The Power of Peer Groups
So David Cancel and I sat down to talk about one of the best ways to learn from others: peer groups (based on David’s experience with other CEO’s and founders, and my experience so far learning from other marketers; we just got back from SaaStr and I met with ~5 Director/VP Marketing while I was out there 100% for that reason, actually).
Here’s the full transcript:
Dave Gerhardt: On this episode of Seeking Wisdom, you have no idea what I’m going to talk about.
David C.: I have no idea.
Dave G.: On this episode of Seeking Wisdom, we’re going to talk about the power of peer groups.
David C.: Oh, okay.
The Power of Role Models and Peer Groups
Dave G.: This idea came from, about a month ago, you partook/partaken … I don’t know. You did this CEO forum. You said to me, you just got beat up for three days. Then you came back and you said, “Man, we need to do a Podcast episode on the power of peer groups.”
We talk a lot about role models. What was the revelation that you had while you were there? You already knew it obviously, but what reinforced this for you while you were there? Why is it so important?
David C.: This was a three day, CEO kind of peer group. These were all people who I didn’t know before. I actually knew one person, but I didn’t know the rest of the folks who were there. There were lots of interesting things in the way that they structure it, from not having access to cell phones and email, to having to go from 8 AM to 11 PM. Dinner’s afterwards.
Dave G.: It was nice. DC was nice and quiet for two days. It was glorious.
David C.: We should have a message count. We should keep a, you know, like Times Square has those tickers. We should have a ticker, a Seeking Wisdom ticker, that shows how many messages I send to DG.
Dave G.: No, last night I was thinking, “I need somebody to build me an app and it’s just called Inbox.” It takes my Instagram DMs, my Snapchat DMs, my Twitter DMs, my Slack messages from you, and just aggregates them all into one thread. That would be amazing.
David C.: I usually hit him up on like four at the same time, with different messages.
Anyways, so we were offline and it just reinforced to me this kind of idea that we’ve talked about in the past, which is the power of peer groups. We were all in one room just being open and transparent about all the problems, and worries, and opportunities, and questions that we had across our companies. Not only our companies, people were sharing about their personal lives, about things that they’re struggling with. It just reminded me of the power it gives you — that context that you don’t have. You always feel like you’re alone.
Dave G.: Yeah. Were you sitting there being thinking, “Man, everybody’s going through the same stuff?”
David C.: Yeah. Everyone is separating their own pain. It’s like when you’re growing up. As a kid you think that everyone’s family is normal but yours. Right? Like, your family is crazy and everyone else’s family is so normal.
Then every time I go over to their house, it’s so cool and normal. Then, the older you get the more you’re like man, everyone is crazy.
Peer Groups Help Set Benchmarks
Dave G.: I love this topic of peer groups because I think it packages up a bunch of things that we talk about a lot. Which is number one, the importance of role models. That it doesn’t always have to be a mentor, it doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Also, this thing that you love, which is the power of bench marking. I’m sure being around all these people was reinforcing for that reason too.
David C.: Oh yeah. On so many levels. For one, we were at different stages. A lot of them were at much older companies, maybe they had a higher revenue. They had been around longer and they had different models. Maybe some of them were younger, had lower revenue. They were all over the map. But you have context and a whole bunch of resources.
One is, obviously the numbers and financial performance. The other’s like, well what does your team look like? How many people do you have here? What problems have you had at this stage? All of those kind of people problems. Then you have investor questions and personal questions. All of these kind of things. You’re bench marking with peer groups on multiple dimensions at once.
How to Find Peers and Build a Peer Group
Dave G.: Alright. You’ve given me this advice, but I want you to give it like on this podcast. What advice would you give to me if I don’t have a peer group? I’m listening to Seeking Wisdom … Do I need to go apply to this? How do you create a peer group? What’s the actionable thing that people can actually do?
David C.: Yeah, so I say this to Dave all the time. I’m always on him to get more peers … One, to make sure you have a peer group that you’re always bench marking against and learning from. Two, make sure that as you’re trying to progress, that you keep upgrading your peer group. I’d say that’s probably a mistake that most people have, that most people do is stay with the same group over time. If you’re trying to progress, you need to be changing those over time.
Dave G.: I want to unpack that for a second because here’s a real example of that. The thing that you’ve been pushing me to do is, right now we have 25 people. Right? You said it’s great, go find people who are doing things at this stage. Also, you need to go find the people who are at 100 person, 200 person, 300 person companies. Learn from them now. You’re ahead of the game when you actually get there.
David C.: There’s nothing to apply so how do we do that? We say, here’s a list of people that I may know, or that you may know at these different companies, and different locations, what have you. Start talking to them. And it’s not going to be always as formal as what I did, which is a three day thing. It could just be that you make up an email list of these people, and you send them messages. You can go to their website. You talk to them on Drift.
You message them and just have conversations with them. Then you kind of collate that together. Keep learning from those people, and you keep iterating. Then as time goes on then consider how do you put together that next peer group? Which is like you were talking to people with 25 and 50 employees, now it’s time for 50 to 100. In six months you’re going to be talking to 100–150.
Dave G.: I can’t stress how easy it is.
David C.: Easy.
Dave G.: Make an excuse to do it. But one of the things that I was trying to do over the last couple months as we head into 2017, as we’re adding on a new path from a sales perspective. We’re going to have a free version of Drift like we do today. Continue up through business and enterprise plans. I’ve been just finding people who have similar … Literally looking at our pricing page, and going findingother businesses with a similar pricing model, and just hitting up their heads of marketing. Being like, “Hey, I’m going through the same things. Would you up for a chat?” I think it’s a 100% hit rate across the board because, what I didn’t realize is, it’s not the traditional, Hey, can I pick your brain over a coffee?” Where the two sides don’t have anything to offer each other. Most of these people are like, “Yes, I’ve been wanting to talk to somebody too.” This is going to be so helpful.
David C.: Everyone has their own insecurities. No matter what stage they’re at. They’re looking for peer information as well, and they’re looking to learn from each other and so, you keep doing that and keep progressing, and keep creating new peer groups. Now, we’re going to work on peer groups for Amy, who runs all our video staff here.
She’s in the background. She’s over there listening. That’s why I mentioned her.
Dave G.: Yeah, we got the Seeking Wisdom video going on now. We’ve got to show the people. Soon we might even be, you know, in a different studio. We’re going to see where this whole thing goes.
David C.: Blows up. We can only have a new studio if we get five star ratings, and more people subscribe.
Dave G.: Man.
David C.: How are we going to build a new studio without enough ratings?
Dave G.: We can’t. Somebody left in a review that, “If I could give you six stars, I would do it.”
David C.: Damn, I love that person.
Dave G.: Seeking Wisdom is making people who haven’t logged into iTunes in years, they’re logging in and they’re leaving reviews.
David C.: Yeah. We got to know someone who hadn’t logged into an Apple product in a decade. They logged in and left a review on their girlfriend’s phone. That’s a fan. What’s your excuse? Let’s go. Click on that iTunes link, leave a review, hit subscribe so that we can build a new studio and we can have new gear for Amy to blow up this video game.
Dave G.: I like how that sounds, yeah.
Amy: Subscribe, subscribe.
David C.: She said subscribe.
Dave G.: She said subscribe.
Dave G.: After you go to iTunes, do me a favor. We have a whole new channel. Show them, this would be meta.
David C.: Tell them what they need to do.
Dave G.: Amy, this is thousands of subscribers on the Seeking Wisdom podcast. Tell them what you want them to do. Tell them what you want. What do you want them to do?
Amy: You guys, I really want you to subscribe today. It would mean the world to me.
David C.: What are the benefits of subscribing on YouTube?
Amy: My affection.
David C.: That’s worth a lot. Get on it.
Dave G.: Seeking Wisdom, Amy’s in the house. We’re out.
Originally published at blog.drift.com.