David Berkowitz Interview Transcript
B.L. Ochman: I'm here today interviewing David Berkowitz. My friend and also colleague, David's the founder of the Serial Marketer consultancy where he spends his time generating demand for growth mode b2b startups and agencies. He is the founder and also director of the 2000 member, serial marketers community of which I am a member.
His prior roles include marketing for video production marketplace, story hunter, leading strategy at social listening firm Sysomos, serving as CMO of Publicis agency MRI where there was some pretty wonderful campaigns, co founding the emerging media division of Dentsu agency 360 i. He's also the author of the wonderful book Berky's Marketing English which we'll talk about later.
He advises clients like Dedicated AI, Lucidity, The Shorty Awards, Entrepreneurs Roundtable accelerator, and the Numa accelerator. David has contributed more than 600 columns to outlets like Advertising Age, Media Post, VentureBeat, Adweek, and so many more. And he's spoken at - get this- more than 350 events globally. Hi, David, welcome. Thank you for taking the time today.
Here's what I'd like to know.
What was your first job in your life?
David Berkowitz: My first job was camp counselor for eight summers and babysitter. All that went hand in hand.
B.L. Ochman: So how did your first job contribute to your career success,
David Berkowitz: I learned so much from that, because being a counselor was the most tiring job I've had. The one version of that in the education space, that was like an extreme version, was when I was in college, my senior year. I spent a semester working with this unit for autistic children and severely autistic children. I couldn't do that for more than a semester.
I don't know how people dedicate their lives to this challenge, and just the amount of repetition and rigor you need to really make that kind of treatment stick. It's incredible how much of it was I remember getting trained as a counselor and trained when I was a CIT, and the director of the program, Jack Rosenberg, I can still picture those initial meetings and what he would do and camp director Julie Rockwood talk about quite a bit there in Westchester County, New York, is so much of it was talking to people on their level.
And I'm even saying people here intentionally because, you know, most of my constituents were five year olds. So there's a group I had to talk to. But even little things that make a big deal that when talking to someone who's half your height, is get down and talk to them at eye level, right, like crouch down and have that conversation because if you're towering over them, versus actually talking eye to eye, it makes a really big difference.
Another one of those things that Jack would talk about was don't feed them soggy chips. It's crazy how much of this I retained by the way. Later, I'm telling you, almost verbatim what was going on in those CIT meetings, all of this, then I'm sure I can still do better.
They figured out so much. So all this I do keep drawing from it. Especially when when the weather gets warm. And I'm like walking through Madison Square Park, I can smell summer again, especially days when I wouldn't have a face mask blocking me from smelling everything. And then it does come back to me.
How Long Did It Take To Build The Serial Marketer Community?
B.L. Ochman: I remember my first jobs too, and they were dog walking and babysitting. And you do learn things from them, especially about not arguing with your boss. But that's a whole nother topic.
How long did it take you to ramp up the serial marketers community to 2000 members, two and a half years?
David Berkowitz: It's funny talk to some people, where some people say that happened so quickly? And for me, it's been very slow because I see every member coming in. I see those days early on where people aren't really posting much where there's much gone where early on, would this still be a thing a day from now a week from now a month from now? I wasn't sure I could talk to you about meetings from 30 years ago.
I can tell you what was happening two years ago when I didn't know if this had that same power. Bringing some good people together. You were one of the first members so thank you and it was clearly resonating enough with some of the right people who I was thrilled to have there. But communities are tough and most don't last most don't last, as this one has, especially with an active member base. So I take nothing for granted.
B.L. Ochman: Well, you know, David, it seems like you are always available to members, I see you on Twitter, I see you on LinkedIn.
How Do You Stay Organized?
B.L. Ochman: But I know that if there's a question in the community, you're right there, how do you stay so organized? I know, you're homeschooling your daughter serving clients, how do you organize a typical day, or is there such thing as a typical day?
David Berkowitz: I appreciate the other side of it is I see all the areas where it goes wrong, I see where the channel name stays bold, because I haven't checked it in three days. And so being my own worst credit, here, I have a lot of systems of increasing complexity, because my whole realm of consultant and community and content, which is how I tend to sum up what I'm doing, and not including the family obligations, and anything else that's outside of that professional realm, it can feel fairly chaotic.
But there are some times where I'm just so thankful to have these opportunities. I'm so tired of all of that, when I was just talking to the father of someone else I used to work with, I'm just so excited to be able to go and bounce around ideas with people like this. One of my biggest challenges to what you're talking about is that prioritization, and making sure enough of my time is spent either on paid work or things that can lead to that, because I could spend every hour of the day, just talking to people I want to catch up with. And good things often come out of that. But that's not going to let me move anything forward either.
Tips & Tools For Staying Organized
B.L. Ochman: You know, you have so many things going on, and you're adding new things all the time. And I wonder if you have any tips for us about staying organized, if there are any tools that you use that help you to, to be as organized as you seem to be I understand the feeling of chaos, I often experience it. But you seem more than anybody I know, to be organized enough to do all these things.
David Berkowitz: There are tools and there are features in their areas where I know the stuff that isn't getting done. One of the features that I use all the time, is Boomerang emails back into my inbox. If you reach out to me and say, David, we should do a show together. And then I write back and say, okay, so when you phrase it say you're someone who wasn't prioritizing, you were clearly on top of this, there was someone I was dealing with who a friend of mine made an intro to two of her colleagues, because they wanted me to potentially help with an agency training program, I followed up right away, then they didn't respond right away.
I Boomerang that email back into my inbox for a week later. So I didn't need to look at well, then I respond to them a second time. They didn't get back to me, actually, today, I wrote them a third time. And then I was thinking, Okay, maybe I'll then write my first because this is also I don't always necessarily persist as much.
But this is a project I'd love to explore doing. I was actually thinking this morning, okay, I'm going to try them once more. If I don't hear back, then in a couple of days, I'll ask my friend if I should do anything else, or if she knows what happened there.
And sometimes the TV exactly I was just talking to you about we ended with one of those, like, let's keep in touch things. It's so easy for that to go nowhere. Yeah, I am going to send a note to myself saying reach out to him. Two months from now, maybe a month or maybe two like it's definitely not urgent. You know, the middle of April, he's going to get a note for me saying, hey, we've been up to those products been really interesting.
And it's just a little simple thing like that. But at least then I also know that it takes up zero space in my brain between now and April. Boomerang is a program. Well, there's the Send later piece of it. But then it's just like this little clock button in Gmail for any message thread, given how often I use it. It's funny, I'm blanking on the exact name of it, but because there is that send it later for delay delivery, which will sometimes use just that resurfaces those. So Boomerang used to be a side program like there was one you had to pay for. There are things like that. Now. It's just built into Gmail, and I use it many times a day.
Growing The Serial Marketer Community
B.L. Ochman: No, I have to go look. What are your plans for growing the community in the future?
David Berkowitz: There's so much I want to do with this community. I'm talking right now. This has been a blistering pace. But it's also been building it releasing things that I've been in the works for a while, like there was a community member, Peggy and Sol's who's just prolific content producer. I met her at de Mexico in Germany in September 2019. That community was just over a year old at that point.
And when I met her in the press room for an hour, I went back to my hotel Room at night. And I created a whole roadmap for the community, I created the first version of my media kit. All of this Peggy's just one of those, like, it's just number of ideas per minute, she has so much on on there. And she was so inspiring. And there was so much of that, that I finally put down on paper that said, Okay, I really want to build a member database, I really want to do some projects.
Along the way, I found someone through a freelancer site called free up kind of like Upwork and Fiverr. But so I found someone who was helping me on the tech front. And when I needed some bigger asks there, she said, Oh, connect with my friend, Alistair, who is then started working with me as my web developer, she's in the Philippines.
So she able to do things at a price point that I could stomach for, even for some of these side projects. Now, as of the start of the year, I have her on retainer. So she is just around the clock, building things for me. And so when I have these ideas, then it's just like, Okay, so what can you do with this. And so she built the private member database, one of the first things that she created, which has been helping all these others, is setting a way for you to log in either as a regular member or access some features just As a premium member. So make it easier to segment the audience that way.
David Berkowitz: I just launched a product recommendation site, marketerfaves.com, that I'm like very much in the early stages of getting out there. But that was based on a spreadsheet I've been creating. For years, I had one of these ideas for a long time of trying to turn this product recommendation site until a fall on site. And I said, Wait a second, just hit me. What if there was a way that only members could vote on these products? And so there was a way to essentially already vet the people who are participating in it.
How To Keep Adding Value
David Berkowitz: All of this is just like, how do I just keep releasing things? How do I keep adding value? And then seeing what are the things that are really going to stick? What don't make people excited about it. But then the day to day is just member driven? It's conversations, it's people who are saying like, I mean, I'm on calls with people all the time who say they know someone who's looking for a job or a gig or ideally, you know, they know someone who's trying to hire folks, they're trying to expand their knowledge somewhere. Almost all of the member growth right now is word of mouth by existing members.
What Does Your Team Look Like?
B.L. Ochman: So I was gonna ask you, whether you are all by yourself or whether you have any employees. So you have Alice, they're doing the web development stuff, otherwise, are you doing this all by yourself,
David Berkowitz: another key person is go see ametros C's in Poland. And she's just been terrific. She's my newsletter editor. And so she's been pulling together the Community News, I went from every other week to weekly because there was just too much going on. I tell you, I checked my slack analytics this morning. And there were 1100 messages sent in the community last week.
Now 75% of those were over direct message. That means that you and I have no idea what most of that is like. That also means that there were about 250 or 300 messages that were actually available to everyone. I know Hosea has been incredible with that. And she recently started helping me organize my other public newsletter that I put out, and there's some people who've helped me on a one off basis, just setting up some of the marketing automation.
So Alistair's friend jonica was a huge catalyst for me in automating some of these tasks. I've also discovered that a lot of the tasks for community management, they actually take very little time to do, they take a lot of mental energy. So if I know, I'm always going to have to spend just the five minutes a day doing X, Y, and Z, it's taking way more than those five minutes a day. And that's why it goes here with their editorial work. It's not a ton of hours that goes into what she does, but it's that dedication and focus. And and Yes, she does it faster and better than I could do it so
How Is Serial Marketer Funded?
B.L. Ochman: well. That's the thing. We're always trying to explain to our clients. Like, yeah, this may not take a long time, but it took 30 years to get here takes a huge amount of expertise. And the energy that you put out is formidable. So I wonder, have you had investors in the community or how are you seeking investors? Or is this all self funded?
David Berkowitz: It's self funded. This was still more of like a small business price point. Yeah, not an enterprise price for it here. And so something that I don't dismiss any expense for anyone right now, but at least something that's in that like 10 to $15 a month kind of bucket that is not one of these like high end purchases. And with that there was enough traction, that at least not everything I was doing had to come fully out of pocket, right.
I could take that and invest it back in the community and the hard costs I like even with the freelancers I'm working with and stuffs helping. It's still fairly modest and most people are surprised even even though it was talked to another community organizer, and like their investment, they need these sponsors spending five figures with them to be able to justify this. Like, yeah, I got there. Yeah. And I'm able to keep things in check.
So at some point, like, I've thought back of mine yet, should I try to pursue investment? Should I try to do that even as a way to justify spending more of my own hours on the community development side? But yeah, as of now, members are funding some of this as well. talkwalker recently, phenomenal sponsor. So even for relatively small campaigns like that, they add up and just help validate what I'm doing and keep this moving.
What Motivated You To Start Your Own Consultancy?
B.L. Ochman: You've had some pretty stellar roles in agencies, and I wondered what motivated you to start your own consultancy?
David Berkowitz: Well, a reorg. Approval was this that that didn't help so, so being forced into fending for yourself, I love people with one or five or 50 year plans, I am really not one of those people or not someone who's particularly good at it, I first came up with a name for my consulting work based on speaking at an event because I was on my way out of publicists.
I call the folks that I immediately and said, You wanted me there, but you want to be affiliated as the CMO of Mr. Y. When I get your event, I'm not going to be the CMO of Mr. Wai anymore. First of all, do you still want me there? They were very gracious and said yes, please come, then I will wait, what am I going to put on my name badge. So the end the company name, which also I can thank the great Aaron Strout for my whole business name. I still probably aren't royalties on this because of upstream aerosphere, the CMO of WTO group, okay, so Aaron had introduced me on the blog for HubSpot inbound conference in 2015. And they had this wonderful idea, I wish other organizers would steal, I need to steal this for some my own thing of having speakers introduce other speakers on the conference blog.
And it was terrific. And so Aaron did a I can't remember what the rest of what he said was, but the line he used as the title of that blog post was serial marketer not killer. That was the first time I'd ever identify with the serial marketer name. And so when I needed a name for that immediate conference, there were a couple other finalists, but serial marketer is it and the fact that it would be this twisted joke and even a reminder to me not to take myself so seriously,
What Services Do You Provide Clients?
B.L. Ochman: tell me the type of services that you provide to clients.
David Berkowitz: One of the things that I've worked on a lot over 2020 in habits, I've had some some terrific clients, but absolutely had an erratic year and had things that did not go quite as planned and working with them that weren't quite long term clients, nor should they have been. So I was trying to spend a lot of time How do I make some of what I do business wise repeatable, and that led to this demand generation program designed for b2b businesses, so is starting to pay more of a late as far as who I'm working with.
And they're typically either tech startups right around series A or agencies before they have much of a marketing Oregon place, or when they're looking to reevaluate what they're doing and make some changes there. And so it's this process of looking at and creating personas, looking at their positioning their targeting, looking at any of their public and even direct to prospect customer touch points.
So coming up with a detailed evaluation for everything they're doing, which all of the score and all of the output for what I'm doing is templatized. Now I can tell someone exactly every last thing that we're going to look for over the next couple of months. But of course, all of the recommendations all the analysis is 100% Custom, I wind up working with some terrific strategist. They're fantastic strategies, and Montenegro, Giovanna, who has been helping me in a huge way in building this out, and so found her through Upwork.
So that's more of the repeatable program that I want to do in this demand Gen plan. But I also do some work like there's an agency I've been helping with getting their own thought leadership in order. I've had a great relationship over the past year with Vesta, really a content personalization engine. There's some marketing consulting there but very heavily on the business development side and just introducing them to some of the right channel partners and brands and others that could be valuable targets. Those are some of the main areas.
Berkley's Marketing English
B.L. Ochman: Well, you certainly seem to know everybody. So introducing people is definitely a skill I know you bring to the table. So About brookies marketing English, I want to know what inspired you to write a book just a quote, a little snippet. This is one of my favorites, digital tracking beacons that are practically opioids for advertisers. That's the beginning of your definition of cookies.
You said it's a travesty that's such a glorious name is used for such a maligned technology. Cookies, when prepared correctly, are among the most delicious of humanity's inventions. It's illustrated with the most wonderful illustration, she's reminiscent of Edward gorey, in the illustrations,
B.L. Ochman: That's not fair.
David Berkowitz: So I was writing what I know very well, when when I get to plug Nestle in a book like this. So it just started, okay, like, I had 10 or 15 of these that I collected, and then that became a newsletter. And then I've just got to keep going. And I love the idea of trying to illustrate this somehow. And Isabella brought such ideas and vision. So Isabella, she's college is very, very young, for somebody who's illustrated like this, but she has such an old soul to her.
So I was writing this and there was a little bit of this dodgy this that came out of it. And there was just a natural voice that evolved for what became like writing. You know, writing in encyclopedia is very soon to start. But Isabella got it right away. And her illustrations were so good. And a bit of this like Gothic and steampunk, five, and so wonderful into it, that it made me so excited to just keep writing more.
And this was her first time laying sod as a as a book. And so it became this just really fun collaboration. And within a few months, were able to release this as an E book. I mean, I, I do have physical copies, because I put it through Barnes and Noble, though, I've got a few hardcover books as well. And you can even buy it there. But it was seriously one of those things where it was just the idea was too much fun for me not to pursue. And I have no clue where the time came from to write it. I don't know exactly how it happened. But I had to make it happen.
What Do You Read Every Day?
B.L. Ochman: Tell us, what do you make a point of reading every single day? I always ask this of people because it's always a different answer.
David Berkowitz: There are a few things that I have to scan, like the New York Times headlines, and military that there's only so much that I need, you know, all the things that I've stopped reading over time, like like most of the ad and marketing trades, where I feel like the best of it gets surfaced in social media, you know, I need to go, and I need to scan Twitter on a daily basis.
There are a handful of newsletters, I really like Protocol is good for some context and tech world. There are a lot of individuals who write usually on a weekly basis, who I just find so helpful in providing added context out there. But it's more about the people and their individual perspectives. And the name a couple. The markup is really good. Casey Newton is work on the role of social networks and in society. And he's so smart. There's some favorites that you know very well, and handily every other week.
B.L. Ochman: Wonderful newsletter, brilliant.
David Berkowitz: I always read Heidi Cohen's work every week. And so actionable marketing guide and so so some of these people who I'm very fortunate to call friends in the industry, it's great actually getting to learn from them, but then I can hear their voice coming through so clearly. And by the way, Heidi is the one who through one of our newsletters, not through all of the very personal advice that she's given me over the years, but one of Heidi's newsletters convinced me to take my newsletter, and it was Heidi, who was talking about the how many Sunday newsletters She must have included and in this roundup that she enjoyed reading, and because Heidi was saying, you need to train people to expect something and I'd actually called my newsletter the serially sporadic Because I had no clue and I get to publish it.
So Heidi convinced me go weekly. And because she said is that all these newsletters are coming out on Sunday? Then I picked the opposite. And what's the opposite of a day that week? I don't know. But I went with Wednesday, and I'll publish that way ever since. Also, I love the option of keeping weekends open. I work way too much on weekends. But I love the idea that if I don't want to do something on a Saturday or Sunday, I don't have to. And so at least a Wednesday newsletter means that, okay, Tuesday night is probably going to be by really long.
What Has Been The Biggest Change In Marketing?
B.L. Ochman: I think Heidi's been doing that newsletter every week for 20 years. I mean, she she's so she's the most consistent person on the planet. In that regard as a great person to learn from, what is the most striking change in marketing that you've seen in your career? Are you able to define something about that?
David Berkowitz: I remember there was one day, when I was at 360, I and we had a management off site, and we're down in Atlanta. And normally, I'm not as vocal in rooms like this, especially in a board meeting type scenario. I'm not typically the squeakiest wheel. And I think because these management offsets, were coming right after South by Southwest for a number of years, that I would fly directly from Austin to Atlanta for them. I was so spent that people would just see this other side.
This is what Berkey sounds like when he has no sleep and no filter might not have even had a chance to shower shave. And then I'm like diving right into these meetings. And it was 2009, maybe 2010. And I got up there and said, what are we really doing about mobile? I clearly wasn't the first to say this in a meeting like this. The iPhone had already been out in 2007, I proposed a mobile marketing program. So I was tied to the management team did you see and we'd already by then started to really get a handle on social threesixty I become one of the biggest social marketing agencies at the time and tremendous track record there.
Dunking In The Dark
B.L. Ochman: But actually that Super Bowl thing.
David Berkowitz: Oh, well, the Super Bowl helped bolster the reputation it's tell everybody what that was. So that one Oreo tweet in the lights went out at this point. I should even know offhand which year this was 2003 but I'm not sure, 2013 something like that. Okay, so the lights went out. It was a big moment.
So all of Twitter's going crazy what's happening Super Bowl. And so Oreo came out with this perfect visual and his quick tweet is that you can still dunk in the dark. Not only was it just like the perfect essay at the speed, they did a warm tweet, but also one summer 360 I secret sauce was the PR engine behind everything they did so that they made sure that BuzzFeed was all over.
They made sure which is almost at least at the time was almost unheard of that a client from Oreo would actually comment about this on the record on the fly if you know how long it usually takes to get a client
B.L. Ochman: oh my god at that point it was impossible. Anything ever
David Berkowitz: then 360 I was able to be part of the story but it was especially because the client went on the record so that there could be a story to begin with it wasn't just covered a tweet like the making of story was happening right away anyway it just amazing moment there that I got to work bit on Oreo I take zero credit for. For that I was actually at an AI media conference that I that Super Bowl, I remember very clearly. But I I'd say head to room there. But back at that madam.
Mentioning, what are we going to do about mobile like I said, at some point, internet usage is going to be mobile first, like the majority of it will be coming through mobile devices. And it's going to start with things like news, sports and weather. And then it's going to go to everything else. And I said, I don't know if that's going to be three years from now it's going to be five years from now it's going to take longer, but that switch is gonna flip if we want to not only just have a thriving practice that is mobile ready mobile first.
But if we just want to stay relevant, you know, say was 2010 if we still want to be here in 2013, like we need to get our act together on this and so that kind of change and something like that. That wasn't well for social we could create a social marketing practice and have a gifted team of community managers and social strategists and influencer marketers and, and researchers who were all part of that. Incredible but for mobile, it had to be part of every single person's job. That was you can't just outsource this to the mobile person. That that was a pretty big shift.
What Did You Study In College?
B.L. Ochman: I wonder what did you study In college,
David Berkowitz: psych psychology undergrad.
B.L. Ochman: So if somebody's thinking about a career in marketing now, which is so much more complicated to enter into these days, because there are so many marketers, if someone is thinking about that a young person thinking about entering the marketing, what would you recommend to them to study and then kind of how to position themselves to actually get a job?
David Berkowitz: Well, depending on the day, I might first say run like hell, I had a wonderful conversation recently with Thomas koester, who runs good advertising. And so he called in from Denmark to one of the serial marketers, video chat talks that we've had, because he's, cuz he's talking about how marketers are increasingly able to beer companies to be a force for good and not just greenwashing or lip service, but to actually direct these ships to go at more of a positive impact on the world.
That was a recent conversation that I feel more upbeat about it. What I do tell a very active with the Binghamton University marketing collective and, and just joined a virtual career fair that they they had in January, what I talked to students about is to take advantage of all of the learning opportunities, maybe it's your show, maybe it's Heidi's newsletter, if you're into Twitter, follow folks on Twitter, if LinkedIn is more your thing, don't send a million friend requests. But follow people there who you find interesting how the agency CEOs follow CMOS just follow people who are in the weeds whose careers excite you interact with them, if you have something to say like their stuff, if motivated to do that.
The look for communities look for other people connect with were a part of that. And also, there's that kind of access that younger folks have that people just didn't have. I didn't have this when I was coming out of school, this wasn't available, then there are enough of us out there who are accessible. Someone comes and asks you a question. And if someone says, I was reading your blog, I was watching your show, though, how'd you get into that? And what do you recommend? Like, you're probably going to actually give them something really useful to go with it. Say that again?
B.L. Ochman: We were so
David Berkowitz: but then also try to learn by doing something like you know how how little cost there is, in buying a domain and setting up a website in creating a Twitter or Instagram or Tiktok account. This stuff doesn't have to be so public. You know, it doesn't have to be about work. If I talked to this, some student who was a guitar fanatic, and had a wonderful Instagram account about guitars, well, now I can have a very detailed conversation with him about Instagram mechanics, I can ask him questions about how do you prioritize putting up posts versus stories?
Have you ever done it live like, I can learn from some 19 year old kid because they're promoting some like neighbors guitar business. So now all of this, it just enables them to engage in a much deeper level, even if they don't have the work experience that one thinks is going to put them over the top. So just make the most of what you have
What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?
B.L. Ochman: One more, two more questions. What are you doing when you're not networking?
I love reading as much as I can, which is slowed down somewhat during the pandemic, but but making some time for that is always great. And I miss being able to travel, I miss being able to get on a plane anywhere. So I hope to have more of that later in the year, whenever it's safe to do so.
When Was The Last Time You Were Surprised?
David Berkowitz: Having a daughter who just turned seven. I am surprised just about every hour of the day. And there was actually something one of the Superbowl ads last night and I'm gonna butcher the line because it just kind of came up on the fly because there was a line of one of these like more high and mighty ads. And it was saying something like, sometimes life changes you.
And then my daughter is narrated along with the TV, and sometimes you change the life that she picked up that inversion that was coming. And there was a bit of formula and I said to her I said wait, you haven't seen this commercial before. TV at all. And she's just smiling at me and said, you just knew that was coming, didn't you? So that is one of those things. Were having a little person around a lot. I know her pretty well to people who knows her best. That's for sure. She surprises me every hour of the day.
How To Get In Touch With David Berkowitz
B.L. Ochman: I will tell people how to get in touch with you in the blog post that goes with the interview. You're active on every channel.
David Berkowitz: Don't Tick Tock me, please.
B.L. Ochman: I'm getting there. Everybody should have a look at cereal marketers slack because it's a really wonderful community. I thank you so much, David for the time that you took today. I really appreciate that.
David Berkowitz: Thank you so much. Appreciate having me.