The CMO Files: Steve Gershik, inRiver

The CMO Files: Steve Gershik, inRiver

Name: Steve Gershik

Organisation: inRiver

Job title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location:San Francisco, California

Steve Gershik leads the talented marketing team at inRiver. As a 20-year veteran of B2B marketing, Steve has worked with many growth-stage technology companies around the world. Prior to joining inRiver, Gershik ran his own marketing consulting firm, Koyne Marketing, was the co-founder and CMO of DemandCon, the demand generation conference, and led marketing teams for Eloqua, now part of Oracle, and Sirius Decisions. He actively mentors young marketers interested in demand generation and customer marketing.

Where were you born and raised? Born in New York City and moved to California when I was 10. New Yorkers consider me a Californian, and people from California definitely see the New Yorker in me.

What was your first job? When I was 14, I got a job cleaning tables and washing dishes at a local breakfast restaurant so I could buy myself a stereo and afford to get my own phone line in the house.  When I was 15, a friend got me a job at a real estate firm programming the first popular spreadsheet, VisiCalc. I definitely preferred working with technology.

What was the first product you got really excited about? A reel-to-reel tape recorder my grandfather gave me when I was 10.  I used to record a variety show on it with my friends as guests.  It was a most primitive form of Podcasting!

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? My dad taught me that your integrity and reputation are the most important things in business (and life).  My friend Ken Kramarz gave me my first grown up job, supervising counselors at a sleepaway camp near Yosemite National park, and taught me key lessons for business like, "people support the things they help create" and "be a channel, not a dam."  My boss Thor Johnson taught me how to tell better business stories by marrying data and insight.

What has been your greatest achievement? Raising two smart, funny, creative kids.  In business, the fact that many of the people I hired and mentored have gone on to senior and executive roles at companies and have been very successful.

What has been your biggest mistake? Turning down a job at Yahoo in 1998 because I just didn't get how they would make money.

What is your greatest strength? I tend to be an idea collector from all areas of life.  So a strength of mine tends to be in coming up with innovative ways to combine ideas others have had and build upon them.

What is your biggest weakness? I believe in the phrase "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy," which in a marketing context means that even the best, most well informed ideas need to be tested with customers before they can be proven successful.  I've always worked for companies that were small and nimble enough to move fast, make mistakes, learn and repeat.  I tend to lose my patience if initiatives go through endless rounds of approval and iteration.

What do you think is the aspect of your role most neglected by peers? The human aspect.  Data-driven marketing is a requirement for modern marketers these days, but if you can't sell your ideas to your people and mobilise them to act with belief, you will not be successful. This is something I still work on every day.

Which word or phrase is your mantra and which word or phrase makes you squirm? Be positive (also, this is my blood type). The current most squirmy phrase I see these days pops into my email box frequently:  "Person responsible," usually sent by novice business development reps.

What makes you stressed? When people I care about don't get along.

What do you do to relax? My favorite place in the world is Yosemite, so taking a walk in the woods is also a major stress reducer, particularly with my Golden Retriever, Charlie.

What is your favourite song? Hey Jude by the Beatles

Which book taught you most? Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Do you have a team or sport that you follow? I'm a San Francisco 49ers fan in American football.  In baseball, I love the Giants, but also have been a lifelong Yankees fan.

Which country would you like to work in? I love getting to work in Sweden and have also enjoyed working in the UK in my career.  I'd love the opportunity to work in Japan.

Which company do you think has the best marketing? I'm a big fan of bold, innovative marketing.  Salesforce changed my career trajectory as a marketer, so I'll always be a fan.  One of my former consulting clients, does a great job in marketing.   I really enjoy seeing how Drift repositioned web site chat technology into "conversational marketing" and has done a great job generating awareness and loyalty among marketers. 

What do you love most about your job? Working with other creative people to turn ideas into reality.

What is your favourite book? Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It's my favourite book because Thoreau's voice is so rich and his writing so sharp that he's able convey radical ideas in such a way as to compel you to slow down and savour them like a sumptuous meal. And he wrote great advice that's become my mantra in marketing:  "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!"

What keeps you awake at night? Nothing bad! Mainly chatting with my wife at the end of the day about our day's activities and learnings and dreaming of the future.



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