How to Generate Demand That's Worth Something with Chris Walker

Chris Walker
Founder & CEO
Refine Labs
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How to Generate Demand That's Worth Something with Chris Walker
What follows is an article based on his appearance on the Techie Talkie podcast.

Marketing Tools Won't Save You From a Poor Strategy

The brand that's at number one for me now is Gong. And I'm not a Gong user, but I just think that they're marketing well and have a good strategy, and their customers are happy, I think they're doing a lot of progressive things that a lot of other B2B marketers might be scared of.

I'm not into a lot of marketing tools. If you give me Salesforce with a basic marketing automation setup, that's great.

But we do spend millions of dollars a month on Facebook and Instagram. For most businesses you don't need a lot of stuff to do marketing. You just need a Zoom subscription for 40 dollars a month and a little webcam to record this podcast.

You've got Anchor, LinkedIn and Youtube to post your podcasts and content for free, LinkedIn to post your content for free.

When it comes down to it right now, it's not about the tools, it's about the strategy and the talent and the mindset, and that's the way that I look at it right now.

Your results should speak for themselves

I started Refine by myself with almost no money like two years ago, and I've been able to collect some of the best talented people that I know in B2B Demand Gen I look forward to continuing to build the best team that I can. And a lot of the success that we have is driven through the success of our customers.

I've been starting little companies for a while now, and so I had an E-commerce company in 2015, I lived in California at the time. It was just me, I built it in my bedroom to 300k in like 6 months. And 300k in revenue.

Don't Fall Into the Misattribution Hole  

I'm very vocal about how broken attribution is even though all the CMO's and marketing leaders use attribution software with every account that we work on. I talk about it because the way that I see it used in companies.

Attribution misguides decisions  because if you don't know how to interpret the data, you make the wrong decisions about what to do next.

But no company's attribution model incentivizes them to do things like this, because you can't measure a podcast. And so what happens is, if you did a podcast, eventually that audience needs to funnel into a conversion, and you'll give credit to either SEO or branded paid keywords. And then you'll say okay, let's just forget this podcast, let's spend way more money on paid search, which is what companies do.

I watch companies waste hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on Google Search, chasing metrics that don't even help the business.

In short, attribution goes wrong in two places, it helps you make the wrong decisions if you don't know how to interpret data, and it prevents your marketers from doing things that work the best that are difficult to measure, like building a brand.

There's an ROI on Everything

But I think that the qualitative measurement is the one that's missing the most in B2B when you go to make a brand move, not a lead-gen conversion move,

...and all B2B marketers are just incentivized and trained to be on lead-gen mode all the time.

You're pumped to spend a hundred grand a month on Google Ads, because a bunch of people downloaded our eBook, but let's look at how many people became a customer, it's not a lot of people. Same thing with LinkedIn. You get a lot of cheap leads that don't close. So what companies need to do is look at all of the different expenses in marketing and figure out if there's a good ROI on anything that they're doing.

When we think about the ROI of marketing, I like to look at it in two separate ways for people, and so there's two separate things to think about.

One is when you're capturing demand of people that are already looking to buy what you sell, so you're going to be lower down the funnel.

Second is, if you're going out and creating demand, and brand awareness in order to move them close to buying, and you need expectations and time for creating demand, it takes a little bit longer.

Marketers have been trained that marketing should happen fast because they collect a lot of leads that don't end up buying.

And when you are marketing to create people that buy, what you're actually doing is moving somebody through a sales cycle without a sales representative. And so it takes longer.

Quantitative over Qualitative

I don't need qualitative data. There's always a quantitative metric for how much qualitative data you're getting. Like instead of getting one message a week about 'Hey, your podcast helped me', now it's like 20 messages a week. So while we know the content of the message, the qualitative, it can always be quantified.

So there's a quantitative impact for you, we watch our podcast audience growth grow, and it maps directly to our revenue growth. All the data is there if you look for it.

Starting a Podcast is a Strategic Move

Maybe you need a different person inside your company to run certain marketing activities. What companies will do now is say 'Let's start a podcast, Suzie the marketing manager is the least busy, let's give it to her'. As opposed to 'This is a critical part of our business, we don't have the talent in here in order to do it, let's go source that talent'.

Before that you should be hitting your goals, and your goals should not be MQLs, it should be something later in the funnel. I prefer SQLs in the short term and revenue in the long term.

And a podcast will be the first thing that gets cut because it's hard to measure.

So you must either clear the space with an executive, or just hit your goals so you're not going to get pressure on those types of things first, which is what we do with companies.

It takes probably six months to get a 'paid' engine working, before you would consider starting a podcast, because if you don't you're going to set the podcast to fail after four episodes.

Now, there's a lot of different reasons to have a podcast. But I think most companies would normally have somebody as a host and then just interview people that are most likely like their target buyer.

I believe that the right approach is that you have a subject matter who is an expert inside of your company, like your CEO or a subject matter expert that matches the job credentials of your buyer.

Someone that can drive your narrative into the market.

Then the frequency, volume and commitment  of posting are all prerequisites to being successful. And you need to have a user acquisition model to get people into the podcast, especially at the beginning.

It's Not About the Channel, it's About How You Use it

If someone is looking around at sales engagement platforms, and you are a sales engagement platform, you might want to be there and try and convert that person, because they're clearly in buy mode.

And when they're not looking to buy exactly what you sell, I call them awareness channels, where it would be much more appropriate to educate someone, to create affinity, to create content that they like, and that they want to consume.

I think a lot of the channels that have emerged over the past ten years which command B2B buying attention right now are LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram - whether or not you think that people use it for business purposes.

A lot of B2B buyers consume information there.

It's our job to figure out how to get them the information in a way that they like, inside of that channel, and not the other way around.

Then on the creating demand side, I'd break it into paid and organic.

I think that companies have been trained to think that you just do things with more money.

Like 'Oh, we'll just spend $100,000 a month there, and that'll be fine', but it's actually strategy and talent that dictated success at the macro level on these channels. And so if you're in organic, it's pure strategy and talent. And if you're in paid, the strategy matters a lot more. The main difference is just whether or not you're paying for distribution.

I use both in very different ways. Just in paid you guarantee delivery of content to the exact people that you want to target. And in organic you don't get that - but on the organic side your costs are not in distribution, they're in content creation and talent.

And I don't think that it's dependent on the stage of the company whether or not they use paid vs. organic. It's more dependent on the current business performance and the growth ambitions of the company, and their customers acquisition cost targets.

Finding the Right Balance

We use custom conversions inside of Facebook and LinkedIn that say 'Fire that pixel' when someone hits the page containing whatever high intent form that you have.

LinkedIn and Facebook can go back and say, 'Did somebody that has the same browser that had just fired see or click on one of these ads', and then connect it back.

I can see we're going after CIO's at companies of 200-2,000 employees, and so we know that one of the people in here was that person

What's our win rate on that? For a SaaS company it really depends on the quality of your lead, the quality of your sales process, how your product fits into the category of your competitive set, there's a lot of factors. But demo form, you should be on 3% on the low end and maybe higher than 15% on the high end,

The conversion rates matter a lot in your projections of what cost per lead should be. And I think companies need to rethink that, because they've been collecting $50 shitty leads for a very long time, and it might make sense to try something different.

Your sales team doesn't want to talk to someone that has no buying intent.

Divide and Conquer

In order to allow somebody on your team to do the things that we just talked about a lot better than the things that are happening inside of your company right now-  you need to get a subject matter expert, one creative person and one sort of operational marketing manager.

So you have three out of your, let's say, 30 marketing resources focused on this. Where all they have to do is produce content that your customers, buyers and market love, and they get measured on how many people enjoy it, how many people share it, how many people say great things about you.

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Chris Walker is a thought leader in tech B2B, with thousands of listeners to his State of Demand Gen Podcast. He is also the CEO and founder of Refine Labs - a demand accelerator with a radical approach towards SaaS B2B marketing.

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Techie Talkie,  the tech marketing podcast is a casual meeting place where the best tech marketers share their most impactful trade secrets and marketing hacks . Its objective is to inspire creativity within the tech marketing space and help marketers rise above the noise. It is hosted by Asaph Shulman, a serial marketer and CMO of Firebolt and our very own Carmel Yoeli.