Go back

Offense Intended: Why Chris Walker Says It’s Time to Shift From Demand Capture to Demand Creation

Brooklin Nash
April 10, 2024

Demand gen is missing the mark.

Chris Walker has worked with 100+ B2B SaaS and tech companies over the past three years.

And he sees the same tired pattern over and over again: marketers play it safe in order to get leads that may or may not convert.

As the Founder and CEO of GTM strategy consultancy Passetto and the Chairman of leading B2B digital agency Refine Labs, Chris lives and breathes the fundamental difference between demand capture and demand creation. He posts a ton of valuable content on LinkedIn—like, every-marketer-on-LinkedIn-should-follow-him level stuff—that lays out exactly how to dig in for results without worrying about the peripheral noise.

I’ve compiled Chris’ insights into one cohesive guide, so you can start building offensive marketing strategies that work.

Let’s start here:

Shift your mindset

Sales metrics like MQLs, and Stage 1 pipeline are grossly misaligned to the actual goal of demand generation: turning people who aren’t paying customers into people who are.

That’s why marketers need to shift toward creating demand—understanding dark social channels, responding to shifts in what your customers care about, and moving the goalpost (far) away from the supposedly “qualified” leads we’ve clung to for so long. In Chris’s words:

“Marketing teams don’t Create Demand because their attribution models & KPIs don’t incentivize them to do it. And it’s really that simple.
Because CREATING DEMAND involves using dark social channels - mainly 3rd party content platforms, social networks, and communities that every B2B buyer uses today - in ways that don't get measured with attribution software.”

Chris aptly shares that these problems are especially glaring in organizations that don’t “get” marketing. A marketer’s daily activities pull them into countless cross-functional priorities (not just marketing) as they spend precious time trying to hit the wrong targets. Most companies place the blame on marketing when things aren’t going well.

It’s time for marketers to move from defense to offense.

Because when marketers filter their campaigns and strategies through the 90-day sales span, it won’t get them where they want to be—marketing needs a strategic, long-term, offensive focus:

  • Stay agile and pay attention to your customers’ evolution
  • Be innovative and don’t shy away from trying something new
  • Understand customers and learn why they buy your product

Lead collection metrics aren’t the end-all, be-all.

Stop obsessing over attribution

Per Chris, bland, boring marketing does have a root cause: misaligned strategy.

“Most B2B companies build their Marketing strategy around attribution instead of customers.
They buy technology and then only do the Marketing activities that those technology tools can measure.
All of the major limitations of those technologies become part of their Marketing strategy.
The result is a cookie-cutter, assembly line style of marketing that prioritizes measurement over customer needs. That prioritizes measurement of easy-to-move vanity metrics over actual effectiveness.”

Chris harps on this, and rightfully so: B2B marketers focus their entire attribution system on demand capture to their detriment. “Where did that lead come from? We should put our efforts into those channels.” Yes, maybe, but attribution software isn’t the only place to unveil customer intent.

Go where your customers go: social channels, owned podcasts, or communities like Slack and Discord. Even referrals or third-party events have value.

These are the customer-centric gold mines that won’t show up in your attribution software even though they’re indispensable when it comes to understanding your customers.

Rethink ROI

Sure, you can pull back the curtain on your marketing programs through influenced revenue reporting…if you understand that these reports don’t tell the full story.

In his consultancy work with CMOs, Chris sees this play out all the time: Reports on past revenue you’ve “influenced” aren’t convincing enough, so they don’t impact decisions on budget allocation. They’re meant to prove to the C-suite that Marketing strategies are working. Yet these reports are built on dead tactics like gated content—so is this data really meaningful?

It’s time to rethink ROI and the data you’re gathering to prove it.

There is a massive difference between trying to ‘Prove the ROI’ of a tactic or channel versus collecting the right data to make a strategic decision.
These are inherently competing objectives.”

Instead of finding data that proves your lead-gen moves are working, review critical health metrics instead and let those drive your decision-making. In Chris’ opinion, the five most critical marketing metrics are:

  • Total HIRO Pipeline Creation by Fiscal Quarter—yes, the entire pipeline!
  • Total Marketing Spend: HIRO Pipeline Creation by Fiscal Quarter
  • Total Sales Velocity by Fiscal Quarter
  • Closed Won New Business by Fiscal Quarter
  • Closed Won New Business: Total Marketing Spend by Fiscal Quarter

This data is actually meaningful and relevant, equipping marketers to adjust their future priorities to match what really matters to their customers—not some misguided report set to collect digital dust.

Time to enter your dark social era

Passetto attributed a staggering 97% of their revenue to dark social last year. Yet their attribution software said dark social drove 0%.

When you focus your energy on attribution software, you’ll move further away from customer sentiment. Marketers who aren’t ready to enter their dark social era will miss out big time.

Just as the TikTok-famous villain era trend invited the internet to prioritize themselves over others, the dark social era begs marketers to prioritize what their customers want over any traditional playbooks or practices.

  • What do they want?
  • What do they care about?
  • Where do they have conversations?
  • How do I get to know them on a deep level?
  • How do they want to engage with our product?
  • Do they even want to engage with our product?

Dark social is for marketers who adopt a long-term view of success. Here’s what Chris recommends:

  • Deprioritize software attribution: Marketers will simply never have the full story if they’re relying on software-based attribution alone. This reliance is rooted in demand capture, not creation.
  • Champion a hybrid attribution model: Take into account software-based attribution data, but then merge these insights with customer-reported attribution for insights that would never be reflected in the software.
  • Capitalize on immediacy: Responsive marketing strategies rely on meaningful, timely customer insights. The customer-reported attribution model shares a real-time snapshot of what your customers care about.

“These strategies are complementary, not competitive. [They give] you WAY more data coming directly from customers to inform your revenue and business strategy.”

Final bits of genius 

The way to stand out from all the marketing blah blah blah and jargon isn’t to throw everything at the ROI wall just to see what sticks.

Invest in content that skillfully educates and builds brand affinity. Enter your dark social era to meet your customers where they are, and create a strategic marketing engine through thought leadership and expert-anchored content marketing.

Rethink attribution to value (and accurately measure) demand creation activities. Instead of relying on attribution software, let your customers tell you about how they found you themselves. This puts you in the position of creating demand, not just grasping for leads.

Align your marketing goals with business outcomes, not just sales metrics. Forget the 90-day sales window and take a long-term view of building brand awareness and trust.

I’m with you, Chris. 

Defense to offense is the way forward for marketing champions who really care about getting in their customers’ corner. The B2B SaaS world will be all the better for it.