Dan London has been a staple in the Triangle marketing scene since the 90’s. Formerly of ShareFile – Citrix, Dan is now the Director of Marketing at Ansible.
Dan recently had the time to give us a little bit of insight on how his childhood started his career in marketing and why he believes not everyone is a marketer.
What attracted you to marketing?
I think I’ve always been a marketer, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
When I was around 13 my dad brought home a Commodore 64 with an absurd amount of games and programs. What I didn’t know at the time is that nearly all of them were copies of legitimate games given to him by a guy he worked with. This was 1984 and I had never heard of Software Piracy. A kid up the street and I decided that we could make money by copying the games and selling them so we came up with a name for our company (DigiThon), wrote all the games we had on a sheet of paper, and started putting the price sheets in the mailboxes of houses in the neighborhood. I grew up in the backwoods of New Hampshire, so the number of houses I could walk to was pretty limited. Don’t worry, we never actually sold any games.
When I was waiter, I also started to think about marketing and how to optimize my profits. Since I was low on the totem pole I was only given 3 tables in my section during the peak dinner hours. While other wait staff was trying to get their tabs higher by offering appetizers to their tables, I figured out that I’d earn more by getting people in and out quickly. For some weird reason, I was one of the highest tipped of the waitstaff so flipping a table and being able to serve more tables in a shift was more effective than getting a table to add an appetizer to their order that would just reduce the number of tables I could serve in a shift. So while my fellow waiters were making 12% tips on a higher tab, I was making 20%+ on 2 slightly lower tabs, but for more total money, during the same amount of time. While at the time I was just thinking about rent, or beer money, I think it set me up to think about pricing optimization later on in my career.
I worked for a dotcom when I graduated from UNC, but it was right at the end of the dotcom implosion and I was soon out of work. I swung a hammer for a bit and then then did some agency work locally as a copywriter. I then got my teaching certificate and taught 6th grade for a year. The low pay and poor support from the administration led me to come back to marketing. I worked for an SEO firm writing copy, but ended up moving to managing paid search accounts. Even though I was just doing copy or managing a PPC account, I went beyond just driving traffic to a client’s site and would often look at the entire picture — landing page optimization, pricing, competitive data, etc. As a marketer, you need to look at the entire picture in order to be successful.
I also graduated with an English degree. What else was I going to do?
How would you characterize the Triangle as a place to work as a marketer?
Everybody knows everybody. It is really easy to connect with pretty much anyone in the area even though we have some major companies and important people. I’ve never had anyone turn down a coffee meeting. This openness makes it easy to bounce ideas off of different people and be able to apply what you learn to what you are doing. JT Moore of ASPE and I have met a few times to talk marketing and I always end up reinvigorated and excited. Same thing happened during my interview process at Ansible. I left the meetings not really even thinking about making a career move. I was more excited that I just had a great marketing conversation more than anything else. I do wish that somebody would make an app that displays a person’s Twitter picture above their head, though, since I’m horrible at matching up an avatar to a real person when I think I see them in public.
What favorite new tools are helping you do your job better?
I’ve used a ton of different tools and I don’t think there are any tools that are super awesome. At the end of the day, no tool will save you if you don’t know what you are doing. It is all about using the marketing tool that will meet your specific needs.
What is the biggest mistake you see marketers make?
Thinking they know what they are doing when they really don’t. Lots of people say they know SEO, PPC,and Content Marketing without really having optimized accounts, had websites rank for competitive terms, or put together optimized content marketing campaigns. Lots of people read an article or got to a meet-up then think they are experts on a topic. It is ok to not know something. You just need to learn, try for yourself, and then optimize over and over.
What are the biggest challenges facing marketers today?
There is quite a bit of noise out there coming from marketing “experts” that are half-baked or just wrong. You really need to be able to look past the garbage and make an informed decision for yourself. It seems like 95% of what these “experts” say is just common sense wrapped up in a pretty infographic.
How will marketing evolve over the next five to 10 years?
I think we’ll see an incredible amount of personalization as marketers get more access to data and tools that help them use it better. While personalization is very robust now, it will be so much better in 5 years. I want a personalized internet as I’d rather see ads that are relevant to me than ads that are not. I can see this same sort of approach happening on TV. No longer will everyone see the same ads during commercial breaks. We’ll all get TV commercials that are relevant based on our online and offline habits. While advertisers try to hit the correct demographics by advertising on certain networks, imagine being able to hit people who are in the buying stage for a new car with specific TV ads while they are browsing car sites online.