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About This Episode

How do successful businesses stand out from their competition? Many business leaders think they know the answer, but some may be operating under dated advice that’s no longer applicable. 

 

Chris Walker is the CEO of Refine Labs and host of the “State of Demand Gen Podcast,” and he’s redefined how businesses play the differentiation game, helping them use those unique elements of what they do to separate themselves and drive leads. In this episode, Lisa and special guest host Dorian Usherwood will talk with Chris about how his system can help our podcast listeners understand how to differentiate their businesses, build their brand, and make more sales. 

1. Get information directly from customers.

Before you build a product or service, you need to identify the problem first. And the only way to do that is to talk to your potential customers to find out the issues they are facing. From there, you can begin digging into those issues and provide the solution through your product or service.

2. Know the difference between creating demand and capturing demand.

Those who create demand are in tune to their customers’ needs. They understand the customer and their problems and can directly respond to them. Those who capture demand rely more on brand agnostic consumers and usually focus on the “scraps” left over from demand creators via Google, etc to sell their product or service.

3. Be open to hearing honest feedback about your idea during market research.

If they don’t like what you offer, dig in and find out why. When it comes to your consumers or potential consumers, every answer is a right answer. It’s there for a reason. It’s your job to understand why they feel the way they do so you can better answer their needs in the future – or simply understand that it’s just not a good fit. 

 

How would you describe product differentiation?
How do you think your product or service stands out from your competitors?
What could you do better to differentiate?
Do you believe your strategy is more about capturing demand or creating demand?

Your customer should know what makes you different, way before you get to a sales conversation.

Chris Walker

If you're able to be curious, go in with no other objective than just to learn.

Chris Walker

Focus on what gaps exist in the market and understand what problems you are solving.

Chris Walker

No matter what answer the customer gives you, it's the right answer.

Chris Walker

(02:32) Chris talks about the last song he listened to. 

(03:40) Chris talks about Demand Generation and how he got to where he is today. 

(05:37) What role does differentiation play in a business’s ability to drive leads?

(06:43) What are some of the key elements that good businesses use to differentiate themselves?

(07:24) Get your information directly from customers. 

(09:57) How can someone leverage their differentiation into a quality sales pitch that will generate leads?

(11:31) Who does a really good job of content-driven marketing right now?

(12:34) What’s the first step a leader should take to really differentiate their business?

(15:40) Be open to hearing honest feedback about your idea during market research. If they don’t like what you offer, dig in and find out why. 

(16:08) There’s a big difference between creating demand and capturing demand. 

(16:43) This week’s one next step: Go follow Chris Walker on LinkedIn and subscribe to his podcast, The State of Demand Generation.

Chris Walker:

If we, at Refine Labs, if we have a company that comes in that is not aware of our differentiation at the time of the sale, we lose that deal every time. They’re going to be way more price sensitive. They’re going to be comparing us against commodity providers, and they don’t value the additional things that we do, and the different perspective that we have, and so I think that companies that are truly different need to focus on having everyone in the market know about that way before they get into a sales conversation. You can do that through media, you can do that through organic content, but I think the driver is that it’s content driven and you need to figure out how to distribute it effectively in the way that people actually consume it.

Audio:

Welcome to One Next Step, the most practical business podcast in the world, helping you get more done, grow your business and lead your team with confidence, with tips and tools you didn’t get in business school. Here are your hosts, Tricia Sciortino and Lisa Zeeveld.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Welcome to One Next Step, the practical business podcast that helps you run your business so it stops running you. I’m LZ. Before we introduce today’s topic and guest, I have a special co-host for today, BELAY’s very own Vice President of Marketing, Dorian Usherwood.

Dorian Usherwood:

Hey, everyone. I’m excited to join you today and help our listeners get a competitive edge. In this episode, we’re joined by Chris Walker to talk about unique ways businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Chris Walker is the CEO of Refine Labs and host of the State of Demand Gen Podcast. Chris has some unique, honestly, groundbreaking ideas about marketing and the best ways for businesses to differentiate themselves.

Lisa Zeeveld:

What’s so great is he not only helps you stand out as a business, but he also helps you use those elements to drive leads and sales, and that is music to every leader and business owner’s ears! This is content that every single business owner needs to hear. So without a moment too soon, here’s Chris Walker.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Welcome, Chris. We are super excited to have you join us today. I have been waiting for this interview for so, so long. You have already given us a warning that you have a lot of content, a lot of information to share. So hey, listeners out there, hold on tight. If you are driving, you’re probably going to want to re-listen to this or pull over, because there’s going to be so much goodness. But seriously, Chris, thank you so much for joining.

Chris Walker:

Really excited to be here, Lisa. Looking forward to diving in here.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Great. Well, we always like to start off the podcast with a fun question, perhaps something that your other listeners might not know so that people have to come over here and listen to the One Next Step podcast. So are you ready?

Chris Walker:

Always.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Okay. What was the last song that you listened to?

Chris Walker:

This is funny. This will be funny for people. So the last one I listened to was on Spotify called Ramen & OJ by Lil Baby.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Oh, okay. I don’t know that song.

Chris Walker:

A little Atlanta hip hop action.

Dorian Usherwood:

Nothing wrong with that.

Chris Walker:

A lot of people don’t see me as a hip hop guy, but I’m eclectic, I’ll put it that way.

Lisa Zeeveld:

I know. I actually feel bad sometimes that I don’t know enough about hip hop. My kids try to teach me, but Tricia, who is our CEO at BELAY, she is a huge hip hop fan. If you ever want to trade playlists, definitely hit her up because she is phenomenal.

Dorian Usherwood:

You should also check out some UK hip hop, Chris. Some really good stuff coming out of the UK. So tell us about demand generation, what you do and how you got to where you are.

Chris Walker:

If we look at demand generation broadly, I break it into two buckets, capturing demand and creating demand. But if we look at it way more simply, there is a bunch of people out there that could buy your product. And a lot of those people are not aware of the problem that even would trigger them to look for something like you. The easy example that I give is there was a point in time where nobody knew that they needed to use toothpaste. Then a company went out. They created a product. They had clinical data behind it. They showed that if you don’t use toothpaste, your teeth are going to get yellow and you’re going to get cavities and you’re going to lose your teeth, and blah, blah, blah.

Chris Walker:

When they were able to communicate that effectively to a large market, people started to adopt it. That’s the most simplistic way of looking at demand generation. For a company that’s doing something innovative, that’s building a new category, doing things like that, they’re going to need to go out and educate the market on specifically why the problems that their solution solves in order for the market to adopt it.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Makes sense. I’m thinking Shark Tank right now, when they reject an idea, because they’re like, there’s too much education that has to happen, right?

Chris Walker:

Incredibly expensive.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Who come along and you’re like, “Hey, we’re going to help you do that.”

Chris Walker:

We believe that we do it in a cost-effective and very efficient way, using the internet. A lot of companies, B2B companies specifically, tend to try and create demand through outbound cold calling, which is expensive, highly inefficient. People are not receptive to it today, given the scale and maturity of the internet and how buyers have evolved. So using the internet in a different way to educate people in a way that they like so that they understand those things and so they consider buying the product is what we do.

Lisa Zeeveld:

I love that. So what role does differentiation play in a business’s ability to drive leads?

Chris Walker:

Differentiation, I’m a classically trained marketer. I’ll tell that for the listeners. I started my career in product management, product marketing, mainly upstream, developing what are the new features we’re going to build? What’s the next product we’re going to build? Those components and going out and talking to customers to understand where are the gaps in the market, what are the problems that are not being solved? Is that a large enough problem to solve? Putting together a business case, building that all the way through. I believe that’s the reason that Refine Labs is winning, because we’re a highly differentiated offering relative to the options that companies have right now.

Chris Walker:

There’s an old saying that it’s way better to be different than to try and be better. I think that in some cases, if you play in the different camp, you are also playing in the better camp at the same time. But I think a lot of companies try and say that they’re better than the largest competitive competitor in their category, which is a losing strategy in my view.

Dorian Usherwood:

That’s interesting. Can you go a little deeper and talk about some of the key elements that good businesses use to differentiate themselves?

Chris Walker:

Totally. So a lot of people, if we think about the ways that people don’t do this well, they develop a technology first and then try and figure out how to slot it into some company or use case as opposed to identifying the problem first and then developing the technology. The second part where it goes wrong is that they will obsess over what their competitors are doing. Then just try and figure out how to make it a little bit different in the messaging or something like that. The place where I’ve found it is twofold, one, you need to get the information directly from customers. We built our entire offering before we even had customers by just talking to a ton of CMOs and understanding what the gaps are.

Chris Walker:

The customers tell you everything that they’re not getting in the market right now, or what they’re not happy with, with current solutions, which then allows you to go and figure out how to build the offering. So it’s talking to customers, also aligning that you’re building after you’ve identified the problem, you can do them both in parallel, but those are the sequences that I recommend.

Tricia Sciortino:

If you’re anything like me, then keeping up with the daily tasks of AR, AP, and account reconciliation are not your favorite things, but you also know how necessary and important it is. The good news is it doesn’t have to be your thing anymore BELAY can help.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Numbers are totally my thing, Tricia, and thankfully numbers are BELAY bookkeeper’s thing too. Our sponsor BELAY believes you deserve top notch bookkeepers to produce balance sheets, pay bills, reconcile bank, and credit card statements and monthly reports to keep you up to date on the numbers of your organization, whether you’re a church, nonprofit or a business, they have the right people ready to help. Talk to their team today and never lose sleep over your financials again. Get started by visiting belaysolutions.com/services/bookkeepers today.

Lisa Zeeveld:

There’s so much really fun technology out there right now, we’ve been looking into some of that, that really helps you mine that data of what your customers are saying so that you can build a quality product that is different. And that’s something that your customers are asking for. I think that’s just brilliant that we’re starting to leverage that now in the economy. It’s not like you’re saying, “Everybody, you need this.” We’re actually saying, “Where are the gaps?” It’s kind of that old adage of, it’s not creating something new, you just got to make it better. And I love the toothpaste reference. I’m thinking of George Washington and wooden teeth. Anybody else thinking of that? I’m like, thank goodness for toothpaste.

Chris Walker:

I’m just thinking about what the first Crest newspaper ad looked like.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Oh, totally. Yes. Yes. And it was like a powder, too. That’s a whole thing. Then they were probably like, “Powder doesn’t stick very well on that brush, so let’s make a paste!” Look at that, look at that, we’re back into differentiation. Well, what are some ways that maybe somebody can leverage their differentiation and do a quality sales pitch that will generate the leads? Because maybe if the customer doesn’t know that you’re different because you’re better or better because you’re different, how do you quantify that and really sell that?

Chris Walker:

By doing it way before you’re in a sales pitch. This is the answer. If you are different, if your offering is truly differentiated, you solve a clear pain point, you know who you’re selling to and you know how to get to those people, my preference is that those people know all of those things before they get into a sales conversation with you. That’s how we do it. It’s by taking way more of a marketing-first approach to driving revenue than a sales-driven approach. Because if somebody is coming in, let’s look at our example right now. At Refined Labs, if we have a company that comes in, that is not aware of our differentiation at the time of the sale, we lose that deal every time. Because if they don’t, then they’re going to be way more price sensitive. They’re going to be comparing us against commodity providers. And they don’t value the additional things that we do and the different perspective that we have.

Chris Walker:

I think that companies that are truly different need to focus on having everyone in the market know about that way before they get into a sales conversation. You can do that through media. You can do that through organic content. But I think that the driver is that it’s content driven and you need to figure out how to distribute it effectively in the way that people actually consume it.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Who do you think does a really good job of that right now?

Chris Walker:

At the moment, I would say, if we look back to a 2016 to 2018 timeframe, I think the company Drift did a really, really great job at crafting the narrative, moving into the market in an efficient way through podcasts, LinkedIn, some progressive for that time. But they did a really great job. I think they’ve fallen off recently, actually. I think that the performance of their overall comm strategy has gotten less effective over time, but that would be a good example of someone that did it.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Okay, great.

Dorian Usherwood:

One of the challenges, I think, is that business leaders need to know we’ve got a much more sophisticated audience that you’re trying to market to. Your consumers know a lot more than they may have years ago, especially at the senior level, when you’re talking to someone that’s been in business a long time. They may still be approaching the market the same way they were in the past. In thinking about that in today’s marketplace, what’s the first step a leader today should really take in trying to differentiate their business from others in their industry?

Chris Walker:

Go talk to 20 people that use your product. And then talk to 20 people that look like them, that don’t use your product. And figure out what the gaps are. I prefer in this instance to not use surveys. I prefer true one-to-one, where it’s on Zoom. I’ve done a lot in-person. In-person has been really helpful, especially going to their place of business. We were selling to hospitals at one point. So I was in there, in the ICU at two in the morning and understanding what it’s like to be an ICU physician or an ICU nurse at that point in order to do market research, to understand how to position and differentiate the product relative to other options.

Chris Walker:

If you’re able to be curious, go in there with no other objective than just to learn, then I think you get some really good feedback, because you recognize patterns as you talk to more people. I think the place where people miss on market research is that they try and lead people to the outcome that they have already decided. It’s really trying to figure out how to be objective. In 2013, I was a young marketer, basically was just trying to convince someone of my position, doing market research is a losing strategy.

Chris Walker:

As I got more mature in my career, it’s all about, I don’t care if you tell us that our product is the worst thing ever. It’s good data for me. I’m going to ask why. I’m going to try and understand how. No matter what answer the customer gives you, it’s the right answer. Then it’s about trying to figure out, what do they actually mean by it? Because if they say something to you directly and you take it directly, it may not be what you’re actually looking for. It’s our job as marketers to be able to ask secondary questions and dive deeper into what they mean, and then interpret what they mean into what it means for us.

Lisa Zeeveld:

I love that. Well, this has been great content. And I know that you have a lot more to share. So Chris, would you mind just staying on maybe an additional minute? I’ve got one more question for you. Would that be okay?

Chris Walker:

Oh, yeah.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Okay, awesome. Hey guys, you heard it right here. Chris is actually going to hang around just a little bit longer after the interview to share one more answer to our questions about creating instead of capturing demand for your product or service. You definitely don’t want to miss it.

Dorian Usherwood:

To hear that clip, subscribe to our email list and we will send you a link to our bonus content. Or visit OneNextStepPodcast.com where you can find a link in our show notes.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Man, Chris was awesome today, wasn’t he, Dorian?

Dorian Usherwood:

Oh, he was fantastic.

Lisa Zeeveld:

I love the fact that he’s a classically trained marketer and yet he has really taken the world by storm on this whole digital approach and the understanding of it all. It’s been fascinating.

Dorian Usherwood:

No, it has. One of the things that I really enjoyed was the whole idea of creating demand. It’s really about the customer and getting to know who you’re talking to. That research is invaluable. I think it’s something that as a business owner, you really need to listen to what your customers are saying. And that should be a continuous conversation. It shouldn’t be a one-time conversation.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Didn’t you like it, how he said, it was a little bit of a burn there, but when he talked about how so often, during market research, you’re already convinced of your idea. So no matter what your clients are giving you feedback on, you’re just ignoring it. He really said that he loved the fact when people say, “I don’t like that product,” because there’s a lot of honesty behind that and you’re learning which direction to take it in. That was pretty cool stuff.

Dorian Usherwood:

No, it definitely was. What was your key takeaway?

Lisa Zeeveld:

I really liked how he really differentiated between creating demand and capturing demand. I think that really capturing or creating demand is so much easier. Yes, there’s more costs upfront to do that. But then you really come out as the market leader. You can set your own price point. And then everybody’s just a follower after that. Now, you got to keep up with it. He said Drift was a great example of that, because they turned away from it. But I liked the idea of creating demand more than capturing it. And I thought he gave a great example of that.

Lisa Zeeveld:

So, hey guys, we have a One Next Step for you, as always. We want to help you grow your business. And this week we want to encourage you to follow Chris Walker on LinkedIn and subscribe to his podcast, The State of Demand Generation.

Dorian Usherwood:

Text the phrase One Next Step to 31996. Or, visit onenextsteppodcast.com and we’ll give you direct links to Chris and his podcast.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Thank you guys so much for joining us. Until next time, lead wisely and lead well. Start by making today count.

Lisa Zeeveld:

Hey guys, I want you to join us next week when we’ll talk with our good friend Lisa Seal, who’s the Vice President of Revenue at BELAY. She’ll chat with us about how BELAY designs their compensation and commission plan for sales people, and how you can create your own plan that benefits both your company and your team. Here’s a short teaser of our chat with Lisa.

Lisa Seal:

If you’ve set it up correctly and they’re paying for themselves by the sales that they bring in, then why cap them? The more they sell, the more they make, the more you win as an organization.

Audio:

Thanks for listening to One Next Step. Be sure to subscribe on apple podcasts or follow us on Spotify, then join us next time for more practical business tips and tools to help you get more done, to grow your business and lead your team with confidence. For more episodes, show notes and helpful resources, visit onenextstepodcast.com.

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