David Greenberg of Act-On Software: “Any good digital marketer needs to have solid messaging skills”

Any good digital marketer needs to have solid messaging skills. If your communications aren’t resonating with users, your sales numbers are going to reflect that. You need to be able to deliver a message that hits at the heart of each audience segment. The messaging doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated (and it probably shouldn’t […]

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Any good digital marketer needs to have solid messaging skills. If your communications aren’t resonating with users, your sales numbers are going to reflect that. You need to be able to deliver a message that hits at the heart of each audience segment. The messaging doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated (and it probably shouldn’t be), but you need to know how to build communications and anticipate how they’ll be interpreted

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. 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 David Greenberg.

David Greenberg is the Chief Marketing Officer at Act-On Software, a marketing automation company based in the Pacific Northwest. A brand loyalty enthusiast, David brings more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience in high-growth technology organizations to the table. An early adopter of MarTech, he uniquely understands the challenges modern marketers face, making him an advocate, champion, and example to follow for growth-minded marketers everywhere. And, with a firm belief that customers are more than just sales leads, he ensures all aspects of the company’s marketing and growth strategies are rooted in providing a memorable brand experience.


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?

I started my career doing marketing, but I didn’t know that it was considered marketing at the time. I had moved to New York to play bass in a band, and found myself managing all the booking and marketing. From there I moved into sales roles and developed a comprehensive understanding of the industry and how to effectively persuade people to purchase products. People tend to underestimate how difficult sales can be and how much grit it requires. My sales experience was instrumental in my professional growth. I started as a practitioner, worked my way up, and have led high-growth marketing teams for the past fifteen years.

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?

I’m not sure if this is a mistake as much as it was a very bold move, but it came about when I was working at a software company near the beginning of my career. At the time, the social space was exploding, and Salesforce was our primary competitor. They had developed a new social stream called Salesforce Chatter and my team was trying to create a similar offering. After our own social product launched, we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, and my team decided to send Salesforce a big box of toy chatter teeth to play on the name of their product — suffice it to say, Salesforce was not thrilled. Ultimately, my takeaway from that experience was to not be afraid to try provocative things.

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?

Two people come to mind, the first being my father. He was a lifelong marketer and a perennial mentor and resource to me. His real-world experiences and feedback were always incredibly valuable to me.

The second mentor I am extremely grateful for was a key executive at a software company I worked for. He taught me the importance of “owning the results.” He always said, “You can choose to work and do your job, or you can choose to work and own the results.” It pushed me to take my work to a higher level, and challenge my teams to always be thinking a step ahead. I’ll never forget a sign he had in his office that said, “Results do not equal no results, plus excuses.”

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

One of the things we hear frequently from our customers at Act-On Software is that we really get marketing (which is always great feedback to receive). Whenever you sign on a new client, the hope is that you’ll be able to build a strong, lasting relationship with them — and I think we’ve done that successfully with our clients.

As an example, we had one particular business that had been with us for 3–4 years, and they were undergoing a sweeping executive shift across the board. Their new CEO came in, started making lots of drastic changes, and was considering ending our contract, but our client contacts vehemently opposed that decision. The idea they kept coming back to was, “We rely on Act-On for their people; the interpersonal connections are what matter, and Act-On’s people bring their expertise 100% of the time.” Ultimately they were successful in persuading their new CEO to stick with Act-On Software, and we’re honored to keep their business and strengthen that ongoing relationship.

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 thing that comes to mind is strategic thinking and planning. I tend to always think ahead and try to map out the results of any project, which helps tremendously with team alignment. When we’re brainstorming a new project, I like to ask “But what is this idea going to produce?” which helps our team look forward, stay results-oriented, and think about the big picture.

Second, transparency has been an essential aspect of my success. It’s not always easy to have candid conversations with your team, but I think it makes employees feel valued when you are completely candid with them. I’m honest with my team on what we’re doing well and, perhaps more importantly, where there is room for improvement.

Lastly, the ability to let go and delegate has proven highly valuable, in my experience. I’ve had great success whenever I relinquish control of a project and trust my team to carry it across the finish line. Letting go also means giving your team more freedom to experiment, which provides them with valuable learning opportunities.

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

Our biggest project right now is evolving the Act-On Software platform to become one of the most powerful multi-channel platforms in the market. We know that marketing technology and tactics will play a big role in shaping brand experiences, transcending mere lead generation to genuinely connect with consumers. Today’s buyers are savvier than ever, and they expect to receive top-of-the-line brand experiences.

On a more granular level, we recently launched automated SMS capabilities, which allow our clients to manage automated campaigns and send direct messages to their customer’s mobile devices. With a global reach, the launch has proven quite successful in a short amount of time. Thanks to advanced behavioral data collection, marketers can optimize their communication and reach audience segments with unprecedented personalization.

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.

A common mistake is when companies are too focused on the lead itself, and don’t think of the big picture. Often, marketers buy leads and don’t think about where the lead will fit into the broader customer journey. Marketers need to be thoughtful about the entire buying cycle. For example, rather than spending all your time on three paid search programs, consider only doing two of them and use that extra time to consider the prospect experience. It’s critical that marketers consider the bigger picture of their work, rather than being hyper-focused on leads or other granular aspects of their work.

Another digital marketing mistake is a premature handoff from marketing to sales. If marketers botch the handoff, it’ll show — with fragmented communication and sloppy client service — and that ultimately erodes trust in you and your brand. Marketing and sales teams need to be in perfect alignment to find the optimal time for a handoff, and they can leverage behavioral data to accomplish it. At Act-On Software, we use a scoring system to rank leads based on their digital behavior. Once we reach a certain volume or value threshold, we flip the engagement over to our sales team and let them engage the lead.

Finally, many companies don’t think about data holistically. If marketers are only capturing a user’s first and last name, they are missing a huge opportunity. Today’s app users expect brands to create relevant brand experiences for them, and the only way for brands to do that is by making sense of their behavior and preferences. How many times did a particular user visit your site? What times of day did they do so? Which pages did they visit? Which pages did they immediately navigate away from? If marketers can answer questions like these, they’ll be able to capture numerous actionable insights about their leads. This information can then be used to customize the leads experience and nurture their relationship with a brand.

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.

For a digital marketing campaign to be successful, it needs to have a full-funnel approach. Marketers need to anticipate and flesh out many aspects of the customer journey and ensure that each stage is consistent. For instance, your marketing team can’t communicate in an informal or wacky way, only to hand off the lead to your plain-spoken sales team.

Act-On recently hosted Growth ’21, a virtual global summit, and we created a full-funnel campaign for the event. We built an entire site just for funneling in prospect activities. We curated all the content for distinct audience segments, so each category of prospective attendees would find something relevant. Once the summit was over, we leveraged all of our content and continued outreach that way. This is just one example, but I think designing full-funnel campaigns is a great blueprint for success in digital marketing.

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?

Pay Per Click marketing has a limited shelf-life because consumers are savvier than ever these days. Everyone on the planet knows when a search result is an ad versus an organic hit. Google is clearly the best and biggest PPC platform. It has incredible volume, about 80 percent of the world’s search traffic, and with paid Search Engine Marketing, marketers can control bottom-of-funnel campaigns. There’s a high degree of flexibility with advertisers being able to fine-tune the buying terms.

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

First, you need research. What are the terms around which you’ll organize your campaign? A good search term addresses volume, relevance, and competitiveness. Research is imperative for marketers because it’s a waste of time and money to go after a search term if a top-tier competitor is already spending on it.

Second, you need a strong, relevant landing page. If users land on a page that isn’t relevant to them or their search, it’s off-putting and confusing. Marketers need to direct users to a landing page that immediately resonates and delights. At Act-On Software, for example, we enable our customers to quickly deploy landing pages at scale that can be tailored to specific audiences.

Finally, any good PPC campaign needs to be grounded in behavioral data and tracking. Marketers need to leverage current data and patterns to make informed decisions about future content production, and implementing behavioral tracking is a relatively easy way to accomplish that.

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 to have an opted-in email list (comprising customers who gave you permission to message them), if you want to run a successful email marketing campaign. Not only must you have permission to message them, but it’s also imperative to ensure that their behavioral data suggests that they will interact with the message you are sending. If you aren’t targeting the right audience, you may as well not be sending a message at all. It’s crucial for marketers to develop accurate, updated lists so they can issue communications with confidence and relevance.

Second, you need powerful deliverability. When are your emails being delivered? How are they being delivered? If you want to generate leads and conversions, your emails need to hit the right inboxes at the right time. Modern email marketing technology empowers businesses with the tools to send personalized messages to consumers at the optimal time when they are most likely to engage. Good deliverability metrics will be a direct result of strong behavioral data; companies who use data to personalize customer experiences are more likely to craft content that consumers will appreciate and interact with.

Finally, you can’t run successful campaigns without taking the time to learn along the way. Don’t be afraid of trial and error, or simple A/B testing. In order to know what resonates best with your audience, you’ll need to do some experimentation and tweak your operations along the way.

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 ZoomInfo internally at Act-On Software for our data operations. The platform integrates with our tech stack and gives us a high degree of detail on our audience segments and infrastructure. It’s a phenomenal tool.

Another great tool we use is Zapier, which introduces automation to our common processes, like flagging new contact forms or work requests. Not everything should be automated, but for a lot of more basic tasks it can be a game-changer.

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?

First, be analytical. Modern digital marketing is grounded in data; it’s practically a science. Marketers need to be able to collect data, analyze that data, and make good judgment calls about how to act on that data.

The second thing marketers need is a creative edge. Consumers are inundated with ads and marketing campaigns today, and effective marketers know they need to stand out from the crowd. If brands can successfully combine data analytics with best-in-class creativity, they’ll be unstoppable.

Third, there must be a passion for technology. Digital marketers can do so much with today’s technology, whether it’s SMS integration, behavioral data collection, or automation. To stay competitive in the market, you need to have an enthusiastic ear to the ground to keep abreast of new technological advances to drive sales.

Fourth, any good digital marketer needs to have solid messaging skills. If your communications aren’t resonating with users, your sales numbers are going to reflect that. You need to be able to deliver a message that hits at the heart of each audience segment. The messaging doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated (and it probably shouldn’t be), but you need to know how to build communications and anticipate how they’ll be interpreted.

Lastly, if a digital marketer plans on having a successful career, they’ll need to develop team leadership skills. Rarely is a digital marketer alone in the world, and the importance of successful team dynamics cannot be overstated. Work on active listening, delegation, collaboration, and stress management. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support and creativity of my team, and I am constantly working on honing my team leadership skills.

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

A key way to sharpen your marketing skills is to stay on top of the news. I like to read TechCrunch, AdAge, DigiDay, Authority Magazine, and CMSWire, among others. Read about what other people in the industry are doing and how it’s benefiting their companies.

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. 🙂

This one’s a no-brainer for me: the environment. As an ardent outdoorsman, I’d love to be able to create and shape awareness of what’s happening on our planet because there is major room for improvement right now. I’d like to bring more attention to environmental issues because they affect every single person on the planet. There are numerous organizations and activists who are tackling this issue every day, but something like water cleanliness should be top-of-mind for everyone because it ultimately affects us all.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can visit our website, follow our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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

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