Marketing Leader Interview with Sam Decker

I had the opportunity to work for Sam at Bazaarvoice, where he was the founding CMO, and I learned a LOT from him. Today, Sam Decker,  is the founder and CEO of Mass Relevance, a company that recently merged with SpredFast to create one of the most advanced social engagement platforms.

Sam helped become the largest eCommerce site in the world. Sam is probably the most creative marketer I know and one of the smartest. He has a great sense of humor, and most importantly, he is a great person. You will surely learn a thing or two from his answers to the interview:


1. What company is an example of good marketing today? Who do you admire?

I look to consumer brands that create great products, develop the lifestyle ‘persona’ around them, and advertise well from an authentic place. The brands that stand out to me are Apple, Deep Eddy Vodka and Stance Socks.


2. Did you have a mentor or a person you learnt the most from? What was a key lesson?

My dad [Bert Decker]. The best quote he reinforced was “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.


3. What story of a successful marketing strategy could you share?

It’s a product marketing story. [at Bazaarvoice] We had reviews, but a couple clients wanted a ‘ratingless’ review. This gave me an idea for a whole new product, So, we removed the rating from the review and launched a new product we called “Stories”, which was a new form of user generated content. With 5 days of development and some positioning, this product (leveraging existing infrastructure) became 30% of our sales.

GD: That’s a great story of listening to customers and adapting your product to better serve them. I love that because many people still confuse marketing with advertising.


4.  What is your marketing superpower, the most important skill that makes you a great marketer?

Being middle brained. Understanding the analytical and the creative, and being able to bridge between them in strategy and execution.

GD: It’s interesting you mention this. I have heard the term ‘both brained’ from successful marketers more and more often. And you also spot on: strategy, tactics and execution must be tightly connected.


5. What good aspect of basic marketing have marketers neglected in recent years?

B2B marketers should put more focus on product marketing and making sure what they create resonates with the market AND is used by sales. I’d guess that over 50% of product marketing efforts get wasted (I just don’t know which half :-)

GD: I like this answer too, especially as a career product marketer, right? Your point is valid beyond product marketing: with thee current focus on content marketing it is easy to lose track of what content is being useful and what content is making an impact on revenue. To create effective content (including sales enablement) as you point out, must be content that resonates with the market.


6.  What skills will marketers will need in the future? How do you stay sharp?

They need to learn how to be more creative story tellers. Content marketing is nothing without compelling content. Most marketers don’t have editorial, copywriting or storytelling experience.


7. What was the turning point in your career?

I think working at Dell and growing the consumer ecommere business to $3.5B. Not only did I learn so much during this time, but because the previous 3 startups I worked at were not noticed, this accomplishment of building the largest online business in the world was also a confidence-building accomplishment.


8. How do you increase marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

Relationships between peers, increasing their relevance to the P&L and tying activities to key corporate objectives and goals.

GD: Few words, but very powerful and spot-on.
9. What blog would you recommend?! Haven’t been updating it, but most of my thoughts on leadership and marketing are there from 2003.


10. What experience in your past has best prepared you to be a marketing leader?

Writing two books, getting analytical at Dell, doing graphic design in college, testing merchandising on, and growing teams.

GD: I still have my old copy of 301 marketing ideas from 1997 when I read it to help me in my own business. I still remember taking notes and putting a few of those into practice!

301 DIY Marketing Ideas

You can follow Sam on Twitter, follow his blog on Decker Marketing and if you are a marketer check out his company Mass Relevance/Spredfast . If you run a small business, you should get a copy of his book 301 DIY Marketing Ideas .

One last thing – check Sam’s performance on this funny video Real Marketing Genius – one of my favorites