Chris Walker, Founder of Refine Labs
Chris Walker seems angry. As the founder of Boston-based Refine Labs, he should be grinning ear to ear as it is one of the fastest growing demand generation agencies in recent years. It’s the first time we meet, but maybe he’s angry that he has to explain to an old school founder (me) all over again how marketing has changed and why the old methods don’t work.
“Most of the companies in this space cite Gen and don’t claim Gen. Marketing relies on transactional conversions of contact information so you can make outbound sales. And they’ve been running the model since the early 2000s. It was difficult to get contact information back then. So the marketers created gated content. It actually worked back then … but those leads are closing at a very slow rate, which creates the need for a large sales organization, which is all terribly unproductive. ”
Or maybe it’s not anger I’m hearing, maybe Walker is just bitter.
“I’ve worked in VC funded B2B technology companies and developed a unique and effective marketing model. I was able to do a little bit, but at some point you got to a place where you can’t keep innovating. And when I left my previous job, I was interviewing for director and VP roles and introducing companies to my way of marketing, and no one wanted it. “
That’s why Walker founded Refine Labs in 2019 and structured it so that only companies that are genuinely committed to his strategy work with him. Walker’s customers typically include Series C or D startups with fewer than a thousand employees selling a SaaS solution with an Average Contract Value (ACV) of $ 30,000 to $ 150,000.
When Walker explained a better modern approach to gene demand, it became clear to me that he is neither angry nor bitter. He’s just serious about his demand model and is determined to produce measurable results for his customers.
“The new way forward is to rely on the fact that word of mouth drives most of the buying decisions within B2B SaaS for midsize businesses. We’re not trying to convert people who aren’t ready to buy. Instead, we train them through content to generate attention, product consideration, and some of those word of mouth actions within channels that we may not necessarily be able to measure or see. “
The natural result of this model is that contacts don’t raise their hand (i.e., fill out the “I want a demo” form) until they’re almost ready to buy. Walker said, “I’ve cut a company’s sales cycle from 225 days to 64 days. One of our current customers is a 140 to 75 day sales cycle. “
When I asked a key question that webinars and white papers are less effective than they used to be, he said, “It’s not the medium, it’s the content.” Sure, attending traditional webinars with an expert working on over dozen of slides booms, sinks. But what if you use the same technology – live presentation with zoom – and create something that is really of value to your audience?
That’s exactly what Refine Labs does, as just one example of eating dog food. Demand Gen Live is a live show where Walker and other experts offer free advice to the approximately 50 people who show up every Tuesday at 7:30 pm ET. And that’s not a typo. Walker from Boston starts the show at 7:30 a.m.
The key is that this “content” was not designed with the end goal of the sale in mind. It is not assigned to a specific funnel level. It really is Walker who gives only his best advice. Also to other agencies that are his potential competitors. Some of the things he shared in the past few episodes:
- “90% of our turnover is accounted for by organic search and we do not carry out any search engine optimization. And that’s why the channel assignment is completely broken. “
- Walker is a firm believer in the power of the paid social. But he explained, “What I do is not ‘social selling’. It’s content marketing with effective dissemination. Most marketers have transactional intent based on their company’s KPIs. So your content is intended to sell rather than to help. And people turn it off. “
- About the difference between capturing demand and creating demand. “Most marketing teams only focus on capturing existing market demand. They are waiting for people to look for them. Then try to get it covered with SEO, SEM, review pages, and retargeting. They spend all of their time and effort and money fighting for the 0.1% of the market that is actively buying. With buyers who have no brand affinity or loyalty … the whole benefit is in marketing for 99% of the market who are not actively buying. Create awareness. Driving differentiation. Influence product viewing. Build brand affinity. Create demand. “
As I listen to Walker, I get a little angry about all the money I’ve wasted on my B2B marketing efforts.
Maybe it’s not anger, maybe I’m bitter about all the agencies that convinced me that I need to drive MMS to feed my SDRs.
But I quickly realize that I am neither angry nor bitter. I just feel serious and determined to stop wasting my limited marketing resources and take a new approach to demand generation.
Kevin Kruse is the founder and CEO of LEADx, a platform that scales and maintains leadership habits across the company. Kevin is also a New York Times best-selling author of Great Leaders Have No Rules, 15 Secrets of Successful People Know About Time Management, and Employee Engagement 2.0.