How to win in marketing with Chris Walker of Refine Labs

Chris Walker, the CEO, Refine Labs, is what you would call a demand generation aficionado. This isn’t surprising when you consider the phenomenal growth of Refine Labs, a Boston-based demand accelerator for B2B SaaS companies.

The agency startup has grown to fifty employees in less than 30 months.

Chris attributes the company’s phenomenal growth to innovation and commitment to the strategy. “We do things in a modern way, and we think differently.”

“We commit to strategy. We don't do all the dumb stuff that everyone else does. It's super simple. We spend no time on SEO. We spend no time on lead gen. We don't spend money on content syndication. We don't go to trade shows. We don't buy Google ads. We don't do all the stuff that companies do. All we do are the things that work best,” Chris continues.

Trinity Nguyen sat down with Chris Walker on The First 100 Days podcast to discuss why combining sub-disciplines is key in marketing, the impact of influencer marketing in B2B, and how to use social media effectively.

Prefer to give the pod a listen? Here’s the link to the full interview. Otherwise, let’s get to it.

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Specialization is everything

Chris believes in the specialization of roles at scale. “Product marketing, field marketing, sales enablement, demand gen brand content, advertising, RevOps. It’s not hard to become an expert in all those things. That’s how you become a good marketer,” he explains.

And everything starts to come together once marketers start combining these sub-disciplines. 

“The real magic happens when you learn how to put the pieces together – brand, demand, account base – into one mix. Not a lot of marketers think that way,” Chris says. 

But before all that, you need to go back to the fundamentals.

“You need to have clear fundamentals. You need to understand customers deeply, know how to segment them. You need to have a clear position. You need to hang out in the places where you get a constant stream of consumer insights, you need to understand what's resonating with them, and have the infrastructure to provide value and a content engine that those people want. Those are the fundamentals,” he explains.

“The problem with most marketers is they pick a lane, like field marketing, and then they get to a director level, field marketer, and they don't know how to do any other parts of marketing. And no, they're not going to grow from there,” Chris continues.


Influencer marketing for B2B SaaS companies

Influencer marketing isn’t new.

“I know it's hot for a lot of people, but a lot of industries have been doing it for a long time,” Chris says.

He’s been running influencer marketing campaigns since 2014—when it was called key opinion leader marketing.

“We would have physicians who used our products speak at conferences about how they use our product for a specific use case. It was 100% influencer marketing,” he explains.

“For it to work best, it has to be integrated into the entire marketing mix. It’s not something that can be run in a vacuum,” he continues.

Some marketers still view influencer marketing from a transactional lens. 

“Hey Trinity, I want to pay you $30 to post about how great our company is. That's a very superficial way to approach it. That’s more like affiliate marketing. If you do that, you’re going to turn your audience off,” he says.


Interested in learning about how to leverage influencer marketing in B2B? Check out this article on how B2B revenue teams can take advantage of influencer marketing.

How to use social media effectively

Many B2B folks don’t believe that Facebook and Instagram work beyond providing awareness or some degree of engagement. Chris disagrees.

“You can basically cover the entire population of the United States across those two platforms. You can get mass consumption unlike any other platform in the world right now,” he says.

“I'm so confused why people don't recognize the opportunity. There's not a single place, television, the Wall Street Journal, anything, that has as much scale as those two platforms combined,” he continues.

However, most companies misuse it.

“Companies will take $2,000 and they'll go into Facebook with a lead generation mindset. They'll run lead forms on $2,000 and collect 20 low-quality leads. They'll have bad email addresses, personal email addresses, bad contact information, the wrong name, and bad data because people don't update Facebook. They’ll collect 20 leads, say the data isn't good, and then give up and stop,” Chris says.

“What they actually did was they went out and tried to hang a picture with a wheelbarrow. They used the wrong tool. They used the wrong approach with the tool. And then they’ll give up and get confirmation bias—confirming all the things they already believe. And then they keep doing anything else that they're already doing,” he continues.

When it comes to paid Google Ads, Chris doesn’t think they are a cost-effective tactic.

“There are better opportunities elsewhere. You shouldn’t be checking a box. It’s either you’re doing something because it’s going to make an impact or you ignore it,” he explains.

“Would you rather take a hundred thousand dollars a month and spend it that way to get $20,000 a month back? Or would you rather take a hundred thousand dollars, go put it on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, a podcast, different things like that and drive 300X ROI instead of 2.2X ROI?” he continues.

He rounds up with this insightful monologue:

“The reality is buyers trust their peers way more than the results they get. They know there are affiliate links. They know there's pay-to-play stuff. They know that the vendor’s blog isn’t objective. And so, when people are making buying decisions, they make those searches elsewhere. They make those searches in places where their peers are – a Slack community, a Reddit channel, a Facebook group, a direct message, an email, or a Zoom. They talk to somebody that they trust more than the results they get in Google.”

Final thoughts

“We’re in the golden era of marketing," says Chris. “Marketing is the lever that can create growth – and a trajectory of growth – that no other function in the company can.”

But you can’t win by looking for the next shiny hack.

“Marketing is an aggregation of a thousand touch points and activities every day that drive the outcome you're looking for overtime. Anyone looking for one hack or one thing, that's not how you get to marketing. You find three, four, five, or seven things that you do consistently that all make that impact,” Chris says.

For the full interview and more insights from Chris Walker, tune into The First 100 Days wherever you get your podcasts.

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