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Redefining A Category In 12 Simple Steps: The State of Demand Gen Story

If you’ve heard of demand generation, then you’ve likely heard of Chris Walker.

He walked into the game back in 2019 and has redefined the category.

But let’s rewind…

Chris Walker started out as a software engineer, but quickly realized that it wasn’t what he would like to spend a large chunk of his life doing. 

He decided to switch to product marketing, where he worked with a B2B medical device business.

Chris worked hard to revolutionize their marketing using a unique B2B Facebook ad strategy: guaranteeing distribution of case studies to his target market. 

At the same time, he experimented with similar strategies on a couple of his own eCommerce businesses, which further developed his online marketing skills.

However, Chris felt there was more. 

Through the experience transforming marketing at the medical device business, he started to form a new view of demand generation.

To share this view, he started the business now known as Refine Labs and of course, a podcast called The State of Demand Gen, which has since become a top 25 marketing podcast in the US in Apple Podcasts.

Which brings us to the point of this article.

How did he do it?

Step 1 - The Fame Formula

An age old marketing strategy: own a category.

And this is exactly what Chris and the Refine Labs team did right: they chose a category and have unrelentlessly created content around it for 3-4 years.

Did you know there are just two steps to becoming famous in any niche?

We like to call it The Fame Formula

Step 1 - Create A LOT of really good content in a specific niche

Step 2 - Be seen around other famous people in the specific niche

Think about Taylor Swift…

She has dominated two niches:

  1. Country music
  2. Pop music

And all she did in both was:

Step 1 - Spent a decade getting REALLY good at creating the niche specific content

Step 2 - Collaborated with other famous people in the niche

And BOOM, she became famous.

This is exactly what Chris Walker and Refine Labs have done in the glamorous field of demand generation.

Not only did they execute The Fame Formula listed above… but they chose the EXACT right size of niche. If Chris decided to focus more broadly on “marketing” for example, I don’t think I would be sat here writing this blog post today.

Learning: Choose the right category, then execute The Fame Formula

Step 2 – Redefining The Category

But Chris and the team didn’t stop there…

After electing the category, Chris and his team redefined it.

How?

They saw that the old way of generating demand was becoming less effective.

This old way was popularized by HubSpot over the past decade, it favors:

  • Putting content onto your blog in order to rank on Google
  • Gating your best content
  • Requesting email addresses in order to receive said content
  • Interrupting people with paid spend to try and get them to download the ebook

Over the past three years Chris has been calling bullsh*t on this approach, and instead has defined a new approach to demand gen:

  • Putting content onto your social channels
  • Giving away your best content
  • Actually trying to help people with your content
  • Using paid spend to guarantee distribution of content

This is one of the most highly underutilized strategies in B2B marketing:

👉 Define your enemy

Think:

👉 Salesforce: on premise software

👉 Drift: lead forms

👉 Fame: generic, overly branded, watered down, average B2B content

👉 Refine Labs: gated ebooks and paid lead gen

Who can you and your B2B customers rally against?

Learning: Do not follow the crowd. Share yourself and your opinions with the market, be unique. Be known for something different

Step 3 – Being A Really Nice Guy

This is a strange one: Chris really cares about the success of his listeners.

Even if they aren’t ideal buyers.

He remembers people’s names.

He remembers what their business does and asks them questions about it.

He remembers who asked what question and wants to know if the solution he previously advised, worked. 

In a recent podcast interview on: Modern Go-To Market FAQs, he spent time researching questions his audience might have, compiling them, and answering them. He simply wants to add value without a thought regarding how he may benefit.

It’s counter intuitive: the less you think about yourself… the more you get.

Not, not only is this a generally good thing to do, but anyone you help can also refer clients to you.

Learning: Help people, ultimately, this good will come back to you

Step 4 – Awesome Hosting Skills

Hosting a podcast is a skill.

Speaking authoritatively about a specific topic is a skill.

Chris has these skills.

I suspect it is a combination of talent and practice.

In fact, we know practice has impacted Chris’s ability to effectively host a podcast episode by comparing early State of Demand Gen episodes to more recent ones:

Check it out: 2 - Awareness Channels vs. Intent Channels | Demand Gen Live S1 x02

Later: 274 - Everything You Want To Know About PLG | Kyle Poyar

When Chris talks, you can tell that he knows what he’s talking about. 

And what’s the best way to learn your niche intimately?

It’s to teach.

And Chris teaches demand gen multiple times a week.

Learning: Regardless of your natural talent… start speaking at events, on other podcasts and on your own show to build your podcast hosting skills

Step 5 - Perfect Partnerships

A very underutilized strategy for growing a podcast is to simply find people that already have an audience of the types of people you want to reach… and then create content with them

Chris knows this… and has cultivated relationship with multiple other big names in the world of B2B marketing.

Take Dave Gerhardt for example…

Ex. Drift CMO and now Drift CBO (Chief Brand Officer), Dave has built one of the biggest audiences in B2B.

Chris and Dave do a monthly show together, posting the content on both of their pdocast feeds.

This works as:

  1. Dave adds value to the State of Demand Gen audience with his extreme B2B marketing expertise
  2. Chris gets exposed to Dave’s audience

And the best part? 

It’s 100% free 😍

(Well apart from the time spent creating the content)

Learning: Make a list of 5 people with an audience in your niche then reach out to them to create content together

Step 6 – Format Experimentation

You may think you know EXACTLY what your audience wants…

But in reality, you do not.

There is only one group of people that know what your audience wants… and that is your audience.

And the tricky part is that most of the time… even if you ask your audience what they want, they often can get it wrong.

So how can we optimize and improve our content as per Step 1 of The Fame Formula?

We experiment.

And this is what Chris Walker does:

Solo Q/A

Chris will rant about a demand gen related topic for 15-20 minutes and then move into Q/A with the audience.

This mixed approach is working well.

Q/A sessions enable a couple of things:

  1. You can LEARN much more about your target audience
  2. It makes it very easy to re-purpose standalone pieces of content

Guests

Chris also brings on external guests onto the show… but only if the topic is highly relevant.

This also can lead to growth as guests will typically share their episode with their audience.

Chris as a Guest

Chris will also insert interviews with him as a guest on other podcasts… this is a great way to help you get booked on other shows as it widens the reach of the piece of content created whilst also giving more content to your audience.

Learning: Experiment in different formats, track numbers, do more of what works…

Step 7 – Give Away Your Best Stuff

If I had to choose ONE of these steps that has been the most impactful for Chris and The State of Demand Gen… it would be this one.

It’s one of those funny things about the universe:

The best way to get what you want is to not focus on it… but to focus on what other people want.

Chris’s philosophy, which has continued to work for him, states that companies should give away all of their best information FOR FREE.

At first, this might seem like a terrifying concept, but it isn’t. 

Stay with me while I explain..

When people feel like they are getting more than they pay for (in time or money), they’ll want to stay for more.

The more people consume… the more value people will get… the more people will want to give value back to you.

This could be in the form of social engagement, referrals or even cash (if they become a Refine Labs customer)

Chris knows this, so he puts out all his best stuff. He holds nothing back.

Learning: Give away your best stuff

Step 8 – Strictly No Pitching

Here comes the golden rule; never pitch on your podcast.

Now this doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your service… but no pitching.

If your product/service is good, and works… then your podcast listeners will find a way to find you.

Therefore, there is no need to pitch. Pitching will only hinder your growth.

Chris follows the golden rule closely in that he never pitches Refine Labs in any of his episodes. But when the topic of Refine Labs comes up, he happily mentions their service where it adds value to the audience.

Learning: Talk about your product/service if it comes up… but strictly no pitching

Step 9 – Real Community Building

Chris builds real relationships with his audience.

He doesn’t simply see them as “followers” on Apple Podcasts.

He:

👉 Knows their names

👉 Genuinely cares about improving their career

👉 Encourages them to get to know each other

The health of a community can be measured by the quantity and quality of engagements within it.

Let’s see how The State of Demand Gen community is doing:

👉 The average Q/A episode has 10-15 questions asked… now this is a high quality community engagement

👉 The average Chris Walker Linkedin post gets hundreds of likes and comments… a lower quality community engagement but still valuable

Now I don’t know of any demand gen community beating this for engagement. Chris has built a REAL community.

Learning: Build real, win-win relationships with your audience

Step 10 – NOT Spamming Through Social Channels

The goal of most podcast social posts is to take the user off the social platform onto their own domain.

This worked 5 years ago.

But not anymore.

As more and more people try to do this, those that don’t, and give the social platforms what they want (people engaged on their platform) start to win.

All Chris Walker personal and the Refine Labs business Linkedin posts ONLY try to aim value and engage people on the platform. And they are rewarded by Linkedin for this, with more attention.

The more value Refine Labs shares in social posts (relating to a podcast topic) then more attention Linkedin gives them… the more their show will grow.

It’s simply added as a featured link on Chris’s personal Linkedin profile:

This works as if you actually add value to people, they will actively seek out more of your content… you don’t need to insult their intelligence by linking to your show in each post 🤓

Learning: Add value in podcast social posts, only link back to the episode as an afterthought in the comments…

Step 11 – Dominating A Single Social Channel First

Chris is one of the world’s foremost experts on Linkedin organic.

How?

Because he’s spent 4 years learning how it works.

Between 07:30 and 08:15 each day, Chris selects a pre-edited video clip from the podcast, and then writes out copy to insert into the Linkedin post.

He will then post it and engage in the comments for the first 5 minutes.

(This is crucial… as Linkedin will look at early engagement on a post to see whether it’s worth giving that post more attention)

Chris will post between 3-5 times per week, with posts gathering hundreds of likes/comments and millions of impressions.

Not every post refers to the podcast, but there is no doubt… that a big chunk of the people consuming this content on Linkedin will eventually convert to podcast subscribers.

And now Linkedin is fully optimised, Chris is moving onto TikTok 📈

Learning: Choose one channel to generate engagement to drive traffic back to your podcast, then move onto the next one

Step 12 - Commenting As A Growth Strategy

In the early days, Chris built his company and business by commenting and engaging with five to ten relevant LinkedIn posts by day. 

He selected posts that are relevant to his business and commented on those he wished to engage. 

Simple.

If you don’t have an audience… you need to go out there and build one by adding value.

It takes time… but doesn’t cost anything. Which makes it a perfect strategy to implement in the early days of building your audience when there may not be a clear ROI through paid spend.

There is so much automation hype these days… you can really stand out by doing the manual things that matter: sharing your wisdom for free on the internet.

As Chris said in a recent podcast interview, when asked if anyone else comments for him:

“If you have received a comment from me on Linkedin, it has come from my hands”

OK.

I hear you… 

This all sounds great, Chris and the Refine Labs team have done a great job… but it seems like a lot of work right?

I agree, but in order to make a judgment on whether the investment is worth it… you need to see the outcome.

The State of Demand Gen is Refine Labs most revenue generating source that has been instrumental in their growth to approx. $4m ARR in just three years.

The show consistently ranks in the highly competitive Marketing category in Apple Podcasts in both the UK and the US:

And yes this is great, the podcast is making Chris and Refine Labs famous whilst growing their business… but do you know what I think the best thing about the show is?

The amount of people it is helping.

To you and your podcast growth. 

And finally… do you listen to a podcast… or have one that you would like us to create a podcast growth study for?

Email the link to team@fame.so, and we’ll see if we can add it into our pipeline 📈

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