Dave Dabbah of CleverTap: “Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment”

Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment. Marketing is all about adapting, adjusting, and fine tuning. It’s rare that a marketing campaign will be perfect on the first go around. The best marketers are constantly adapting and improving to increase ROI. Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before. Using platforms […]

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Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment. Marketing is all about adapting, adjusting, and fine tuning. It’s rare that a marketing campaign will be perfect on the first go around. The best marketers are constantly adapting and improving to increase ROI.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Dabbah.

Dave Dabbah, CMO at CleverTap, has more than 20 years of experience building global marketing programs that accelerate growth and catalyse business success within B2B technology and beyond. Dave has continually set and raised the bar in terms of what it means to be an accomplished business leader throughout his career. His ability to deliver the right message at the right time to customers has allowed him to develop highly successful brands and lead some of the world’s top companies to new heights.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My career in marketing started at a very young age. When most kids were reading Sports Illustrated, I was reading ADWEEK and Ad Age magazines that my dad had brought home from his advertising office. As a market research analyst, my father had a tremendous impact on my career trajectory. Because of this, by college, I understood the major concepts of advertising and marketing, media buying, and brand development. I was fortunate to land various marketing roles after college and eventually went on to lead marketing departments at Ephox, N3N, Agora, and now, CleverTap.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Like many marketers my team jumped onto the QR code revolution, and we started sticking codes on everything from presentations to banners on trade show booths. During this era we got the bright idea to place a QR code on the sleeves of t-shirts which our team wore at events. The issue was the QR codes were too big and ended up being impossible to scan because they bled over the side! It was a total mistake which we resolved later by placing a QR code on the front side and back side of our event shirts.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Yes. When I was working in one of my first jobs out of college as a market research analyst, my boss, who used to work for IBM, had a tremendous impact on the way I looked at marketing. He would constantly walk around the office and almost every day, would stop by my cubicle and say, ”Dabbah where are all the orders? Why don’t I have orders?”. Of course, I was a market research analyst and had no impact on sales. However, the lesson he was impressing wasn’t lost on me: that in marketing, you are always a part of sales and always selling a product (in fact, almost all careers are sales in some way). You have to always be thinking about how to sell a product, and be aware of how a product is selling at any given time.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

CleverTap is a mobile marketing platform that helps businesses to better communicate with their customers on their mobile devices. CleverTap stands out for a variety of reasons.

Our focus on app user retention is first. Companies tend to focus on new customers and new users, but forget to engage and retain the users who have already benefited from their product. We believe retention is essential to the success of any company and use marketing tools like push notifications, email automation, in-app messaging, SMS, and so much more to engage and retain users.

Additionally, CleverTap has the technology to power all kinds of industries across the globe. As an international company, we’ve worked with companies like Sony, Dominos, 7-Eleven, and over 10,000 other brands across 100 countries. Our unique capabilities to power industries like food and bev, entertainment, ecommerce, travel, and finance is what makes our company stand out.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The first key character trait that has been pivotal in my success is an ability to listen. This doesn’t just mean listening to customers and understanding their needs; a good listener is someone who interacts and chats frequently with staff and team members, actually listens to feedback and areas for improvement, and is then able to apply feedback in a positive way to enhance personal and business growth. For example, I have weekly meetings with many of my staff where I gauge their opinion on current business strategies and ask for their thoughts on how we can improve. This has directly impacted the positive growth of our company. Feedback, especially constructive feedback, is so important.

The second character trait is the ability to take action. Sure, everyone can come up with great ideas and brainstorm new strategies, but can they actually take action on them? This is the difference between thinking about how to produce and actually producing. I’m a doer and a problem solver. This trait has been extremely helpful in my career. At CleverTap, I’ve helped brainstorm new ideas (like our video series interviewing marketing execs, or our strategic tech partnerships) that have come to fruition because we put in the work to make it happen.

Finally, having a sense of humor has been such a cornerstone of my career. Business can be serious and challenging, and I firmly believe that it’s important to have a little fun along the way. I try to lead by example and set the tone of keeping the work environment light, though still productive, of course. I hope to create a vibrant, fun workplace that our CleverTap employees look forward to showing up at every day.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re constantly working to find new easy-to-improve user experiences inside mobile apps. In other words, when you log in to your favorite app, what is your experience like? Is the home screen easy to use? Did the app load quickly? How many taps did it take to get your desired outcome? We are always trying to finetune this, because it does have a tremendous impact on consumers and improve their experiences. The speed, accessibility, and function of an app not only improves user satisfaction, but can increase productivity.

Most recently, we rolled out two new video interview series, CleverTap Engage and Journey to Success, which feature CleverTap customers and leaders in the marketing industry.

Finally, we are always working on CleverTap4Good, which uses CleverTap technology to power philanthropic organizations like Ketto or GiftAMeal. Our support of philanthropic organizations has helped them make a tremendous impact, especially during the pandemic.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

The first mistake is having unrealistic financial expectations. If your company is in a competitive market and is competing for share of voice, the cost of digital marketing campaigns can be mind-blowing. If your brand decides to buy ads on the largest platforms, be prepared for the astronomical cost, and ask yourself, “Is this investment worth it?”.

The second mistake I often see is companies cutting their campaigns too short. PPC programs should be an annual piece of your marketing budget, but it’s important to remember to be constantly adjusting and fine tuning ad copy and language. Don’t give up on a campaign too soon, or that money is wasted.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

Most successful marketing programs start by developing a marketing net. The net is different for every business, based on needs, but is one of the best ways to lay the framework for a successful campaign. The net includes all aspects of marketing that will help the business capture opportunities across all channels. For example, the net could include using a content strategy to produce great media that is useful for end-users or purchasers of your product. The net could also include a PPC campaign, content syndication programs, elaborate data-based marketing, PR, blog strategy, partner programs, etc.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

It depends on how you define PPC — do you consider spending 5k on a post promotion on Facebook to be PPC? Do you consider spending 5k on Instagram for an ad unit to be PPC? From a pure PPC standpoint, a lot of marketers are no longer just utilizing Google and are instead using social media to get their message across. As a B2B marketer, social media platforms are skewed toward the consumer market, but there are a ton of examples of really smart marketers that utilize social media platforms in their ad networks.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

First, make sure your website landing page is perfectly optimized. PPC campaigns drive potential leads to your website, so it’s important to ensure that these leads are being hooked by the page they land on. A good landing page will quickly solve their needs, encourage them to contact you, and ask for their contact information.

Second, know your keywords. Keywords are arguably the most important aspect of a PPC ad and will make or break your campaign. To develop good keywords, look at what your competitors are doing, research industry trends, and settle on the language you think will best resonate with customers.

Finally, don’t be afraid to adapt and constantly change your ads. If something isn’t working, change it! In fact, it’s very possible that your first PPC campaign will fail. Use this information to develop better ads, keywords, and copy to improve your campaigns.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

First, you need a quality list of email recipients who have elected (opted-in) to receive messages from your company. This is where the importance of ethics in marketing comes in. Brands must only send communications to consumers who have given them permission to do so.

Second, the message being sent in the email must be unique and personalized to the person receiving it. People are different and will react to emails in unique ways. By using behavioral data, brands can send content that is most likely to resonate with consumers at the time of day when they are most likely to engage. It’s important to keep in mind that not all email recipients are at the same stage in the sales process (some could be a customer for years, while some are only thinking about buying) so the message will have to be different for each.

Finally, you need to be able to make sense of the data. How many people opened your email? How many clicked on a link or read a story? What was their behavior after receiving the email? If you can understand the data and what it means, you can create more tailored messages in the future and can nurture customers to become brand champions.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

We use a wide variety of tools and services in our tech stack. However, software that allows us to enhance data is the most important. Analyzing and making sense of massive amounts of data is tremendously important.

This technology empowers us to make sense of our marketing campaigns and analyze the data. For example, if we place 100 ads a week in front of customers, we rely on software to analyze the success of each ad.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The first thing you need to have a highly successful career in digital marketing is the ability to be analytical. Can you make sense of the data and metrics of your campaigns, then make the necessary changes to improve them? For example, if you have a LinkedIn ad campaign that didn’t generate the leads you thought it would, can you make sense of the engagement data to adjust the ad copy and reach to lead to better results?

Second, you need to be creative. Most digital marketers have the ability to develop ads, but can you think out of the box? Can you craft a compelling message that will catch the eye of consumers? Being creative is so important to the success of marketing professionals.

Third, successful digital marketers need to have project management skills. This means communicating with clients, managing a team, hitting deadlines, managing a budget, etc. There’s a lot that goes into a digital marketing campaign and the best marketing pros will own every aspect of the project from inception to completion.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment. Marketing is all about adapting, adjusting, and fine tuning. It’s rare that a marketing campaign will be perfect on the first go around. The best marketers are constantly adapting and improving to increase ROI.

Finally, marketers need to have the interpersonal skills to succinctly and clearly explain results, strategy, and concepts to clients and coworkers. Often, campaign metrics and terms can be confusing, so it’s important that marketing pros can explain concepts in a digestible way.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I’m constantly reading MarTech, business, and advertising media outlets like DigiDay, Ad Age, Tech Crunch, CMSWire, and Business Insider. I also love to listen to podcasts like the Demand Gen Visionaries Podcast, Marketing Over Coffee, and Marketing Smarts.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could spur a global movement (realistically), it would be focused on free and accessible education for all. There are so many kids out there who, like myself as a child, pick up a magazine with a hunger to learn, whether it be about advertising, computer programming, poetry, or something else. When you’re truly passionate about something, your desire to learn more is insatiable. I was fortunate to pursue my passion through college and into a meaningful career. But the cost of secondary education is insanely expensive — especially in the U.S. And, globally, large portions of people are denied education due to gender, religion, socioeconomic background and other factors.

Governments and other influential organizations can help make education accessible and free (or at least more affordable) for students, especially with modern technology. I’d love to lend a hand in the movement to create a more equitable global education system. Education is empowering. It’s the key to breaking generational cycles, and it gives people a toolbox to go on and do good in the world. That’s why I’m a firm believer that investing in education brings the most good to the most people.

How can our readers further follow your work?

To keep up with my activities you can follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn, or visit the CleverTap website to see what’s new with the company.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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