"I want to put marketing in the center of the universe."
Family: Wife, Tiffanie. Daughters, Audrey (18) and Emily (20)
Position: Founder and CEO of DemandGen
Home: Danville, Calif.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Cal State-Northridge. Studied business, management, marketing and computer science.
Career: Sales representative at Microsoft after college before beginning his marketing career at Netopia. Later was senior vice president of marketing at mortgage software company Ellie Mae. Launched his consulting firm DemandGen in 2007.
Honors: Author of “Manufacturing Demand: The Principles of Successful Lead Management.”
Favorite movie: "Starman"
Influential book: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” by Al Ries and Jack Trout. “Get a Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business” by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton.
Interests: Travel, videography. “I carry my GoPro with me and video everything,” Lewis said. “My kids are desensitized to it. I film our adventures and make short movies to music. Hopefully they will look back 20 years from now and be thankful about how we documented their lives.”
Fun Fact: He builds remote-controlled airplanes, helicopters and drones. Lewis estimates he has crashed more than 40 aircraft, but added that figuring out what went wrong is just part of the hobby. “I can even wear goggles and see what the plane is actually seeing because it has cameras,” he said. “So I can watch as it goes over trees and around obstacles. It’s video-gaming meets the outdoors."
SAN RAMON, Calif. – David Lewis was like a kid in a candy store. Well, he was 12 years old. But it actually was a computer store. And the salesmen were still moving equipment into the building near his Southern California home when he walked in one day after school.
Intrigued, he asked a man wearing a suit if you could play games on them. You can even use them to make games, Lewis was told.
Then he handed me a programming book of BASIC and something went off in my head,” recalled Lewis, 50. “All of the sudden, the algebraic equations I was learning in school began to make sense to me. And the rest is history.”
That day launched a life-long fascination with technology for Lewis. After a successful corporate career, he founded the consulting firm DemandGen in 2007 to help companies leverage the growing power of marketing tech tools in their businesses.
David just understands modern marketing,” said social selling expert Jill Rowley. “He really is a visionary. But he won’t tell you that because he’s not big on self-promotion. Instead he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t want to hear himself speak. He would much rather listen so he can understand you.
In fact, any conversation with Lewis centers on how DemandGen clients have grown their businesses and won industry awards thanks to their adoption of technology.
I want to make marketers matter,” he said. “I want to put marketing in the center of the universe. People don’t remember the projects you do for them. They remember how you make them feel. And our goal is to make them heroes for what they’re doing.
Lewis started on the path of what he’s doing that day at the store. He was a typical middle-class kid – the son of a government worker father and schoolteacher mother – who liked sports and being outdoors. But it was love at first sight when he got an up-close look at personal computers.
Buying his own computer, though, would be no small expense for a middle-schooler. But by working odd jobs and with a little help from family members – thank you, dad and grandma! – he was able to raise the money for an Apple IIe.
“One of my greatest memories as a kid was picking up the computer and the software with my dad, going home and assembling the thing,” he said. “I can remember that day like it happened yesterday.”
He used it to develop his own games and co-founded one of the first Apple Macintosh user groups in the Los Angeles area. Later at Cal State-Northridge, Lewis was well on his way toward becoming a professional game developer when he came to a stark realization.
“I just ran out of brain power when it came to the math skills required to create these complex worlds,” Lewis said. “I saw kids at the computer lab who were way smarter than me. That’s why I decided to switch into marketing and focus on business.”
A favorite professor told him that to become a great marketer, he first needed to understand why people buy. So his initial job out of college was in sales with Microsoft just as the company was taking off.
“The chance to be on the ground floor at Microsoft when the Windows products came out at age 21 or 22 was because I had been learning computers since I was a kid,” he said.
He moved on to a series of marketing positions with other companies that culminated with a starring role at Ellie Mae, where he used the fledgling tool of marketing automation to help transform the company into the dominant mortgage software provider.
It was about that time when Lewis found that he had become an embodiment of the expression that it’s not who you know, but rather who knows you. Other executives were approaching him for advice because their companies were using marketing automation only to “batch and blast” emails. And as he became known as a problem-solver, and an idea began to form.
"After I heard enough times that people didn’t know how to use the tools, the entrepreneur in me thought it was time for a new agency that helped businesses embrace the science and technology of marketing,” Lewis said. “That was how DemandGen was born.”
Over the last eight-and-a-half years – and without taking any investment money – the company has blossomed to 75 employees and worked with about 400 businesses. Among the awards displayed at DemandGen’s San Ramon headquarters are six growth awards that include twice landing on the prestigious Inc. 500 list of fast-growing privately held firms.
That level of success is something that still seems to surprise Lewis and his wife Tiffanie, who joined DemandGen in 2010 as the director of marketing.
“We always thought this was a good idea, but we didn’t know that it would be the size that it is now,” Tiffanie Lewis said. “But technology has evolved and become so much a part of everyone’s everyday life. Marketers are still learning what these technologies can do, and we can help them.”
Beyond the pride of having built something from scratch, Lewis added, is a sense of satisfaction that DemandGen has created opportunities both for their team members and clients.
“It’s so rewarding to have such a positive impact on people’s lives,” he said.
And along the way, Lewis has developed a knack for telling the story of marketing technology in sound bites that resonate with listeners.
- Marketers, he believes, should follow a “no lead left behind” model.
- Sales and marketing alignment is important because “you never want that Republican-Democrat culture” at a company.
- He recommends LeanData to clients who are struggling with marketing campaign attribution and core data pains “because it provides the painkillers.”
He also coined the phrase “Manufacturing Demand” in his 2013 book of the same title. His belief is that savvy marketers need to embrace the automation ethos that drove the Industrial Age to build a demand factory for their modern businesses.
Meanwhile, Lewis’ interest in technology permeates every aspect of his life. Tiffanie Lewis, who met her husband in college when she hired him as a DJ for a sorority philanthropy event, said he is fascinated with “the latest and greatest technologies” of all kinds.
“If you were to come to our house, you would see that everything is controlled by the iPhone, which drives me a little bit crazy,” she said, laughing. “It controls our heating, sprinkling system, hot tub, outside lights. He recently installed a doorbell with a camera and a voice component to it. So when somebody rings the doorbell, it will notify his phone. David can see who’s there and respond.”
And then there is his hobby. Lewis has designed and built his own fleet of remote-controlled planes using the most cutting-edge technology available. He even creates videos explaining how they are constructed and flown.
But most of all, he remains focused on advances in marketing tech.
“It’s interesting to look in the rear-view mirror of your life and see the connecting points,” Lewis said. “They may not be obvious at the time. But I’ve learned that adopting technology early in my life made all the difference.”
About the Author
Mark Emmons is the staff writer at LeanData. He previously was a reporter at the San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow on Twitter