Why?

Guillaume: You have kids, I have... We all have kids here.

DC: Yes, we have kids.

Guillaume: You see what the funnel is? When you give them a funnel to fill a bottle, all the water that comes on the top goes to the bottom. Even my two year old can do that with putting about 90% of the water through, right?

DC: Yeah, exactly.

Guillaume: In a marketing funnel, it's not a funnel. The leads that are on the top never get all at the end.

DC: Exactly.

Speaker 1: Like you always say...

DC: And if you can... Sorry to interrupt but... And if you can predict intent or identify intent, then what was the funnel, because now you're identifying people that never were in that process?

Guillaume: Exactly.

Speaker 1: Or like you've always said; the funnel exists to solve a company problem, not a customer problem, right?

Guillaume: Exactly.

Speaker 1: The funnel was you need to see traffic to leads to ops to close, because you've got to hit some number versus...

DC: But in reality I don't think it's a good construct because it doesn't map to the way that we actually buy. I was looking at G's hot little Apple watch there with the cellular... with the red little dot on there.

Speaker 1: Yeah. You know he's got the special crosstalk.

DC: And I was thinking, " Maybe I'll go and pick one of those up." And then that made me think, " So, okay, I'm going to..." We have an Apple store down the road here. If I go into the Apple store to go pick this up, I was never in that funnel.

Guillaume: Totally. Nope.

DC: What was the funnel, then? I walked in.

Speaker 1: Not at Apple, because they don't care about this, but some... If that was another company, some marketer somewhere would want credit for that, and then they would have to try to figure out what influenced you to make that decision. When, really, it's just like, " Shit, I literally just saw your watch and I wanted to get on so I got one."

DC: Yeah.

Guillaume: And what's awful is that, in B2b Sass, which we are in, most of the time when you are a customer you are buying, you can experience the stages of the funnel they're trying to push on you. They're trying to qualify you.

DC: You can feel it, yeah.

Guillaume: You can feel it, and that's awful. They ask those qualifying questions, like, " When are you wanting to buy and what's your budget?"

DC: What's your budget?

Speaker 1: Are you a decision maker?

Guillaume: Yeah. And I'm thinking, " Can I know about the product before I answer the questions?"

DC: Can I see it?

Guillaume: Can I have the experience first? Okay, you want to fill in your sales force, but I am the customer, I don't care about that.

DC: That's funny. We should make a video of that right there, because-

Speaker 1: That could be another...

DC: Another video which is just basically then filling that sales force kind of CRM thing of just asking questions.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Guillaume: But you know what's sad is that, sure, it's bad experience of the customer, it's also a bad experience for the sales rep.

DC: Yeah.

Guillaume: These people, they don't enjoy asking those questions and losing customers who don't want to answer that.

DC: Yes.

Guillaume: So we've created this system which is bad on both sides, which is pretty damming, if you ask me.

Speaker 1: Yeah, sales reps are going to get... they get angry replies in their inbox and they're not really sure what prompted that. Was it email they sent? Was it email marketing sent? When did they send it? They don't know why this guy's in the inbox, pissed off.

Guillaume: And I think one thing... The reason why I went to intent these past two years is because I discovered fit was not enough when we start going above the funnel. So, say, for example, that Nike has a high fit for your company, whatever you sell, right? Technology or whatever. I mean, sure they've got the means to pay and I'm sure there's a dozen, if not more, people who have the right titles for your product within Nike, so what are you going to do, are you just going to hit them, saying, " Hey, I think you should buy by product?" That's awful. In my past job I was seeling some pretty complex Saas B2b technology, and what we found is that you can't just push that on the people if they don't have a need right now, they don't have a pain. You say, " Hey, let me help you solve the pain," because you can't change the road map and ask them to spend a few 100K and go into a six months implementation cycle because you want to.

DC: Totally, totally crosstalk.

Guillaume: It's not going to happen.

DC: No.

Guillaume: All right.

Speaker 1: I want to wrap with this because I think the wrapper on this is actually a theme that you've been talking about and you're going to talk a lot about more this year, which is the bigger theme here is this shift from supply to demand, right?

DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 1: We're all adapt... We are going to have to adapt to this because consumers have all the power. Can you just give a quick...

DC: Sure.

Speaker 1: How do you think... We'll talk more about it but how do you think that relates to what we're building and what we're-

DC: It's driving everything. We're shifting from this... We have shifted from this world where the suppliers, aka the companies, aka the people who make the product, had all the control, and in that world you can make people jump through hoops, fill out forms, wait a month, do whatever, because you had all the control in the world. That has shifted now that all of the power is moving towards centers of demand. Us as the consumers are the people who are creating the demand. We are the demand so we can demand things to happen, and so... And in those worlds that's where the value is. In that world the company has very little power, and new companies that crop us to address the intent and the customized preferences that they want, and make me feel good and make me feel empowered and make me feel all these great things; those companies are disproportionately taking a bigger share of our wallets because we value those experiences versus the commoditized things that the seller driven model did. So in that world, all of a sudden, now you have to rethink everything. You have to rethink your marketing, you have to think about your sales process, you have to think about, " Maybe there was no funnel after all, so how do I act in this world and how to I build something and how do I do things like G is describing that are based on providing value and creating great experiences all along?" And then betting on the... if you do that and you do that well enough, when there is demand that crops up, when I actually need your product or service, that I'm going to come back to you because I had this memorable experience.

Guillaume: Before you wrap up on this, I think there's just one thing about the future that I want to drop here, which is often we think that to create a great experience we've got to put humans on the line and that's how we're going to drive that personalized message, that relevance. And as humans right now, we give a virtual higher perceived value to messages written by a human, or we think it's written by a human, than written by machine automated, and that's why marketers and even myself have to admit we've impersonated humans because we know that the perception's going to be higher. The problem, actually, it's because of the value, it's because the automated message usually does not have enough value. What I'm putting down here for the future is I believe that within a few years we will be able, with good AI, to craft better messages with more intent, more context, with a machine than with a human. Machine will be way more efficient at collecting all of that data than any sales rep would. And so, as humans we've got to think, " Now, how do I evaluate what I'm going to read and believe in that message or not? What's the value?" And I think we should, and I will I'm sure... I'm just going to base myself on, " Is this message valuable for me?" I don't care if it was written or by a machine. I don't care if the car that drove me here is self driving or not. Did I get there safely? That's what's important for me. Is the service delivered the right one, is it the right thing?

DC: Totally.

Guillaume: It's the same thing for the message.

Speaker 1: It's the same thing. People want holes, not shovels. It's the same thing.

DC: Couldn't agree more. I mean, I think that is where the future is going to go and I think it's... Right now it's people but we always use the example of when I search on Google, I don't care how those results came back, I just care that I had a great experience, that the value was there, that it was relevant to me. And in some cases there were a lot of people behind the scenes that fixed that in order for me to have a good experience. In other cases, it was totally machine driven. I don't actually care. All I care about, we are all selfish humans, we care about, " Did I get a good experience? Did I have great value in this exchange?" And that's what I care about and so that's, I think, where we're going to move, I totally agree. And I think we're pretty close, in terms of history, to getting there.

Speaker 1: Love it. All right. Send us out of here.

DC: All right.

Speaker 1: You know the drill.

DC: You know what to do. Okay, things have been picking up a little bit, I've been seeing some reviews come in. If you like the G, you want to have the G back on, you need to tell us in the comments. Open up that... You know what I learned? Back in the day when we started this podcast, you had to go open up your laptop, open up iTunes...

Speaker 1: Can you leave reviews now?

DC: Now you can leave reviews on it.

Speaker 1: Whoa.

DC: So open up your iPhone, load up the podcast app, Apple podcast app. In the podcast app itself...

Speaker 1: No way.

DC: ...you can leave a six star review.

Speaker 1: Amen.

DC: Worst case, five star review. Leave a comment for the G in there, tell him the best thing about France that you love.

Speaker 1: Whoa.

DC: And he will reply and let you know if it's correct or not.

Speaker 1: I think I'm going to have to get the rights to some French hip hop to close.

DC: Oh man, let's get some French hip hop on this. I love French hip hop.

Speaker 1: Let's get some French hip hop.

DC: Let's do it. All right. Thank you. Thanks, G.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. ----- Guillaume Cabane is a mad scientist. He was the VP of Growth at Segment, he’s worked at Apple, and he joined the Drift team in September where he holds the crown as VP of Growth today. And on the heels of the Drift Sequences (email that helps customers buy) we thought it was only right to have the G on Seeking Wisdom while he was in town a few weeks ago to talk marketing, selling, growth, and the future of email. Say hi to G on Twitter and make sure to let him know you heard him on Seeking Wisdom @guillaumecabane, or tweet at @dcancel & @davegerhardt. PS. Stay tuned for a big announcement about HYPERGROWTH coming next week.