Chris Walker is the Founder and CEO at Refine Labs. Today we talk about why Chris believes B2B marketing is stuck. And what some of the prescriptions are for getting it unstuck. We dive it into how B2B marketing has changed over the past 12 months. And what that means for sales teams. Plus, Chris shares some of the new strategies he’s recommending that enable marketers and sellers to more effectively connect with buyers. And that more tightly align the buyer’s journey with the selling process.
Andy Paul: Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris Walker: Really happy to be here, Andy. Thanks for having me.
Andy Paul: It’s a pleasure to finally speak with you. Tell us a little bit about Refine Labs and what you guys do.
Chris Walker: Yeah I created Refine Labs about two years ago, actually on April 1st, it’ll be two years exactly. And the reason that I created it is because I couldn’t find a company that would let me do marketing the way that I wanted to, that I knew worked better. To be honest. And so I created this company to be a consultant and quickly we found out through the success of a couple of our customers and through our unique perspective that this was a lot more than a one person consulting shop. And so we’ve been able to grow really quickly in our model, I think because of the quality of our people and the difference in how we think, and also, to be frank, like we’re better than most marketing agencies at marketing ourselves, which is interesting. And so yeah, now we currently have 25 full-time employees and we work with about 25 sales led B2B SaaS companies.
Andy Paul: All right. So what do you do differently?
Chris Walker: So the easiest way to think about this is when a typical company will hire a marketing agency, and for those listening, that’s in quotes, they hire a company to do a specific task that they want to tell them what to do. It’s what they do. Hey, I want you to write six pieces. I want you to deliver me a hundred leads from LinkedIn. I want you to do this and most of our customers hire us so that we tell them what they should be doing. Which is the core difference. The second piece is that we’re not tied to any specific channel. And so we get invested in our customers outcomes in terms of pipeline and revenue. Yes, we’re in their Salesforce instance, no other company like mine will ever do that. And we get tied to their pipeline and revenue outcomes. And then we figure out what are the best ways to drive that forward. And if it’s a company that’s only focused on SEO, is only going to be able to do SEO. And that’s not the way that we look at things. And and though I think the last piece is the quality of our people. You rarely see directors of demand generation work that have worked inside of a series C or D B2B SaaS company work at a company like mine. It’s normally a lot of people that have never worked in house. And I think those are some of the ways that we’ve tried to break the model.
Andy Paul: But I think in more about your perspective on marketing though. What, how are you looking at it differently than people normally do?
Chris Walker: Yeah. Let’s let’s get into this. I believe that a lot of people look at revenue in general, like it’s still 2010 as in sales owns most of the customer journey, in 2010. That’s what happened. I believe that now marketing owns a majority of the customer journey. I think a lot of people would agree with that statement. However, they still do marketing. Like sales owns most of the journey. And so marketing is responsible for generating a high volume of low intent leads so that sales can do outbound sales. what marketing agency does. That’s what a lot of in-house teams do. That’s pretty much what it is and what you end up with was terribly low win rates, too many salespeople because they are dealing with a ton of low efficiency leads. So we try and break that perspective by first helping companies acknowledge that what they’re doing right now, isn’t working by looking at their data, measuring customer acquisition costs and cost per SQL and different things like that. Allowing executives to buy into the fact that it’s not working. And when they buy into the fact that it’s not working, it becomes a lot easier to change that model. And then we show them a different way to do it, which is forget about the lead target. Focus on driving high intent leads that become customers at a high rate that your sales team actually wants to talk to and build a model where you can continue to build on that through layers of channels, executions, and tactics.
Andy Paul: And so how are you differentiating between low intent leads and high intent leads?
Chris Walker: a high intent lead to me is the lead that comes to your website or otherwise find you and says, Hey, I would love to talk to your sales rep about buying your product. Declared intent to buy is the way that I see it. And there’s other ways where you can quote unquote fake it, like the level of intent between a LinkedIn ad that says get a demo versus somebody that comes to your website organically on a desktop computer after talking to a bunch of their colleagues and asked for a demo that fits your ICP, the level of intensive, those two are different. So we focus specifically on last touch attribution, organic or direct traffic. Through that funnel into a demo conversion, which leads to the highest conversion rates. So we don’t do a ton of conversion inside of awareness channels, like paid social because there’s not a, there’s not a huge declared level of buying intent there. And low intent leads are I think a majority of what companies do right now. Third-party content syndication, LinkedIn ebook downloads, or get a demo ads on LinkedIn or Facebook type of stuff. Paid search to ebook downloads to SDR cadence. Like all of that junk are people that, where you’re taking contact information that you could easily just as easily get on zoom info or just as easily get on a million different data providers and do the exact same outbound action without wasting all your marketing team’s time and money.
Andy Paul: not having any better results. So what is the role in your mind and maybe give an example, some of your customers of how they integrate their proactive, outbound, their cold outreach into this type of marketing program.
Chris Walker: Yeah, so to be clear, a lot of our customers operate in large total addressable markets at what I would call mid-market velocity ACV ranges, somewhere between 30 and a 100K. And at 30 to 100 K in my view that ACV does not justify a true like ABM model, like true orchestrated model. I don’t believe that it justifies that. And so our companies, the companies do have these massive enterprise deals that they’ll close two times a year for seven figures, right? They do have those, but there’s not like a huge ABM strategy around that, which is what we like because in those ACV ranges, the customer acquisition costs on just pure outbound is going to be bad. The customer acquisition costs on performance marketing to outbound is going to be really bad. And so doing marketing a different way. Where you have acceptable customer acquisition costs that can scale at that ACV range, I find to be uniquely differentiated for how we do things. And so to be direct, there is very little orchestration, right? Like we can go and take data about who are in cadences outside of Salesforce and then do targeting, or we can take stuff, ingest stuff from 6sense and then do targeting like that. But the level of orchestration is nowhere near the technical marketing that a lot of people do. I don’t consider myself a marketing technologist. I spend very little time inside of the technology. And once I have found a tactic that already works and I’m using technology to accelerate it, I think the problem with a lot of marketing teams right now is that they want the tech to drive their strategy versus finding the strategy that works. Then applying tech to it afterwards.
Andy Paul: shocking. And all right I was just wondering, so you’re giving an example that customer now closed a couple of big deals a year. Is it a couple, just because they’re transitioning as many companies do have, we’re going to start small and learn how to sell to larger accounts or just their products just don’t fit in the larger opportunities.
Chris Walker: Perhaps because there’s not that many and perhaps they have a larger competitor, like we have 25 customers so it’s hard to pick out a diff example without calling out a specific company that we work with. But when you’re selling it, those ACV ranges, I just think it’s very common that most of your deals are going to fall into that sort of range. And then you’re going to have the one-off if you’re on a per seat or a per type of thing basis where you have a couple of massive ones Are they trying to move up market? Yes. Is every company that’s listening to this podcast trying to move up market? Yes, but you don’t just get there straight away. If you’re an $80 million ARR SAS company, you’re competing with a billion dollar company that holds that part of the market, you’re going to need to work your way up. And so I think a lot of the companies that jive with our strategy are trying to collect a lot of revenue along the way. And the companies that don’t drive to drive with our strategy are the ones that forget all of the mid-market deals and then just build their 50 account ABM list and do outbound sales to those. And unfortunately, those sales cycles take way longer than they expect, and they’re much more challenging to close and they expect, and they missed their revenue targets. So I think that you need, I think that a lot of companies are missing a key opportunity in the mid-market by being so obsessed with enterprise sales.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I’m divided because I’ve sometimes I think if your goal is you want to sell big companies is go sell big companies yeah. Upfront and it takes a little bit of time, but you also. Get through that learning curve a little bit earlier. And that’s how I’ve grown. Some companies is, yeah, we won, we had a product that was only for really big companies. We didn’t have that luxury,
Chris Walker: It can definitely work. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of companies that have done it. It’s just not for me. Cause I, I truly believe that there’s a lot more. Sales that goes into that then marketing.
Andy Paul: Yes. Yeah. And we’ll get to that. Cause that’s an interesting topic. So one of the things I did want to explore is this idea about how marketing has changed. Really in the last year and how some of that impacts sales and you had some interesting ideas. You’ve written about one that, that I really liked is your post about trade shows. And I think this is a perfect exemplification of sort of old school marketing versus thinking outside the box a little bit in creating much broader impact. So share with us again, if you remember that post, it wasn’t that long ago, I guess this is what your thought is about hay and stuffs as the world opens up again. Instead of going back to that massive trade show, try something different.
Chris Walker: Yeah, so let’s just look back, right? Cause I’ve been doing B2B marketing since 2012. And so since 2012, I’ve been going to trade shows as an employee. I’ve been building the booth. I’ve been standing in the booth. I’ve been listening to the conversations. I’ve been tracking the results afterwards. I’ve been understanding how, when the sales team calls a lead that we collected for them, what they give me as feedback. I’ve been doing that for almost 10 years now. And so in 2015, 16, I finally. Went to one of the events where we put on a $60,000 sponsorship and we built a $50,000 20 by 20 booth. And we had 30 people there including executives, and we spent all this money and I tracked what the outcomes were and we created zero net new opportunities. And if you’re building a booth, you must measure it on net new you. The cost of the total event was probably a quarter million dollars. And so if you’re measuring a trade show booth, you must measure it on net new because it, if you’re going after expansion or current customers or things like that, you can do all that stuff without a booth.
You do not need a booth to go and meet with your current customer and upsell them another product or expand with them. And so when you measure it on net new, the assumption is that in 2008, and I really want to look back this far for people. In 2008, when the internet wasn’t mature, a lot of people would wait to go to this conference to discover new products, because there weren’t a lot of other ways to discover them.
And so it was an opportunity for people to stumble upon your booth and find the new innovation and learn about it and collect a lead and buy stuff. And that world does not exist anymore. And so that’s my backstory on trade shows. I measured it in 2016, the company was doing 11 of those types of events.
The next year I got them to cut it down to three. I took all that money from the eight events that we didn’t go to anymore. I invested that into digital. I figured that out and drove millions of dollars of pipeline and revenue for that company. And so I just figured that. Based on the amount of money that’s being allocated there.
If you thought deeply about what else could I do with this money to drive the same outcome, you would think about a lot of potentially creative ideas that are a lot more effective. And when I look at a lot of executives will say, Oh, we don’t believe in Facebook ads, or we don’t want to run LinkedIn ads unless we get weeds.
And I’m like, let’s talk about the stuff we’re doing right now. Like I just measured all the stuff we’re doing right now. None of it’s working. Why are we scrutinizing new things? When all this stuff, we should be scrutinizing what we’re doing right now. And so I’ve really helped a lot of companies look at their data and do that analysis and figure out what are all the things that we’re wasting money on, that we could just stop doing and take all of that money and effort and go and do something else. Now on the trade show side, I really want to win. I think people got their sort of there like their knees cut out from under them or something when this happened at the beginning, because a lot of companies hadn’t gone through that process that I went through in 2016 and spent three years after that, figuring out better things to do.
And so when you’re getting, when you’re spending 50% or more of your variable marketing budget on events, and that’s what you’re living off of for your qualified pipeline, whether or not it’s net new or whatever, however you want to get to your number and do your attribution. But a lot of people got stuck there and they didn’t know where to go and move that money. That was actually going to be productive. And so that was a challenge for a lot of people. A lot of people are now trying to figure out digital when they should have figured that my theory on the whole COVID situation is that it’s accelerating things that companies should have done anyway. Like they should have had this stuff figured out five years ago.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Scott Galloway talks about covenant change, future just accelerate the future.
Chris Walker: And so to get a little bit deeper on the trade show one, cause I do want to cover this topic. I thought it was really interesting because I’ve, I don’t talk about things in theory, I’ve actually done this. So instead of doing the trade show booths, I suggested that if you’re going to spend $2 million of of your trade show budget, which is a reasonable trade show budget for 50 plus million ARR company, and you took all of that $2 million in all that effort and time, and instead you built 50. What I would consider micro events with the core objective of creating content that your customers and buyers want while also putting on a really good event for people and you did that with influential people in your market. And you did that around in different cities.
Andy Paul: yeah. You’re saying do it geographically and in each location, bring in a guest
Chris Walker: new programming, and every event, film and audio capture in high production.
And then you take all of your not trying. The thing that people need to get their minds wrapped around is that you’re not trying to sell to the people at the event. You’re using it to create the content that you put on the internet, which creates a ton more awareness about people that will consider it.
And it drives way more business doing it that way. And I did those things. I did that in January and February, and we had ones planned for March and April that we had to cancel for obvious reasons and the amount of brand lift and the amount of a way that we were able to move up market through those two executions of the video content that was put out.
And the video content that was shared by those influential people was massive. And imagine if you were able to do that with your company, that has a way larger budget than my company and way more resources. And so I think people should really consider like a different approach, but at first requires you to acknowledge that what you’re doing right now is not that effective.
And it also requires you to think that the things that you’re going to transition to do, you might need to measure them differently. There you might need different talent that you have in your company right now. It’s go in much, might be much more difficult to actually pull off. But a lot of those things because of those constraints are a lot more effective because people, a lot of people aren’t going to do them because they’re challenging.
Andy Paul: The reach is so much broader. Yeah. So you’re giving this example. You said a hundred micro events. Let’s just take 50, as you mentioned here is yeah. If you’re doing, let’s say 50 events around the country, you’ve got a special guest expert in each one of those. So as you said, you’ve got 50 long form videos about the events you can share on your various distribution platforms. 50 podcast episodes with an expert, which, and then you can create micro videos and slice up the videos for. Yeah, create a thousand videos out of that, that you share on your, again, on your various platforms, consider that to the impact you get out of it, especially as you said, a zero net new leads out of a trade show, basically.
Chris Walker: Get leads. Opportunities is a different story, depending on how you define a lead.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Opportunities qualified opportunities.
Chris Walker: And I think people are missing on the influential side. Like I think people don’t understand the actual impact. Of having that person at your event, which attracts people. And if that person shares the content afterwards, the amount of reach and trust that they’ve already built with their audience, that then brings new people to you and immediately gives you more credibility because you’re associated with them. And so people are not, I think people in B2B are really missing on that perspective, I think because of how watered down and like trashy it’s gotten in B to C on Instagram, but there are really thoughtful ways to execute this in B2B that are going to drive massive results. We’ve been doing it.
Andy Paul: I think some of it is too is it seems like in a lot of B2B there serve a allergy to brand building
Chris Walker: there’s an allergy to not doing things that are difficult to measure.
Andy Paul: Which branding typically falls into that category
Chris Walker: absolutely what we’re doing right now is really hard to measure. I can’t tell you how much revenue our podcasts, that we’ve done. 120 episodes so far in the past 12 months. I can’t tell you how much revenue exactly. It’s driven. And a lot of people are scared by that. I’m not scared at all.
Andy Paul: no, I think that’s one of the, one of the basis as you sit in marketing meetings since yeah. I think the reason people continue to use these strategies, you talk about that aren’t effective is because they can measure them, even though they measure poor results.
Chris Walker: Yeah. They can measure them at a leading metric level. Never look anything beyond that because of how bad it is. And I truly believe that there’s that it’s going to be really difficult for executives that have grown up in, in the world through the like Google like early social timeframe to change their mindset around this. You your mind’s already been changed and you believe in this stuff, or you’re never going to believe in it until you retire the way that I see it. And that’s it’s really sad because there is a massive opportunity. And if you’re going to run a company for 20 more years, the way that you’re doing it right now, you’re going to really struggle.
Andy Paul: Okay, but you talk about this on one of your posts, you talking about, the fact is, okay, there’s an approach that can use to get an executive team aligned around this new marketing vision. So what is that? How do you, when you go into a company, clearly it’s going to be one of your tasks,
Chris Walker: Yeah,
Andy Paul: sure that not everybody’s bought into it, even though they brought you in to help
Chris Walker: absolutely. Yeah, if you look at a majority of the market, doesn’t believe in most of the things that I say, despite the attraction I have on LinkedIn and different things like that. And that’s fine. Cause my number one, the thing that we do is we attract people that already believe in what we’re doing. I spend zero time convincing people that are not, that don’t want to be convinced. And so we attract those people, at least a champion at the executive level that wants to do it. And sometimes it’s sales, to be honest, this is not just a CMO coming in. Like we have CROs and that, global head of sales coming in and saying, Hey, I really want you to work with us. Because they cause they feel it
Andy Paul: Yeah. They sit in the marketing means they see, yeah. All this money we’re spending, isn’t working.
Chris Walker: And again the process is quite simple. Step one, we’ll get all the data and just present the data to executives about this is what’s happening. Your customer acquisition cost on what you’re doing on LinkedIn ads is 49 months. The CAC payback is 49 months. You’re wasting all this time with SDR. So you have 12 SDRs following up on these leads. This is what else could those 12 people with be doing? What else could we be doing with this $800,000 a year? And so just by presenting the data and we do that on a project basis, because the goal is that they see it and then they buy into it. And then we actually go and do our work. And if they see in we’re a hundred percent conversion rate on this, like all the data is the same. Like I’ve done this at 11 companies in the past 12 months, at 50 million ARR plus companies, the data is exactly the same at every company, because they’re all doing the same stuff and we have a hundred percent conversion rate to a customer because it’s really bad. And then once they get bought in, then we actually go and execute our plan.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I mean was interesting. One thing that you had written about as people address this and start getting into this, as they started getting leads that convert at much higher rates. Walk us through that because you’re talking about a fairly significant difference. Let’s get, instead of 0.1% as is typical, a lot of SaaS companies, you’re talking about 10% or higher conventions on the customer. And this is from initial point of contact. So what are you doing? Different?
Chris Walker: So the difference is not necessarily about the marketing. It’s acknowledging that your lead sources have dramatically different conversion rates based on how someone gets to you, which is a surrogate for buying intent. And so we just, what we call split the funnel between low intent and high intent. And like I said, high intent, only people that asked you to talk to your sales team. And if you have a clean funnel, you will win those at seven to 12%. If you’re an established company with core market traction in your ICP, and you get people to do that, and you have a clean funnel, you win those at seven to 12%. And then, but companies spend all their time because of the serious decisions, demand waterfall that was created decades ago. They spend all their time generating low intent leads to do tele prospecting. And so they generate low intent leads and high volume on, like I said, contents syndication, LinkedIn ads, ebook downloads through Google and then do outbound sales that way. And if you split off that funnel, you’re going to have those when at 0.1% or less, and you’re going to spend, you’re spending all of your marketing money to drive those people. And so what we do is we just stop doing that and we spend all of the money trying to get more people educated and bought in and understanding the problems that they can solve and understand the differentiation of the company so that they come in bound through the conversion point that converts at seven to 12%. And yes, it requires more. It requires more time. It requires a different level of marketing execution than building an ebook once a quarter and running ads to it. It requires different processes. It requires different level of customer understanding. It requires a different level of agility. And so that’s the difference. But we, the first step is to acknowledge that the volume is not, it’s not the only part of the equation, the conversion rates matter just as much. And so what we end up with is we end up with. Honestly, usually 90, if you go year over year with a company that’s been with us for 12 months, a year over year comparison, they get 90% less leads. They get 50% or more, 150% from previous year qualified pipeline. And that revenue starts tipping over on a 90 to 120 day sales cycle. And so that’s the difference here is, and then when you don’t have all of those leads, when you reduce that by 90%, all those leads that you don’t have, you don’t have all your SDRs wasting all that time and they can go and then do outbound to your target accounts that are going to be the million dollar ACV deals. Instead of following up with people that don’t want to buy for a 20 K deal.
Andy Paul: Yeah. You can just hear CMOs shaking when they think about this. And CROs, even too, because there’s a whole, it’s like a religious war out there, as is in the sales world, it’s like you’re describing something that’s predominantly inbound lead flow of high intent leads in terms of what’s in your pipeline. And there’s less religious war like I said and people think, the only good lead is one. I develop myself throughout my day.
Chris Walker: Sales should be developing their own leads to for outbound. I don’t consider an ebook download to outbound. And yeah, sales should be sourcing 30 to 50% of pipe, depending on if you have a partner channel or not like that’s what should be happening. And I agree with that.
Andy Paul: I think that’s a great ratio myself. I have my point where there’s people think it should be the inverse, right? The 70% outbound and 30% marketing. And yeah, to me, that seems crazy in this day and age.
Chris Walker: I would agree. I would agree. I think that at scale, you’re looking, if you exclude partner, if you do a partner, I think partners should be contributing 20% or more. It’s not even, maybe not be worth the effort. But I think that you should be at minimum 50- 50 marketing, but I think marketing should be over 50% at companies once they figure this out. And for, like I said, for a 90 plus day sales cycle, it’s going to take you 12 months to get there. It’s more than 12 months, potentially, depending on where you’re starting from. And so I think a lot of companies, I like working with more mature companies, organizationally mature in marketing sophistication and marketing because they have scraped their knees a bunch of times and they understand that it’s actually hard to get this stuff to work.
Andy Paul: About this in the perspective though, and this is a great point. You brought up, you’re working with more mature companies, but companies that are yeah Series and Series B company, a lot of pressure to scale revenue quickly. And you’re talking about a level of patients that’s quite frankly hard for many of the executives to exhibit because they’re feeling the pressure from the board.
Chris Walker: And to be honest, they put themselves in that position by how they raise money, right? Let’s just call it what it is. And so you raise an a, and then you got three, four extra revenue to get, to be within an 18 to 24 month timeframe or something like that, whatever it comes down to, you put yourself in that position. And yes, I those types of companies are usually do not sign up for, because their goals are more built for a sales team than a marketing engine. And if you, when you put pressure on a marketing team to deliver things in a specific time window, you do the wrong things to get there. If I needed to grow my company to the size that we are right now in three months, we wouldn’t be here. We’d be behind. We would be behind. Because we’d be doing all the wrong things. And so the first thing is setting, like we’ll never work with a company that’s not philosophically aligned with our model and has goals that are realistic and we’ve vet those before they work with us. And I know because we’ve done it with 25 companies, what’s realistic and what’s not based on what’s happening in their funnel right now.
Andy Paul: To your point, I think for companies in that situation is, they’re also doing the wrong thing sales wise too, because it’s not sustainable either, unless they’re all dealing in, infinite TAMs which nobody has.
Chris Walker: totally. Yeah. And I’ve interacted with enough of these companies. The traditional playbook would be to re you know, get a couple of customers, raise a Series A and build a 10 person sales team, and then do outbound sales. And a lot of, and then your CAC is going to be three years plus. And a lot of those companies don’t care at that point. But for me, like when I know that you can get customers at a way lower CAC and it might take you a minute longer to do that. I just like being in place where we’re aligned. It just, yeah,
Andy Paul: Yeah. It’s an interesting challenge because what you’re talking about is from a marketing perspective is the approach that A and B companies should adopt, but.
Chris Walker: Just to put it a different way is just to, I don’t think that people have a good respect on where to draw the line between what sales does and what marketing does. I think in a lot of B2B companies, because of how sales driven historically they are, they actually have their marketing team do a lot of things that are more like sales or business development. Not actual marketing in my view because that’s where you get into like companies only running lead gen or performance marketing and that stuff like that, sourcing contact information and do sales. That’s not marketing. And so that’s like the way that I look at it.
Andy Paul: No, I think you’re right. No, you’re absolutely right. It’s an interesting conundrum. I talk about, companies serving that early stages. They’re really, they’re not building a company, they’re running a promotion. And a result, you adopt certain behaviors in order to sustain the promotion instead of building a sustainable company.
Chris Walker: and the challenge is that behavior catches up with you? Like a lot of companies enter to us at 30 million ARR because they realized that it’s not going to get them any farther. Because they’re not going to be able to raise one. When the revenue targets starting, your growth rate stays the same. Your revenue targets get bigger as you go. And the efficiency stays the same or gets worse and you need way more headcount to scale it. And you look at it and you’re like, we’re never going to get to the next round if we don’t, if we keep doing this. And there’s some companies that have a great product and it fits well and there’ll be able to carry through it, or they’ll be able to raise enough money and there’ll be celebrated like the unicorns. But for the most part, a lot of companies will not get through that part of the growth phase.
Andy Paul: well, 80, 90% of them. If you talk to a VC about the distribution of companies in their portfolio, the portfolio 10, 15% maybe 20 on the outside our winners for moderate successes and fours are what they consider failures. But even those bottom four oftentimes could build a sustainable company, but they’ve burned through all this capital exhibiting bad sales and behaviors. And to your point, they get to a certain point and it’s Oh shit, what do we do now? And they don’t have the luxury of the runway to change.
Chris Walker: I think this begs the question about I think there’s some very smart founders that are thinking differently about funding. I see some FinTech products coming out that think differently about funding and depending about where you are as a founder and where you want to go, there might be an alternative vehicle that’s better for you than VC money. It’s just the truth.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. And I think there are some alternatives coming up. Absolutely. One of the topic I want to talk about too is, and it’s related to this cause it’s, I see these pressures and hear companies talk about it is you talk about creating content for your audience, not the funnel. And so tell us what you mean by that.
Chris Walker: What I see and I interact with, I would say hundreds of marketing teams on a monthly basis. What I see is companies take a marketers that have never talked to their customer or a prospect that doesn’t use their product to take a buyer persona filled with assumptions that are not usually not true, stereotypes that are not true, and then try and fit together sEO content that fits into some buyer stage journey that they have little understanding about what it is. And that’s what they do. And then they’re like, Oh, like we’ll build this like seven step retargeting flow where somebody gets this awareness content about our thought leadership. And then they get this case study and then they get this thing and they like, nobody buys like that. And then they think about in three days that someone’s going to go through that funnel and buy their a hundred KCB SAS tool. And it’s just not how it works. And so the way that I think about it is have a very unique, differentiated offering that’s positioned well in the market, have a narrative. And just have that and then create content that helps your audience no matter what they talk about. I talk about sales. I talk about funding. I talk about entrepreneurship. I talk about career. I talk about a lot of things that have nothing to do with what we do that my audience likes, which creates awareness. People, then go to our website, the people that fit with the messaging, because we have very narrow messaging to a very narrow ICP. It works for them and they convert. And so there’s this whole, like people spend all their time in this middle of the funnel. Where buyers are not interested at that point because they have no idea about why they should even look at you. The messaging is vanilla because they refuse to make choices on their ICP and they spend no time at the top of the funnel. And that’s why I think that there’s just a better way to do it.
Andy Paul: And I think it really highlights a real problem that I see is the companies are really generally pretty at least let’s start them in the SAS space. The newer SAS companies is generally pretty poor at clearly explaining what they do
Chris Walker: Do you know, the reason why?
Andy Paul: Cause they don’t want make the choices as you talk about.
Chris Walker: Yeah. It comes down to not wanting to make choices and niche down on an audience. Like I could go out and say, we’re the marketing firm for everybody. Like I could say that it would make our Tam better. But we are the marketing for firm for velocity sales in the ACV range of 20 to 150 K for B2B SAS companies at these types of stages, which limits our Tam to 15 housing companies.
Andy Paul: still
Chris Walker: And it’s a still, it’s still pretty big, especially with our deal sizes, but it requires to make choices and therefore our messaging and our content can be specific to just them. And so the messaging is they have a hard, difficult time explaining what their thing is. We guess they’re trying to please everybody, because they won’t make choices on who their stuff is actually for, especially at the early stage, you can always brought in as you grow, you can always expand as you grow, but I love having a, it’s just a core marketing principle about making choices about how you’re going to segment the market so that you can deliver something that’s exactly for them in a way that.
They really want grow your company, expand your offering, build new features, do those different things, and then start to move out from there. I just don’t see a lot of companies think about it at a very strategic level right now. They think about it as horizontal. We want to sell to every vertical and everything.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I We posted last year on LinkedIn. I posted thing about, tell me in five words or less what you sell. And yeah, this was really hard for most people that were doing it because they want to default to serve. Yeah. Product-based descriptions as opposed to, in five words, tell me.
The value you’re providing to the buyer. And it was very difficult. That was actually a little bit of a contest, but we had hundreds and hundreds of submissions around the world and it just I highlighted the side point, is that correct? But he’s, when you think about it, this is salespeople calling customers, they have no idea. I think the stolen, the real fundamental issues that companies to your point about niching down is you have to niche down to be able to say that and come up with this. And also it’s not the same for everybody you call. It’s going to be different for the CEO versus the revenue leader versus the whomever and, sales ops person. And yeah, people resist it because they don’t want to make the choice.
Chris Walker: And I don’t know if I have a, you I believe that my perspective is unique because I didn’t grow up in SaaS. I grew up in recurring revenue model hardware, like capital consumable type of models, things like that in different industries. And so when I did that like marketing, build your business strategy in those industries, like marketing decides what your go to market is. Marketing decides who you’re selling to, how you’re going to go and target those. It doesn’t happen like that way in SaaS, which I find very interesting because like I would go out and spend eight weeks with customers and prospects where they worked when they were using products, whether they were ours or not learn about them. Ask them questions and then say, and then after you do that with a ton of different sites, without trying to sell with no agenda, right? And when you do that with no core objective of selling, you get the truth. And when you look at it through that lens, you say, Oh, like this type of person doesn’t buy our product because of this. It makes sense. This type of person is a much better fit because when I look at all of our competitors and I look at why they need us, we have this one thing. That nobody else does. And so we should lean into that right now while we continue to grow. And so I think that for what, for whatever reason, I just don’t see a lot of people doing that. I don’t, I see very few marketers and once they sell to marketers, spend a lot of time with their customers or prospects in the market.
Andy Paul: And I appreciate your approach. I also think, especially in early stage companies, there’s value in having marketing people go out and actually try to sell the product too,
Chris Walker: yeah. To be yes, 100, 100%. There’s tons of value in it.
Andy Paul: Another level of understanding of that comes from having the sales conversation, but I think both are valuable for sure.
Chris Walker: It’s having two separate objectives with two different activities and just making sure that which one you’re doing at that time.
Andy Paul: Yeah. It speaks to a larger issue of some of the things you’re talking about, which is that yeah. The sales processes and buying process to seem to be further out of alignment now, then. Ever. And when I, obviously talked to hundreds of sales leaders and the show and other conversations every year, it’s it doesn’t seem to be an awareness that gap needs to close and maybe marketing has a role in helping with that, but it’s there’s
Chris Walker: level decision
Andy Paul: heading in different levels, different directions.
So excuse me.
Chris Walker: Buyers are going one way. Companies are trying to run their process in a completely different direction. And executives don’t see it. I get it. I work with enough companies to understand this, and I did in 2016 is when I really started to deeply respect this because I would go out with our field sales reps and I would listen to these conversations and I would understand what was going on when we had an SDR book a meeting, and then we drove from. San Diego to orange County, two hours to have a meeting with somebody and then felt what that was like and how uninterested they were in the product and not receptive they were to even having that kind of conversation. I felt that’s qualitative. You don’t do that in a survey. You have to go feel that.
And so I felt that, and I saw other people that were very like peds, said, Hey, I want to get a demo. Can you come show me this? And I saw what that was like, And then I did. And then I was like, we need to get more people to do this. And the executives were like, we want to continue to build our SDR team. And I was like, okay, I’m going to, I’m going to go and survey 600 of our customers about how they buy products like ours and I’m gonna find out. So I did that survey. I sent it to, it was unbiased. Non-branded through a third-party 600 of our exact buyer. The person that would sign off on this stuff and we did the survey about what are the steps that you take when you’re evaluated in a new product? Where do you discover new products? Like how, at what point do you want to talk to a sales rep in your buying process? Do you use these types of channels to learn about these things? And we found a lot of interesting stuff. When we looked at the buying process for this buyer, it was what do you do? Number one, I research online. Number two. I talked to a colleague at a facility that I trust, number three, I want a demo. And we were just spending all our time trying to shove people into demos.
Andy Paul: There’s Ben garden had their study a few years ago about buyer enablement, which I referred to often on the show, because what stuns me as is they researched, I don’t know, 2,500 companies or more enterprises and came up with a flow flowchart that was very messy about how people buy. But the core of there were four key jobs of buyers accomplished, had to get accomplished to make a decision. And you would think that the astute sales leader would say I should align my sales process with what the buyer is trying to accomplish, but I haven’t encountered a single sales organization yet. That’s diverged from what they’re currently doing, which is basically the same process that sales team’s been running for decades.
Chris Walker: And why do you think that is?
Andy Paul: Big fear, same thing we talked about previously.
Chris Walker: fear of changing
Andy Paul: Fear of change.
Chris Walker: the unknown
Andy Paul: Yeah. And it’s Oh, you mean, I need to suddenly judge where the buyer is in their buying process based on where they actually are in their process, as opposed to where I think they are based on our process. It’s and it’s stunning and it’s to that point, it’s yeah. And people just, I said, I haven’t seen anybody say, make a meaningful change. So yeah. We’re going to change how we’re doing this to align with the way the buyer’s doing it. I think we’re stuck until that happens. When you talk about B2B marketing being stuck. I think B2B sales is stuck similarly.
Chris Walker: I believe my, my I’m not even sure this is a hypothesis anymore. I think a lot of people believe it to be true. I believe that revenue organizations are stuck because they won’t break out of the model that exists right now and they can’t fix marketing, which then puts pressure on sales to continue to have to do those things, to grow the company. So you get stuck not being able to change. And so I do believe that this is rooted in changing marketing first, which then relieves pressure from sales and allows sales to innovate. But you got to let marketing innovate first and drive pipeline so that sales doesn’t have to carry the higher pipeline and revenue target. And I believe that’s the process for fixing it. Yeah.
Andy Paul: But one of the ways people are looking at trying to fix this and say let’s create this revenue operations approach, which we’re unified sales and marketing under a single head and aligning the goals and have a single source of truth and revenue operations. They’ll drive the processes and the actions. What are you seeing in your customers about that?
Chris Walker: I don’t know what the status, I would imagine that 10% or less of companies have truly adopted this model.
Andy Paul: I agree. Yeah.
Chris Walker: That’s my guess. And I see a CRO leader owning marketing and sales different than what a revenue operations function does. I think those are actually two distinctly different things. I see some companies picking it up. What I see most often. And I experienced this the first time in 2013, I was a marketing manager at a company and I reported to the vice president of sales and marketing. And that person was the vice president of sales. Didn’t understand anything about marketing and that’s what you’re going to get when you promote a CRO because the CRO for whatever reason, except for Darryl Praill, I don’t know a very, no, very few other people were. The CRO comes from a marketing background because those, yeah. And so most people will promote a VP of sales into a CRO role. And then therefore the CRO is going to heavily weight, their core function that they believe in the challenge. The thing that I see is I think a lot of companies struggle with marketing right now. Wait until you put a CRO in charge of marketing that doesn’t understand how to do it.
Andy Paul: The political infighting that result from trying to break down the silos is be pretty intense. Yeah.
Chris Walker: Yeah. And so companies think that putting one leader in charge of this is going to solve their alignment issues, but their alignment issues are created at the metrics level. It’s very obvious that the metrics create this issue, not the fact that it’s not under one leader, a lot of CMOs can’t do anything differently because of how companies score their marketing organization. And I feel that sad because the fix is actually pretty simple. You just gotta be able to do it, and you gotta be able to work through the transition period. Where it’s not going to feel very safe. So I think companies love to put band-aids. They put band-aids on everything with tech or organization structure, or other things like that instead of looking deeply at what the actual issue is. And the actual issue is that you’re going to market in a way that doesn’t align with how buyers buy.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Fundamental issue. I think both marketing and sales at this point.
Chris Walker: And a revenue operations function. Let’s get into that for a second, because I believe in that a lot, I believe in it in a way where I started doing that stuff in 2016 as a marketer. Because it made sense that a marketer would look at pipeline and revenue by source and figure out what the most efficient way is and figure out how to improve the demo to proposal conversion rate, because that was my pipeline. I wanted to go back and report how much money we put out in proposals and how much we close one so that I could keep running my programs. It made, it just makes sense for a marketer to do those things. But what I see right now is a lot of revenue operations, people that are data people, not in data and tech people, not customer centric people. And I believe that you start with the customer with empathy and understanding and then build processes around them. And I think that right now, a lot of stuff is I see revenue operations as a much larger function than what it’s being represented as in a company today, which is basically just putting marketing and sales ops together. I see it as a very different function. Long-term.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I agree. I think that the it’s funny as you listened to what a lot of people talk about in terms of revenue operations, it hearkens back to. Yeah. Things that were done 30, 40 years ago, where actually there was unified sales and marketing in many companies.
All right, Chris, unfortunately we’re running out of time, but,
Chris Walker: Gosh, I could do this forever.
Andy Paul: Want to connect with you and learn more about refine labs, how should they do that?
Chris Walker: So LinkedIn’s the best place. I publish content on LinkedIn daily. Check that out. Chris Walker on LinkedIn. And then if you’d we’re getting tons of feedback, awesome feedback from people on our podcasts. So it’s the state of demand gen podcast, very focused on demand generation for B2B SaaS. And so you’re interested in that. Feel free to check it out. We publish three episodes a week.
Andy Paul: Excellent. Yeah, you do. And you do great LinkedIn posts about each episode as well. And we’ll make sure we do this again.
Chris Walker: Yeah, Andy, appreciate you. Thanks for having me. I had a great time.
Andy Paul: Great. Thanks, Chris.