Matt Gehring is the CMO at Dutch—the first 24/7 virtual vet service that connects pet owners across the US directly with licensed veterinarians for timely care and solutions. At Dutch, Matt spearheads the entirety of the company’s marketing strategy and his efforts have contributed to the impressive expansion of Dutch’s customer base, which has grown over 300% year over year. A seasoned marketer with over 20 years of experience, Matt previously worked with a number of reputable ecommerce brands, including Everlane where he served as the GM of Ecommerce and Rothy’s as SVP of Growth, where he oversaw revenue increase by 4x in under three years. He also notably advised Hims on the brand’s launch efforts – helping lay the groundwork for marketing and retention – where he first met current business partner and CEO of Dutch, Joe Spector.
Founded in 2021 by Joe Spector, Dutch is the pet telehealth company working with 100% licensed vets to support pets and their owners from vet visits to Rx delivery. Built with the mission to revolutionize telemedicine for pets, Dutch now allows pet owners to seamlessly meet with a vet online, create a treatment plan, and get prescriptions delivered right to your door.
Q: Tell us a little about your approach to marketing.
The foundation of my approach is customer-centric. It always starts with the buyer, their needs, and what we as a brand can do to meet those needs. From there, it shifts into where that customer is and where our message is most relevant to them.
We then craft a channel and messaging strategy around that before moving into testing and optimization. The goal is to work through what resonates most and what needs to get segmented out based on the customer journey. Working at Dutch since close to its inception has been an exciting opportunity to execute this strategy from the very beginning, but it’s always a core pillar I to go back to, no matter the stage of the company.
Q: How has your marketing changed over the past few years?
Brand and overall image have become far more important. It is no longer simply, “I have the right or best product”. It’s more important that the customers identify with the brand and feel an alignment of core values. We’re seeing this now more than ever with GenZ, who prioritize connection and relatableness over product superiority.
Additionally, with the deprecation of cookies and other tracking capabilities, our ability to target and identify signal has been severely impacted. We’re looking more at full-funnel views and trying other tactics to better qualify customers and intent.
Q: We’ve heard a lot about the rising role of A.I. in marketing in the past year. How much or how little are you using A.I. or automation in your marketing efforts?
While it’s still in its early stages, at Dutch, we have started using AI in a number of areas across creative and marketing stacks.
What I try to do with any new technology is first, understand it. Then I ask myself, “Are there practical applications we can try to implement now?” Technology trends rise and fall so it’s important to jump on the bandwagon early, but not invest your entire strategy into something new.
AI is not going to replace people, but individuals who don’t know how to take advantage of AI capabilities with their work are at risk of being replaced. I’ve seen this time over time in my career. When the internet started, when programmatic ads came on, when banner display retargeting came to be — it was important to assess it and understand it to see if it works for you and your company.
Q: In 2023, marketers have more channels to utilize than ever, from shoppable social to CTV to the traditional. Which channels are you using? Where are you seeing the most success?
I’ve been lucky to support probably 20+ brands in my career and I’ve never used the exact same combination of channels, strategies or tactics. At every company I’ve worked with, I always ask myself, “Where is their customer looking for the solution we provide?” The answer will always depend on the product a company offers.
Unlike other DTC companies that are more easily shoppable, Dutch starts with a service-based platform. Our visit to purchase conversion is almost always very short, as pet owners go to search engines to find solutions for their pet’s health. For this reason, Google and Meta are really valuable to our marketing efforts, especially given some of the recent improvements to the ecosystems. These platforms can provide us with information beyond just “who has a pet.” They can tell us what these people’s pets need and who is searching for these solutions.
Q: What challenges do you anticipate facing in 2024? How do you plan on meeting those challenges?
Further loss of signal from marketing channels is a major challenge. With this decline in the availability of data from site visitors or where we target potential visitors, we have to find other ways to analyze and understand our customers.
At Dutch, we’re building a robust foundation in zero-party and first-party data to better grasp customer behavior and preferences. We’re investing in the development of more sophisticated attribution models to track the impact of our marketing efforts accurately. We are also going back to more traditional marketing tools, such as customer research and interviews, to gain deeper insights into our current and future audience.
You have to remain agile, be curious, and ready to adapt to whatever changes arise.
Q: What is something you’ve learned in your career that you would like to share with young SMB marketers entering the industry?
Talk to who you are trying to market to. By getting comfortable reaching out to them, having conversations, and building an ability to test hypotheses with them, it will go a long way no matter where in marketing you move.