Knucklehead Podcast: Experiment Doesn’t Mean Start From Scratch, With Refine Labs CEO, Chris Walker

Knucklehead Podcast: Experiment Doesn’t Mean Start From Scratch, With Refine Labs CEO, Chris Walker

Chris Walker (00:01): We measured our biggest race of the year. We had spent more than $50,000 not including travel or any of those different things on the booth. We've scanned somewhere around a hundred badges for the show, and we created zero opportunities and close the ordeals.

Intro (00:26): Choose not to live in a world of filters. Realize your mistakes. Set the foundation for your success, get some wins. Knucklehead podcast.

Stephen Colon (00:27): Welcome to another edition of Knucklehead Podcast you got with you today, Steven, the knucklehead, and I'm excited about Chris Walker's story. Well, because I'm going to find out things about Chris and his business here, but you, the listener, are going to be able to understand what his business does. Honestly, what the process has been for him to go from being interested in topics, to actually perfecting some of those topics, to actually being able to help coach other people to become perfectionists at their particular craft. And so I don't necessarily know if we're going to go through the entire process right now, but I will tell you that at least one part of the story you're going to latch on to and then you're going to go back and find the Chris. I'd suggest to find them on LinkedIn because that's what we became acquainted. So, Chris, welcome to the show. How in the hell are you really happy to be here? Stephen? Things are going great. Good, good. And you're in Uzbekistan, is that right? Is that,

Chris Walker (01:16): I'm in the lovely town of Boston in the Seaport district. It's a cold and rainy here, but we are looking forward to it.

Stephen Colon (01:23): Nice summer. Very cool. Very cool. Is there any update on when the BoSox we're actually going to be back to the drawing board? I mean, is that a, is that a hot topic of discussion across the Boston airwaves?

Chris Walker (01:33): You know, um, I, over the past probably decade, I've gotten a lot more close with my Patriots and there's been some really, really significant changes to the group over the past couple of weeks. But yeah, I don't, honestly, I just don't bother on slots on it.

Stephen Colon (01:48): Well you bring up, uh, you bring up an interesting point that I don't even know if there's enough pain that you could describe the amount of, you know, now that's changed with Jimmy, Jimmy Jay on the other side of, uh, of the country and you know, Brighty is gone and now it's Gronk is, it's true. I mean it's w what are you to do? And I know that we're boring our listeners, they don't, they don't tune into this for sports updates. But at the same time it, it is interesting to think about a dynasty that's been completely pulled apart. I don't even want to get into that right now. But, alright. So Chris, let's educate some of these folks. Cause going into your background specifically when you talk about performance marketing, I think copywriters, folks that have been able to manipulate words, smash everything together in order to receive a desired result in direct response. There's subject matter experts that have dated all the way back to the early 19 hundreds in the 18 hundreds for being able to use communication to effectively derive or result. However, in your business, that's not all you do. That's just a component of what it is that you do. I'm interested, how did you discover, you know, marketing as a, uh, as a passion or how did you, how did you actually discover that there was a career behind this messy middle between sales and advertising them as marketing? Yeah, for sure. A couple of notes on

Chris Walker (03:00): performance marketing. I'm a fan of performance marketing. I do think it gets you someplace. It's the marketing that we do is mainly for companies that are selling a product that costs more than $10,000 a year. And so in a complex sales process, it is not realistic to cold target someone on Facebook and say, Hey, come get a demo of my software and expect a bunch of people to close at a rate that is efficient or cost effective. And that is the reason we've moved away from it. And it was just a big part of the buyer's journey. So yes, we'll run performance marketing and Google ad words where someone's searching, I need a corporate financial business management software. And when they search that, we're absolutely gonna buy the term and we're going to track that from a PR at a performance marketing type of metric level. But we do not use those metrics in a lot of other channels with people do specifically social. I believe social is an awareness channel, not an intent channel, and therefore shouldn't be measured in the same ways that Google direct response is measured. However, most companies out there still continue to do it that way, which then drives them to do all of the wrong things. That makes the performance metrics look good and the business results look not so good.

Stephen Colon (04:10): I heard it said a long time ago, my background's Marine Corps, right? So this is knucklehead podcast, not you did it perfectly the first time podcast or guy rods is how you built it or anything along those lines. This is what you screw up. What'd you, what'd you mess up and how was it painful? And I've always heard that there's a reason why generals don't essentially write policy because there's not a general on the planet that, you know, once they're in charge, could use more troops, could use more time, could use more planning in order to effectively execute. Right. Almost similar to this crisis that we're running into right now with the pandemic, there's a reason why medical professionals don't write policy. They consult with decision makers, which essentially are elected officials. But in this instance, you know, whenever you come up with SLPs or KPIs or the metrics to establish which channels to optimize or double down as a marketer, how did you gain some of that experience? I mean, where did you run against like discovering that social was a, an awareness channel as opposed to an intent channel?

Chris Walker (05:05): How did you come up with that? Yeah, so probably about six years ago in my career, I made a big shift where I basically stopped believing in an auditing all my assumptions on what I'd been taught about marketing. And so instead of just thinking about certain things, I would actually measure them and experiment with them. So we went to the trade shows and I've been doing that for five years before this, this time period six years ago. And I had been qualitatively just like anecdotally feeling like this doesn't feel like it's working. This doesn't feel like the conversations are at a deep level. It doesn't feel like the people that we're talking to are going to buy things. It doesn't feel like this is worth the cost of what we're paying to travel and build the booth and promote it and do all these things.

Chris Walker (05:52): And then so eventually I got to a place where I was like, what's measure this? Like, let's see what's going on. And so we, we measured, uh, our biggest race of the year. We had spent more than $50,000, not including travel or any of those different things on the booth. We've scanned somewhere around a hundred badges for the show and we created zero opportunities and close the deals. And I think of a lot of people, if they measure their trade show, they will get a very similar result. Um, they might have opportunities that were already existing that they moved forward by having meetings outside of the booth to, to create deals that they'll attribute that way. But you do not need a booth to do that. And so if you look at the booth and measure it on cold lead generation, that attributes sales, you're going to find a very poor result.

Chris Walker (06:39): And then at VAPA therm, like a maybe five or six years ago when I built demand gen where I really figured out my model, I tested all these things. I ran paid social ads that said come get a demo and I watched the cost per lead and the, and then the customer acquisition costs and the ineffectiveness of followup and how tough it was to get someone that filled out that form to get a demo for our $25,000 product. Like it just didn't make sense. And then I still get that back. Why isn't this happening? And then I used like some empathy to understand, okay, like these people probably have never heard about us. They don't know anything. Like why would they want to have our sales rep come to their hospital and give them a demo of this product? Like what they're doing is just fine.

Chris Walker (07:27): They're not educated. And then so the next step that we did is I did a survey and we surveyed more than 500 people that work in hospitals that the exact job titles that we're going after. And we asked them a couple of things. Uh, the first thing was, what's the first step when you're looking to buy something? The first step was not talked to a sales rep, it was research on online. And then I said, look, the next question was when would you like to speak to a sales rep? And they said, when I want to demo. And then, so I started to really like peel back the layers and, and continue to use, I think psychology plays a lot into here and realized that they didn't want the demo. When I presented that ad to them, they wanted to see their vacation photos or their friends on Facebook, so we were forcing the demo on them, which then we led to the fact that there was such a high drop off between the form conversion and someone even answering the phone and such a another high drop off between if they answered the phone did they actually get to a demo and then they got to a demo to they actually close to sales and what you'll find is that like yeah you might get leads for 50 bucks, but very few of them get that all any will become customers.

Chris Walker (08:29): A lot of my experiments and we stopped just one experiment. I've driven that experiment probably 20 times with 15 different companies on a bunch of different social channels. That exact experiment get the exact same result every time. The most recent one was in January of this year. And so like just through experimentation, knowing that if it doesn't work, I've learned something, have piece by piece, figured out the things that work and the things that

Speaker 4 (08:56): have you ever asked yourself why you haven't started a podcast? Well, I already know the reason. So to you, you don't feel like you're tech savvy. You don't feel like you got your message wired right. And quite frankly, it's just, it's all this mystification going on. Quite frankly. Uh, our process helps to demystify that we're pushed button for podcasts. We're knucklehead. Why? Knucklehead? But we lead with the fact that you don't know what you're doing. We do. We've been there. We've actually been in your shoes. We take your spoken voice. We literally give a human voice to your website. You want to bring dead leads to life? Well then you need to talk to knucklehead. Essentially what we're going to do is we're going to take you through our process or we're going to help take your human voice and increase the process for you going from dead leads to life.

Speaker 4 (09:38): How do I, how do I do that? Well, you essentially just take your human voice, put it in a directory, and let people consume more of you. Give your audience the ability to have Netflix on you. They want to binge watch you. They want to binge listen. Give them the ability to take your voice along on that commute with them so you can get in touch with us, Steven at knucklehead podcasts, or if you've got a really cool story stories at knucklehead podcasts, you can find us on LinkedIn and on Facebook and not go to promotions LLC and get in touch with us. Don't be a beta about the process. Don't let be fact that you don't know permitting you from getting some wins. So don't be a beta. Get some wins and contact us the next day.

Stephen Colon (10:16): Great. Can I ask you a question as you're going through some of the stories, so I'm interested in what I'm hearing is what I'm hearing is it's, you know, are you familiar with the Lego story? You know how they, they came from a family. Exactly. You don't have to be a historian to understand the significance of what you're talking about, about understanding the puzzle piece. And I think anybody that puts a puzzle together goes through the same process there where they're not quite sure exactly how this puzzle fits together. They look at all the different pieces that seemingly are just completely disorganized and all over the place, but they look at the, they look at the puzzle box, right? They look at the puzzle box and they say, Oh yeah, that's what the, that's what the picture is supposed to look like, which is what every single business owner on the history of the planet does.

Stephen Colon (10:54): They have this desired outcome that's ideal. That probably exists in a vacuum. However, outside of all the different market forces that that will impact that particular result, they don't understand all the moving pieces that come with a sale. And so Lego kind of went through a similar process where they were just were making toys. They didn't understand that there was a system of play, there was licensing opportunities, there was kids that will, that will eventually grow up and then watch movies. And then take their kids to go see movies and do all the things that Lego ended up taking advantage of. But that's what I'm hearing and what you're saying. You're saying, so I'm hearing that about six years ago, rather than do whatever business owner on the planet does, which is go to trade shows, you started to measure the impact of those trade shows. Essentially the impact on the bottom line, which is what you were mainly interested in. Now as a CEO running a business, you want to do things that maybe cost very little and have a significant impact or tiny leaps. Big changes, I think is the way that you could summarize that, that intent. I like how you measured the anecdotal feeling that you had. You had said that there was a feeling there and you used qualitative measurements.

Chris Walker (11:56): People really underestimate the qualitative feeling.

Stephen Colon (12:00): I just happen to have this book right here. It's called how to measure anything, and it's interesting the way that you're describing a lot of the scenarios because how can you measure some of what you're talking about? You know what I mean? Unless you were very intentional about it.

Chris Walker (12:11): And the, the mechanisms that people will use to measure them are flawed by trying to make people jump through hoops in order to measure something. You actually dilute the effectiveness of whatever you're trying to do. People tell me that I could measure the effectiveness of my LinkedIn posts. I put a call to action on every post that said, Hey, come book a demo with me or come book a call with me, but my content works because I'm not asking for anything. And so I think a lot of people miss that too. And in the pursuit of measurement, they actually ruin their execution.

Stephen Colon (12:42): The words you use to describe some of the discovery process, you actually replace it. And one of the texts that I saw in your, uh, on LinkedIn, and it was the pace in which folks go from one stage to another in sales. When I think of how a deal is progressing through the stages, pace is one of the biggest things that muddies the water, right? Because somebody may be in a, in a position where they absolutely need what it is that you do and they didn't know you until they actually started to consume it. And it almost creates this psychology is probably a good way to describe it, but there's this insatiable desire to consume more of what it is that they discovered about you because you're speaking directly to their need. And it's, it's interesting and we call that just Netflixing out on you. We use that. Describe to whenever we're talking to somebody about a podcast, they're like, well why would I need one? Well, cause you need to give folks the ability to Netflix out on you if they, if they like what you have to say, right?

Chris Walker (13:38): GSA like what you have to say. And if you really reverse engineer that, it's whether or not you're taking someone from where they are today to a better place.

Stephen Colon (13:44): That's a journey. And that's, and that's exactly what what you're talking about. So it's interesting the kind of storybook kind of kids play that now you know, marketer marketers are able to leverage in order to achieve the desired outcome for their particular business. So I'm going to ask you in terms of your mindset whenever you were running a lot of the business development channels over it, I'm going to screw up the names you say, I'm not making those businesses to where you are now. Talk about your mindset whenever you look at, you know, some of the reports coming from your sales team or your marketing team and how did your vision change between those two?

Chris Walker (14:18): Yeah, so, um, so at day but there I'm super grateful for that opportunity. It changed my life and it changed my career over the two years that I was there. And when I was there I was building a marketing engine at demand gen function inside of a sales driven company. And I think a lot of people that are listening to this right now will understand what I'm, what I'm talking about. It was really hard to get continued investment for people to recognize how impactful it was to the business. The metrics were so clear, but over those two years I had to figure out how to communicate it to someone that didn't believe in what I was doing. And that is the reason why I'm able to communicate now so clearly is because I spent two years trying to figure out how, what are the, what's the way that I can say, what metrics do I need to point to?

Chris Walker (15:03): What things do I need to measure in order for someone that is traditionally outbound sales. If we want to grow, it's hire more people, more salespeople to to believe in that maybe there's an alternative, more efficient, better cut, more customer centric way to grow. And so through that opportunity I was able to, and, and I tried a lot and some things worked and some things didn't. And I would feel what things resonated and what things didn't. I would see how people responded. And over time I built a framework and a way of thinking about things. And I think a lot of people could benefit from,

Stephen Colon (15:34): well based off of the evidence that you've been able to accumulate over the years, let's let's land this for, for folks that are, that know that their business needs to go through some change and the market dynamics that are out there right now are forcing their business to have to change where w where would you say somebody would start? So let's just say for instance they're running a tech enabled a third party logistics platform where they're trying to connect shippers with available space out there in the community. That's just an example here. If that's a tech company that is interested in growing their business, how would they leverage some of the data that you've been able to collect to help bring their targeted users into this new kind of tech enabled framework where everybody's working remotely and now everything's, I mean obviously in tech businesses, everybody works remotely or there's a lot of folks who work remotely outside of the programmers, but the idea is how do you help folks deal with this change that's going on right now with Kobe. But at the same time set them up for success because that's essentially what your platform does.

Chris Walker (16:32): Yeah. So I think figuring out what things do not work. It's the easy part. If people actually care to look, the hard part is figuring out, okay, these things don't work. What things should I do instead? What things should I spend my money on instead? And I think a lot of people get stuck there is that they don't have a strategy or a tactic or whatever to position to executive to say, listen, the $500,000 we're spending on trade shows, that's stupid. This is not bringing our company forward. But they can't say, here's what we should do instead and here's why, and here's what we're going to measure and here's how it's going to work and here's what it's going to do for our business. That's what's missing. Um, so I think let's do go back to the tech enabled platform to connect. First off to directional marketplaces are super tough.

Chris Walker (17:15): So that's one, that's one thing that makes this example more difficult because you basically have two audiences that you need to sell to. And you need to both for it to work. And so I think the first step is to kind of recognize where both audiences are. And I think that for a lot of people, that business, I mean I'm sure that there are iterations of that in different forms of businesses all over the country already. And so I think you have to recognize that people might do what you're offering as a commodity. I think like what I offer, well, when people look at my, what I do as a marketing agency, commoditized, right? However, when you're selling, and I think a lot of people should just consider that they're selling a commodity, whatever their product is. And therefore the way that you're going to win is on brand and awareness because the more people that know about you will then be, have more affinity to actually buying from you.

Chris Walker (18:07): And so the way that you create more awareness is by focusing on your audience and focusing on what helps them be better. So they're, here's a really good example. If you're trying to, to attract attention from truckers, I'm not sure that like how to be more efficient with your truck is the right way to attract them. I'm trying to think of like a really like clever example on the fly. I'm not sure I have one. But like here's an example of like you could have a podcast about the best rest stops and places to stop along truck routes as nothing to do with your tech enabled platform has nothing to do with anything but people might listen to it that drive trucks that then need to them wondering what you do and then them deciding that, Oh like I use this other service in Sacramento but maybe when I stopped there I'll use this one and stuff.

Stephen Colon (18:51): Yeah, that's it. It's an interesting way and it was a fantastic attempt by your Chris there to relate to all those over the road truck drivers. We know you're listening, so we appreciate, we appreciate y'alls attention for sure. How can people get in touch with you? So if I'm running it by, you know, a VC backed going into my series a and I know that I need to expand my brand awareness, how can people get in touch with the Chris walkers of the world?

Chris Walker (19:12): Yeah. So I published content but audience focused, no asks, not not looking for any sales out of it every day just to help people, marketers, salespeople, business owners get better. So you can follow me on LinkedIn, Chris Walker. Um, and then if you're interested in exploring whether or not we'd be able to help you, you can visit our website. We find so a lot of good information there. We have high production quality videos, very accomplished sales and marketing leaders that you can look at a lot of the information that we put out, like you'd be able to go and take that and do it yourself. And that's the goal here. And so, um, yeah, those are a couple ways to find us. I hope this information was valuable and really happy to be here.

Stephen Colon (19:48): Absolutely. Absolutely. So w what we call here at knucklehead podcast of what you're talking about, which is six years ago, whenever you were run up, run up against the kind of the inconvenient truth that you need to start measuring what it is that you're not even just start measuring. But what you've always done and this necessarily isn't necessarily going to get you going forward to challenge your previous behaviors. Yes. That we just, we, uh, I like whatever's going to put you out of business when you should start practicing for that to happen day in and day out. And that's a very difficult thing to do when you're trying to execute against what you've sold, uh, in the past, right? Especially in the recent past. It's when you're still trying to deliver. We find that businesses and business owners and even folks that work within those companies, if they could think a little bit forward and have somebody like you come in and, and come up behind them and instead of not having the answer of what happens next, because whatever you're doing is a bad idea to actually have a plan in a pathway forward that puts you in a much better position to actually start, you know, reprioritize them where your budget, where your money is going to go.

Stephen Colon (20:49): So we appreciate you taking some time, Chris, for sure. But those of you like listen, knucklehead, we've got new episodes coming at you every Tuesday. So Chris brought it to you. He brought it to you first. Here, go over to refine labs and go over and find on LinkedIn, Chris Walker or refine labs and get in touch with them. That's, that's what we suggest to do. The reason why, well, if you're going to actually end up uncovering maybe that dirty little secret of that, that muddy mirror, that difficult lens to look through, you're going to find a different perspective from somebody like Chris. So Chris, we appreciate you taking some time. Anything else that you want to leave these folks with? I'm good. That was solid. Alright, I appreciate it. All right, Joe, we'll see you guys.

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Going through a lot of experiments in figuring out the things that work and the things that don’t, Chris spends most of his time finding a measurable solution in bringing results to the business.

In today’s Knucklehead Podcast episode, Chris speaks about performance marketing, how he came up with a quantifiable outcome in generating leads, and why focusing on your audience and what helps them better can help in winning brand and awareness which leads people to actually buy from you.

Chris Walker is the CEO of Refine Labs. They help companies optimize their revenue model. Their Revenue Engine Optimization formula has been proven to accelerate business growth and new customer acquisition with a focus on pipeline velocity. The results are consistent and span across industries including medical devices, industrial, scientific, and health/wellness.


Favorite Quote:

“I made a big shift where I basically stopped believing in auditing all my assumptions on what I’d been taught about marketing. And so instead of just thinking about certain things, I would actually measure them and experiment with them.”

                                                                                                                        -Chris Walker

In this Episode:

2:43 – Understanding the concepts of performance marketing

5:16 – How Chris discovered social media as an awareness channel as opposed to an intent channel

14:20 – Significant ability he learned from his past work experience

16:38 – His advice on dealing with changes in business and market dynamics

19:52 – Getting in touch with Chris Walker

23:22 – How people perceive his service

Connect with Chris Walker



Click here to connect with Knucklehead Media Group

  • Knucklehead Media Group is your “push button” for podcast. We help companies and organizations tell their story using podcasts and best practices for content distribution. Home to some of the top podcasts across multiple categories, captivating coursework on gaining traction with your show, and consulting to those companies BOLD enough to get some wins. We believe your mistakes set the foundation for your success, those stories help customers beat a pathway to your doorstep, and the myths from bringing business online shouldn’t hold you back from getting yours.

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