Marketing Strategies From The Top: “Become a Believer! Drink the Kool-Aid”

With Steve Martin, CMO of DaySmart Software

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Become a Believer! Drink the Kool-Aid. Fully invest. Bring all of your personal energy to telling the story. If you don’t believe it, they won’t. But to be truly effective, you can’t fake it. People will subconsciously evaluate your veracity from your energy. Don’t memorize talking points, evangelize a belief or a perspective. No, you don’t have to jump up and down on the couch to make your point, but prove how important your product/service is by showing how important it is to you. Belief is contagious.

I had the pleasure to interview Steve Martin, CMO of DaySmart Software. Steve started in tech working nights in the data center of a large bank, then moved into a role supporting personal computers, which at the time were new. After ten years in traditional IT (building and supporting systems), he transitioned to technical sales support; helping salespeople explain complex products to technical audiences. Steve has spent the last 20+ years doing corporate and product branding for companies, large and small.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I remember being very young, maybe 5 or 6 years old and while watching TV, I became aware that the ads were not just telling me a story (we make good cereal!), but were actually trying to make me feel a certain way (your friends will like you more if you eat this cereal!). I began watching every commercial through this lens: what’s really going on here? The fact that this manipulation was so obvious (to me, anyway) led to a lifelong curiosity about how messaging moves people. I loved sociology as a college freshman because it was the study of psychology at scale — what makes people do what they do, and can you alter that trajectory by influencing their thinking or incentivizing a behavior? This is infinitely fascinating to me and led me directly to a career in marketing.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Can’t think of one story, but meeting people around the world has been, by far, the highlight of this long, strange trip. One of my very best friends lives in Amsterdam and I only know him because we met at an industry event at a nightclub in Nice, France twenty years ago. If you have the opportunity, traveling will always deliver your best memories. Getting co-workers out of their comfort zone, and onto the road, is a great way to really get to know them (for better or worse) and to form “bonds beyond the conference room”.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Several years ago, I was sourcing a featured speaker for an A.I. conference. I spoke with my first choice (a distinguished professor in the space) and she seemed very interested. She advised me to work out the scheduling with her assistant. The assistant and I went back and forth several times and things weren’t going smoothly. I felt the conversation was a little stilted and she made several rather blunt demands. She didn’t warm up to my hilarious repartee and I eventually found some who was easier to work with and booked a different spokesperson.

After publication, the professor reached out to ask me why I hadn’t followed up with her. I explained the way things had gone and she was aghast that her A.I. script hadn’t passed my usability standard. It seems the assistant had been a virtual one. I was chatting with an app, not a person. I took her terse responses as indifference or condescension. Of course, the footer of the email clearly stated that this was a beta version of what we would now call a chatbot. I never read the footer. I got turned off because the script didn’t get my jokes, and I missed out on my first choice for a partner for the most ironic of reasons.

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

It’s a really cool group of hardworking people and they’re pretty driven to find the best way to solve problems. DaySmart Software takes customer support to some pretty fanatical levels. That devotion to the customer is what makes DaySmart stand out. In some companies, large numbers of customers can start looking like numbers. We have tens of thousands of customers now, but that doesn’t stop us from doing whatever we can to make them successful. Just a few months ago, a longtime customer had a problem we couldn’t recreate, and therefore, couldn’t help solve. It was a real pain point for the customer and obviously frustrating for the support rep, so that rep took it upon himself to drive four hours to the customer’s shop on a Saturday morning to see it for himself. He didn’t ask anyone if it was OK, he just knew that it was the best way to show this customer they mattered. This obviously doesn’t scale globally, but it serves as a model for the way we endeavor to treat every customer.

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

I’m really excited about the level of interaction that is now possible between people and, for lack of a better term, chatbots. Scripted response that learns? That means meaningful chat; 24/7/365, and in any language. That’s not just the next level, that’s 1,000x the current human response model. I’ve watched sales and support reps struggle with engaging people in chat (normally, because they are expected to manage multiple simultaneous chats) for too many years, and frankly, it’s too important not to optimize. I have the good fortune of taking that on first thing in 2019, and while we have some other cool stuff going on next year, I am DYING to dive into building systems that will meaningfully interact with customers and prospects.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lessons that others can learn from that?

When I started my own company, I was forced to learn to sell (or give up eating). I think learning to sell was the inflection point, and it happened to coincide with the rise in sales and marketing alignment. It’s easy to forget that not all that long ago, there was a real division between sales and marketing. Now, an intimate understanding of sales is a must for any marketer. Driving sales, rather than feeding sales, was my tipping point. Before that point, marketing — at least the lead generation component of it — was a passive practice. You wrote sales scripts, you delivered content, you developed and tested value statements, then Sales did whatever they wanted to do. The advent of web pages as conversion opportunities put Marketing in the driver’s seat for more of the process, and marketing automation software made revenue attribution very granular (that sale came from that display ad), which has made Marketing both more accountable and more measurable. The line with sales continues to blur, and I think in the not too distant future combining these disciplines will be seen as best practice.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Put it in the wind! I’ve rarely missed an opportunity to work a trade show, visit a partner or go on a roadshow. Seeing what competitors are doing (by going to their stores or conferences) should light your competitive fire and enable you to catch emerging trends early. I know that for some people, travel isn’t available, possible or desirable.

In that case, I would recommend meditating every morning to attain focus, or developing a yoga practice to stretch your outlook and body — but you’re not gonna do that. Drink less, read more. Experience everything as the customer would. If you sell products online and ship products by mail, sit down and order something. See if the forms behave the way you expect. Experience a purchase with fresh eyes: could the packaging or instructions be improved? Call the Support line and ask a question (or measure the wait). In software, we call this ‘eating your own dog food.” Never lose that “outside-in” perspective. In fact, read Theodore Levitt’s article “Marketing Myopia” every year or so. It’s an important reminder not to fall in love with your own story. No one will ever care about it as much as you do.

How do you define “Marketing”? Can you explain what you mean?

When I was young and dumb, I would say that marketing is getting more people to buy more of your product, more often. While that may be technically correct, it embarrasses me now because it seems cynical and simplistic. It’s also not nearly as succinct as my one time (and legendary) Marketing Professor Nick Nugent always put it: marketing is the science of satisfying consumers’ needs profitably. I like his definition better because it incorporates the elements of science, customer satisfaction and profitability. Frequently, these definitions split into whether marketing is an art or a science, and while there are elements of both, modern marketing is obviously a science. Advertising may be art, but marketing is not advertising. Maybe it’s time to add to Dr. Nugent’s thought: marketing is the science of satisfying consumers’ needs profitably through prospect engagement, targeted content delivery and value creation. Actually, his is better.

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 about that?

There are a few folks who came along at points in my career where they saw something I didn’t, and pushed me in a direction I might not have taken. Mostly there were a few managers who believed in me. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true. People like Chuck Gallant trusted a 22-year-old kid with a $2 million dollar budget and said, “do what you need to do.” Ten years later, Tim Browne picked me for a small launch team at IBM and we spent nine months (and $100 million dollars) earning one billion global impressions for Lotus Notes. He later confessed he was “on the fence” about me, and took me on as a favor to someone else. Tim Dempsey showed me how to manage with both empathy and passion, a discipline which served me equally well outside of the job. I’d be remiss if I didn’t credit my wife with “working a real job” while I spent 12 years building and running a small agency, where we strove to do good work and made having fun doing it a priority. I met my current boss, Jeff Dickerson, more than 20 years ago, and today he is the sole reason I am doing what I’m doing. Each experience added to my professional depth, even if it didn’t directly lead to the “next thing.” I’ve also been insanely lucky along the way — that definitely helps, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Can you share a few examples of marketing tools or marketing technology that you think can dramatically empower small business owners?

Well, it’s hard to overstate the importance of productive and positive social media activity. That’s where conversations and reputation are now happening and doing a poor job on social media is probably costing them more than most SMBs realize. Stale Facebook pages or constant self-promotion send a very clear signal to a growing percentage of your prospect pool. Word of mouth has moved online. Getting into the conversation without dominating the conversation is the key for most verticals. Think of social media as a cocktail party where you don’t know anybody and strive to find a balance between being a wallflower and storming around the room talking about yourself (in ALL CAPS). Use social media to demonstrate that you are a reasonable professional running a growing business with integrity.

Like the salesperson struggling to make quota, but neck deep in Porsche payments, project an image of success at all times online. Don’t attack competitors, be quick to apologize for slights (no matter how small or incorrect), respond to every review and never complain, brag or intimidate. Other than that, you can say whatever you want!

What are your “5 Non Intuitive Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses”?

Enlist Advocates

Not just your friends and neighbors (although that works). Identify customers, partners and vendors who can get your word out. Why not pay referrals? You are going to have ‘customer acquisition costs’ no matter what you do, so determine an acceptable cost to win a new customer by considering the lifetime value of a customer (average service cost X average ‘lifetime visits’) and your margins (what you charge is not what you make). Stay top of mind with these influencers by checking in occasionally or give them coupon cards they can hand out (and so you can track who you owe). Do not be shy about asking for referrals; your business may depend on it.

Be Agile

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. A lot is made today of agile (sometimes called scrum) in large organizations. This practice started as an antidote to conventional software development, but it is perfectly applicable to marketing workloads, even among the smallest teams. You don’t need to take a course or hire an expensive consultant to get the basics: 1) develop user stories (why are we doing this right now?), 2) break tasks down into measurable, manageable components (what exactly needs to be done right now), and 3) let anyone who can do the work, do the work (break down silos to expand your throughput). Focus your team on velocity (go faster); continually do the most important thing next (choose effective over efficient) and maniacally remove impediments. It’s actually a lot more fun than it sounds and it will enable a small business to look bigger, move faster and do more.


Coffee is for closers! If you haven’t seen the film “Glengarry Glen Ross”, at least YouTube the Alec Baldwin sequence. Channel your inner salesperson! It’s possible to “push for the close” without being pushy. “Upselling” takes practice, and obviously isn’t right for every situation. If someone comes in to buy a used pickup truck, you can’t start pushing the new luxury sedan. But upgrades might be just the thing for some, especially if you’re willing to change your packaging to accommodate their needs. Don’t want five of these, just three? That’s OK, I‘ll break open the box and sell you only what you need.

You can’t be afraid to ask the equivalent of “what will it take for you to buy today?”

Cross-selling is another avenue to greater revenue. Just cut someone’s hair and they’re really pleased with it? Suggest they take home the same products you just used, so they can keep looking great! Find something extra to sell every customer and you may find it becomes easier with practice. Vary your verbiage and experiment with offers to perfect your mix.

Deep Thinking

Man, it’s easy to go to work and be busy all day and get nothing done. Especially now with instant messaging, emails, voicemails, text messaging and open concept offices. It is critical to find time to work solely on one thing — that’s how real progress gets made on sizeable (usually critical) things like launch plans, blog posts and budgets. Telling yourself you’ll catch up tonight or this weekend is a recipe for further delays or burnout. Block out an hour on your calendar, leave the phone on your desk and find a stairwell. Everyone thinks they can multitask, but most can’t and there are tasks that require your concentration, so maximize your opportunities to do some deep thinking (or you’ll be in deep sh*t).

Become a Believer!

Drink the Kool-Aid. Fully invest. Bring all of your personal energy to telling the story. If you don’t believe it, they won’t. But to be truly effective, you can’t fake it. People will subconsciously evaluate your veracity from your energy. Don’t memorize talking points, evangelize a belief or a perspective. No, you don’t have to jump up and down on the couch to make your point, but prove how important your product/service is by showing how important it is to you. Belief is contagious.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The so-called “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) is a socio-economic term that refers to the nearly 3 billion people who live on less than $2.50 per day. Bringing more prosperity to people trapped in these conditions will obviously improve their living conditions, but will also reduce global threats like disease and terrorism. Marrying micro-finance and the power of the blockchain could mean secure lending to enable people striving to escape poverty. Blockchain is the mechanism by which we could facilitate the organization and repayment of these micro-loans without involving global banking concerns. This disintermediation means faster approvals and more effective application of capital (no middlemen).

Simply put, so-called “first world” residents could securely loan BOP borrowers with as little as $50 which would enable them to purchase cattle, open a small store, purchase tools to enable them to enter into commercial activity. Some of this is being done by organizations like Kiva and Grameen Bank, but organizations like the World Bank need to get involved in order to scale this. The global economic impact of this population is estimated at more than $5 trillion in “purchasing power parity” but the humanitarian impact could be far larger and more long-lasting. Helping the least among us empowers all of us.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The biggest draw on stakeholder value is conflict avoidance. To me, this mean that avoiding difficult discussions causes delays which accumulate. Cutting someone a break because they’ve always been a profitable partner in the past, or letting deadlines slip because you know the other party is “going through some things” might seem like a kindness, but addressing shortcomings and delays immediately means corrective action comes sooner. This doesn’t mean being belligerent or confrontational, it means addressing small problems immediately before they snowball.

This dovetails directly into the concept of “opportunity cost.” Every day spent sailing in the wrong direction costs you more than that day, as it will take you another day to get back to the point of origin. Someone who started off in the right direction is two days ahead of you, and you will never catch up. That opportunity is gone forever. Start focusing on this exponential cost of making mistakes and doing the right thing sooner becomes your best defense.

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