Customer Research The Right Way w/ Chris Walker

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This is a podcast episode titled, Customer Research The Right Way w/ Chris Walker. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, joins the show to discuss marketing and customer research. </p><p><br></p><p>If you want to join the discussion with thousands of other customer success leaders, join Gain Grow Retain: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><br></p><p>This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...</p><p>Jay Nathan: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Jeff Breunsbach: <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
Collecting information now to use later on down the road
01:22 MIN
The 6 most common places B2B marketing budgets are wasted
02:50 MIN
Helping teams in other parts of the organization understand where your business comes from
01:26 MIN
Deliver information that your buyers can use that has nothing to do with your product
03:33 MIN
How to achieve advocacy
02:28 MIN
Being an advocate without expecting incentives
03:46 MIN

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast.

Jeff: Gain Grow Retain, you have Jeff here. Before we dive into the show today, we have some exciting news that we've been holding on to. As of this month, Gain Grow Retain is officially part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. And this becomes a really important milestone for our community and brings more validation to customer success. Something I love about the HubSpot Podcast Network is all the inspiring shows dedicated to helping professionals learn, grow, and scale their businesses. If you love Gain Grow Retain and want to check out other shows like us I'm a big fan of My First Million, I Digress, and The Salesman. Check out all these shows and more at hubspot. com/ podcastnetwork. All right, welcome back to another episode of Gain Grow Retain. I do not know what episode number this is. I probably should have kept track at the beginning. But we're getting... This is a lot. I think we're getting over 150, which is fun. It's crazy to think about now. It's just two years old that we've been doing this and pumping these out. And Chris, who is our guest today, actually was on an earlier episode of the podcast. This is probably going on almost a year ago now. And I always like to recycle guests because I'm like, " Hey, there's different insights you're going to bring than the last time. You've changed perspectives." But for everybody out there, we've got Chris Walker, who is the CEO at Refine Labs. And if you are not familiar with Chris, head over to LinkedIn right now and look him up. There's a ton of great content that he's putting out along with his team. And they are always trying to bring the interesting perspective to marketing and put everything out and air all the dirty laundry, so to speak, and trying to make sure that we're looking at it in the right way. So, Chris, excited for you to be here.

Chris Walker: Hey, Jeff, great to be back. It's always good when somebody has you on their podcast a while ago, and then invites you back. So, I appreciate that. And yeah, just to talk through a little bit about the comment on airing out the dirty laundry. I think that I have a really interesting position here, which is that I interact with hundreds of marketing executive, sales executives, CEOs, at predominantly B2B SaaS companies every single month. And I collect data qualitatively on what those people are telling me what they're trying, what's working, what's not, what their biggest challenges are, where things... what they're being told, where they get information from, where they spend their time, how they make buying decisions. I could go on for a long time about the data that I'm collecting here. And then I just communicate the clear obvious trends that are happening in the world that other people don't look for and don't see.

Jeff: Yeah, actually just to dig in on that for a minute because I think that's super interesting is how do you as you're going through those types of conversations, and part of it is an exercise of just active listening, right? You're sitting there listening for the right nuggets. You're collecting that. Like you said, some of it is qualitative. You might actually go do some quantitative exercises with those companies to try and get some Google ad spend data or get some data from the back end. But when you're looking at it qualitatively, like you said, you're kind of what are they reading? What are they doing? Have you found a good systematic way for you to collect that information? I know I have several notebooks all over my desk. I've got Post- it notes. I have online documents. I'm just curious, just like an active listening technique for yourself, how do you best collect information like that to try and then do something with it down the line?

Chris Walker: I think it's just being curious and listening and getting data from a lot of different places. And so, I watch what people comment on my LinkedIn posts or other people's LinkedIn posts. I watch what people post on LinkedIn. I interact with people that want to work with our company and understand what their challenges are. I host a live Q& A show for marketers every Tuesday that I've been doing for 18 months where marketers actually asked me questions about what they're going on. And we can dive deeper into why they think that way, why, you know what I mean?

Jeff: Yeah.

Chris Walker: And so, I create, it's one I think, one of the superpowers as a marketer or just a business professional in general is within the first 90 days of being in any company, I want to open up lines of communication with the market so that I have direct access to what people think, where they're spending time, what they're saying, what they prioritize. That's the inside. I think the missing piece in a lot of B2B business strategy right now is they think that they're customer centric, but they're truly disconnected from what customers actually want and need. And so, it requires effort, it requires... It's not sexy work. You don't pump up pipeline by going out and looking at customers. You don't get to do a lot of the things that people glorify in marketing. But it's the foundation that allows you to get all those results.

Jeff: Yeah, I love that point, too. I always joke with people. Just look at your own company, and if you look at your... Say, you have a newsletter, say you have social media feeds, and if on those feeds you're talking more about yourself than the problems, and the challenges that your customers might be going through, or the stories that you're hearing, this probably one sign that you're not customer centric. It's the easiest one that I always call out. It's kind of like, " Hey, if we're talking about ourselves more than we're talking about our customers and the challenges and problems they have, then that's probably step number one that we're going wrong." Because it's an inward facing view, right? We need to be a lot more outward facing, and figuring out where we fit in the market, the problems and challenges that we're solving. And then from a customer success lens to the other thing that I think Jay and I talk about quite a bit, especially with our customer success teams is a lot of times customer success managers are taught about the product, right? Hey, how can I go help drive an outcome for Chris utilizing our product? What I always say is think about that in reverse as well. Our customers are probably using the product 30% of the time, 40% of their day. Maybe you might be crosstalk-

Chris Walker: Maybe far less.

Jeff: Yeah, 10%. Think about if you just actually listened and built a relationship, think about the other like you said 90%, 70% that we could be impacting that's outside of our product, but they go through every single day, they have challenges with. And that's another piece of that listening exercise, too, that I tend to try and do a lot of which is, as you're listening you're hearing the things that they have to be doing outside of your software. And that's also where you can provide value. How can I help you? Oh, you're going to go build a 2022 budget and planning exercise right now? Great, I just heard my other customer talk about that. Maybe you guys should connect and see if you're using the same budgeting process or planning process and see if that's going to be helpful. So, I love your point just about looking at are you actually customer centric? And then also, the active listening piece just goes, I think by the wayside a lot of times, and it's a really good skill to learn.

Chris Walker: And then just being... How do I say this? Not getting the answers that you're looking for. I'm not sure exactly how but I've been doing customer research for almost a decade now. And at the beginning when I was doing it I would basically help people tell me the things that I wanted to hear, which is not the right way to do customer research. And so, no matter what the person tells me, it's a good insight for me. And it's my job to interpret what's their perspective? Where are they coming from? What does it mean to me? How should I act on that insight? So, not taking everything directly, but interpreting it and understanding how you can use it as important. But I think the miss that people make early and the one that I made myself is by guiding people to the answers that you want not the truth.

Jeff: Yeah. And that also comes with becoming better at asking questions. I think one of the things I've learned and even just doing this podcast is myself early on I asked a lot of yes and no questions that didn't allow for a lot of time to elaborate. And then I also would put myself on mute. Sometimes you tend to just continue to talk and talk. And it's like, hey, they're not here for me, they're here for the guests. How can I make sure that happens? So, two skills that I've tried to pick up a lot is asking open ended questions a lot better and putting yourself on mute because it tends to be if I can put myself on mute, you might keep talking a little bit extra than you would have if I get in and stop your line of thinking. So, the other piece that I was excited about getting you back on. A lot of your posts on LinkedIn just get me thinking. They always just get the gears turning in my head. I always just start ruminating on them. And I'd sent you a post that you'd actually written about a month ago that got me going, and it was six most common places B2B marketing budgets are wasted right now. And this seems like one of those exercises you went out, you're listening to all the conversations you were having and starting to piece this together. And I imagine doing all the work your company does as well. Now you've got some of the quantitative pieces to back that up and say, " Yep, the qualitative pieces and the quantitative pieces are coming to bear here." So, I'm just curious. We don't have to run through all six. But was it interesting for you when you looked at the six, is there any one that stood out more? Was it for you obvious that these were six that were areas being wasted, and you thought about going?

Chris Walker: Yeah, so I'll call them out for everyone just so people know what we're talking about here. So here are the six most common places B2B marketing budgets are wasted. This is developed through qualitative data, but mostly going through probably about 60 different B2B SaaS Salesforce instances in the past two years, and having a lot of quantitative data about where a lot of money gets spent and where not many results get generated. And so, here are the six that we found. Google paid search ads by far the most money gets wasted here. It's a mess. Trade show booths and conference sponsorships, some of them work, but a lot of money gets wasted there and a lot of revenue gets attributed to conferences that doesn't belong there like expansion revenue and etc. You don't need a booth to drive expansion revenue. Gated content syndication is a huge offender. So many leads get created off of that and almost no revenue. LinkedIn lead gen, another big popular one. These are all big, growing SaaS enterprises large, hundreds of thousands of dollars a month expenses that drive vanity metrics that don't create revenue. Excessive headcount to support low ROI programs. The real solution there is literally just cutting the programs that aren't generating ROI, and excessive investment in marketing technology. So, those are the six, just so everyone has them. What was your question? Did anything stick out?

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, do you think this... As you, again, you mentioned that you've been doing this marketing research and been in this for 10 years exist. I guess, have you seen this as a trend over time start to accumulate and were these six the obvious ones in your mind? Or is there one that stood out and you're like, " Well, I didn't really think about that until I got a little bit more hands on with the data."

Chris Walker: So, if people looked at their own data, all of these would be pretty obvious, especially the ones where it's direct ad. So, there's some like on headcount where you'd have to look at the ROI of a program and decide it, but like LinkedIn, lead gen, gated content syndication, Google Ads, trade show booths, have been seen this, the low ROI on these approaches for more than five years. So, when I went back in 2017, I had about a$ 5, 000 budget to run Facebook ads when we were driving content to physicians for that with$ 5, 000. And it was driving pipeline, every dollar we spent every would get at least$ 10 in qualified pipeline that our sales team was going to win at 35%. And so, the stuff was working. And then I was like, " I want to move from 5, 000 to 15,000, and continue to scale this out so we can drive more revenue at very low costs." And the company was like, " Yeah, but we spent$1. 8 million in trade shows, and we're already committed to those next year." And so, I committed to myself over the next 12 months that I'm going to measure the ROI on every single one of these 13 trade show booths that we're going to build, and then we're going to make a decision what we're going to do the following year. And so I measured the ROI on them, and there was one out of the 13 that generated positive ROI.

Jeff: That's crazy.

Chris Walker: And then I just see the same pattern, what companies do is they'll build the booth and they won't actually... With any of these, they'll run the tactics, they'll create marketing will collect vanity metrics like leads, or contacts, or website traffic, or things like that, and they'll never actually scrutinize the real ROI.

Jeff: Yeah, I love the point that you made, too, where it's pretty easy I think in some ways. I mean, I worked in marketing for about eight years myself. I think it's pretty easy to game the system in some ways, right? Oh, yeah, this lead did come from that booth and that conference that I was at, really, but you know what, we were actually engaging with them in different ways. Maybe they were a part of our community ahead of time, or maybe they were part of... They were actually engaging with some of our employees in more natural ways. There's so many different factors that go into it. So, when you-

Chris Walker: Yeah, I just want to jump in, sorry. The other reason why people, why companies spend so much here is because it's some of the most easily trackable activities that exist. And so, because they're so obsessed with tracking everything, it almost pushes you into doing certain things that are easily tracked, typically not customer centric, and drive top of funnel metrics, not real metrics. So yeah, it's the second component is that they're easily measurable, which is a requirement in most B2B SaaS companies. And it's a, I think a mistake.

Jeff: Yeah, it's interesting. I've talked to a lot of marketing leaders myself, just over the years, and one of the things I've always found funny is like, " Oh, no, we have to build a landing page, so that we can catch that lead that goes into Salesforce." it's like, " Well, wait a minute. That's for current customers. Why are we going to make them fill up their own information, which we should already know about them?" We're not going to... That just seems as backwards that we're going to do that. So, I know a little bit of what you're saying there. When I looked at this list of six, the customer success side of me comes out and says, " Man, over these years, over the last number of years, customer success has picked up in the B2B SaaS world." It's becoming this larger trend in order for us to drive, like you said, net revenue and expansion and trying to make sure we also retain the business that we have. And then there's always been this customer marketing angle where it's like, okay, marketing can really help me as we try and drive some scaled programs to our customer success, or to our customers, excuse me, in trying to help customer success. So, I'm looking at this list of six. Like you said, it's budgets are being wasted. So, as a customer success leader, is there any advice you could give me that says, " Hey, how can I approach my marketing team to say, hey, I know we're spending dollars here, but look at this annuity that we have in terms of our ARR and our current customers, and we really should be spending more dollars there." What's, I don't know, advice from your side in the marketing side that I could approach a marketing leader and say, " Hey, we really should be investing in driving marketing programs or scaled programs for our customers, and how can we get some budget or how can we carve off a resource in order to do that?" I'm curious if you got any advice for us out there?

Chris Walker: Yeah, so we'll get into the advice in a moment, but first, I want to call out the real issue here. The real issue is that marketing is focused on developing buyer personas and trying to push people through a funnel not actually helping people. And so, if you have a real modern marketing strategy, then the content that you put out, where you distribute it, etc., should be just as valuable to your most evangelists customers, and to people that have never heard of you before. So, the strategy in marketing could be way more focused on customer success without changing anything except for the strategy. And so, that's one thing here. If you tighten that up, it's really interesting to think. I know that we drive increased adoption, expansion, retention, things like that to our customers through our content strategy. I don't call it customer marketing, but I know that it makes those impacts because it's valuable to our customers and things that people can implement that may not directly need to use our product in order to get. And so, there's an element there that I think is important to call out where if you adjusted the marketing strategy, then you would actually benefit customers a lot without even really trying. That's one component crosstalk.

Jeff: Sorry, quick, there's a saying that Jay talks about that I really, what she says, " Really, when you've identified maybe the right market, everyone's your customer. It's just some pay you today, and some are going to pay you in the future." And so, it's like the same thing you're talking about. If we're really looking at investing in this market, or this use case, or whatever it might be, if we've identified that then we need to be thinking about driving value to them as the person and the roles and the seats that they're in. And if you do that, then by and large you've got your customers that pay you today, they're going to get value from that. And then you have customers that don't pay you today. But now they're intrigued because they're like, " Hey, what is this? Let me learn more about this." So, I like that.

Chris Walker: Yeah, it's pure storytelling. How do you tell a story that's engaging to people because you understand them well. So, regardless of whether they pay you money right now, or they're going to pay you in the future, that they can see this feature is... These people understand me. This feature is very valuable. Now I'm going to put that in my head for in the future if I ever see a use case that I need that feature maybe I'll think about this company. That's a good one. The way that you unlock this as a customer success leader, here we go, here's the insight. You help your marketing team and your executive team understand where your business actually comes from. What you do is you put a for net new business, whether, I think you should put it on your main forms on your website. I think that you should have your sales team ask about it in first calls, your BDR team ask about, how did you hear about us? Because you're going to get data on the marketing level where people fill out your requested demo form or your free trial form, and they say, " I heard about you from this person," who happens to be your customer, or I heard about you from this community, which most likely was your customer in that community telling them. And when you see that 50% of your net new revenue comes through word of mouth, you start to think about customer marketing a little bit differently. Your organization starts to think about it a little bit differently, too. And then you have the opportunity to think about how you shift your programs, tactics, investments, things like that. The problem is that companies don't track that. So, when they look, the business goes back and does their annual plan. What they see is, oh, we got a ton of leads from Google, organic search, and paid search are what's driving our revenue, so let's keep doing that. And they don't actually see what's actually happening, which is word of mouth from your current customers drives most of your business. And I can make a blanket statement about that, because it's true.

Jeff: I would agree with that, too. Especially in the world of... Word of mouth is different than what it used to mean. Word of mouth was, hey, I'm on the street, or I'm in an office. That's how word of mouth goes. Now, word of mouth is anywhere on the internet that you really find, right?

Chris Walker: Yeah.

Jeff: Like you said. The other thing that I love that you were just mentioned in there as well is you're starting to think about starting to think about how we can tell the stories from customer success to the broader organization. Just like you said, a lot of times teams might say, " Hey, I've segmented our customers into tier three to tier one, and then we apply our resources against them, and that's all they do." But there's so many different levels of segmentation that you can bring in and help architect the story. I think it gets into what you were saying. For instance, hey, we serve two markets. We might have products that fit into both of those markets. And then we might have those tiers of customers that gets broken down by how much they pay us today, where they fit revenue size in the market. There's all these different things. So, how can I use all that data that we've got, we've collected of that customer, and build a story and show that picture to our teams to say, " Hey, we might be adding a lot of customers here in this segment. You're projecting to add a lot of customers here in this segment in 2022. Are we sure we want to do that? Our retention there is really low. Our retention and renewal rates are low in that segment. But look at this one over here, it's actually small but growing. So, I love that point because I think oftentimes customer success leaders, they might not always think about themselves as helping to set the go to market strategy for, alongside of sales and marketing as we go forward. And it's like, " Hey, we've got a valuable piece of that story." When you start thinking about, " Where's the retention coming from? Where's the upsells coming from? How are we looking in terms of our renewals across these different segments in the lines that we have. So, I just love that point that you brought up because I think that deeper level segmentation, I think marketing and sales have done that for a long time, and customer success really needs to get into that practice of continually trying to find the right ways to look at your segments and your customer bases.

Chris Walker: And that's, I don't think that's customer success strategy. I don't think that's marketing strategy. That's business strategy. And so, I think one of the big opportunities in customer success is elevating to be a business strategy contributor, which is I think you're super well equipped to do it. You talk to customers all the time, there's so many opportunities, too. It's taking all that customer insights, and then applying business strategy and contributing at that level. I would say the same thing for marketing. So, I'm not I'm not picking here on customer success. I think that a lot of marketing leaders fall into the same camp. And so, we need to be able to take those. And so, I do that as a marketer. Segmenting customers, understanding where people are churning, understanding what lead sources lead to the lowest retention, highest retention, segmenting customers, and then using that to go and form go to market strategy. And so, it doesn't matter which department you fall into as a business. I think that every single, any person could do that analysis and derive key strategy insights for a company from it.

Jeff: Yeah, like you just said, too, it's the business strategy. It's really not even a department level thing. It's really just having business acumen and starting to understand, okay, where are customers coming from? Where are customers staying? Because that's really the lifeblood of how our organization is going to survive as we go forward. And I love that point, too, because I think there's a lot that you can just learn from being a leader. It doesn't matter which organization you're from. It's just, hey, if I'm looking at this as a business, and I'm an owner of this business, where's business coming in? Where's business going out the door? If I can know those two things, I can be pretty valuable to the organization and trying to align strategies to make sure that we can impact that in a positive way. Great, we wanted to take a minute. If you haven't implemented a CRM system into your business, now is the time. A CRM platform is at the heart of scaling your side hustle into your success story. CRM platforms take any customer interaction and transform that interaction into valuable data and insights allowing you to strengthen relationships with your customers and grow your business. With tools for marketing sales, customer service, content management, and operations, the HubSpot CRM platform is fully customizable for whatever your business needs. Use HubSpot to meet customer demand, align your teams, and work smarter without slowing down. With total control and over 650 integrations, HubSpot is totally customizable and purpose built for businesses big and small. Whether you're just getting started or looking for all the bells and whistles, HubSpot is the number one CRM platform for scaling businesses. Learn more about how you can customize your CRM platform with HubSpot at hubspot. com. Now, back to the show.

Chris Walker: Totally. Yeah, 100%, I think, I'm sure that you have a question, but I got something in mind. So we'll go on a little tangent here. I think that the number... Whether it's customer marketing, and whether marketing's helping customer success. Whether customer success does this on their own, whether marketing do it on their own. I think that the number one unlock for companies to be able to do better at this is to deliver information that your buyers can use that has nothing to do with using your product. That they can use on their own to get better results in their business because you understand them well enough to know those things. And you are able to deliver them, which most companies and most people won't because they think that the information is secret, that people should pay them for it, that they should fill out a form so they can be a lead in order to get the content, that they need to be a customer in order to get that content. But what you find is that if you're able to deliver that information to a bunch of people, and then people go out and have success with that. It fuels word of mouth, that fuels community, it fuels all the things that we're talking about that really drive business impact that are retention, net new business expansion. Obviously, there's a huge variable here, which is the product actually has to deliver, but let's assume the product delivers and then everything on top of that we just talked about.

Jeff: Yeah, that point, I think it references back to what we were talking about earlier where your customers using your product 10, 20, 30% of the time maybe. And so, there's so much more that you can impacting, and if you can... I think that is maybe the opportunity. If customer success can bring that angle and say, " Hey, I'm talking to so many customers and outside of our product they're needing to do X, Y, and Z." Building a budget, they need to board deck, they need to go talk about their marketing, or they need to go talk about their customers strategy internally at their company. Cool, those are three great examples in my mind of how can I then partner with marketing, say, " Our customers care about these three things, and it's really going to drive them value as a person in the role and a human." So, how can we create those really quick? We've got perspective on it. Let's get that out, and let's do it. That I think it goes back to the example we were talking about earlier where that's where you can drive some immense value for customers.

Chris Walker: Yeah, I'll give you an example to it. The key is not the answer that your customers give you whether they use their product for 10% of their day, or 100% of the day, it doesn't matter. It's that you know what the truth is. And so, I'll give you an example here in the same type of timeframe 2017, 2019, we were targeting ER physicians was our target. We sold a breathing device that they would use for people that might smoke too much, and that couldn't breathe. So they would go into the ER, they would get treated with our products, so they wouldn't get admitted to the hospital. And some people in the company thought that was the most important thing ER physicians needed to do. And then if you actually went out and talk to ER physicians, what we realize is that this product was probably 2% of their mind share. That they were way more concerned about saving the life of someone that had a gunshot wound, or had a drug overdose, or things like that, that didn't need our product. And so, some of the things that we started to architect based on that insight is that we stopped talking about how to treat these little... Not little patients, but patients that used our product. And we started having people come on our podcast and talk about the leading research about gunshot wounds. Leading research on how to treat certain drug overdoses. And so, there's angles here. The key and the only reason that we were able to make that move whether in marketing is because we had that insight. The consumer insight drives everything.

Jeff: Yeah. It's super interesting because it's almost... I mean, it's a way of almost building community in a sense, right? Where you're bringing people together around specific topics or authorities and saying, " Hey, we want to help you, the person solve this. It's around this persona and this person that you are. And we have so many different ways that we can help you. We can help and help you with content and information." And if we can, like you said, the product is already there and delivers, then how can I then go make sure that information can align to that and bring you in the door and keep you in the door and keep you engaged? That's just such a super interesting part. Especially when customer success teams think about driving value for their customers. Customer success managers are taught we have to go drive value at every meeting, every instance. And I've always thought about hey, it doesn't have to be a meeting that we have to go do. I can drive value in other ways. I can send you an article that I think about or that I think is going to be really valuable to you in your day. I can send you a podcast. I can send you all this stuff-

Chris Walker: And make a connection with someone.

Jeff: Exactly. Yeah. crosstalk. There's so many different ways. It doesn't... I think sometimes people get in that trap, too, where they're like, " Hey, my CSM has to meet with you monthly or quarterly." And that becomes a metric that we measure that says, " Hey, we had 17 QBRs this month." That's great. What do those QBRs generate? Were they valuable? How did the customer feel about them? And actually was that a worse amount of time that we could have been spending, we could have been doing other things that maybe were actually more valuable? So, I think it gets into the same thing almost on the flip side of customer success of measuring the activities that we have, just like you did with marketing budgets, it's almost measuring our time that CSMs are spending and where they are, and what's actually really driving the ROI. Is it really the QBR? Because I would venture to guess it's probably not when you start looking at some of the details.

Chris Walker: And it's when you're as a CSM, frontline CSM, it's about broadening the scope when you interact with customers about what you're looking for. So, I think most people come in with very narrow this is how I'm going to help you use our products. So, you can hit usage statistics that are really metrics of retention, or so that we're going to retain you, or different things like that. If you broaden the scope to what are your overall priorities? How are you measured? What are you thinking about changing? What technologies are you going to implement and why? You start to see the trends that are happening in the market because you have a luxury. You get to talk to potentially hundreds of people that are all in a similar type of company and role. And that data is so valuable. And so, if you're able to broaden the scope, and get the insights and you can almost do exactly what I do, which is I talk to a bunch of smart people. I listen to what they say. I understand what's going on. I notice trends qualitatively. I validate them quantitatively if I want to or need to, and then I'm able to share that with people, and people find it very valuable. And so, thinking about how you as an individual CSM could make an impact like that on customers. I think that the key is broadening the scope.

Jeff: Yeah, well, that actually gets into the practice, too, of like you said, I can go do that and impact as a CSM. Now, if I'm a CS leader, if I have multiple CSMs that are doing that, how can I create a systematic way to bring those insights back into a voice of customer type program where now I can have a central place that says, " Hey, not only is it one CSM, but I've got 10 out in the market talking all these companies." And here's what we're hearing in different industries, or here's what we're hearing for different use cases." And now you've got a little bit more of a central way to then say, " Okay, we've pulled this together." Now, can I go take that to market and say, " Hey, look, what we've put together. We've said, hey, we're talking with customers in these three or four different markets or industries. Here's what they've cared about, or here's what we've heard from them. How can this impact content we're building or our future calendar, what types of events that we're holding?" So, I think that's another way for CS leaders to also be thinking about if CSMs are having those conversations, that's another mechanism for a voice of customer program. It's not just NPS, or CSAT, or surveys that you send out, it's actually active listening like this as well.

Chris Walker: And again, the key of the voice because a lot of companies have a voice to customer program. But it's all about the product's roadmap, and the features, and the use cases. So, again, about broadening the scope to a level where you start to see, you can see patterns. Like oh, all of our top customers that spend the most money and stay the longest are ripping out this piece of technology. Why? Why are they doing crosstalk? How do we go and move that into marketing or sales so we start to use that as either messaging, or qualification criteria and sales, or different things like that? So, if you're able to broaden the scope to more of their whole business, you can see patterns like that because the really interesting thing that I continue to find is that the reason that you have your best customers, most people will segment it with firmographic easy to find data. The reason that your best customers are your best customers are because of psychographics. The way that they think, the way their organization operates. Those types of things that are intangible, difficult to find, you need to almost go and mine and unlock those insights. But when you can, you start to really figure out and hit traction of this is why people love us, this is why they choose us over our competition, this is why they stay for nine years instead of three years.

Jeff: The thing that you just mentioned in there, too, that I think I have tried to train teams on as I've gone through my career as well and get them to think about is a lot of times your product is going to produce data that's going to be used. So, where's that data being used? What decisions are people making off of that? That's one way to think about it. And then also, where's that data then actually being transferred to? Okay, we have one tool, and our data is being passed to another tool. It's being passed into BI. It's being complemented with CRM type data. If you can start to understand those types of connections as well, I think that gets back to your point earlier about understanding businesses and being just a business leader is, okay, now I'm understanding how are they connecting the dots between these different data sources and making business decisions. And now, my product isn't just 10% of that, and maybe it is, but now I've actually understood how they're making decisions, and now I can go try and talk to them about those decisions they're making. The other data sources that they're including and models that they're building or algorithms that they're using. But that type of analysis, like you just said, and trying to just be curious, and dig in a little bit more than just the surface level. That's where you, I think, get so many deep insights from customers as well.

Chris Walker: Absolutely.

Jeff: The next thing I wanted to hit on what we've got a few minutes left to is thinking about, I always, advocacy, references, referral programs, there's always this between marketing and customer success it seems like there's this outcome that needs to happen of us trying to help build brand advocates. And marketing has a way to approach it, customer success as a way to approach it. And you're always going to find there's some sort of riff in the organization. It's not working right. It's not happening. I'm curious to think about how you find that perspective of building brand advocates. And if there's anything that you've learned over your career that's pretty interesting about the approaches in order to do that well. Is it still too focused on us as companies and less on the person who's actually being an advocate. But I'm curious, just at a high level, if there's anything that you think about when I used that word of advocacy or references or anything like that?

Chris Walker: So, I think that you achieve advocacy when you help people understand a broader movement or mission that they want to bet their career on. And then they start to make moves to make that bet and start to see success whether that's professional advancement or otherwise that they start to get that. And then you start to have advocates and then it's your job as a company to recognize who those people are and then continue to push them up, continue to help them get up further. That's how it really goes. I think that companies try and always think about doesn't matter what function you are, what's in it for me? And the way that you build advocacy see is to flip it completely over and say, " How do I get this person from whatever manager level at whatever department I'm targeting to director or VP over the next two years to where they be." And the reason that he did it is because they implemented our product, which is a critical move to the success of the organization and their professional career. I think that's where you need to get to. And so, it's really that simple. The way that you get a lot of people rely on, hey, we need to get people into the product. They need to be customers before they can understand this movement. As you see companies that are starting to be very successful, marketing is doing a much better job telling that story on the way in so that people understand the movement and mission. So, they're way more primed when the product is there to be, okay, this is something that I actually want to bet my career on. So, to simplify it down to that, I think that's how you get advocacy.

Jeff: I love the way you outlined that because I think there are some out there who might say, " Well, what about sending them our swag or what about giving them points to go spend in our swag store or to go?" And I think this goes back to something that you'd mentioned earlier as well, which is getting into the psychographics. Like, I don't actually care about the swag you're sending me. I just care that you were thoughtful enough to send me a gift. Figure out my address or to send me something right. That's what I care about more than the actual... I mean, no offense, I'm not going to wear your swag out in public. I'm probably just going to wear it around my house like when I'm lounging on the couch, but-

Chris Walker: A lot of it just goes in the trash.

Jeff: True. Yeah. But I think that's what a lot of people have almost dumbed it down to. Hey, our reference program is like, you become an advocate, and then we give you free stuff. Again, I think it has to go deeper into those psychographics you mentioned like where are they trying to go in their career? Are they really looking to build their own personal platform and voice maybe on social media and other platforms? They're trying to go build their own personal brand? Are they trying to maybe get into conversations with other leaders who they would find really valuable in terms of maybe a future thinking market conversation about where everything is going? There's so many other things that I think go into it that could be extremely valuable for references, instead of just thinking of how do I get points? How do I give you swag?

Chris Walker: It's really the difference between building relationships with people and checking the box. I'm going to say it because I get enough swag. I think that sending swag to people. I'm on podcasts, I do events with people. People just send me cold stuff that I'm not a customer. There's plenty people send me swag, almost always. Like I had one that happened recently. There was no note or anything in it. I didn't recognize the logo. They probably spent$ 50 on swag. I didn't even know who it was, and I threw it in the trash. So, there are a lot of places where I think we're that you win in the surprise and delight gifting is when you are really thoughtful and personalized about how you do it. Your customer just bought a new house. Why don't you set it at that point? Send them a housewarming gift. Your customer just raised another round of funding, or got married, or had a child. And so, in those places, you can think about how to insert a gift that matters to someone, that shows that you understand them, that you get to know them. That's where I see... That's the surprise and delight that I want to do as a customer success organization. And it's just getting out of the scalable, check the box type of things.

Jeff: Yeah, I think it's a good point. Sometimes it goes back to I think what you'd referenced earlier, too. Sometimes we try and measure everything. I think sometimes we also try and scale everything way too early, way too fast. In some cases, some things are actually best not to scale. I'd actually rather say, " Hey, we're only going to give gifts to 10 people that are really thoughtful, and maybe they're a little bit more expensive, and it's really curated." Rather than sending 100 gifts of one dollar to people. It's like, what do you really want to try and do? You're trying to drive impact for those advocates. That's where I think there's also this reverse where everyone always wants more advocates, right? Hey, I need more references. Hey, I need more people to come into a sales call and talk good about us. That's well and good, but at the same time, the more that you get scale, sometimes it gets watered down. The messaging gets lost, they get fatigued. Are they really valued? What's in it for them? Wouldn't it make more sense to try and get a really good small list and then try and figure out ways to scale on the other end. Like, hey, maybe not every single prospect gets a one on one call with a current customer. Maybe it's we invite 10 prospects, and they listen to our best customer talk about something, and you flip it on its head. So, I don't know, thinking about it in reverse sometimes I think helps as well.

Chris Walker: It's weird, too, because I think that companies try and use these things to create advocates. And it should be I recognize advocates, and then I try and do a lot of stuff for them.

Jeff: Yes.

Chris Walker: And so, it's weird to think about there, but they should be advocating for you before they're in the advocacy program.

Jeff: Yeah, they should be doing it without incentives.

Chris Walker: They should be doing it naturally. And then it just becomes a hey, you're doing this anyway, let us do a bunch of cool stuff for you and help you get to where you want to go at the same time. We'll help you. What do you want? You want to build your personal brand? You can come on our podcast. You could speak at our annual customer event. You can share the results that you've been generating publicly. You can reverse engineer what people need. If you recognize how valuable this is, you start to think differently about the people that are in it, and why they're in it, and then what you do for them. You think about having a 25- person group of people that are credible, have tons of success with the product, are in all of the communities that all of your customers are in, are promoting and evangelists of your product. Bring them to the Bahamas. You know what I mean? I think there's a lot of... I just think that companies waste money in a lot of places, and then under spend in places that would be really valuable.

Jeff: Yeah, that is one of the key takeaways I just took out of today's conversation is that it seems like the dollars are there, but the dollars are just being allocated to the things that really can be measured, which doesn't actually mean that they're the best ROI. It's only that it can be measured today. So, I love that. I think that is my big takeaway-

Chris Walker: Key takeaway.

Jeff: ...from this conversation. Yeah. And the second thing I think I took out of today's as well is that when you start thinking about the relationships that you're having with your customers, it's really trying to get into that psychographic mindset of what are they here for, right? What are they really trying to get out of this? And if I can get to them on that level, and I can really have a heart to heart and say, " Hey, do you want to get promoted to your boss's role? Hey, are you really going to look to move companies in years?" That's when you start to find somebody that you can really impact and start saying, " Okay, now I'm outside of this. Our product does X. This feature does Y, and now I'm into a conversation of, okay, what are you really trying to do? Our product can help get you there. But then there's also this other piece that I can try and go help. I might not know the answers, but I'm going to sure as hell go help find people who can help you or I'm going to go try and find content that I can give you information." So, that's that second take away from me is that psychographic and drilling down into that.

Chris Walker: Love it.

Jeff: Awesome. Well, Chris, this has been fun. I know we always like to give people an opportunity at the end to plug away. Where can people find you? What do you like to do and get your name out there? So, where can people find more of Chris Walker?

Chris Walker: Hey, everyone, if you'd like to learn more, I post content on LinkedIn almost every day. So, on LinkedIn, you can search Chris Walker. I'm also the host of the State of Demand Gen Podcast, which is a top 25 marketing podcast, but we cover commercial operations. So, marketing, sales, customer success are all covered in that podcast. And so, if you're interested in learning more in a little bit more of a long form detailed format, that gets published every three times a week called State of Demand Gen Podcast on Apple and Spotify. And lastly, I host a live Q& A show that I mentioned during this podcast. It happens every Tuesday at 07:30 PM Eastern, 04: 30 Pacific called Demand Gen Live. And so, if you're interested in talking through any type of business question, I'm happy to help you with that on the live show.

Jeff: Yeah, and Chris is not paying me to say this. I'm actually an advocate already. I send a lot of stuff that Chris does to a lot of people. I jump into the Tuesday Demand Gen sessions, which are really valuable. inaudible sometimes guests. I know you've had Dave Gerhardt, and you've had... Oh, my gosh, who am I thinking of?

Chris Walker: We've had plenty of people, Gaetano DiNardi.

Jeff: Yeah, DiNardi, that's who I was thinking about. So, it's been really valuable. But Chris, I love doing this. Excited to see what you all are doing and the growth that you all have seen at Refine Labs, which is exciting. I'm going to have you on the third time. We'll already put it out. crosstalk.

Chris Walker: Yeah, I was going to say, looking forward to being back next year.

Jeff: Yeah. We'll invite you back and hear some more, but I appreciate you doing this.

Chris Walker: Cool. Thanks, everyone. Hope you found it valuable.

Speaker 4: Hey, guys, thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


This week Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, joins the show to discuss marketing and customer research.

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This podcast is brought to you by Jay Nathan and Jeff Breunsbach...

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Today's Host

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Jeff Breunsbach

|Director of Customer Experience at Higher Logic
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Jay Nathan

|Chief Customer Officer at Higher Logic

Today's Guests

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Chris Walker

|CEO, Refine Labs