December 15, 2021

Marketing for a Qualified Pipeline with Chris Walker

Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, joins Ned Arick and Hilmon Sorey on their new Scale Academy Podcast to discuss how his company helps other companies use marketing to increase contribution to qualified pipeline and revenue while lowering customer acquisition costs.

What are the Issues?

At 00:21 Chris jumps right into talking about how he got the idea for his model. For several years he has been putting together experiments to show people on a larger scale what the actual issues are with the buying experiences. He has watched other companies over and over again decide to adopt some type of predictable revenue model where they decide speeding up the process will be better by bypassing the AE once they have a prospect in the pipeline, and going straight to the SDR, changing the entire process. It is at this point that their conversion rate meeting with an AE goes down. 

Based on Demand

Throughout the interview, Chris continues to speak about how his company practices what they preach, which is the reason they have a conversion rate to the first meeting of 97%. He continues on to talk about how he has been able to keep his company so lean on the sales side. This is done by basing their sales headcount on the amount of demand that they are able to create. After that, it is based on “how many product sales processes we believe on rep can run efficiently in order to hit some type of quota;” whereas most startups are heavy on their sales headcount because they use an old model where they first decide their revenue target and then backtrack to how many reps they think they will news based on quota attainment, rather than basing their headcount on demand. Learn more about this at 03:27.

Optimize for Revenue

At 04:51 Chris moves on to talk about how he filters out bad leads so they never make it to his pipeline. He does this by focusing on revenue, instead of focusing on optimizing leads, and by doing this he knows which channels people are going to come through that are going to lead to revenue.


At 06:21 Chris explains that a buyer-centric sales process involves listening to and understanding how people want to buy things, where they want to get the information, and at what stage of the process, and then building your process around that. This typically becomes a pattern that is pretty similar across all buying groups. 

Intent Channels versus Demand Channels

“A different marketing mix is required based on the intent level of the people in the channels.” You have to have different metrics to measure the strategy because the goal is different based on the channels being used. Learn more about this at 07:08.

Hidden Agenda

The best way to get people to talk to you without thinking you are trying to sell them something is to talk to them without trying to sell them something. Do not have a hidden agenda. People can sense it. Chris explain this further at 11:09.


Chris recently performed an experiment where he picked 10 software tools that he could reasonably buy over the next 12 months. He then submitted demo requests for each of the products and waited to see how long it would take for someone to reach out, how they reached out, and who was the person doing it. He documented all of that data from the entire process. Initially, he booked seven meetings. Ultimately, he purchased zero products. Find out why at 12:14.

Be Transparent and Make It Easy

At 14:51 Chris explains that his company makes it easy from the beginning. They are completely transparent on their website about their pricing, and people come to it fully understanding everything that they are about. This allows people to get straight to filling out an interest form, leading to booking meetings with the person they will be working with throughout the process. Because the process is so simple and transparent, many people will end up booking meetings in the same day. 

A Holistic Approach

Buyers today are taking a different approach to how they are buying. They learn about things on the internet, then they validate those things with people they trust, and finally, they move to websites and other means to do research in order to buy. This requires a go-to-market strategy that takes a holistic approach and prioritizes how the customer is buying. You need to “...create the content in the places where people discover things…” and enable buyers with information. Learn more about How Chris takes a holistic approach to providing content at 17:37.

Make a Decision

Earlier in the discussion, Chris mentions that his advice/model is not necessarily for every startup. There are small startups that follow a similar model and experience huge success, but it is still a different path. So, you have to pick what type of company you are going to be. Are you going to run predictable revenue and use tons of resources to try to shove your product to the market, or are you going to be more buyer-centric and educate people so that they like you and come to you to buy? Learn more about this at 19:48.

The Ideal Ideal

At 21:30 Chris explains that the ideal partner or hire is someone who understands how to do marketing and is proving it through social media, podcasts, etc. It is someone who is trusted by the buyer and has maybe even done their job before. Sometimes this can be two different people. Continue listening to learn about more ideal attributes. 

Add Value

It is important to add value for the people. Something they don’t have to pay for. Something that involves them, where they can ask the relevant questions and receive honest answers. Provide value, because if one person had the question, then thousands more probably did as well. Chris and his company do this in the form of a free Q&A every single week. Learn more about this at 22:44.

The Hottest Channels

At 29:41 Chris talks about how there is a pattern to the way that people are discovering, researching, and evaluating products based on where they spend their time and what information they are getting from that place. You then have to decide whether or not that is the right place for you to put your content. Listen on to hear, in Chris’s opinion, what the hottest channels are for B2B buyers to get their information and then learn more about where he see long-form content continuing to grow. 

Marketing Maturity

At first, Chris used to think that distribution was the challenge. However, he now realizes that it is all about understanding the customers. It is about having a strategic narrative and creating content that is aligned with the narrative and then distributing that in the right places. Learn more about how to distribute content at 33:13.

What is on the Horizon

For Refine Labs, Chris explains that they are adjusting to become a strategy and research firm. He explains that they stand out from others because they actually run execution at scale, whereas other companies don’t actually execute the strategies for themselves. Learn more about what Chris has planned for Refine Labs at 35:35.

Key Snippets

00:21 What are the Issues?

03:27 Based on Demand

04:51 Optimize for Revenue

06:21 Buyer-Centric

07:08 Intent Channels versus Demand Channels

11:09 Hidden Agenda

12:14 Experiment

14:51 Be Transparent and Make It Easy

17:37 A Holistic Approach

19:48 Make a Decision

21:30 The Ideal Ideal

22:44 Add Value

29:41 The Hottest Channels

33:13 Marketing Maturity

35:35 What is on the Horizon

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