11: Why We Killed Our Lead Forms And Gated Content

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This is a podcast episode titled, 11: Why We Killed Our Lead Forms And Gated Content. 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. --- Last week at Drift, we made the decision to kill all of our lead forms and gated content. Here's why (and how it all went down). If you missed the article, here's the backstory: http://blog.drift.com/no-more-forms And the thread on Inbound.org: https://inbound.org/article/can-we-build-an-audience-without-gated-content Subscribe on iTunes: bit.ly/SW-Podcast

Dave: Hey, everybody. On this episode of Seeking Wisdom, we're going to talk about why we made the decision to get rid of all of our lead forms and gated content at Drift.

Speaker 2: Not get rid of. We killed them.

Dave: No, we killed now. We killed them.

Speaker 2: We killed them. They're dead.

Dave: They're dead.(silence) All right, my friend. So, last week, you were driving somewhere and you called me out of the blue, and you said,"I want to talk about something related to marketing." And I was like," Oh, shit. Okay." And you said," I think we should get rid of, we should kill all of our lead forms, and kill all of our gated content."

Speaker 2: And you were silent.

Dave: I was silent because we've been, this is, it's working. It's working for us. We've been doing it for a couple months. We haven't done a lot of gated content, but we've done a lot of content upgrades. We've had a really good success growing our email list by gating a lot of stuff. And then you just woke up and said," Let's not do it anymore." Where the hell did that come from?

Speaker 2: I think it's something that's just been, fermenting is probably the right word, in my head for a long time. Just thinking about what we're doing at Drift, how things are changing, and thinking about how the expectations of new generations and people are changing over time. And then looking back at the playbooks that we're following and traditional lead forms, and thinking," Why are we doing this?" It's one of those things that you have to sleep on, and bubbles up. And then one morning I woke up and I was like," F this. We're killing them all." And it felt great.

Dave: You can curse on here now. I put the explicit tag on our podcast.

Speaker 2: Okay. So, I said," Fuck that." And I said," We got to kill all these things." And then I just kept thinking through, and I'm like," I got to get Dave on the phone." And I don't usually call many people. I don't like being on the phone.

Dave: I hate it. I was like, crosstalk.

Speaker 2: You answered, and you're just like," Yeah." And then I said," We're killing all of our lead forms." And you said nothing.

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And it just felt great to say it, because I feel like the minute that I had that thought in my head, it just hit me like, shit, I hate lead forms. Everyone hates lead forms. No one wants to be a lead. No one wants to sign up and give your email in order to download some PDF, or some white paper, or video, or what have you. And I was like," Wait a second. If I hate this, probably other people hate this too."

Dave: Yeah. And it's funny because I never, I had been doing it that way and I never thought about it until you called me. But on the phone, I instantly said yes right away. And it's not because I was like," Oh, shit, my boss is calling me. I'm going to say yes." I was like," Wait a second. This makes perfect sense." Especially when you think about our business. Our business is, we have a free product. Time to value is really quick. Once you get Drift installed on your website, if you have any website visitors, you're probably going to get a conversation with one or two of them. So, I think it makes a ton of sense. I think when, so we wrote a post about it and the response was insane. I think we've been blogging for seven months now, and this was, this is now our, we've probably post hundreds of posts. And this is our number three highest traffic posts after five days.

Speaker 2: That's insane.

Dave: The response was insane. But I think the thing to remember is that this works for our business and the way that consumers are changing. You mentioned you don't want to be a lead.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And I don't want to be a lead. And if I think about how consumers, which we are all consumers, so consumers makes it sound like it's some someone else, but we're all consumers, how we're changing. Insane made me remember back to my train of thought. And I was thinking at the time that I called you that, trying to invert and trying to say," What are we doing today that in five years will feel insane to us, will not make any sense?" Basically, how do you get ahead of what's happening?

Dave: Wait, explain inversion for people, because it's something you do all the time.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Dave: It's a good side topic.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So, yeah, it's a whole side topic. But inversion is just this technique that I really learned, I heard, or I read about Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's partner, using all the time. And basically he flips things upside down. And whatever the idea is, for me it was, take this, take what we're doing today. And if I were to think about it and flip it upside down and say," Why are we doing it?" Start from why are we doing it, and think what about it is going to feel crazy to us down the road? And so, I flipped this thing upside down and started thinking about what would be crazy. And I thought, because of what we're doing, and our focus at Drift is focused so much on communication between businesses and their customers, and thinking so much about how communication is changing, I thought," Holy shit, wait a second. Everything that we've been doing for the last 10 years," which I've been a big part of and building software to facilitate it through HubSpot and other companies, around creating lead forms, getting people to sign up, passing those leads off to the CRM, passing that lead to a salesperson, making sure that it's qualified and having lead routing rules and all those kinds of crazy stuff, building marketing automation, nurturing flows, blah, blah, blah, the list, doing retargeting, doing this, all of these kinds of things that in some part we help build a lot of that stuff. To me, I thought," Wait a second, that's going to feel insane."

Dave: Yeah. We didn't write this, but we said, we floated around this topic of, is automation killing your marketing?

Speaker 2: Yeah. It feels like it is.

Dave: And well, I think what we meant by that is the very literal sense of the word. If you go back to marketing and marketing's roots in narrative, and storytelling, and branding, that is traditional marketing.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

Dave: But the last five, 10 years, like you said, performance marketing has put a different spin on things.

Speaker 2: Oh, yeah. So, I think because in the last 10 years we moved from a largely offline world of TV, radio, print advertising, and all of those brand marketers, and that type of old school marketing, we think of as old school marketing, and transitioned to this world of PBC, and SEO, and Facebook ads, and social this, and retargeting that, and all of these, and lead forms, and look alike audiences, and et cetera, et cetera. We move so fast in that direction, and analytics on this, and customer analytics, and lead analytics, and routing, that we left behind something that was super important that we've learned over the last whatever, 50 years, in the brand side, that people want to connect with stories. People want to connect with brands and ideas. And if we look at the best advertisers and the best brands in the world that we all admire, they all do an amazing job at that. But what we're all doing in the digital world is going in the wrong direction. We're too focused on the data, and the tricks, and the tactics, and not building brand. And I think, I always talk about things ebbing and flowing, and I feel like things have ebbed really far on the data- driven, digital side, performance- based marketing. And now, I think we're going to start to flow back to this world where brand really matters, where stories really matter. And you're starting to see that, now that I think that way, you look around and you think," Well, you've seen that in medium or long form content."

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: You're seeing that in YouTube, with YouTube celebrities being born and, and those YouTube celebrities, most of their content being nothing more than behind the scenes.

Dave: Right. You have CEO's and VCs on Snapchat now.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Totally.

Dave: Because, and this is what's super interesting to me is we've spent the last five, 10 years as humans trying to become computers.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Dave: And automate everything. And now, the brands that are winning are the brands that are able to be more human than computers.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: It's just this crazy-

Speaker 2: I love that. I think the brands that will win for the next 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, will be exactly what you said. The brands who are more human, especially as AI everything, and bot everything grows in importance, the importance of being human and connection and storytelling are going to stand crosstalk.

Dave: Yeah. I mean, we talk about it all the time internally here, the company. And this is not a surprise to anybody that works in this world, but Slack, as a business, is a huge inspiration for us, mainly because IRC and chat has been around forever.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: HipChat Wasn't just the first one before that.

Speaker 2: No.

Dave: But Slack was able to come along with basically the same product as HipChat, and completely win on brand and experience.

Speaker 2: Brand and experience. Those two things are really, really having them and others like them really be this shining star example of, wait, it can be done. Here's proof that it can be done. It can be done successfully. And by the way, this is the way that the world feels like it's moving. And guess what? It feels really good as a user of those services, to have that experience.

Dave: Yeah. And I think, so a lot of people have read this and the overwhelming response was positive. There were a lot of people that were like, didn't understand how we were going to do marketing. So, the thing is we're still using forms. We're still some type of forms. We still are getting people's email addresses, whether it is through the Drift widget, or an embedded form.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Dave: Because we still want, content and email are things that people love from us, and we want to be able to give people that. But I think what we're going to step away from completely is any of the gimmicky stuff, like something that you could just get for free, but we want to get your email instead. And what was crazy to me is that that post that we wrote about it, without any of the gates or anything, generated the most amount of email addresses that one post has ever generated for us.

Speaker 2: Which is so crazy.

Dave: Because we wrote about something that people clearly felt a certain way about.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And I think we will have two forms, in my mind, at Drift. One is, sign up for our product form, because we need a way to get in contact with someone after they sign up. That's just part of the signup process. And if there was a way that we could get around email in that, we probably would, and maybe we'll think more about it. But right now we need email to get, authenticate someone, and to get into their account and reset, and all the stuff that we already know.

Dave: Yep.

Speaker 2: And then the second form that we'll have is the one that you mentioned, which is if you really like our content, and totally optional and up to you, we're not, and you want to get notified about more content that we're putting out, then subscribe to our email list. What we're getting rid of is hurdles that we're putting in front of anyone that's saying," Before you can read our content, before you can download this, before," basically the tricks that people use," Before you can use our product, you got to give us our email, and we need to qualify you before you can even touch it." We're getting rid of all that crap, and we're just saying," We just need one, an email to sign up for the account, and we need an email, totally optional, if you want to get more content. If you don't, never sign up for that email. That's totally fine with us."

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: And our goal is to produce things that are useful. And if they're useful and they're done in high quality, then we think we will succeed as a business.

Dave: Yeah. And so, earlier you started talking about consumer, just consumer behavior. The way that we, as people-

Speaker 2: Yes. I like that word better.

Dave: People buy that works. People, the way that we do things is, I don't know. I'm sure everybody listening is probably like us, which is like, I don't ever want to talk to a sales person.

Speaker 2: Nope.

Dave: And I know many awesome salespeople. That's not a knock at all. It's just like, we're curious. I want to go on product hunt. I want to see a new product today. I want to sign up. I want to explore. And then if I have a question, I want to raise my hand and contact sales.

Speaker 2: Exactly. And that's also part of the big shift that's happened in the last 10 years, which is you went from a time where salespeople and businesses had all the content and all the data. And you had to go through these gatekeepers in order to educate yourself and to learn more about products.

Dave: Because it wasn't easy to get. You couldn't just go to drift. com and get in the product.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Or you couldn't go to a third party site and read about reviews of a product, or you couldn't find other people like you who are using the product. And so, all those things were difficult. Nowadays, I mean, we're in content overload land. There's content on everything. There's YouTube videos on every product. There's all the content that anyone could ever want to self- educate themselves, probably too much. And so, now all that power is in the hand of regular people, consumers, or whatever you want to call them. Let's call them people. That's what I like being called, a person.

Dave: You don't like being called a lead?

Speaker 2: Not a lead and not a consumer. Now that I can go and find out everything about anything that I want, why do I have to jump through those hurdles? And salespeople in this world are still valuable, but they're there to assist me if I ever raise my hand and say, just like if you walk into, like we talk about, the Apple store, or you walk into anywhere and you raise your hand and say," I need help," or" I need help buying something," or" I need help fixing something." That's when you want to talk to someone.

Dave: Yeah. And we had a Mark Roberge on two episodes ago when he was here. And if you go back two episodes in Seeking Wisdom, you can listen to it. He talked about the shift on his team for sales reps at HubSpot was just a whole shift in mindset. So, sales reps still get paid. They just get paid at a different point in time with this model, which is instead of getting paid up front when you close the deal, your goal is to get somebody in Drift, for example, but you get paid over time when they renew, or when they invite their friends, or when they add more seats. And so, it's just more of a land and expand model than the traditional.

Speaker 2: Totally. I think it's a model where it's like some, another topic that we've talked about in the past, which is making sure that people are aligned, and the best way to get the best performance out of people is to make sure their incentives are aligned. And in this case, what Mark was doing, what Mark was talking about was aligning the incentives of the salespeople with the happiness and success of their customers, which is, sounds like something we've should have always been doing, but is actually something that is rarely done even today.

Dave: Right. And you've written a bunch about this. Basically, if you incentivize a sales person, you say, you get, whatever, 100% commission on every new deal. That's the only restrictions.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: What's going to happen?

Speaker 2: They're just going to sell new deals, and they're going to stuff them down through people's throats, even if they don't want it, because all they care about is getting paid.

Dave: You're just getting a bunch of shitty customers.

Speaker 2: Exactly.

Dave: And churn is going to be off the charts.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Dave: But if you give more thought up front, okay.

Speaker 2: Same things for marketing teams.

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: If you incent them just on leads, then they're just going to gain leads, and you're going to have a bunch of shitty leads.

Dave: Yeah. If you give me a traffic number, I'll go hit the traffic number. It's yeah. How do you, do you think, is this just us and our business model and our world? Do you think this can still, we got a lot of pushback on," Well, we have a six month sales cycle and we're more traditional, enterprise B2B."

Speaker 2: No. I hear that pushback, but I don't think it's true. Because I think at the end of the day, I can't remember who I heard this from, but there is no such thing as, I think it was Gary Vaynerchuk said that he didn't like B2B, because he didn't think there's any such thing as B2B. There's only selling to people.

Dave: Right. Because you're still selling to people.

Speaker 2: At the end of the day, just selling to people. And so, your job is to communicate with people when they need help, or when they are confused, or that they want to buy something, become more interested in getting educated about purchasing something. Your job is to communicate with them, not to herd them, not to make them jump hurdles, not to make them do more work, so you have to do less work. Your job is to service them. And right at the end of the day, business is nothing more than something that we've created in order to serve customers. So, we've got to get back to serving customers. I think we got lost probably in the last decade on measuring, and tracking, and making everything about performance- based marketing, and now we need to go back to the way that commerce always was.

Dave: Yeah.

Speaker 2: You go into a neighborhood store, you build relationships, you start talking to a person, and we're going back to basics.

Dave: You mentioned performance and tracking. I don't want people to get this twisted. We're more data- driven than anybody out there. It's not that we're not tracking marketing now because we're killing forms.

Speaker 2: No, it's about where does, is tracking the thing, or is serving customers the thing. And we believe serving customers is the number one thing that we can be doing as a business, and the number one thing we should all be thinking about each day. And tracking is just part, is just a tool in our toolbox to help us do that. But I think most people get that upside down.

Dave: Yeah. And we're also early enough in the life of this company, that people, I got a lot of questions, like how are you going to track attribution from this source, and that source? And it's like, we're in the stage where right now we want people to sign up. If signups are going up, then good things are happening and we're going to figure that out.

Speaker 2: Sure. And no one's ever figured out attribution analysis anyway.

Dave: This is another topic.

Speaker 2: That just a whole other topic, which is nonsense. But it's just too hard to do it, and there have been people, and throughout my whole career, 20 years now, talking about attribution analysis when it comes to digital marketing, and no one's figured it out yet, no matter what they say. So, let's not get twisted on that stuff.

Dave: What do you think that, that there's a right, there's probably a good balance, though, of the traditional marketing. I guess, well, the brand, storytelling.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Dave: Because I've also, you notice some people do trend too far in the other direction.

Speaker 2: Yep.

Dave: Which is, I'm just, I'm all about branding and storytelling, but we don't have business results.

Speaker 2: Yes.

Dave: There's got to be some sweet spot.

Speaker 2: Yeah. But if you don't have, my thing is if you're customer driven and customer focused, that's probably less likely to happen for you. And the people that get lost and get it twisted on the brand stuff are the people that are very far away from their customers, and so they're not helping their customers, therefore they're not driving results. If they were helping their customers, guess what? Then you drive results. So, if they're not helping their, so they're twisted in the sense that, yes, they don't care about data, but they care about the brand and the storytelling more than they care about serving people.

Dave: Right, It's more of an art than it is helping your customers.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Exactly. And if you were helping customers and you were doing it in a growing and big enough market, then the performance is going to be there.

Dave: Yeah. Cool. I wanted to ask you before we sign off, are you reading anything good these days?

Speaker 2: I'm actually reading a whole bunch of things, no surprise. But I just started a book, which I find pretty interesting, which is called Steal the Show. And unusual book, but it's about public speaking, and it's written by this former actor who now has a podcast and has a service around this, and Michael Port. And still early, but the book seems interesting, good book for introverts like me to read.

Dave: Are you trying to work on public speaking?

Speaker 2: Yeah. I'm always trying to work on public speaking. So, I have a whole bunch of things coming up this fall, London, Dublin, Portugal, whole bunch of different talks that I'll be giving. And so, yeah, I'm always working on everything, but I'm definitely working on getting better as a speaker.

Dave: What else? You said a bunch of things.

Speaker 2: Oh, man, so many books I'm reading. I'm still finishing Beyond Entrepreneurship, which is a good book, Jim Collins book before Good to Great. What else am I reading? So many books that I'm reading at once. And I'm finishing up Nail It, then Scale It, which is a book very much in the lean development and customer development stuff, but a progression past that, that was given to me by someone who runs the Utah product manager group. And it's actually a really good book that I don't think anyone's ever heard of. It it written by a VC out in Utah, and I'm enjoying it so far.

Dave: Cool. All right. That's a good stopping place for today. If you've been enjoying Seeking Wisdom, we'd be pumped if you left us a review on iTunes.

Speaker 2: Please, that helps spread the word. And if you're enjoying this, that would be great and meaningful to us to get other people to know about the blog.

Dave: Yeah. And you can go catch up on all the episodes. The best place to do that is our website, seekingwisdom. io. And I will talk to you next week.

Speaker 2: See you. Cool.( silence)


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. --- Last week at Drift, we made the decision to kill all of our lead forms and gated content. Here's why (and how it all went down). If you missed the article, here's the backstory: http://blog.drift.com/no-more-forms And the thread on Inbound.org: https://inbound.org/article/can-we-build-an-audience-without-gated-content Subscribe on iTunes: bit.ly/SW-Podcast