people, companies, customer, business, independent consultant, podcast, linkedin, attribution, demand, marketing, build, content, spend, authority, information, commodity, sales, creating, revenue, tik tok
Alastair McDermott, Chris Walker, Voiceover
Chris Walker 00:00
And so at some point a company to go out there and create demand for an electric vehicle with a certain specific set of consumers, which that company has done over the past whatever, eight to 10 years to a level where a lot of people now want to buy an electric car that 10 years ago didn’t want to buy one. That’s the difference between creating demand and capturing demand.
Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact, and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.
Alastair McDermott 00:34
Before I introduce today’s guest, I just want to let you know about Authority Labs. It’s a coaching group, and tight knit community for independent consultants and experts who are looking for coaching, accountability and peer support on your journey to authority. The next authority labs cohort will be starting in September. And so if you’re a consultant or expert, you’d like to build your authority, grow your income, have accountability and support around you, then this might be the right group for you, you can sign up for the interest list at the recognized authority.com/group. A quick note about this interview. So through the magic of technology and our recording service, the audio quality is very, very good. But the network connection when we recorded was not good at all. And so we have a bit of crosstalk due to the lag. And there’s also a few times where I couldn’t hear all of what Chris’s answer was. And so my next question doesn’t refer back to what he just said. But I would urge you to listen to this anyway, because Chris is a super smart guy. And he’s worth listening to. Here’s the interview. Okay, Today, my guest is Chris Walker. And Chris is the CEO of refine labs. And he’s somebody who I’ve been following for a long time talking about content strategy, and demand generation and lead generation, which is really the first thing I want to talk to you about. And I know like, if you watch a lot of Chris’s content like I do, you’ll see that he talks a lot to his audience about things like MQL, and SQL and stuff. But we’re going to take it and translate a lot of those concepts, and make it kind of make it appropriate for this audience of independent consultants. So Chris, can can you talk a little bit about how, how you see the difference between lead generation versus demand generation? And how that might be relevant for this audience?
Chris Walker 02:20
Yeah, awesome. We’re getting right into it. What’s up everyone Great to be here. When it comes to the difference between lead generation and demand generation, the way that I look at it is is lead generation is essentially developing some level of a lead contact information, email address, phone number, that you then use sales to do sales to someone that didn’t necessarily ask you to call them or talk to them. demand gen standpoint is actually executing the sales process at scale without interacting with someone at scale, inside of sales using marketing, so teaching people things over the internet, and they actually go and buy independently through their process to a point where they come to you and say, I’m ready to engage in by a different way to look at this is similar, it’s a difference between capturing demand and creating demand. So for instance, a lot of the existing car manufacturers like a Ford or a Volvo or something like that are out there capturing demand for the, you know, gasoline powered vehicle. That market has been created. You know what I mean, before there were horses, there was no demand. At some point, companies created demand for a car because it was better than horses. Now all of a sudden, there’s a ton of demand for gas powered cars, then a company like Tesla comes or comes along, and selling an electric vehicle. And at that point, when they came along, nobody wanted it. If you remember correctly, only people that were buying electric vehicles were the Prius people that wanted the tax credit in California, that’s about it. And so at some point, a company to go out there and create demand for an electric vehicle with a certain specific set of consumers, which that company has done over the past whatever, eight to 10 years to a level where a lot of people now want to buy an electric car that 10 years ago didn’t want to buy one. That’s the difference between creating demand and capturing demand, creating demand being that people don’t even know that they need this thing right now. And we’re gonna get into a lot more as an independent consultant. Probably most of your customers are not thinking about whether or not they need you. How do you get into the space where you’re under consideration and educating those people going from not knowing that they even understand the problems or the opportunities are whether or not you exist, to then wanting to come and do work with you or buy your stuff like that’s the difference in the unlock of business growth. Otherwise, you’re just sitting down there and it’s the thing that happens a ton with independent consultants as you just sit down there and wait and when companies come and find you, they view you as a commodity amongst commodity vendors. They don’t see you as different. You haven’t educated them on anything. You don’t have a leading edge in the sale. You can’t command a premium price. It’s not a good place to be as a business owner
Alastair McDermott 05:02
100%. Okay, so are you talking about then in, in creating this this demand? Like you’re talking about education type content there? Are you talking about education content that addresses and exposes a problem much earlier, kind of in the lifecycle of the problem? Like, how exactly do you do that?
Chris Walker 05:25
It’s increasing the awareness of the things that your buyers need to understand. Like, if you just go back and you look at how do we run a sales process? What are the things that we need to teach people before they would buy from us? How do we repackage that in a way that they find interesting not salesy, and how do we distribute it over the internet, not one on one through a salesperson doing a demo, or a sales call? It’s pretty much all the differences. And so if you have a niche down to a place where you understand exactly who your target customer is, then you know exactly why they buy from you. And you know exactly why you’re different or better, or whatever, from an alternative or the status quo what they’re doing, then you just need to elevate that. So more people know about those things. It’s really it. It’s not that complicated.
Alastair McDermott 06:10
Right? So and you’re talking about increasing awareness. So like, is that kind of like is that explaining, hey, this thing that you know, that you’re vaguely aware of, or may not be aware of at all, this is actually a much bigger problem than you realize? And kind of explaining the problem in that way. Is that is that that how you go about it?
Chris Walker 06:28
Part of its problem awareness problem, part of its solution, awareness, part of it is authority and credibility inside of the space that maybe is outside of exactly what your product or your service is, the way that I looked at it at the beginning is like, what’s going to happen so that a bunch of CMOS come to me and are looking for my advice? You’re, you’re an independent consultant, you do finance, consulting, fractional CFO, something like that? How do you get a bunch of customers come and say, Hey, can I get 30 minutes of your time to talk through what you just said, That’s really interesting. That’s something that I want to learn about how I could implement that in my business. What do you got, what type of information you need to put out there so that people know it, the tough thing for independent consultants, I’m gonna go deep into this one, the tough thing for independent consultants is that you effectively sell information. And now what I’m telling you, what Chris Walker over here is telling you to do is to take that information and put it out on the internet for free. So how are you going to what a lot of people think, Okay, well, once the information is out there, nobody’s going to ask, no one’s going to want to work with me, because they have the information. The funny thing is, is that people aren’t, the information is a commodity, somebody’s gonna give it out to them. It’s just whether or not it’s going to be you, somebody’s going to do it. So whether it’s going to be you, or somebody else does it, and then you never get the opportunity to work with that customer anyway, because somebody else has already given them the information, they trust them, they go and work with them, they never even consider you, they never even know about you. And so instead of that, it’s a really interesting thing. When people are paying for a consultant, what they’re actually paying for is increasing the likelihood of success, confidence in the ability to get it done experience knowing how to short circuit, potential mishaps or mistakes, competence and change management to get other people and know how to get other people aligned on what you’re doing. That’s the value of a consultant, not the information that you put out on LinkedIn. That’s a big mindset switch that people, it’ll really help people if they are able to make it.
Alastair McDermott 08:26
Yeah, I love that the information is a commodity. And I was talking to Marcus Sheridan on the show here. And you know, that’s, that’s something that he’s a big proponent of is, is, you know, putting as much information out there. I think I saw a crazy stuff from him that the average customer that came to him had read 160 pages on his website, it was something like that. It was it was just astonishing. The huge numbers like the the amount of research that people would
Chris Walker 08:49
do average for us is that they’ve been they’ve been looking at either LinkedIn content or podcast content are both for more than six months.
Alastair McDermott 08:57
Yeah. Which means that you need to view this as a long term strategy. I know that one thing you talk about is the lack of attribution because that’s something that you know, people have been selling for a long time is hey, we can track everything but but in reality, that’s that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Chris Walker 09:14
How technical we want to go here, I’ll try and keep try and keep it high level for the audience. But the fact of the matter is that the way that organizations mainly b2b organization not sure about one person independent consultant shop of b2b companies measure the success of their marketing was built for a time about in 2012 2014, when the internet was very simple, where privacy policies were not under such scrutiny when social networks barely existed, b2b executives never used them. Were slack was not prevalent, where podcasting had not taken off. So you can look at all these other things that have changed in the market. All the things that I mentioned are things that Don’t get measured by the thing because the thing was built on a technology when they didn’t exist. And so the way that you figure out whether your marketing is working today, and the way that I would recommend it is that you ask people and you collect qualitative information. So when someone comes in and says, Hey, I’d love to work with you, you ask them, oh, by the way, like, How’d you hear about us what? You know, tell me more about how you figured this out? Who do you involve? Like, oftentimes, you don’t even need to tell people they’ll tell you. When I get on, early on, this is back when we didn’t have 120 employees, it was just a couple of people. People come in and say, I just listened. I was listening to Episode 17 of your podcast. And I had a question about this, or you said this, and it made me want to reach out, or I’ve been watching your LinkedIn content for so long, I share in my marketing Slack channel every day, with my team, because I want my team to know these things. Just ask people you’re gonna and so like, that’s the best way to measure stuff right now, given what I’m calling dark social, dark social being that consumers, b2b or b2c consumers trust their peers and people more than anything else. So they go and get the information from their peers, not from vendors about what things that they’re what products they’re using, what problems are solving how they’re prioritizing their business decisions. They’ll go to people and say, Hey, I hate this vendor, I’m using them right now I want to switch Who should I switch to? It’s all it’s content sharing. It’s scaling advocacy. It’s rough, it’s scaling referrals, all these things that are how decisions get made that never get tracked. I acknowledge that most of most consultants are not looking for level of attribution to go back and say, Hey, like, we prove the ROI, right? You don’t have anyone that you need to prove it to. But what you need, what you’re looking for is how do I know that shits working? That’s what attribution should be. So you’re you’re actually using it in the right way? Most companies don’t, right. attribution is supposed to be how do I know whether this stuff is working? How do I make better decisions? Not how do I go and prove ROI to a CFO. And so if you’re, if you’re doing that, like software is one way to measure stuff, software is very biased toward demand capture. So demand capture, you know what I mean? You’re You’re a finance consulting firm, you’re an IT consulting firm, something like that, like buying a Google ad for you know, best IT consulting firm is a demand capture strategy, it’s super expensive, and it puts you in a commodity it puts makes you a commodity vendor, and you’re gonna spend a lot of money to go out and get not get a lot of business and the business that you get, isn’t going to be a great customer. Flipping that. So when you actually go out and you produce content for LinkedIn, or inside of it, specialized it Facebook group that you created, or the podcast that you made, so that people learn over there, which doesn’t get tracked by software. And then when they go to Google, they don’t search IT consulting firm, they search your company’s name, when rates go up, retention and Customer Success go up because the customers are way more bought into your philosophy and doing things before they get in there. Like cost of acquisition goes down, sales cycles get better, there’s just a lot of reasons to do it. And as a, if you’re trying to grow a business, right independent consulting, and maybe you can only take like four or five customers at once you’re not on this, like, you’re not trying to acquire customers repeatedly over a period of time unless you’re trying to scale a business. But damn, it’s better to have more companies that want to work with you than last.
Alastair McDermott 13:20
That’s for sure. So, okay, so let’s talk about actually turning this into a practical strategy. So so we know that there’s a lot of stuff out there that we we simply can’t track. And we know that there are things that we can do in terms of creating content like podcasting, and things like that, that are working for other people. So I think that part of it is, this is something that is working for other people. It is long term. And we it’s very hard to track. So some element of it for me is you just have to trust the process. What’s your take on that?
Chris Walker 13:57
One, it’s not hard to track. So I’m going to talk through about how you can track it when it’s not hard to track number two is that it doesn’t actually take a long time to drive results if you’re doing it the right way. So I think there’s like a couple myths that will bust here. Because we we started producing LinkedIn content and got customers, at least one customer in the next 30 days from when I started posting on LinkedIn, and we get three to seven lights. Not like we’re out there making making waves getting hundreds of 1000s of views bunch of customers, but those two customers that we got in the 30 days was more than we had gotten the previous 30 days. So it’s not about going from zero to 100. It’s getting better than you were last month to next month or better than you were last quarter to next quarter. If you do these activities, you will get better results within a short period of time. So one, just talk through it’s not it is a long term strategy. We’re seeing literally an exponential growth of my company. We went in year one from one employee to four employees. In year two we went from four employees to 15 employees. And in year three, we went from 15 employees to 115 employees. Nice. So you can see that we’re on a different sort of growth trajectory over time, but growth nonetheless the whole way and added a very incredible clip, actually, the last year was the slowest percentage growth of revenue, even though it was by far the most significant gross growth. So the second piece is that it’s not hard to track like, it’s that it’s hard to track. It’s not like we have a business that does about more than $20 million in revenue right now. And we drive most of the revenue through a podcast and LinkedIn and we can measure it actually very effectively by when someone wants to work with us on the foreigners type in their name and their company and their job title. And then they we just put How did you hear about us in the form, and people literally say that, listen to your podcast, I got I heard about you and David Earhart’s community, I saw you do at a live event at the full funnel Summit, and then started following your CEO on LinkedIn. And now I want to work with you, whatever, like, people are smart, they give you good information, when you ask them and the information that you ask and the information you get way better than the shit when you don’t ask. And so and then we literally take that we automatically process it and we put it into a bucket. So when somebody writes the word podcast or state of demand gen, or things like that, it automatically gets categorized into podcast. When people write LinkedIn or Facebook or Tik Tok, it automatically gets bucketed into social media. When people say Dave Gearhart, or this community or pavilion or pique community, it gets bucketed into community or referral, depending on the context. And then we just visualize and look at it. And it’s like, wow, 47% of our revenue this year, so far has come from a podcast, the other 29% has come from LinkedIn. And there’s small percentages on community and word of mouth. And we actually measure it very well by just looking at that. And then so we have all of that information on one side, what’s creating the demand. And then we use hotspots, like pretty enterprise attribution, but it’s actually pretty yellow, like all attribution has the same flaws. And it’s quite elementary of just it shows you what captured the demand, which is bias toward paid and organic search, affiliates and direct response lead gen. So it tells us, if you just had that data point, it tells us that 80% of our revenue comes from search. And when you ask the customer, literally 0% of our customers, so they found us in search. So there’s just a there’s a quite a bit of a different view when you actually ask people, so you can ask them in a form and create it like that, which is very straightforward and gives you amazing data. You can listen to what people say, when they’re on sales calls with you. Or you can ask customers where they spend their time or when they’re looking for information, where they go, what social networks they use, what podcasts they listened to, what people they get information to get better at their profession. Every everything in business starts with your customer. Can you define them well enough, so you understand them? Do you actually like spend the time to know who they are, what their, what they’re caring about how they’re measured? What, who they report into what things have changed in the past 60 days, what are triggers for them to consider using you like raising money or a new CMO or something like that, you got to know all of these things. And then you got to be able to market and build your product or service around that that person. And we’re starting to get into the I think the core of like, when I’m when I talked to a lot of like whatever startup agencies consulting firms, like in a lot, not just in marketing a lot of different places. And the number one thing that they do is that they they sell a commodity service to horizontally to all industries, what happens there, you’re stuck charging 4k a month for no customers that appreciate you that see you as a commodity. You don’t build a service that’s specific to anybody, you can’t message it appropriately. It’s difficult to create content, because you’re creating content about commodity stuff, not about what matters to the CFO of a manufacturing company that’s between 50 and 200 million in revenue. And when you’re able to segment down like that, you can price way higher your service gets way better, your cost, your marketing gets way easier, it’s just like as a segmentation is one of the most underutilized business like strategy things out there.
Alastair McDermott 19:26
So, okay. And I totally want to go down the road of talking to you about specialization in a minute. But I just want to pull back to what we were talking about two myths there, one that you can track and and you know that that’s a great way to you know, just ask people where they came from. It’s very simple, but it’s very easy to do. The other we were talking about is getting quick results from from kind of content strategy, content marketing. And you mentioned you know that you’ve only had five or six likes on a post, but you’ve got getting customers from it. Can you talk a little bit about how you actually created the content or what You were thinking about when you were creating that content that actually gets you customers immediately from from that strategy.
Chris Walker 20:06
The first couple customers that I got were already in my network. And I didn’t even post I wasn’t even really posting content, I was writing comments on other people’s posts. Because at the beginning, you don’t know what you’re going to talk about. You trying to figure stuff out, it’s way easier to to drop your point of view on someone else’s post that already put something there, then try and figure out how to write one on your own. So that was the first step. And actually I probably are, I got one customer from just calling a friend. And then I got the next two customers from comments on LinkedIn posts that generated customers through DM, from people that were already in my network, when you got three customers, so you go from zero to 15k a month or something that’s pretty good. Then I started to take the comments. So they the comments that did well, meaning that people that on LinkedIn, it’s different than a lot of other social networks, you post a comment, it gets a ton of visibility, and a lot of people can like the comment. And so I would get immediate feedback, if I would say something and then at that point, nine people would like to comment nine is a lot more than other comments I posted with a zero. And then I would take that comment, and I would make it into a I would expand on the idea and make it into a full LinkedIn post. And that was the first sort of content creation framework that I use, I would comment on other people’s posts, I would see the audience that already engaged with it indicating that what I said there was something that resonate with people and I would write it in a more full length for my own post. To go a little bit further like that was that’s that’s the first thing, right? The first thing to get started, and then you sort of start to figure out, okay, these are the topics that people like and appreciate my perspective on these are the things that are working, then the next thing that I would do is I would take 15 minute consulting calls for free with people. And I would get a sense of what what what are these people asking as a form of market research. And then I could write about the things obviously, it was confidentiality and things like that, but right about the things that I’m learning in these calls. Because now, as a consultant, one of the biggest values I think a consultant has today is that you see things at a different vantage point than a person inside of the business, they see their own business, and then they anecdotally see what other people are doing based on their own perception. And when they ask them, what you have is that potentially you see the p&l of 10 businesses, or you’ve seen the p&l of 100 businesses in the past 18 months, or you’re inside of HubSpot or Salesforce for a company for 25 companies. And you see their pipeline data and their revenue data and their attribution data. And you see how their budget gets spent, you see how much money they waste over here, and you see what technology they buy. And you see what technology they they stop using that view is one of the number one things that a consultant offers today, to be able to, and then all that information you can use to create content because you see the patterns and you see the problems that other people only see for themselves, but don’t admit broadly. So it’s crazy, like a lot of my ideas that I share, like they’re my ideas, but they’ve been validated through a bunch of other people telling me that they struggle with the same thing. So it’s not like I’m guessing about the company’s struggle with attribution. I’ve been told that by more than 500 people, big companies and small companies, right, I’m not like it’s not complicated to say that MQ ELLs are not not serving most b2b companies, right, I’m sure most people them. So a lot of people listening just don’t understand what MQL czar, it’s that doesn’t really matter for the sake of the example. It’s like they’re not working. And then I go into 50 Salesforce instances and analyze them, and they don’t work for any of the companies. And so like, that’s a great way to create content as a second stream, once you sort of have a cadence is you’re gonna be able to figure out how to make it more interesting. The biggest, best way to make it more interesting is to listen to a bunch of people, synthesize it, and then reflect it back. And then the next thing that I did is, at some point, you’re going to run out of a stream of ideas, because you’ve been posting for six months straight, and you’re like, I don’t know what to talk about anymore offset all the things that I can think about. So you got to have a way to inject new ideas in and the thing that I did at that point was I started hosting a live q&a show where people would come on and ask me their questions, which created a whole different dynamic of like, what are people asking because they take you to places that you don’t take yourself so you get into, and also being on podcast has helped a lot being on a podcast like this, but mostly for me, the ones that are most effective are being on the CFO podcast, or the marketing ops podcast, or the talent and culture podcast. There’s like, because you get questions and things coming from angles that you haven’t had before. So over time, just figured that’s like that’s a three year content journey. Most people are going to want to start at step one, leave some comments, try and write some posts and see what how to get traction. But that’s like just to live laid out for you. Well, there’s a lot of runway here to keep going innovating in the space.
Alastair McDermott 25:06
Yeah. And so there’s a few different things that you mentioned there. Like, for example, getting on calls, and, you know, starting to see the patterns. And this is one thing we mentioned before the call about specialization being really important. And I was saying, I find that it’s really great for content creation, you mentioned as well, business growth, can you just talk about specialization a little bit, and picking the right niche and niching down enough? Because I think that it’s something that people kind of inherently resist.
Chris Walker 25:36
Yeah. And people inherently resist it, because it feels like they’re giving something up, not like, they’re actually capitalizing by making their business more specific to a target customer so that they can win. And you can always expand later as you grow. But at the beginning, this is the theory goes, if you’re everything to everyone, you’re nothing to nobody. And I want to talk through like my journey, because me saying that some overuse quotes not going to help here. So let’s talk through what actually happened to me when I started my business. I didn’t know who we were going to sell to. So at the beginning, I’m selling to anyone who’s going to buy because I’m trying to figure out who is our customer? And what is our product, like where, what is the thing that people need to have, and you just don’t know that the beginning. So I had customers that were ecommerce in E commerce, I had customers that were in financial services, I had customers that were in manufacturing and medical device. And the first six months, like my thinking was, I’m gonna sell the medical device and manufacturing companies, because those companies are so far behind. And all my experience comes from there. So they’ll be able to see my experience be like, Wow, that guy’s smart. Let’s work with them. Funny thing is that those companies actually, while they, while they know that I’m right, they do not have the right dynamics to be the customer for me. And I found that out over time. The point of that story is that in six months after we did that, we had our first software as a service customer. And since then, we now work with 55, b2b SaaS companies throughout, and we’ve specialized since maybe the first two or three that we’ve had, because they were dramatically more successful. But the mindset of the customer is in the dynamics, their business or their reason why they’re a good customer. And so I’ll talk through the, like the reasons that people can granularly understand, b2b SaaS companies have significant high gross margin businesses, when they have high gross margin businesses, and they they have significant valuation multiples, and they have significant valuation multiples, they invest a lot in customer acquisition, they get a lot of venture venture funding in order and a lot of that gets deployed to customer acquisition. They already spend money in digital marketing, they just do it really effectively. They get information from poor sources, like technology vendors and analyst firms that tell them to do the wrong things that cause them to waste a lot of money. They so all the business dynamics lean into the favor of they need to figure out how to do digital digital demand gen. And the current state of the businesses is that most people don’t know how to do it. So it sets you up to have a very nice thing of, okay, this customer is primed, they already spend millions of dollars here, they just spend it very poorly. And they need to figure this out in order for them. There’s tons of money on the line. Right? These companies we’re not playing around here with billion dollar valuations and the types of companies that we work for. Whether you do this right or not, can make hundreds of millions of dollars in intangible business value difference. And so for all those reasons, we were able to select a customer. And since then, which has been more than two years, everything that we’ve done is build our service and our marketing strategy around that customer, nobody else. Other companies try to be our customer, which is what’s going to happen. Regardless of your specialization, other companies will continue to want to work with you because they like your point of view. But we know who the right customer is. And then we start building out. So from a service standpoint, right? We only work with companies that use HubSpot or Salesforce if you use a different CRM, I don’t want to work with you. It’s just not worth it. We have our entire system built in and it’s a it’s actually a disqualification criteria. If you use something like dynamics are Zoho, because you don’t you’re just if you use that stuff, you’re not going to be the right customer. For us. You don’t think with the right mindset. So it’s interesting to think about, what are some of the other signals and triggers to make them the right customer. So we have all this different documentation brought up bought out. All of our marketing is built directly around these customers, what technology they use, what, where they spend their money on different channels, what the dynamics are in their business, the acronyms that they use, the technology like it comes down to everything. And so through that level of specialization, the business has grown dramatically. Our pricing has been able to through the evolution of much better service offering right the shit that we did when we were charging $6,000 A month versus what we charge now like that much rather do the stuff that we charge now that’s at a higher price because it’s relevant, coordinated with value. So I’m happy to answer a follow up here, if you want to go deeper for the audience, but like the in order to have a effective business, I feel like you got to do this for at least a differentiated business. Yeah, let’s put it that way.
Alastair McDermott 30:21
Yeah, the one part I’m really interested there is, when you you started out you were you were working with I think you said medical, or healthcare type is medical device manufacturing. Did you specifically pick that at the start? Or did it was that happenstance How did that work out?
Chris Walker 30:38
That was the pick? Yeah, I like before I did that I worked at two medical device manufacturing companies, and implemented what I did and drove millions of dollars of pipeline from companies from zero. They used to get $0 in revenue through their website, years later, they would get millions of dollars. I’m like, I got the clear story, I got a clear cut, like these companies. But the reality is, those companies are so stuck in the past, they’re run by homogenous executive teams that are typically old, white, male, big, and they chalk it up to industry experience. We need people with industry experience and understand the FDA. So we’ll just have a bunch of old white people that don’t understand how the world works right now. And they’ll make all the decisions for us. So they don’t invest in digital marketing. They keep building sales teams like it’s 1994. They do, like, yes, just generally don’t innovate and have a lot of homogenous thinking. So if you like at the surface, it looks like it made a lot of sense to work with those companies. Underneath the layers. When you actually start getting into practice. It’s like these companies don’t invest. They don’t spend any money on digital advertising right now. How the buck? Is that possible? I don’t know if we’re allowed to swear on this podcast, but I’m fired up like, it’s 2020. Right? Like this is I’m talking back a couple years, right? We’re recording this in 2022. But when I was when I was looking at the company, it’s 2020. How are you not spending the dollar on digital advertising today? You’re $100 million medical device company, it makes no sense. Why you have a 40 your your Field Sales Team cost you $40 million a year he spent $0 on digital advertising to help them be successful, it just made no sense. So those are some of the signals that you’ll get and the hard part. For people it was hard for me it’s gonna definitely be hard listen to people on this podcast, is saying goodbye to those customers, you got to make choices. In order to be in order to specialize. It’s like you got to say no to everybody else. And you gotta leave flexibility in there, right. So even inside of our if our target is SAS, like inside of SAS, you got companies that sell a product, that’s $7 a month, your companies sell products that are millions of dollars a year. And companies that sell things that are in between, you have some that sell it enterprise sales motion, you have some that sell only product, lead, sales assisted, you have some companies that to primarily target North America, but other like other companies are in APAC, and have no presence in North America, you had some companies that were marketing reports into a Chief Revenue Officer AKA a head of sales, you got other companies where the CFO and the CEO or the head of sales are on equal footing. There’s so many different dynamics inside of even a $25,000 or 25,000 software companies in the world. As you segmented down even further, you might find that there’s actually only 750 that are your right customer. And then you start thinking but like, if my service is $25,000 a month, or whatever it is, you can literally do the math. And we were able to get whatever extra amount of market share 10% of this small market, which you should be able to if you dominate, we have a massive business, I can’t do the math in my head. It’s 775 times probably a probably like a 30,000,030 to $50 million business by getting 7575 specialized customers. So yeah, that’s the that’s the details of how you got like you got to go in, you got to figure out why don’t these companies buy for me, and you’ll find that there are core blockers that you’re never going to be able to overcome, at least in the timeframe that you want in order to build your business. Right. At some point. medical device companies don’t want to come work with us. It’s just not right. It’s not going to be right now. Wasn’t in 2020? It’s not right now. They won’t actually let me rephrase. There’s companies that want to work with us. They just can’t figure out how to get it done.
Alastair McDermott 34:25
So I’m also really interested in the fact that so you had picked a speciality specialization, figured out this is not the right one. And so you just did a U turn. I said, Okay, I’m gonna go pick something else. And you had looked at the other types of clients who were out there. You weren’t actually turning these away. You were you were accepting them if they came to you, but you weren’t deliberately kind of actively marketing to the SAS companies at that time. Is that correct?
Chris Walker 34:53
At that point, we’re kind of marketing to everybody and software companies are the companies CMOS, the software companies are the people that who respond wanted to them though marketing that was going out to everybody? Yeah, yeah.
Alastair McDermott 35:04
Yeah. Okay, cool. I loved it this specialization story. It’s, it’s something I talk to people about a lot on this. But I want to come back and just see can we give something really practical to listeners who want to take some of the concepts? So moving away from the specialization stuff, just talking about actual content creation content strategy? What advice would you have for somebody who is an independent consultant who’s an expert in their field? And who wants to do more social media? And they’re looking at how you do it, and they’d like to do something like a bit like what you’re doing? What What kind of advice would you have?
Chris Walker 35:42
Pick, pick one or two channels that you think are the most effective, the way to look at that is, it’s more than I was gonna say, it’s just look at who’s already been successful there. But it’s more than that, right? Like at this point, if you did that, you would actually look at YouTube and Instagram and a couple of the more mature platforms that are actually less or have an opportunity than others right now, the two out let me just cut to the chase to two opportunities right now our LinkedIn and, and Tik Tok, and then a podcast. So those are the three that are out there. But it’s the way that we do it, the podcast actually creates the Tiktok content and the LinkedIn content. So we film one podcast, and then it creates the video, and then it gets distributed everywhere else. That sort of a more advanced format, I think that a lot of people would have success with it is I’ll even go into it further. It’s like not only just the podcast, we often do a live event, we’re going to do one in about an hour, we’ll do a tick tock live, we’ll record the live where people just ask me questions for 30 minutes, we take all the questions, I answered them, we record it. And then we got eight or 10 videos that we can post over the next two weeks on to LinkedIn or Tik Tok or other platforms like that. That’s one way if focusing on video, and I think that video is just way easier to do. I don’t know how else to say it. I think there’s, as long as you’re comfortable being on camera, and you’re comfortable articulating your ideas in real time, like, it’s easier than sitting down there and writing stuff. Alternatively, the way that I got started is writing. And so you could you could write about the things that you either learned or encountered or patterns that you’re seeing or things like that every single day. So that’s the what’s more like, right about what you’re doing and experiencing more than trying to manufacture something that you think people will like, like or think is forward thinking.
Alastair McDermott 37:27
Okay, so is there anything that you think that people who are in this situation should stop doing that they’re probably doing right now?
Chris Walker 37:37
That totally depending on what, like what you are doing? Right? Like, it’s, it’s not for me to say what you should stop doing. It’s for you to look at your own stuff and say, look at it, is this working for me? How much time and I and am I investing in it? Is it preventing me from doing other things? So like saying no to things is a huge is a huge concept. Whether it’s on your customer side, whether it’s on your marketing tactic side, I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you this. beat my business has grown fast, because we only focus on a couple of core things in marketing that I know work the best right now, because we do them. We do a podcast we do other events. We do social content, specifically on LinkedIn and Tik Tok, mainly and then YouTube and Instagram, secondarily. And I spend time inside of social networks and communities networking and building relationships with people. Those things, every other company that does something similar could be considered a alternative to what we do Google Search SEO SEO by Google ads. Send a LinkedIn DMS to people ask if they can have a meeting, send them DM saying them, they’ll give them $200 To sit on a 30 minute meeting with them work with like a tech vendor like Marketo or HubSpot and let that company send you leads. Because you can’t get you can’t generate them on your own build tradeshow booths, or go to like some level of events and put a table there and pay 5000 to $250,000 to build a structure that falls down after two or three days that gets knocked down. Maybe 100 People stopped by. Like that’s the those are the things that every other company does. And because they do all those things, they have no time to do the three or four things that actually work today. So I gave you some things that are working for me and some things that I see that definitely don’t work that we choose not to do. But when it comes down to it, it’s up to you to decide the reason that my LinkedIn strategy has worked so well for me is because I made a commitment to doing it started on August 9 2019 2019. And I continue to do it every day. Because I knew that it was going to be able to change my using LinkedIn over the past two and a half three years, fundamentally changed my life. And so when I saw that from the day that I The day that I committed, I knew that that was going to happen. It’s a level of consistency and a level of pattern recognition. And in order to do that, I had to stop doing it all I didn’t even have to stop doing because I never started in the first place. Because I know better than that, but you’re gonna have to make some choices about what to do. And on the edge, like, when I did this, people told me that I was dumb, that I should build a sales team that it’ll never work to post on LinkedIn and get customers that what I’m that the company that we’re building doesn’t make was not going to make sense because people still think about attribution on the other steps the same way. When people tell you, that your the what you’re doing is dumb that that means that you’re on a good track. If you’re if you believe in it, right? There’s a lot of times when people say you’re dumb, and they’re probably right, the difference is whether you believe it or not, if you believe it, and they say you’re dumb, then you’re probably on the right track, because that means that you’re doing something innovative, you’re doing something different. You have conviction, your idea. And if you do it the right way, it’s obvious. It was obvious in 2019, that if you put content on LinkedIn, you’re gonna get customers, you’re gonna do the hire better people, we’re going to going to invite you on the podcast, and we’re gonna ask you to speak a lot of ads, people are gonna ask you to go and talk it at their company keynote for their revenue kickoff meeting, or whatever they call it. All that stuff was obvious if you’re looking because the people were there, the CMOS were there from the right companies engaging looking at content, it was obvious. So you start with, if you start with your customer, you’ll always know where to go.
Alastair McDermott 41:27
That’s great advice. Okay, so Chris, what’s the number one tip you would give somebody who wants to build authority
Chris Walker 41:33
to make to make sure that the stuff that you’re talking about is worth being an authority? I think a lot of people, people a lot, a lot of people try to manufacture authority by just talking about stuff that either people don’t care about is not forward thinking, whatever. And they build authority for the sake of trying to thought leadership posted on content and stuff like that. You need to have the customer insights to know that people believe in what you’re saying and other people is, and it’s a unique perspective. We need to validate that right. Like I like I mentioned the beginning. I know people think that attributions busted, I know that people know, the MQL model is broken, I know that people know that they waste so much money on technology. I know that people know that marketing Ops is underfunded. I know that people know they waste hundreds of 1000s of dollars a month on Google ads, I know all these things. So I also know that nobody else is talking about them. So that’s that’s how you create the authority. You start with the customer insights, you triangulate, to how is this perspective unique? And then you you communicate your perspective?
Alastair McDermott 42:35
Okay, is there a business mistake or failure that you’ve experienced that you can tell us about, and what you learned from it?
Chris Walker 42:43
Now made so many, I made so many mistakes, you make them all the time. And the The important part is knowing that there, you’re gonna make them. Right, like, I I am not like, because my business is growing so fast, and we’re moving so fast, I have to make decisions with imperfect information I have, I have to make a call, and then adjust from there and be adaptable, and that people glorified making the right decision. And they because they are so concerned about whether making the right decision is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do that they literally just procrastinate forever, they never, they never make any decision. So while they sit back and make no decisions, I’ve already made 10 of them. And they’re all imperfect, but they all get me moving way farther ahead than everyone else. In terms of an actual tangible mistake I’ve made so many. One of go with a couple. Not having a really sound interview process at the beginning of building a company can really hurt because I hired a couple of people that were not technically capable of doing their jobs. And when you only have like five people and two of the five can’t do their job. It really hurts. So that’s our recommendation is to especially at the beginning, because at the beginning hired mistakes, they hire mistakes hurt all the time, but the beginning because the percentage of people is lower so like one or two that don’t work out of five is different than when one or two don’t work out of 100 So making sure that you have a process to really vet can these people effectively do the job that was one mistake that I made. The second one is not thinking especially as you scale out a business not thinking about the the being in the right, like profitability range when you scale this was early on. But like growing a company that is on razor thin margins works from it works for Amazon growing a company that’s on razor thin EBITA are actually like negative EBITA works for venture funded software companies. You’re an independent consultant, you’re a service business. It’s a it’s a times EBIT, multiple type of business. You got To make sure that you have the right gross margin profile to actually scale the business,
Alastair McDermott 45:05
Sage where it’s, yeah. Okay, I’m gonna wrap it up, is there a business book or resource that’s been really important for you or that you’d recommend?
Chris Walker 45:15
I mean, there’s a lot of things that have been important to me. I love the book mastery by Robert Greene, I think the guy is a genius. He’s most well known for the book 48 Laws of Power, which is a little bit that can be a little bit dark. But mastery was the my favorite book that he’s written that I’ve read so far. And then I’ll say that, like, a lot of people, like the question becomes, do people like, What book did you read or things like that, but I think that we should expand it to like, what types of information do you consume from people? Right, because like, maybe 20 years ago, it was just the book. But now someone’s Instagram content, some someone that produces a podcast or things like that is like, I’m looking at that more as like scaled mentorship now. Like, there’s a lot of people that listen to my podcast, that it’s updated way more frequently. It’s more relevant today than any book will ever be. Right? Most books get written and don’t get published for the next 18 months. So the the book industry broadly, I think, is just so like, not up with the times about how things work, looking for things that get updated more frequently that are more relevant. Yeah, but from the book standpoint, I think mastery by Robert Greene is a must read for most people.
Alastair McDermott 46:29
Cool. What about fiction? Do you read fiction at all? Is there anything that you love?
Chris Walker 46:32
Alastair McDermott 46:35
Do you do you watch movies or TV? Or are you like, a full time workaholic?
Chris Walker 46:42
I’m not a full time workaholic. But I don’t spend my free time watching TV.
Alastair McDermott 46:46
Okay, what do you spend your free time? Like? Do you do you do sports? Anything like that? Is that uh, is that is that important for you?
Chris Walker 46:53
I love working out. I love long distance running. I love relaxing by the pool, getting more into cooking and grilling, which has been a fun thing to do. I love to travel. I love hanging out with my dog and trying to get her to obey my commands.
Alastair McDermott 47:15
Cool. Well, Chris Walker, thank you so much. Where can people find you if they want to learn more?
Chris Walker 47:20
Yeah, if you are interested in learning more, you can watch me build in public on LinkedIn podcasts and tic TOCs while the channels I said are the biggest opportunities right now. You can literally just watch what I’m doing there and see if you could repackage or retool that for what you’re doing. That is a on LinkedIn on Chris Walker 171, the same handle on Tik Tok and the podcast, you want to check that out. It’s called the state of demand gen podcast available on Apple and Spotify.
Alastair McDermott 47:42
Cool. And I’ll link to all of those in the show notes. Chris, thank you so much for being on the show.
Chris Walker 47:47
Thanks so much for having me. This was fun.
Alastair McDermott 47:51
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