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S3E12 – How to unify Sales, Marketing & SDR’s in your GTM strategy With Chris Walker

Ever wondered How to unify Sales, Marketing & SDR’s in your GTM strategy? Well, In this insightful episode of the Grow Your B2B SaaS podcast, we welcome Chris Walker, CEO of Passetto, a leading GTM consultancy, and Executive Chairman at Refine Labs. With his acclaimed podcast, Revenue Vitals, Chris brings extensive expertise to the table, emphasizing the crucial role of aligning sales, marketing, and SDRs for sustained growth.

Learn valuable strategies for harmonizing sales, marketing, and SDR efforts in your go-to-market approach. Discover the significance of data-driven decision-making, customer-centric methodologies, and strategic cohesion for long-term success in the dynamic B2B landscape.

Chris Walker’s expert insights and strategic vision provide actionable guidance for SaaS founders and GTM professionals eager to optimize strategies and achieve business excellence. Tune in and transform your GTM approach today!

Importance of Strategic Leadership

Chris clarifies his transition at Refine Labs as stepping up to executive chairman, enabling his business partner to lead. He expresses his passion for solving complex B2B go-to-market problems and highlights the need for strategic leadership. The focus is on understanding customer behavior and optimizing go-to-market strategies effectively.

Defining a B2B Go-to-Market Strategy

Chris elaborates on a go-to-market strategy as a plan to engage, attract, convert, and expand target customers. He emphasizes operationalizing the strategy for customer acquisition and growth. The strategy includes pricing, ideal customer profile, product strategy, and operational execution to drive growth effectively.

What is Dark Social?

Chris explains Dark Social as channels where customers engage, share, and make decisions without traditional tracking methods. He highlights the significance of recognizing these impactful channels in B2B marketing. Understanding Dark Social helps in making informed decisions and optimizing marketing strategies effectively.

Common Mistakes in Go-to-Market Execution

Chris discusses common pitfalls in B2B go-to-market, such as siloed approaches, conflicting analytics, and rigid revenue generation models. He emphasizes the need for an integrated, data-driven approach to align sales, marketing, and SDR efforts for optimal results. Overcoming these challenges leads to more effective decision-making and growth.

The Ideal Go-to- market Strategy

Chris advocates for a shift towards revenue operations to align departments, optimize analytics, and drive comprehensive go-to-market strategies. He stresses the importance of accurate CRM data and unified analytics systems for confident decision-making. This transition enables companies to adapt to changing market dynamics and scale effectively.

How to Build a New Go-to-Market House

Chris outlines steps to rebuild the go-to-market strategy, emphasizing the need for accurate CRM data and defining core KPIs. By enhancing decision confidence through data-driven insights and strategic alignment, companies can make informed choices and optimize resource allocation. This process involves setting up the infrastructure for successful go-to-market operations.

The Future of Go-to-Market Strategy

Chris envisions the future of go-to-market as account-based, integrated, and data-driven. He predicts a shift towards customer-centric strategies and unified analytics systems for strategic decision-making. By leveraging key customer insights and aligning go-to-market efforts, companies can drive sustainable growth and adapt to evolving market trends effectively.

The Importance of Leveraging Key Opinion Leaders in B2B Marketing

Chris discusses the importance of key opinion leaders in B2B marketing, highlighting their role in driving product adoption, strategy development, and customer engagement. By partnering with influential thought leaders, companies can enhance brand visibility, customer trust, and market positioning. Leveraging key opinion leaders can lead to long-term strategic partnerships and business growth.

Key Takeaways for SaaS Founders

For SaaS founders, Chris recommends staying customer-focused, embracing entrepreneurship, and challenging social norms. By prioritizing customer success, adapting to changing market dynamics, and paving their unique path, founders can drive innovation, growth, and long-term success in the competitive SaaS industry.

Key Timecode

  • (0:37) Show and guest intro
  • (2:43) Why you should listen to Chris Walker
  • (4:12) What is a B2B go to market strategy?
  • (5:05) What is dark social?
  • (6:21) The common mistakes companies make while trying to executing on their go to market strategy
  •  (12:57)The recommended process or steps to follow to execute a successful  go to market strategy
  • (17:44) The common challenges companies face while implementing go to market strategy
  • (24:42) The future of B2B go to market
  • (27:45) Chris’ opinion on leveraging affiliate marketing for B2B SaaS companies
  • 31:00) How to grow towards 10K MRR
  • (32:11) How to grow towards 10 million ARR
  • (36:46) What Chris wishes He knew 10 years ago


[00:00:02.880] – Joran

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how to unify sales, marketing, and SDRs in your go-to-market strategy. My guest is Chris Walker. Chris is the CEO from Passetto, a GTM strategy consultancy company, where they helped SaaS companies to set up their GTM strategy. He’s also a limited partner in Hatch, a production agency for Dark Social. He stepped down as CEO in January 2024, but he’s still an executive chairman at Refine Labs. And with these three companies, he’s built an ecosystem of complementary, highly specialized B2B GTM technology and services. Next to this, he also runs his own podcast called Revenue Vitals, where most people probably know him from, as He has around 150K followers on LinkedIn, so you will see a lot of content from him. Really happy to have him on the show today. Welcome, Chris.

[00:00:53.810] – Chris

Thank you so much for the intro. Just one quick clarification for people. I don’t see the move that I made at Refine Labs as stepping down. I see it as stepping up to executive chairman and leading the company in a different way and also giving my incredibly talented business partner, Megan Bowen, who’s been part of the company for more than three years, the opportunity to really take the business to the next level. I’m really excited for what it’s going to do for our company, for our team, and for our customers. I see this as a strategic move that I made to allow amazing people to continue with what we’re set out to do at Refine Labs. Also, personally, I’m obsessed with this problem inside of B2B go-to-market, generally. I framed it as demand gen in my early career, but I’ve come to learn that the problem is far more complex than how do you run your ads, or how do you build your campaigns, or even how do you measure your website pipeline or something like that. I see this core problem in the market. I think there’s a large opportunity to solve it with software.

[00:01:53.330] – Chris

I decided to make the move with the things that I mentioned with Refine Labs and having Megan take over, as well as giving me the It’s an opportunity personally to pursue this problem that I’m very passionate about and try to solve it for the market.

[00:02:06.110] – Joran

Nice. We’re going to talk more about that. I think it’s a good point. It’s stepping down with stepping up in the same time. I’m going to always start with a really Dutch blunt question. Why should people listen to you today?

[00:02:19.070] – Chris

I think the main reason that people are attracted to the content that I produce and the things that I say is because I have an incredibly broad and data-driven view of the B2B B2B, SaaS and tech go-to-market and B2B generally. I think I have seen different companies, Salesforce data over the past four years, more than 200 Salesforce instances. I analyze that data in an incredibly unique way. I’ve been able to develop benchmark and best practices and things like that, along with all the great people on my team, and believe that I have also a key pulse in the market of what is the market doing? What are customers doing? In a variety of different industries, companies that I work with sell cybersecurity software CFOs, to HR directors, to salespeople, to marketers, to CEOs, to developers, to CTOs. There’s a variety of different buyers, and there are patterns and trends in how the entire market and all those different buyer personas are changing their behavior and how they buy. For all those reasons, I think I just have a really unique perspective in an on-the-ground view, not sitting up in an ivory tower in a boardroom saying what I think.

[00:03:26.200] – Chris

It’s really all the perspectives that I have are built from collecting tons of information from all the smart people that are doing the work, and I work alongside them. That’s why I would think that you might want to give what I’m saying a shot.

[00:03:36.910] – Joran

Exactly. I would definitely say, go follow Chris because what he says is true. He will definitely share all the insights and back it up with data. I like to always start from the real beginning and the real basics. Could you explain in your own words, what is a B2B go-to-market strategy?

[00:03:55.820] – Chris

A go-to-market strategy is a plan for how you plan to engage, attract, convert, and expand your target set of customers or whatever list of customers that you decide. You could look at go-to-market more broadly in terms of the pricing strategy the ideal customer profile, the product strategy, things like that. I really look at that as the business strategy. When you boil it down and go to market, it’s, okay, we know our target customer, we know what the product is going to do, we know what the pricing strategy is. Then underneath that, how are we going to operationalize that in order to acquire and expand customers at an acceptable ROI to drive our growth rate, whether it’s the Rule 40, hyper growth or whatever you’re trying to achieve?

[00:04:42.720] – Joran

Yeah, nice. We’re going to dive deeper into that in a bit. I want to get one basic out of the way as well. How would you explain Dark Social to someone?

[00:04:51.920] – Chris

Dark Social is through the scale and the maturity of the internet. It’s created a variety of different ways that your customers can engage and share and research and discover and learn and actually evaluate their purchases without ever getting tracked by attribution software or digital touchpoints inside of that. Those things could include social networks, communities, direct text messages, general word of mouth, third-party events, content platforms like podcast or Spotify. There are tons of different places where people are going to consume information, share that information with their colleagues, acquire that stuff that isn’t being tracked by attribution software. It’s just a core recognition that we need to have as B2B marketers that a lot of those places are the most impactful places where our customers get information and make decisions. If we don’t have a way to measure that, or we don’t even have an acknowledgement that it’s happening because all we’re doing is looking at digital touchpoints, and we think that all our customers only look at ebooks, attend webinars, and search in Google, and we don’t have the view of what customers are actually doing, it just leads us to make very poor investment and strategy decisions around how we’re going to engage those customers and try and attract and win them.

[00:06:04.190] – Joran

I like the explanation. I think it goes really well into the next question because now we’re going to dive a bit deeper, as in this is probably already one of the common mistakes companies make when executing on their go-to-market strategy. Are there any other common mistakes companies make?

[00:06:20.380] – Chris

If you boil down the core common issues that I see in B2B go-to-market, number one is the siloed approach to go-to-market. There is no overarching system holistic way to determine the entire go-to-market strategy. It’s siloed, and marketing has their budget and their own specific analytics and their stuff. And then SDRs get measured in an entirely different way, and they have their own budget, and then sales has the own thing, and then CS and AM have their own thing. We just take, Okay, we’re going to spend $50 million on sales and marketing next year. I guess marketing is supposed to get 30% and sales is supposed to get 60%, and SDRs get 10, and they just pick random percentages based on benchmarks or best practices and how to divide the budget. I just think that we need to be a lot more data-driven, especially with our own performance and what we’re learning from customers in order to invest and allocate across the whole entire go-to-market. As a stem from that, the siloed analytics that happened inside of B2B companies by the siloed nature of their departments and how they evaluate those investments creates conflicting data between all these systems.

[00:07:24.550] – Chris

There’s no overarching system. Then all of a sudden, marketing is over here with their attribution software, and they’re saying content syndication and direct traffic and Google search are all these best-performing things, and they have their complex W-shaped model. But then the W-shaped model never gets used to evaluate how SDRs are performing or how sales are performing. Then SDRs have their own thing where if they get a meeting, then we have to make sure that we tag that so they get comped. All the measurement around SDRs is to administer a compensation plan, not to optimize your outbound engine. Then you have the sales reps that have quotas. The quotas are set based on some super unrealistic target that could set. Most sales reps are not hitting quota right now. I don’t think it’s due to sales reps not being talented broadly. I think it has to do with companies not planning appropriately and companies not investing appropriately across the entire go-to-market, which means they just over-hire sales and SDRs, and they have not enough demand to actually fulfill the quotas that all those people have. You got siloed departments, and then you have siloed analytics and investments inside of those departments.

[00:08:30.840] – Chris

I see as two of the core issues. Then the last thing, I think, is just the mental model that B2B companies have around how they generate revenue, which is basically get a lead, have SDRs call that lead, so we’ll pass the baton to SDRs, and then we’ll get 1% or 0.1% of those to actually get into a meeting with us. Then we have this one singular funnel around how we’re going to hit our revenue targets that starts with 200,000 or some totally unrealistic number of MQLs and works its way down based on historical data. The model always breaks with scale. You scale from 1,000 to 200,000 MQLs in one year, you’re never going to get the appropriate return or the same return you got on the 100,000 MQLs before it. Now, the companies have very complex and multiple go-to-market motions running at once. They have a partner, they might have product-led, they have outbound, they have their website, they have events, they have a multitude of go-to-market motions running at once. That how are we able to actually measure and optimize all those motions together, not independently? I think those are some of the higher-order issues that I see that I’m working to solve at my new company, Paseto.

[00:09:48.220] – Chris

I’m positive that there are tactical and more micro things, but with my focus in Paseto is really on the macro. How do we make a couple of core changes in our business that drives incredible massive impact? That’s where our analytics are focused on what we’re trying to do.

[00:10:04.140] – Joran

I think it’s really nice because, as you mentioned, silo approach, so own budget per department, analytics per department, and you’re basically fighting each other sometimes and not having the overarching Analytics, as you mentioned.

[00:10:16.450] – Chris

Even if it’s not fighting, a lot of companies are over the credit fighting. You just don’t have the data to make decisions. As a marketing leader, as an SDR leader, as a chief revenue officer, you just don’t have the data in the right way. You have conflicting data between them. Even if over the department fighting for credit, it still leaves you in a place where you don’t have what you need to be a highly successful executive.

[00:10:37.410] – Joran

Yeah, makes sense. I like the other thing you mentioned, as in things are going to break or things don’t scale often data-wise, as what is working right now doesn’t always work in the next phase. I experience it with processes. For example, I was head of customer success in a previous startup, and process is always broke because you grow so fast. I didn’t realize it would always consider also for the analytics part that things don’t always kill. Things doesn’t work. I guess what works now doesn’t work tomorrow in a sense.

[00:11:08.430] – Chris

Yeah, I think the rise of revenue operations or just the operations teams broadly, has created a nice draft and a nice stream of progress from the 2017, 2018 time frame to now, where B2B companies collect an enormous more amounts of data. They have better processes. I don’t think that they’re at best, but they have better processes. It’s starting to set the foundation and have the resources available that when companies want to make this macro change in their analytics, that they’re going to have the means, and they’re probably going to have the historical data to tell them that they need to do it. I think that the progress there has been incredibly useful. But I believe what’s happened is that you basically have the foundation of a house, the foundation being the principles of how we track and measure sales, marketing, and SDRs, digitally, that formed in the early 2010s, first touch attribution and last touch attribution. Then over time, we put new wallpaper on the house and we redo the floor. Then we have W-shaped attribution. Now we have this new tool called outreach, where we can measure our emails. We continue to build on a foundation that I believe is fundamentally broken.

[00:12:26.840] – Chris

At some point, companies will figure out that they need to knock down the house, i. E. Forget all of the outdated principles that they use to think about their analytics and build an entirely new system set for the future, which is an integrated go-to-market team. We operate as an integrated go-to-market team across marketing, sales, SDRs, customer success, or better framed, how do we create demand, capture intent, convert pipeline, and expand accounts? Sure, we have departments that lean toward one or the other, but we really have those four goals as a go-to-market team. How do we allocate resources, human capital, and money and investments on programs and technology and tools in order to best optimize that whole system? I think that is the future of analytics and go-to-market.

[00:13:12.660] – Joran

I want to dive deeper into this. We knock down the house, and people actually go for better processes. They forget about the principles, and they go for the integrated team. What would be your recommended process or steps to follow to actually start building the new house?

[00:13:29.340] – Chris

Knocking down the house doesn’t mean that your CRM is not operational for the next six months and that the project is going to be super expensive and going to take a long time. It actually isn’t like that. It’s more about knocking down the ideas that you have in your head around how you do it and then just putting the infrastructure in place inside of Salesforce to have the right data that you need where you need it. I think that B2B companies are very good at collecting data and really struggle to then take that data, put it in the right place to be able to make an informed, confident strategic decision against it. I really find that is the gap. Attribution data has trillions. We get some imports into our SaaS platform, 2 million campaign touchpoints. It’s great at collecting data. The thing is, how do we know what to do about it? I think that is one of the core things. In terms of the steps, the number one step that we need to recognize as analytics professionals and as executives and even tactical practitioners is that the data inside of Salesforce needs to be accurate.

[00:14:36.260] – Chris

You need to have the right data in the right structure inside of Salesforce, not having garbage data inside of Salesforce or incomplete data in Salesforce and then hooking in an attribution tool that’s going to pull out bad data and then layer some stuff on top of it and then try and make an interpretation that started with the bad data. Or to take the bad data out of Salesforce or your CRM to push it into a BI tool, do tons We have different off-the-cuff manipulations of that data and then present it in BI, where then all the people on your team are trying to replicate those reports in Salesforce and are getting completely different data than in BI. We need to have the CRM have core, structured, repeatable, consistent, accurate data. Then all the systems that connect to Salesforce or your CRM, if you don’t use Salesforce, are writing data and are taking data out, and basically Salesforce is the brain. B2b marketers and RevOps professionals are looking for all these new tools, and we need to recognize that the best way that we could spend our time is just using the core tool that we’ve been using in our business for the past 10 years or from where we started our CRM and using it far more effectively.

[00:15:45.120] – Chris

Basically, from there, and we have stuff published and there’s plenty of stuff coming about how to actually set that up, the timeline to actually setting it up is somewhere between one and three months. This is not a 12-month project, a complete the overhaul, something like that, one to three months to set it up. It doesn’t disrupt existing sales, SDR, other types of workflows, and it is purely there to collect the data, aggregate it in the right way that you need it, and then display it to make decisions. Then the second piece of that is then recognizing what are the core KPIs that matter in our go-to-market machine, starting at the go-to-market machine and then breaking down to the sub functions or go-to-market motions inside of that, which would then help you most likely adjust all of the metrics the way that you measure the effectiveness of marketing at top level KPIs and SDRs. Sales is probably going to say generally the same, although I think comp plans should be scrutinized given how the world works today. Just rethinking the KPI set, what I find in my research and working with a lot of companies is that the people inside of the companies are incredibly smart, are incredibly talented, and are going to do the things that they think are the best way to hit the goals that are assigned to them.

[00:17:03.580] – Chris

And that the problem is that we assign them the wrong goals that drive them to do the wrong behaviors. And part of that is for compensation in the SDR side and even sometimes in the sales side. And part of that We do in marketing, some have variable comp plans, but it’s not as dramatic. Marketing is the side of how do we appease our attribution system or our internal. And we need to figure out as executives how we create a KPI set and a compensation plan and a measurement infrastructure infrastructure that incentivizes and supports all the behaviors that we want to see that lead to great outcomes for our business and our customers. We’re just not there. The MQL, the MQA, the way that we look at an entire funnel with partner and outbound and lead generation and all these things as one set funnel, there’s just a lot of things that I think we need to rethink.

[00:17:51.320] – Joran

Yeah. And as you mentioned, it really starts at the basics. So get the right data in place in your CRM or Salesforce. Get your single source of Basically, we’re going to link to the document or the blog you mentioned, as in it takes set up like one to three months, right? So that probably is a link to that so people can check it out. And then from there, define your core KPIs. So make sure that everybody runs against the same goal, and then you break it up into the different departments and measure everything properly. If you summarize it, it sounds easy, right? What are the common challenges companies are going to face when they try to implement this and maybe some ideas to overcome those?

[00:18:33.680] – Chris

Any common challenge that you face with organizational change that could drive a massive impact and growth trajectory change in your company, they’re facing the same thing as they think about what they’re going to do with AI. They’re facing the same thing when they think about how we look at our data. They face the same thing when they think about what are we going to do with our 35-person SDR team when our CAC payback is untenable now, what are we going to do? They have to go through those decisions and manage a large organizational change that requires a lot of resources and a lot of executives and a lot of people to agree on something. Oftentimes, that stuff leads to no decision or we’ll take care of it in six months. Then eventually, the problem becomes so painful that they’ll eventually do something about it. What I would encourage It’s hard for most people to think about is to think about instead of waiting for the pain to be so big that we need to go out and run a fire drill to solve it, and we’re bleeding money every single day that we don’t solve it, to think about it as an offensive thing to say, If we set this over the next one to three months, that every decision that we make after that is going to have a much higher confidence and accuracy level that’s going to lead to compounding gains in our business.

[00:19:39.480] – Chris

The thing that I’m obsessed about right now is this idea of decision confidence in your go-to-market. As a surrogate, we survey our customers at the beginning and say, what is the confidence that you have in the data that you have in the decisions that you’re making and how you’re planning for 2024? Very confident, somewhat confident, not confident, super not confident, something like look at that and then take it and then look at that not only as the CMO or the marketer, but also what does the CRO say? What does the CFO think? What’s the CEO think? Try and understand what is the decision confidence inside of this company around their entire go-to-market and their investments. Generally, it’s pretty low. Obviously, my sample is biased because they hired me to fix it. But I think if we went out to the market and looked broadly, then a lot of people would admit this over time, especially if you surveyed a lot of people in the company and then triangulated the differences, I think you would actually get the real answer. Then over time, trying to improve decision confidence, both qualitatively, all the executives having more confidence in their decisions, but also tracking the data that you have and what % of data that you have in order to make a confident decision.

[00:20:44.560] – Chris

Right now, we’re trying to help companies make a decision about how they invest $12 million next year that they spent $12 million on Google Ads last year, and they’re trying to figure out, should we keep spending $12 million? Should we increase it by 50%? Should we decrease it by 50%? Should we shut it all off somewhere in the middle, most likely? And that most companies have a 30 to 40% decision confidence level in that where they only have a certain amount of data. They have a portion of the data they need to make a really confident decision, and they’re missing a lot, which means that you’re guessing. If you were able to increase that data level from 30% to 70%, our belief is that you would have a significantly more accurate and significantly more confident decision. You’ll make faster decisions, you’ll make more of the right decisions, which will lead to compounding second-order decisions that you make after that. I just think it creates a massive advantage to be able to use that data and make decisions more quickly and be aligned as a whole company around what data we’re going to look at, why we’re going to look at it, and what decisions we’re going to make against it.

[00:21:44.530] – Chris

It’s not a perfect comp, but I do think it is interesting. Every single C-level executive can read a PnL at a company. They can get the monthly financial report or the quarterly board report or you’re publicly traded. You can look at that type of stuff and have a clear understanding about what’s going on in the business and probably arrive at some of the same conclusions around what we should actually do next. We just don’t have that in B2B go-to-market. We do not have a commonly accepted set of data. We do not have common terminology. We do not have every executive looking at the same data in the same way. We do not have alignment that if we see this type of data, then we make this type of decision. That’s what I’m working on.

[00:22:23.630] – Joran

I love the terminology decision confidence. I think it’s going to be really a struggle for companies to identify that they’re not actually confident on the decisions they’re making and actually admitting it. You’re basically touching somebody’s ego sometimes that you’re going to ask them, How confident are you making decisions? While they might overestimate the confidence. But if you’re really honest and you do this probably internally, then you find out that there’s some fixing to do internally.

[00:22:55.170] – Chris

Yeah, we often work with CMO. The CMO is, say, five or six, but interview someone else on the executive team about their confidence and how the marketing budget is being spent. It’s lower than that. I think that’s really interesting. We’ve arrived at this milestone by qualitatively surveying the people that are inside of the executive team. But over time, you’ll just be able to analyze all the data, understand how much data that you have and what the data is, which would then lead you to some type of score in your overall decision confidence. Then if you have certain types of Google Ad tracking, there are changes There are changes that you should make that have 100% decision confidence. That if you change this, it’s guaranteed to get this type of outcome. It’ll improve your ROI, it’ll lower your budget, you’ll get a better conversion rate. There are elements of marketing and go-to-market that have that level of confidence based on data. The problem is that most companies don’t have the full picture. They have 30% of the picture. And that comes down to the point that I made about the Salesforce data. All that data should be sitting inside of Salesforce so that you have 100% confidence on things Google Ads, lead generation, your outbound strategy, and stuff like that.

[00:24:05.110] – Joran

Yeah. And if you have a 30% confidence on a $12 million Google Ad campaign, then something is going wrong there.

[00:24:13.250] – Chris

And what it leads you to do is just not make any decision. If you don’t have the data to make the confidence or what many people that I work with run into is, Hey, we’re going through our annual plan. I’m looking at all these reports. It looks like everything is working across our entire go-to-market. The plan is just to not change everything next year and raise everything by 15%. The outcome that you get when you have low decision confidence is not changing. The thing that we need to recognize as go-to-market leaders is that being able to recognize a change and then move on it quickly is incredibly It was incredibly impactful. When I started my company in 2019 and I recognized the potential impact of LinkedIn, and then I acted on that with confidence and clarity over a long period of time, and I built an incredible foundation where at the beginning, 900 people followed me. Now I have hundreds of thousands of followers across a ton of different channels that create equity, both for the first business that I started Refine Labs, but all the future businesses and endeavors that I take a part on.

[00:25:12.310] – Chris

It’s not just about marketing channels like LinkedIn. This could be related to a partner strategy. It could be related to how you think about outbound. It could be related to how you think about your revenue operations. There’s tons of opportunities when it comes to using data to increase decision confidence and accuracy. Yeah.

[00:25:29.450] – Joran

Again, it starts with having the right data, as you mentioned. I think that’s the most important thing there at all. Regarding go-to-market strategy, you already maybe even sketch the future, or at least the ideal scenario. How would you see the future What’s the future of go-to-market strategy? A picture of the ideal scenario. Do you think it’s going to lead there for everybody, or do you have other opinions on it?

[00:25:54.500] – Chris

The future of B2B go-to-market is undeniable. It will be account-based. It will be an integrated go-to-market team, not siloed departments. They will have an integrated analytics system where all the teams and executives and practitioners and agencies are all operating off of the same core set of data in order to make decisions. Those are the core steps that we’re working towards. Abm platforms have evangelized that we should get there, and they’ve provided some of the operational tools that help us get there, but do not provide the underlying infrastructure to make that work across the entire go-to-market, at least yet. Part of it is that they do not take any interest in solving the CRM data issue, and neither does any other technology vendor. Why? Because it’s super hard and you need to build a services business in order to fix it, and SaaS companies aren’t interested in that. They would just rather pull out your bad data and try and manipulate it rather than fixing part of the main root cause issue. I see that the way that we make decisions and strategy and investments as executives, starting with the CFO and some of the The P&A work and the CEO and the CMO, is going to come partially from the historical performance data that we’re able to ingest and look at and try and have 100% decision confidence in some things.

[00:27:14.310] – Chris

A massive ingesting of customer research data collected directly from our market, surveys, win-loss analysis, self-reported attribution, recording of all the calls that we take on sales and what questions are being asked, a variety of other things that are then coming in and being able to be analyzed, manipulated, probably by the use of AI, to be able to have an input of what do our customers say, what does our historical performance data say, and then what does some type of future modeling look like? I think that we will be using that core set of data to be able to inform go-to-market strategy investments, what types of people that we hire, all the things like that. Where right now, B2B companies is just take their poor CRM data and then flawed digital attribution data, and then the data they collect to administer their SDR comp plan and try and caujpodge that together to develop a strategy. I think that we’ll just have a significantly more robust analytics system and a significantly more robust strategic decision engine of how we allocate tens of millions of dollars on go-to-market next year. Big chunks of money. I think we just need a much more thoughtful and granular our data and decision engine for that.

[00:28:33.380] – Joran

Yeah, sounds really… For a lot of companies like Future Music, but I think it’s a really good goal to work towards. Maybe a little bit one off-topic question, because I know you have an opinion on this as well. What is your opinion on leveraging affiliate marketing for B2B SaaS companies? I think you sometimes call them key opinion leaders. What is your opinion on it?

[00:28:56.410] – Chris

I just think there’s a ton of different distinctions in here. Here’s how How I define them. I define an affiliate as someone who gets paid to refer you business directly. They either click on an affiliate link or someone sends you an email with an intro. Because there’s clear tracking of this person sent me this lead, and then they became a customer, then I’m going to pay that person per transaction or per lead. That’s how I view an affiliate. Then you have an influencer, somebody that has a audience on some type of channel, and you pay that person to distribute your message through their channels. It’s almost like sponsoring a newsletter, sponsoring a post or something like that, where you’re paying for the distribution. It’s almost like buying an ad on LinkedIn, but you’re buying it through a in hand-to-hand combat, and you’re probably paying on some type of CPM basis, or you should get to a level where you’re paying on some type of CPM basis for that. Then you have a key opinion leader who is somebody that has an existing thought There’s a lot leadership, an existing audience in there that greatly uses and values the product that you sell.

[00:30:08.610] – Chris

Because they use the product in real life, they drive key strategy into the market around what are the best ways to use the product? What are the best ways to measure it? What features aren’t useful that you should just stop doing? What are new experiments or data that we can collect to support doing certain things or not certain things? Then how do we distribute that through our own channels and potentially co-content collaboration with the business as a long-term strategic partnership like an external evangelist? Very popular strategy inside of medical device. We did this in 2016, and it’s not like I made this. Medical device companies have been doing this since the ’90s, probably before that, where you get your product in a physician’s hand. They have a core need or something that they’re interested in from a research or patient They start using the product, they get certain results, then they start talking about it, researching it, presenting at conferences and things like that. You try and have that person be a partner with you, sometimes compensated, often compensated, sometimes long term financial incentives, to grow the business and have some type of financial event.

[00:31:21.850] – Chris

I see that as the evolution of how most companies think about partnerships like affiliates, that If you have—and then they one-off—do influencer sponsorships, but they don’t measure it the right way, and a long-term partnership would never work that way, that eventually they will mature to look at them as, you probably will continue to have affiliates, but to say that we need key opinion leaders who are going to provide our company with strategy and keys to drive the market forward around the things that we’re doing, I just think is an incredible strategy, proven in other industries, not used broadly enough inside of tech and SaaS. I’m looking forward to the companies trying it out and seeing the major impact that it can have.

[00:32:08.310] – Joran

Hopefully, we’re trying to solve that issue for BDV SaaS companies out there, so happy to hear it is. We’re going to go to the final four questions, they’re almost famous already. When we talk about a go-to-market strategy, what advice would you give somebody who’s just starting out and growing to 10K money recurring revenue?

[00:32:30.530] – Chris

Figure out one channel that you can repeatably get customers on. If you’re at 10K in revenue, you don’t have much. You don’t have a team, you don’t have any money for ads, you don’t have much. Figure out one organic channel that you can repeatably get customers. That’s going to most It’s not going to be outbound or an organic social network. That’s what I would focus on. Then when you get to a million a year run rate, 80K a month, start to rethink it. But most businesses, including SaaS businesses, can grow from zero to minimum 5 million, but from potentially zero to at least 20 million using one acquisition channel. It’s just about knowing, planning, does that acquisition channel scale? Where our customers be there? Did we get the timing right, which oftentimes we don’t have control over. And did we push it hard? Did we understand our customers in the channel well enough to push it for everything that it had? I’ve been able to do that with LinkedIn and a podcast. There’s companies that have been able to do that with LinkedIn that are not me, and a variety of other channels. I think it’s really just about getting one channel to work really well to repeatably acquire customers at that stage.

[00:33:39.010] – Joran

Yeah, nice. You already semi-answered the next question. What advice would you give somebody who passed that 10K monthly recurring revenue and is growing towards 10 million ARR?

[00:33:52.600] – Chris

As you start to get into the 10 to 20 million ARR range at the below-end 50, at the high-end 200, employees that a lot of processes start to break, a lot of internal communication methods start to break, that you have a lot of different people running and misalignment between departments and teams starts to become very apparent, especially in go-to-market. Oftentimes, a business that gets there, especially if you’re getting there fast, will hit a ceiling where something fundamentally needs to change in the business, which isn’t always about go-to-market. It could be sales and marketing, but it could It could be product, it could be operations, it could be culture. There’s something that needs to change in the business to unlock that next potential growth trajectory. That’s more of that’s business advice overall. It’s not go-to-market is the only thing that breaks as your company scales and being able to try and identify. Sometimes it can take a long time to tease out. It can take years to really tease out what is the thing that’s holding us back or what are the assumptions that we had about how our business will grow or about what our customers do that are no longer serving us and being able to clearly identify that, be able to make a change, and then boom, almost overnight, you’re able to unlock that next phase.

[00:35:06.480] – Chris

When it comes to go-to-market, specifically, I think it’s just an undeniable obsession with, What do my target customers want? What do my target customers do every day? A parallel obsession with, How do we deliver a profitable, sustainable, successful go-to-market motion where our business continue to grow and scale in this new world, where it’s not growth at all costs, and we’re not going to burn hundreds of millions of dollars to maybe get 10, 20, 30 million ARR. I think those are the two things, obsession with customers and then an obsession and a commitment to building your company in a different way than what historically people did. A lot of people that have built a company by raising a lot of money got to 100 million ARR. Sure, the founders took secondary, but every other person on the cap table that thought they were going to make a million bucks, now their shares are worth zero dollars because valuations are down, the company is not growing anymore. They have to fire sale. It’s clear that it’s emerging, that there’ll be a different way to build technology in SaaS companies. It doesn’t involve such a heavy hyper-growth, raise money and burn that money.

[00:36:25.880] – Chris

I think we’ll have a more thoughtful conversation about growth moving forward.

[00:36:29.160] – Joran

Yeah, I It goes smoothly into the third question out of four. If you just zoom out, would you have any more general advice? Maybe what you just touched upon right now already towards other SaaS founders who are now on their journey.

[00:36:47.660] – Chris

Some advice that I have for SaaS founders, be obsessed with customers and stay close to customers for as long as possible, if not forever. Do not be afraid to sell services, especially at the early stage, to be able to truly figure out and make customers successful. Many founders think it’s off limits to build some type of professional services arm because it’s a software company that needs to have certain gross margins. If we have services revenue, it’ll devalue the business. The problem is that if you don’t build the services, then your NRR is 85%, and then all of a sudden, you don’t even really have an investable business. Do not Are you afraid to build services that drive customer success and accelerate the progress of your product by really being with the customer? Then think about doing things differently. The traditional playbook of hire a bunch of SDRs and blitz scale and spend a ton of money on advertising when you have seven customers and you don’t know who you’re selling to or why they’re buying. Just the old playbook is super inefficient. It’s not customer-focused. It doesn’t apply to how the world works today revenue multiples and valuations.

[00:38:02.180] – Chris

I think we just have to, as founders, challenge why we do those things and pave our own path to look at the information available and what our customers are telling us and pave our own path about how go-to-market works in the future rather than relying on outdated playbooks of the past.

[00:38:19.130] – Joran

Yeah, because as you mentioned before, a lot of things have changed. If you look at how companies grew and got themselves funded versus how they have to grow now, a lot of things have changed. One thing I can also say is in, don’t be afraid to build services, you mentioned. We did the exact same thing in our early stages. We actually did services. We’re now scaling a bit down on it, but it helped us to get our clients to value, but also build another product, which is almost like an add-on, which is going to productize basically the service we did to help them to get value. So it can get yourself money to make sure that you can stay in your company while getting a lot of information from the challenges they’re going to face as well. Final question I wanted to ask, what is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?

[00:39:14.190] – Chris

The advice would be to not follow the commonly accepted social norms about how you’re supposed to think about your career and your career track, and that you start as an intern, and then you become a specialist, and then three years later, you get promoted to manager, and then senior manager, and then all of a sudden, 25 years later, you’re a VP at a company, and you’re not really sure if you like your job. That’s a great path for a lot of people. I’m not knocking the path. But for me, I followed that path thinking that it was right for me when I should have done something totally different that wasn’t socially accepted or part of social norms, which is, Quit your job and go start a company. To me, I feel like I went on that endeavor. You have to look back and you have to trust that everything happened for a reason in the sequence and things that it did. It led you to where you were supposed to be. But in hindsight, I really wish I had leaned more into entrepreneurship and being a business owner earlier in my lifetime. But the same thing about not following social norms can apply in a ton of different areas.

[00:40:25.650] – Chris

There’s a lot of people, at least in Austin, I don’t know how it’s happening across the world, but there’s a lot of people in Austin where two or three years ago, the social norm was like, Oh, you don’t drink, you’re weird. And it’s emerging in Austin right now of, Oh, you drink? That’s weird. There’s a shift going on around how people think about the social norm regarding alcohol. It doesn’t have to just be within entrepreneurship. There are social norms around tons of different things that have probably been around for a really long time. To be able to look at it through your own lens and say, someone else set this social norm, and a lot of people accept it blindly, but is it a norm that’s right for me? Does it align with my values, with my vision? I think that it can lead you to a lot of places that are incredible. It lead to a lot of happiness to not do things that everybody else does because you thought about it and decided for yourself that it doesn’t work for you.

[00:41:18.910] – Joran

Yeah, I fully agree. It’s going to give you a lot more happiness if you do things on your own terms, basically, and according to your own norms. I love it. If you want to get in contact with you, I can imagine you probably can’t have any more LinkedIn connections already if you have so many. What is the best way to get in contact with you?

[00:41:38.330] – Chris

Yeah, feel free to DM me on LinkedIn. Feel free to DM me on Instagram. Those are probably the two best places to DM me. If you want to listen to the content, it’s available on Apple and Spotify called the B2B Revenue Vitals podcast. There’s more than 450 episodes up there now, all the way from 2019. I also publish short form content on TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube, so feel free to reference whatever. I’m basically, I try to be in all the places where my customers consume in different ways. And so whichever place that you like to consume, just find me there.

[00:42:10.040] – Joran

Yeah. We’re going to make it easy for the listeners. We’re going to add LinkedIn profile, Instagram profile. We’re going to add a link towards the how to set up the data properly blog where you can follow the steps Chris is going to mention. And then from there, I hope you to get started. Thanks for coming on, Chris. It was a pleasure. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, if you want to have us cover any other topics going forward. And thanks again.

[00:42:36.840] – Chris

Great discussion. Thanks for having me.

Joran Hofman
Meet the author
Joran Hofman
Back in 2020 I was an affiliate for 80+ SaaS tools and I was generating an average of 30k in organic visits each month with my site. Due to the issues I experienced with the current affiliate management software tools, it never resulted in the passive income I was hoping for. Many clunky affiliate management tools lost me probably more than $20,000+ in affiliate revenue. So I decided to build my own software with a high focus on the affiliates, as in the end, they generate more money for SaaS companies.
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