The Dave Gerhardt Framework to Build a Media Business for the B2B Industry

Dave Gerhardt

The interplay between personal and company branding has more power than we think.

And this is not something new.

Think about Apple or Tesla.

These brands and so many others create movements and they have a person representing the movement whom others aspire to connect with.

The personal brand of these persons helps the companies thrive.

So if you want to build a company, an agency, or whatever it is you want to build, start with you.

Build your brand and the rest will follow.

Dont “try” to build a personal brand. Become an authority and good things will follow

Becoming an authority can significantly impact your career.

It shows others who you are, what you believe in, it shows you skills, expertise, and commitment which in return can help you land new job offers, promotions, and new opportunities.

Dave Gerhardt used to think that when you start creating content and publish your ideas the universe points you in the right direction.

The more you create, the more comments, emails, DMs, replies, opportunities will head your way.

And he was not wrong.

He started with a podcast few listened to building an entire business around his community of B2B enthusiasts called Exit Five.

Dave also believed that building personal brands can also have a huge impact on companies.

Imagine a company focusing on building personal brands for their employees and for their CEO, like Lavender or Apollo.

They build up trust in their business by showing the behind the scenes, showing the people who work there and making them creators and brand evangelists.

Why? Because people nowadays can go online and search for your business on Google without having to talk to anyone, but if they get to see the CEO sharing his mind on social media and getting to know him they are more likely to be interested in what you sell.

Who is Dave Gerhardt?

Dave Gerhardt is a founder, adviser, marketer, creator, but above all, a visionary.

In the beginning he may not have thought of the impact podcasting and sharing his mind on social media would have, but after a while he started to see the importance of building a personal brand.

He started his first podcast in March 2014, before podcasting was popular.

In 2014 most of us were not listening to podcasts and spent our time on Vine.

Even though few people listened to it, he kept on recording, and eventually 50 episodes later, that podcast helped him land a job at HubSpot as Marketing Manager.

Later he joined the Drift and in a few years he became their VP of Marketing.

From Drift he took on the CMO role at Privy, and after a couple of years he started to take advisor roles at different companies such as Metadata.io, AudiencePlus, Goldcast, and others.

In the meantime, he was building his personal brand which led to creating an entire community called DGMG, later renamed Exit Five.

Exit Five is also the name of Dave’s company which is designed to help you build a successful career in B2B marketing.

Also in November 2023, he became a Limited Partner at GTMfund which is an B2B Saas startups investment company.

But besides all his career growth, spends some of his time creating content on LinkedIn and X for his 161,000, respectively 38,000 followers.

How did Dave become an authority in the B2B industry while building his personal brand as a B2B creator?

  1. Not building his personal brand…while building it
  2. Working for Drift and other companies
  3. Building Exit Five
  4. Writing the Founder Brand book
  5. Doing the unmeasurable things

A. Not building his personal brand…while building it

If you think Dave had it all figured out you are wrong.

In 2016 he just started posting his thoughts, lessons, and observations about startup marketing on LinkedIn without having a clear direction in mind.

If you were to ask me what my plans and goals were for my career I would have never said this. I expected to be continuing to climb the CMO ladder somewhere or, if were going to work for myself, building out a marketing agency or doing consulting.

But the simple fact he spoke his mind opened a lot of doors for him.

He got to be invited to events related to marketing and he started participating in webinars, videos, and podcasts.

He said on one of his posts that it was LinkedIn that drove everything for him from webinar signups to event registrations.

Sure, this was back in 2016 when LinkedIn was not that crowded and not everyone wanted to make a name for themselves as it happens now.

But this doesn’t mean you cannot grow your personal brand, you just have to be more creative and dedicated.

But let’s get back to Dave.

Dave thought of diversifying his content, moving beyond LinkedIn text posts, and charging for his content.

In 2019, he decided to start a new podcast and share his marketing thoughts there. 

He noticed the success of content creators in different spaces generating income from paywall content through platforms like Patreon.

So he thought about creating exclusive content for subscribers and leveraging the paywall model to generate income.

That’s why Dave chose to charge $10/month for a subscription to his private podcast. 

In the meantime he also left his job at Drift, generating buzz and making his move a significant event for those who had been following his career. 

Behind the paywall, he shared exclusive content, including a podcast episode where he explained why he was leaving Drift and outlined his plans for the future.

This exclusive content became available only to those who subscribed to his Patreon, creating a sense of value and exclusivity for his audience.

He thought he’ll have 100 followers, but in less than six months he had 1000, making him $10.000 per month.

So what helped him build his brand?

Podcasting, sharing ideas, being a lecturer at Harvard Business School, stepping forward and leaving his full-time job to dedicate himself to his new community.

But most importantly, consistency as Dave said it in one of his Medium posts.

“Truly commit. We all fixate on making everything go viral. But that’s usually not how things work. It takes time to grow an audience. And it takes consistency. If you’re doing it for short-term gain, it’s not going to work.”

Dave encourages people to build their brand and talks about the challenges people face when they decide to build their own business or start their own brand.

He encourages his community to develop a mindset of resilience and not let the opinions of others hold them back.

B. Working for Drift and other companies

In Seeking Wisdom, Drift’s podcast, Dave is recounting how his side project, Tech in Boston, landed him his job at Drift.

Tech in Boston was a podcast where Dave conducted interviews with founders and CEOs.

Through his podcast, he connected with David Cancel, CEO at Drift, for an interview.

The following day, Dave reached out to Drift’s recruiter team saying he’s interested in a marketing position there.

During the interview, the conversation quickly shifted to business matters because Drift was in such an early stage that they were not actively seeking a marketer.

Eventually Dave got the job.

But the important thing is that through his side project and proactive outreach Dave created new opportunities for himself.

At Drift, they applied two main strategies to build their brand.

The first strategy focused on storytelling with an emotional connection.

Rather than solely emphasizing product features, Dave aimed to craft narratives that resonated with the audience on a deeper, emotional level. 

The goal was to make people care about Drift not just for its product but also for the compelling stories surrounding the brand. 

By prioritizing this emotional connection, Drift sought to create a more engaged and loyal customer base.

This strategic move was designed to ensure that, when the Drift’s product was ready for launch, there would already be an eager and invested audience ready to purchase.

And the second strategy was about finding a common enemy or thinking about a change in the world you try to speak and then lean into the product.

But after four years at Drift, Dave seeked new challenges and joined Privy.

At Privy he was a Chief Marketing Officer and had to rebuild the marketing team and work on re-positioning Privy as the leader in ecommerce marketing specifically tailored for small businesses within the Shopify ecosystem. 

Under Dave’s leadership, Privy achieved significant success, becoming the #1 reviewed app for sales in the Shopify App Store. 

The platform was widely adopted, being used by over 500,000 small ecommerce brands globally.

But after a couple years, Dave decided to dedicate his time to building his brand.
He also started offering consulting services for different companies where helps with marketing strategy, brand building, and he coaches marketing leaders.

C. Building Exit Five

In April 2020 Dave got a message from a member of his Patreon telling him he should create a Facebook Group.

People wanted to talk to each other beyond the podcast and they needed a community.

Dave was hesitant at first because engagement levels can go really low with Facebook Groups.

But Dave eventually added the DGMG Facebook Group as an existing membership benefit to his Patreon members.

Anyone that was a member could also get access to the community, but only paying members could get in.

He thought that paid membership forces some level of commitment and the community would see it as an investment and use it to communicate.

As the community started to grow and an entire brand was forming, Dave decided to change its name.

It went from DGMG to Exit Five.

DGMG stands for Dave Gerhardt Marketing Group and Dave thought that the community was more than him and had to find another name.

It was not only about his thoughts, it was about the wisdom of the thousands of B2B marketing professionals active in the community.

But why did he name it Exit Five?

In a LinkedIn post he said that when he used to be stuck on work, he would go to Vermont to his parents in law house in the woods, to find clarity and get inspiration.

To get to their house you had to get off at Exit Five. 

So he rebranded it after the exit from the highway as a symbol for B2B marketers to go to a place online where they could get unstuck and be inspired with new ideas.

The community grew up to become a brand in itself.

It became a media company.

The community is one piece and it’s one revenue channel (subscription revenue), but there are also the Exit Five podcast, Exit Five email list, and Exit Five job board.

Dave continues to receive all kinds of sponsorships and partnerships who want to do podcast advertising, sponsor the newsletter, do webinars, AMAs, and more.

Which means brands continue to shift from traditional channels to spend money with influencers and niche communities.

When I say this is “accidentally” a million dollar business today that’s because, again, just like I didn’t plan to build a personal brand it just happened — I didn’t plan to build a million dollar business out of this; it just happened. 

Since Dave knew the impact of talking about your ideas and your brand, he continues to build Exit Five in public and talk about it on X and LinkedIn.

He talks about their goals, about their content and community approach, and why they’re going to continue to collaborate with sponsors.

D. Writing The Founder Brand book

Dave published his book the Founder Brand in 2022.

It covers how to effectively communicate your brand story, the role of social media in connecting with customers, choosing appropriate platforms for your business, and implementing strategies to measure and assess the impact of your marketing efforts.

It also talks about storytelling as a powerful tool to establish a brand’s identity, credibility, and trust in the eyes of the audience.

It’s a book for founders, CEOs, and marketing teams seeking to define their company’s niche, plan for the future, and create brand awareness that goes beyond superficial marketing to establish a genuine connection with customers.

In a podcast, Dave actually talks about the motivation behind the book.

He wrote the book with the intention of providing valuable insights and strategies about marketing a brand around a founder and not just on the product. 

Dave considers his book important in the current business landscape – a world where people are inclined to buy from people and brands they know, like, and trust.

So brands should focus on building authentic connections and relationships with customers as a key element in successful marketing strategies.

E. Doing the unmeasurable things

In B2B businesses, our focus on data and measurable outcomes sometimes leads to a reluctance to explore innovative approaches that don’t fit into established metrics.

How do you measure the value of your in-house creators which connect with target buyers, who want tips, and build brand associations?

The hesitation to invest resources, be it money or personnel, without immediate, tangible results is understandable. 

But the process of building an audience, cultivating in-house creators, and establishing a brand presence requires a perspective that extends beyond immediate metrics.

Dave strongly believes in the power of doing unmeasurable things and he talks about how difficult it is to get permission from management to do them, unless these initiatives align with measurable goals and funnel-filling objectives.

It’s essential to recall that metrics for blogs, podcasts, webinars, and social media were initially unclear. 

As businesses started to invest in these mediums, they eventually devised ways to measure the return on investment.

In one of his Medium posts, Dave talks about the importance of doing unmeasurable things, and to make his audience understand better what he means, he redirects them to a video on Gary Vaynerchuk at a conference.

Despite being created nearly a decade ago, the essence of the video remains relevant to this day.

What lessons can B2B creators learn from Dave?

1. Your personal brand empowers you to achieve more

Dave consistently shared thoughts and ideas on platforms like LinkedIn and through podcasting, he created opportunities, gained recognition, and opened doors to new possibilities. 

So I cannot stress enough how important it is to create a personal brand to enhance visibility, create opportunities for yourself and grow in your career.

2. Consistency, consistency, consistency

When Dave first started podcasting he almost gave up.

After three months of podcasting he didn’t get a single email, reply, or retweet and had only a handful of downloads. 

He shut down his project but two months later someone wrote to him asking what happened.

He knew for sure one person was listening.

That’s what gave him motivation to continue podcasting.

So my advice to you is this. Go make 100 episodes, go write 100 blog posts, go send 100 emails, go make 100 videos. Truly commit. We all fixate on making everything go viral. But that’s usually not how things work. It takes time to grow an audience. And it takes consistency. If you’re doing it for short-term gain, it’s not going to work.

By embracing the power of consistency, you can build trust, strengthen your brand, create engagement, and cultivate a community that stands the test of time.

3. Understand the value of doing unmeasurable things

Take for example businesses like Lavender, Apollo which invest in their people, in building in-house creators, without having a well-defined way of measuring their success.

They measure by the number of webinar invites, speaker opportunities, and the number of DMs they receive.

While a refined measurement system may evolve over time, the current effectiveness of these initiatives becomes palpable seeing the growth of their employees and their company pages on LinkedIn.

So the willingness to invest in unmeasurable efforts can lead to long-term success and a more engaged audience.

Final Thoughts

There is a quote by Thomas Carlyle who said “Go as far as you can see; when you get there you’ll be able to see further”.

Dave said that he did not plan on building his personal brand, building an entire business, he just shared his mind.

He saw engagement on his podcast and on his social media which helped him go forward.

He then saw more opportunities coming his way, building his brand, and ultimately his business.

So just like in the saying, Dave saw the hill in front of him and then moved to the next, then the next, and the next; each hill making his path clearer.

This is actually the ultimate lesson I want to keep in mind from Dave Gerhardt.