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Strategy | Building Community in B2B, LinkedIn Organic, and Influencer Partnerships (with Chris Walker)

9 May 2024
Strategy | Building Community in B2B, LinkedIn Organic, and Influencer Partnerships (with Chris Walker)

Show Notes

Dave joins Chris Walker for a Refine Labs Expert Series event. Chris is the Founder & Executive Chairman of Refine Labs and Founder & CEO of Passetto. They discuss
  • The principles of building a community
  • LinkedIn personal vs. company page engagement
  • The role of executives in thought leadership content
  • How companies are leveraging influencer partnerships
  • How to approach LinkedIn organic and grow your audience


  • () - - Intro
  • () - - Importance of Community Engagement
  • () - - Tailoring Marketing Strategies to Target Audiences
  • () - - Depth Over Width in Influencer Strategy
  • () - - Leveraging Influencer Networks for Product Promotion
  • () - - Importance of Laser Focus in Content
  • () - - Organic vs. Paid Content Amplification
  • () - - Leveraging Content for Successful Advertising
  • () - - The 1% Mindset in Achieving Success
  • () - - Creation Strategies: Leveraging Existing Comfort Zones
  • () - - Utilizing Content Variation for Effective Marketing
  • () - - Investing in Employee Long-term Value
  • () - - Validating and Refining Effective Communication Strategies
  • () - Identifying Trending Topics on LinkedIn for Content Creation

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Chris Walker [00:00:14]:
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the B two B revenue Vitals podcast. This is your host, Chris Walker. We got a good one today. I just got wrapped up with it, actually. We did a live event with Dave Gerhardt. There was more than 100 people on live simultaneously throughout the whole thing, so I know you're going to get a bunch of value from it. We covered some aspects of community, some of the interesting things that are happening as companies see all their budget in LinkedIn and Google.

Chris Walker [00:00:36]:
Basically the whole paid budget in those two channels. And thinking a little bit more strategically and diversifying to things like newsletters, communities, sponsored webinars, key opinion leaders, influencer spots, not as a massive investment, but at least starting to test the waters and start to reallocate and diversify. And so if that's something that you're looking at or already doing or looking at, I think there's a lot of key tips in here that will help you take that to the next level or get it off the ground. And so with all that said, really looking forward to getting into this one. I hope you enjoy it. And now to this episode. Dave, welcome to the show.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:01:08]:
Chris, good to see you. Thanks for having me. Thanks for stirring up a shitstorm on my LinkedIn post today. Thank you for everything. And, uh, I love this format. Your audience, the people that come to this are always super thoughtful and, and engaged. And so every time, anytime you reach out and want to chat marketing, I'm, I'm happy to do it. And this topic is, I'm not the MQL conversion rate ratio guy.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:01:30]:
That's your wheelhouse. The thing that we're going to talk about today is a little bit more my wheelhouse. So I'm excited to be here and chat with you, my friend.

Chris Walker [00:01:36]:
I love that.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:01:36]:

Chris Walker [00:01:36]:
And I've been able to be relatively successful with it, too, so I'm looking forward to sharing it. So, everyone, the topic here is community and social. And I'm sure content's going to get in here as well. And we might get into the area of like influencer and some more like experimental sponsorships, like sponsoring podcasts or influencers or events or communities and some things that I hear people thinking about doing. And so all those kind of topics are in bounds. Let's start with community. Dave, I think there's a really interesting perspective that I wanted to try and hear from you. And I think the core, sort of where I want to set it, is the difference between when you have a community and the community as your business for instance, for, like, you or pavilion or something like that, versus if you're a SaaS company and you build a community as, like, the sidecar to your product, as a way to try and, like, grow with the narrative.

Chris Walker [00:02:25]:
I actually think the mechanics of how you do it and why are very different. And we've seen examples like there was a big acquisition spree where high profile SaaS companies would acquire a community and their newsletter sales hacker via outreach and other ones like that, that I'm not the only one to sort of judge this, but on the outside, many of them looked like failure acquisitions. What do you think of those ingredients, especially given your knowledge from in house? Like, what are the ingredients and things that are important to. To actually be successful with a community, like an owned community strategy for a b two B business?

Dave Gerhardt  [00:02:55]:
Oh, that's deep, man. And you think that there was a failure? I don't know who could argue. I don't know if I know enough to argue on either side of that, but if it was a failure, I think it makes a lot of sense why. And I actually think one of the reasons why I look at exit five now, and it's been successful, actually think about all the time that this would be much different if it was inside of a company. And because that is because there would be some quest to, how do we nurture this audience and get them to buy our product at some point. And I think that's where a lot of this breaks down and a lot of things that work to build a successful community. Like, if I look at how Chris Walker came up, he started with nothing and just was writing his thoughts on LinkedIn and built a following, and that following there led to other things. I think when you start with the other way around, when you already have a company and you're like, oh, let's go build a community now, it's very hard to do that because you start looking at the time and the resources and how many people are working on this project and who's going to manage it, and then, like, if the three people working on your community inside of the company aren't doing some other things, and that thing's not working, it just, it brings in measurement to this.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:04:01]:
As far as people's time, budget, investment, how is this converting? What are the goals of it? I've been at a couple companies where we unintentionally built community. Like, when I was at drift, as an example, we didn't set out to build a community. The CEO and I, David, cancel. We had a podcast and we were active on social media, and we just had no goals. We're like, hey, we're going to just, we're passionate about this topic. We're going to talk about what we're doing as we're building this company and just see where it goes. And that grew organically. And I think anytime something grows organically, you know it's working by people telling you.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:04:33]:
And I think when you try to force to build something inside of the company, you even measure community in a weird way. Like when you, when you started to build your company, right, you had pipeline coming from your existing audience. You didn't need to have to figure out, like, well, how do I know this is working? You knew this is working because your first ten 2100 customers were like, oh, I follow you on LinkedIn, and I listen to your podcast. And so a lot of the measurement stuff is where this starts to break down inside of the company. But I wonder if you, you would articulate it differently. How would you answer that question?

Chris Walker [00:05:01]:
I think it's precise. And I think that when you're building a community on its own versus when you're building it in a company, there starts to be competing objectives and conflicts of interest that I think get you away from the first principles of why you would build a community in the first place. So you see the communities that tend to be more sticky and more engaged. You often don't see them attached to a product or a company. You see them as an independent entity that monetizes against the community because the way they monetize is directly correlated to the members being more successful. Where in SaaS, it's not necessarily like that. Or if you're selling a b, it doesn't have to be SaaS, any type of b, two b product, that the objective of the community is to be a lead in to sell the product, not necessarily provide value to the members. And so you don't get this nice grassroots movement.

Chris Walker [00:05:45]:
So I think it all comes back to first principles of why you're doing it in the first place, is to share great information. Yes, we're all business professionals. We're all doing this for a reason. So we have to have some scrutiny over. Is this worth our time? Is it valuable? But when I always looked at it at the beginning, it was, are people coming back next week, the people that are on this show? If I did the show and we did another one next week, did you all come back and watch it again? Was it that valuable that you would dedicate another hour of your time to come learn and professionally develop and stuff like that. And when you start to see the repeat visitors and that type of engagement, you know that you're onto something. And so I think just looking at what are the right things that you need in a community, I think that would be one of the core ingredients.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:06:25]:
I also think so much of the value of community to me is also not just the direct sales ROI. It's like you do a session with 100 people and we talk about this topic and chat blows up. And it was a really fun and engaging session. We just got incredible data on like, oh, this topic is really interesting. Let's go do more. And so I've loved having community involved in my marketing and brand building efforts because it's like the ultimate. You just feel like you have your finger on the pulse of like, what types of content that you can create, right? All of your content strategy over the years, Chris, I'm sure, has been like, you had an idea, wrote a LinkedIn post about it. Oh, shit, that got a ton of comments.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:07:04]:
People are really interested in this topic. Let's go do an event about that. Let's go do a podcast about that. Let's go write a bunch of articles about that. Maybe there's something that we should be educating our customers about. And so, so much of this community piece is the feedback loop. And I get a ton of ROI from that specifically. And I hate the conversation with the VP of sales or CFO about like, well, how many customers do we get? Well, this thing is actually like a Trojan horse for our content strategy.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:07:29]:
I'm talking to customers all the time, even if it's just ten or 20 of them on a Zoom call. It could be at scale with comments on a LinkedIn video or post, right? Or it can be in a smaller format, but that's a huge piece of that. And now with exit five as just an example, it's the business that I'm working on right now. I might have an idea. Like, I got to come on and talk to you all today. I might have an idea. At the end of this. I'm going to go put that in our slack and be like, hey, I got the topic for next week's newsletter.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:07:57]:
And then I send that out and then the response, that is really good. Hey, we should go do a 50 person meetup, focus on how to build b two b community. I think that's a sucher, underrated piece of community building that the business side of the house doesn't often see. It's this feedback loop and I guess let's go back to marketing, right? I believe in the science of marketing, but also so much of this is an art. And I think the great marketers are great tastemakers in that industry. If you're selling to finance or HR or whatever, you know that industry really well. That is such a key ingredient to being able to do successful marketing on point.

Chris Walker [00:08:31]:
I want to talk through, because I see a lot of companies now, and people are even coming to me looking like, I think people have matured a little bit and how they think about an influencer relationship over the past couple of years or a sponsorship with a thought leader. Back in the day, it was like, literally I would get a DM and it was like, hey, we'll pay you $100 to, like, post and tag our company. Here's exactly what you want to post. And it's just, no, you know, but I think the conversations people are having now are much more thoughtful around, like, engaging influencers and having a sponsored event with them and then creating different types of assets with it and having a less directly promotional, like b, two C direct response type of view on influencer. I would love to hear what you're seeing. And also, like, a lot of people might be thinking about doing this in some fashion or another, whether it's for exit five or marketing isn't their buyer, and they're looking at it in a different community, I think it could be valuable for people as they explore this, like, unchartered territory.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:09:23]:
So about two years ago, a year and a half ago is when I kind of went all in on this business. And I did a lot of the things I did a lot of those pay me $100 to post on LinkedIn. I just wanted to, I wanted to try all these different formats of, like, I wanted to monetize this content slash influencer type business. What I learned was no surprise. The offer and the copy and the content really matters. The fit of something really matters. And so if somebody reached out and they're like, hey, we'll pay you X to promote this thing or do some ads on your podcast, not going to convert, right. The stuff that works really well is when, like, all of the circles in the Venn diagram overlap really well, right? It's the right customer, it's the right fit.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:10:02]:
It's a product that we use or involved with in some way. And if you go b, two B or B two C, it's all the same things, right? You can tell if you're following someone on Instagram and they clearly have never used that product or it's just a very random product for them to be promoting. And so one thing that I'm trying to do now that we've hired a team is just, we're trying to be much more thoughtful and specific and almost like bring an account management approach to the companies that we work with. From a sponsorship standpoint, it's like, hey, we've learned a bunch about this audience. Like, you can't just send us copy and we're just going to put it out and it's going to magically work. Like, we know what this audience wants. Let's massage this, let's work on this copy together. And I think that's a big piece of this is like, even in just picking, who are you going to, if you want to do an influencer partnership, who are you going to work with and why? And I can tell when people reach out to us as an example, I'm like, oh, this person has never read or involved in anything that we've ever done verse someone who's like, hey, I've been a member of the community for a year and a half.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:11:01]:
I listen to all your podcasts. I work at this company. Here's a product that we want to talk about, and here's a creative way to do it. Just like marketing, it comes back to having that deep understanding of the customer and what's going to be interesting to them. And I think you have to do it in an authentic way. I'll give you an example. I'm happy to share this. Like, I'm obsessed with copywriting and writing and the creative side of business.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:11:20]:
I want to find a company that's in the AI and content creation space and I want them to sponsor exit five for the year. And I want to be a partner with them, but I really want to go all in and like, use the product to the max and talk about the use cases and once a week write about like, hey, here's two interesting things we did with the product. We did with the product this week and help them drive the roadmap and take our feedback and do the sponsor stuff with them. Do podcast ads, do LinkedIn, do you know, webinars hours and whatever. But those are going to be the best types of partnerships. We have one now. There's a company called NAC and they do email design and they basically reached out. They're like, hey, we'll help you level up all your emails for the whole year.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:11:59]:
We'll be your featured email sponsor. And that's a perfect fit for us, because we got to send out emails every week anyway. That email, we use their tool, we design all our emails in their tool, we send it out. That's a very natural fit. And so I'm trying to get smarter about like, let's do this with products that we actually use and have a deep knowledge of. And I think that's kind of the insight that is so obvious from like the consumer world that we're now trying to bring here. And this can apply whether you sell to marketers or HR. If you don't have a deep understanding of that industry, what they're interested in, how they might use your product, it's not going to be a fit.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:12:32]:
And the audience is smart enough to know that.

Chris Walker [00:12:34]:
Yeah, and this is bleeding into a topic that I've talked about which looking at influencers and key opinion leaders differently, like, I think this is really a key opinion leader strategy just to bring people back in, like 2016, when I worked at a medical device company, we would find people like Dave, but they were doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital, and they posted content about medicine on Facebook, and they would speak at the conferences and they would do sponsored webinars with us and they would use our product and they would test it in different ways and they would give us product feedback and they would be on their advisory board. And we had like five to ten people like that in every single segment of our business that could help in promotion, but also product feedback and thought leadership, and taking references for customers and building different best practices and guidelines about how to use the product. And I think those type of low volume and very, very high quality depth of partnerships, which I'm calling a key opinion leader strategy, will become a cornerstone in B two B SaaS like it is in medical device and pharma and manufacturing and other industries like that. I think that's a really awesome insight. And to know it's not just marketers, it's not just me and Dave. In your industry, if you're selling to CFO's or respiratory therapists, or B two B business consultants with less than five employees, whatever audience you're going after, there are thought leaders in the space that have social media profiles, have trust, would get a ton of value from your product, give you great feedback on your product, tell other people, and being able to try and figure out how you align with those people, whether in a formal partnership or just as having them come on your podcast and doing some content collaboration, I think there's just a very large opportunity in that space, overall, I think a lot of people tend to try to go wide with influencers, and I think west wide and more depth would be a better approach.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:14:21]:
Yeah. One question that I've seen come up in our community is as more people are talking about influencers, is people are like, hey, where can I find a list of influencers in my industry? That's a huge. That's a red flag to me. Granted, I'm not an influencer marketing expert, but if you have to go and find a, where are the, hey, does anyone have a, where can I find a list of the influencers in my industry? Like, that seems nuts to me. How do you. You need to know that it's never going to work unless you know. And that comes from you watching YouTube, listening to podcasts, going to events, like, I'm sure in your medical device sales days. Chris, I'm sure you personally had a deep understanding because you're reading blogs, you're reading news in the space.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:14:56]:
Like, you have to know those things personally. There's not going to be some database that's like, oh, yeah, here are five influencers you could work with. You got to know that stuff. I've done this at two software companies at drift and privy, where we would find people that would come up in the space and we would give them free access to our product, right? Invite them to events, have them on webinars, host them at our podcast. Like with no ask back, just this. Both of the founders that I work with had this idea of, like, if we believe in our product and we give it away to the right people, they're going to use it and tell others about it. And this idea, like anything in marketing, by the way, is not new. Seth Godin has been talking about this idea forever.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:15:31]:
It might have been back in the early two thousands with his book permission marketing, he called influencers something different. He called them sneezers. He basically said, sneezers are the people in your industry that when they sneeze, everybody else gets sick and infected with your message. You want to find who the sneezers are in your industry.

Chris Walker [00:15:49]:
Fascinating. I know a lot of people probably came for the content side, too. And so I want to get a little bit deeper into just LinkedIn specifically. LinkedIn dynamics are changing. I've noticed it over the past 30 days, and I think that there's a consistent sort of evolution inside of LinkedIn. So we'd love to hear how you assess the current state. You're a pretty strong organic player. Would love to hear sort of what you're seeing if there are any other channels that you think how people should reallocate their time.

Chris Walker [00:16:14]:
Anything new and exciting when it comes to content distribution on social LinkedIn, man.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:16:20]:
It'S a gift and a curse. They're clearly making a lot of changes because things fluctuate a lot. I don't have any new interest when it comes to channels. I continue to be really bullish on LinkedIn and X, aka Twitter. I like those channels from a content distribution standpoint because I think it provides the lowest barrier to be successful, which is written word, which is text, right? You don't have to make 500 highly produced TikTok videos and hope that one lands. You can learn much quicker. And so I think I would still be going hard on LinkedIn and Twitter. I think Twitter is a very underrated opportunity.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:16:58]:
They're just trying to make a lot of changes and become more of a content platform with long form video. Short form video. The algorithm is all going crazy. It is a little bit buggy. Things do break a lot, but I'm still very interested in there and then LinkedIn, it's not going to go anywhere. And I think especially in the B two B context, even if the algorithm continues to change, LinkedIn is the place that I would want to be spending time because we are all we care about, ourselves first and our jobs. Our jobs are a big part of our identity. People are always going to be checking LinkedIn because LinkedIn has basically replaced resume.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:17:30]:
And so your customers are going to be on LinkedIn. The algorithm is going to continue to change. I think that it's frustrating from like a creator standpoint. Like, they don't seem to have a good hold on, like what we actually want on LinkedIn. Like, the fact that I can't pin a comment is a ridiculously simple feature. But I don't know, Chris, things haven't changed that much on the content side. I do think that it's not the era of five, let's say five to eight years ago, where simply being there is enough and you can get an advantage. Like, I grew really fast on LinkedIn because I just was there earlier and posting about marketing in 2016, 2017.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:18:06]:
I think now there is so much noise in all those channels. I think you need to be more thoughtful about, like, what is your angle going to be and what is the messaging going to be? It's why, like, same way that I think the most important ingredient in marketing in a company is the positioning and the story. I think having your clear angle, like, I know when I see a Chris Walker post show up in my feed, I know what I'm going to get, right? And I think that's why that is successful. If you were posting about what you ate that day, what your workout is that day, what book you were reading, oh, here's the pictures from me on the beach. Like, you, you clearly, you're human, you have other interests, right? You just have channeled it into, you know that LinkedIn works. And when you talk about b two b revenue go to market, like that's what the audience wants. I think you have to be that level of laser focus. Like a lot of people in the last year or two have seen this guy, Justin Welsh, blow up on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:18:55]:
It's not because he talked about 15 different things. He's like, I'm a solopreneur. This is my brand. This is who I am. I'm going to be the page for other people who are interested in this space. And he blew up accordingly. You have to be able to really focus on one or two core topic and message areas and go super deep. And I think that's true for YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:19:17]:
It's very hard to be successful unless you're a Kardashian level famous, just posting random pictures about what's going on in your life.

Chris Walker [00:19:25]:
What's your thought on the b two B LinkedIn company page at this point? I mean, like, I spend time with 100 million error companies that they invest twenty five k a month on like a content agency and stuff like that to support an organic social channel. They only post it on LinkedIn. The only engagement's coming from employees because they, like, put it in a slack channel and they get 100 employees to like it. None of their customers are seen, and it just feels like they're just doing it to make themselves feel good. Is there a strategy for a b two B company page on LinkedIn anymore?

Dave Gerhardt  [00:19:56]:
Yeah, it's a good question. It's a great question. We have 65,000 followers on the LinkedIn page for exit five, and it drives nothing for us. Nothing. I don't even know what purpose those followers serve. And so we're focused on, we have somebody that's managing it now. We're trying to focus on driving engagement, man. This is why I'm like all the time, like, I gotta start like a b two b social media agency because these people don't have, have any idea what they're doing.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:20:20]:
But here's the hard part. I think the way to win is through personal pages and that's very hard to do. So I think the company page, to answer your question, my strategy for the company page would be to treat it like the news ticker. It needs to exist, it needs to look good, it needs to have regular updates there. Because I do think that whenever I'm evaluating, whenever I'm evaluating a company, you're evaluating whoever. It's same way I might go to crunch base and like, see how much funding they raise and from who. Whatever people do that for LinkedIn, you need to have the presence there because that's how everybody searches for jobs or advisory opportunities or whatever it is. So the page needs to exist and it needs to be active.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:20:58]:
But I would do it with, like, here's a webinar thing that we're doing. Here's some company news, here's details about an event, here's this milestone. I think it's okay to do that if you just know what that is and treat it that way. I call it like the news ticker strategy. Just treat it as your news thing. Right. I think the only way you're going to make a meaningful impact on the business, though, from LinkedIn is through personal pages. And so this personal profiles.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:21:21]:
And so this would be, it could be one, it could be two or three, it could be ten. But I think this is not ten years ago on LinkedIn. You can't just have people be like, rah, rah, we work at this company. Woohoo, we're awesome. Like, we did that at drift seven years ago, and it worked really well because there was an arbitrage opportunity. There wasn't, nobody else was doing that. And so we could basically take over the feed in in a day. But now you have to win with actual content and thoughtfulness.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:21:46]:
And the biggest thing that you need to win with thought leadership, but what a lot of people make a mistake with thought leadership is they don't actually have any interesting and original thoughts. Like, look at Chris as an example. Very opinionated, data driven, cleared lane. You have to have that level of content to be successful. And so I would try to enable the one to three people inside your company to do that and to talk about what's going on in the company. Maybe that's the CEO, the VP of marketing, and the VP of sales, or whoever. Maybe there's one other voice. Usually you can find two or three people like that inside the company.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:22:20]:
I would try to spend most of the time focusing on content and then encouraging employees. Anybody at the company that wants to write about what we're doing here and wants to amplify our message. Sure. And people often are very passionate about the company that they're working at, and so why not enable them to be advocates and amplify your brand that way? But I think it's like one or two key people in the company and then treat the company page like the news ticker. There are so many agencies and people now that are popping up and doing ghost writing and stuff for founders. I think that's really hard though, because the thing that's missing is you can't just post content. LinkedIn engagement matters so much in the reach of your content. And so, like, I don't know how you're going to outsource the commenting and replying to people like, Chris is in the comments all the time.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:23:07]:
I know that's him. I know it's not some VA responding for him. That's what it takes to be successful. And I think as a marketer, how can we make that case to these executives? You know, we hear over and over and over again, they don't have the time to do this. I'm like, okay, but they don't say that about hiring or recruiting or accounting or engineering or finance. It has to be like, hey, we believe this is a strategic priority to do this, and here's how we're going to do it and approach it that way.

Chris Walker [00:23:33]:
David, I'd like your input, too. I think there's simply just a fundamental shift in the order and the process of how social is working. And so I think back to 2015, and the process that we would use at that point is we would build ten pieces of content and then we would run all ten pieces of content in ads and then hope that one of them or a couple of them worked well. And then if they worked well, then we would post it organically. And I think it's almost completely flipped now, where you make the ten pieces of content, you have to have a distribution engine, organic to go and figure it out. Then you see clearly this content worked with this audience, and then you use paid distribution to amplify it, whether thought leader ads or other, something like that. And you know, the content works in advance. It's not a strategy I see many people deploying because organic is hard.

Chris Walker [00:24:23]:
Many people can't come to the grips with the fact that when they go organic, it's going to tell them the content isn't good. So they'd rather just keep running it paid and call it testing. But I really think in terms of efficiency, it's just a much smarter strategy.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:24:36]:
Yeah, it's such a good insight. I hope people take that down. And this is like, if we go back to like, why should you be creating organic social content anyway? Even if it's not for those other reasons everyone spends on paid, we all default to like, how do you grow a business paid? That is what the advice often is. Okay, to Chris's point, why would you not use data? And like, I haven't done any paid advertising for exit five, but if we wanted to, right now I have three ideas that would be great. Lead magnets or whatever we want to call it, because we have so much content. I know what the hits are and they're already there. So I love that point as a way to, like, instead of going and spending money, we already have some ideas of content that we think is going to be successful. Then let's go put money behind that.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:25:18]:
I think that's a great insight, Chris.

Chris Walker [00:25:19]:
Thanks, Dave. All right, Sydney, take it away.

Abby Guest [00:25:22]:
This one was so relevant to what you all were talking about, so I had to jump in. This question's from Abby. She said, I'd like to hear your thoughts and strategies on building a following around a group of people versus one single person.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:25:36]:
I don't think it works like that. Unfortunately, it's very hard to say and follow these three specific people. I think I would say a group of people can talk about a topic, but naturally one out of three is going to grow faster than the others. But again, if you're doing it on behalf of the company, I think each one of those is important. And I just would treat it like a. You're trying to go for like, this surround sound effect. And so Chris might have more engagement and followers, but Dave also has a little bit and Sydney also had. Has a little bit.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:26:05]:
And one plus one plus one equals four. And we're going to get more out of this then. Like, it's never going to be even. And I could see how this could get slippery inside of a company, but I would just come up with a clear strategy and messaging and, hey, these are the three people that are going to write about it. And we're going to do this for six to twelve months or we're going to see where we end up. It's going to be impossible to have the finger on a control to grow three profiles perfectly.

Chris Walker [00:26:29]:
Yeah. The way I look at it is like you have the band and then you have the lead singer in the band and you have the drummer in the band, you have the person that drives the tour bus and the way you look at it is like the company is the band, and then the people inside of the company are the lead singer and the backup singer and the different people inside of it. And knowing that the lead singer might get more views and engagement and popularity than the person that's drumming, I think, is totally normal. And I think just thinking about it and, like, with that type of analogy might help some people.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:27:00]:
Yeah. And just to give you another side of this, so, one thing, you know, I was like, I'm a solopreneur. I'm a solopreneur. Hiring sucks. I'm never hiring anybody. And then I hired two people, and it's been amazing. And one of the reasons it's been amazing is because now, instead of just me talking about exit five on LinkedIn, there's two other people that are going to do that. And over time, that's just going to add to this pie.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:27:20]:
And now we kind of have. I love the band analogy. We have multiple personalities coming at it from multiple different ways. We all have different voices. We're all going to have different insights. I think that's a strategy that is just unintentionally awesome. Having more people talk about what we're doing is great.

Chris Walker [00:27:36]:
What do you say we just roll into questions? I bet the audience has a ton of stuff they want to know. It seems like the perfect time. So let's do that.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:27:42]:
Let's do it.

Abby Guest [00:27:43]:
All right, let's go into questions here. We have a question from Chris, so let me just bring him on. And, Chris, you're unmuted, and go ahead and ask your question.

Chris Guest [00:27:57]:
This has come up with some other marketing agencies that I talked to, and they have CEO's that want to be thought leaders, but are uncomfortable being the face of the company. How do you persuade those people that there's no one better? And if you want to be a thought leader, it has to be you. I know that sounds sort of impossible, but that has come up.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:28:22]:
Chris, I want you to go first.

Chris Walker [00:28:24]:
It's kind of hard to take a horse and pretend it's a zebra. Oftentimes I feel like the people that want to do it are going to do it, and the people that need a bunch of convincing around it are never going to do it or be successful. And at some point, people have a realization, or somebody's message breaks through to them, or they see it in real life in one sample experience, and now they believe it. I don't like playing the convincing game. I say that very often. I think that people that are not bought into it set themselves up to fail, and therefore the other people that are supporting the project up to fail as well. I just don't like the situation.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:29:00]:
I like that. I'll just add, I think it depends on who the person is. If it's like, ideally this should be the founder or the CEO, and if they're not willing to write content about the business, that's like, wait, why? I don't understand that you're not willing to promote your business. Okay, and then let's drill down even more. Let's talk about, we're not asking you to get on TikTok and do some dances. Like, you're literally writing text, you're writing words. You can be very successful on LinkedIn with just writing copy, only copy. And you're probably already writing hundreds of slack message, slack messages, internal emails, Lord knows how many notion docs and whatever, and you're at the center of this universe.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:29:40]:
I can partner up with you and like, we're going to help you arrange some of your thoughts. But let's do this. Let's be realistic about what being the face of the company means. Like, you're just showing up in someone's LinkedIn feed. This person's probably not going to be on your tv screens and phones every minute of the day. They're not going to feel like they're everywhere. It's just about a couple times a week, showing up in the LinkedIn feed, sharing relevant stories and insights about the company that you're spending time building. I like Chris's advice of, like, it's hard to convince somebody, but I just would reframe it differently.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:30:11]:
Like, let's talk about what being the face of the company means, right?

Chris Walker [00:30:14]:
Yeah, Dave, I think that's a great answer. There's sort of another point that I've been thinking about that I'd like your feedback on, which is, like, there's a lot of people that play tennis and only a few people that are, like, very financially successful in playing tennis. And I think that a lot of founders might get into the idea of just going through the motions and expecting to get a top 1% outcome when they put in, not top 1% effort or impact. And to me, there's such a small pool of creators and quote unquote, personal brands on any channel that become successful. You really are the top 1% of outcomes. And I think those people have top 1% mindsets, they have top 1% work ethic and consistency. They have top 1% industry expertise. They have top 1% commitment to the strategy.

Chris Walker [00:31:00]:
And so I just want people to be realistic if you're an executive to quantify your expectations of what you're trying to get out of it and then really decide whether or not it's worth it. I don't see people getting a big impact on LinkedIn mailing it in once a week with a text post. I just think that it requires a whole level of commitment and focus that if you're not going to put in, I question whether you should do it in the first place. Unless you just truly like enjoy it and aren't expecting results out of it.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:31:26]:
And back to what we talked about earlier, like you're never going to get the feedback loop spinning fast enough if you're just writing one post a week. I could write an amazing post, but I just posted at the wrong time and it doesn't work. Let's think about the context here. To your point, you don't need, we're mostly talking like a b, two b, higher revenue type of audience here. You don't need hundreds of thousands of followers. For you writing on LinkedIn to be meaningful, you could get one new customer. You get one partnership opportunity. The other side of this, we've only looked at this from a revenue standpoint.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:32:00]:
Not enough people talk about the employment branding side of this piece, about if you're the key executive or executives or founders inside of the company. This is about attracting not just customers to you, but partners to you, investors, advisors, candidates, all that's going to come. You don't have to become MrBeast level of fame for this to be successful. You can have a couple hundred, a couple thousand followers on LinkedIn in b two B and have it be wildly meaningful. And if you get no customers, but you're out there refining your thoughts and that next presentation you need to give is going to be better because of something that you wrote and got feedback on and LinkedIn, then the ROI is a no brainer for me there.

Chris Guest [00:32:41]:
Just follow up with what has worked. I mean from my end, please.

Chris Walker [00:32:45]:
Yeah, would love to know that. Yeah.

Chris Guest [00:32:47]:
You know, I'm in the business sort of now. I have a podcast, Chris, you've been on it. But interviewing CEO's just to create that content so they don't even have to sit down and write. We have a pre interview. We figure out what the topics are and ask them. Today I got an email from one of my clients where a competitor texted them to say, hey, you're doing a great job on that content you're putting out on LinkedIn, totally getting noticed. So they decide to throw that out.

Chris Walker [00:33:15]:
Chris, that's a great tip for people, like interviewing them and then being able to hear their words. Or I've had success by putting people in a situation that they're already comfortable in or do anyway. Like they're going to go and your CEO is going to speak at that conference no matter what and just recording it, putting a mic on them and just recording what they were already doing. Or maybe your CEO loves to do a webinar. They like doing the, you're a small company and they like doing the bi weekly group demo and being able to record the stuff that they already do that they feel comfortable in, and figuring out how to create the sawdust off of that. The other things that can be created off of the things they're already doing and are comfortable with. I could be another strategy that's on the creation side. There's a whole other side on distribution and feedback loop and engagement that I'm not going to get into, but one part of the equation is the creation.

Abby Guest [00:34:01]:
Awesome. We've got Abby queued. Up next. Hi, everybody. So my question is around. I understand the power of sort of creating engagement or a following on LinkedIn through sharing, like an angle or opinion or some of your knowledge, but I want to hear your thoughts on sharing customer success stories, especially when they're hesitant to come on camera and do some recordings. So, like written customer success stories or testimonials and how you can share those or create engagement on social without sounding like you're beating your own chest and making sure that you and everyone else that's sharing those is really highlighting, like, the customer.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:34:36]:
For this one, I think it's great. I try to do this often, but the trick to social media content is that if you just only posted this, it wouldn't work. And so you need to think of it in the list of all the other content. And so let's say you're going to write ten posts, ten pieces, you're going to create ten pieces of content for LinkedIn. If ten of those are customer stories, you're never going to build an audience and get engagement and get a following in that area. If two out of ten are customer stories and the other, what's my math? Eight are adding value, giving value, providing useful insight. I think this is like, originally a Gary Vee thing, but he's so right about it. You need to give, give, give, and then ask.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:35:17]:
And so if people just see customer stories while even though they're great, all of our brains go off and like, this is an ad of some kind, this is a promo of some kind, right. But if you can give away a ton of value and the other eight posts, and then when you have a customer story to talk about, heck yeah, write about it on LinkedIn. Put the quotes in there. You only have 3000 characters, which runs out really quickly in a LinkedIn post. So I think you got to figure out, like, what's the right format and delivery there. But if it's like 20% of your content, I think that's the right way to sneak it in. Same as if you got a webinar you want to promote. If you want to promote people to actually go and sign up for your stuff, I just would put it in that bucket right now.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:35:55]:
When I promote exit five, for example, I try to do it with customer quotes and testimonials. And so that could be a screenshot of something somebody said, I might copy the text from an email that I got and use it in that context. And so that way every time I'm promoting exit five, it's backed up with a customer story. But I think you have to just be aware of the whole picture of all the stuff that you're promoting versus just posting customer stories. Great thoughts.

Chris Walker [00:36:18]:
They have a couple of things to add, both presently on LinkedIn, but also back in the day with a Facebook, for instance, in terms of content distribution, I've had a lot of success if you reframe content as if it was a news cycle or a short pr announcement. And so you got this long customer story on your website and it's a bunch of pros and there's a seven minute video on it and things like that, and taking it and cutting it down and writing a short four paragraph blog that says, blah, blah, blah, customer gets x result with x company. Make it feel like a news announcement or a pr announcement. Write out the blog, stick a customer quote in it. I feel people are much more receptive to stuff like that if it feels like news or if it's positioned like news rather than like, here's our huge long customer story that we use for sales enablement. So I think just repurposing and repositioning the same asset and message into a different, more consumable format that's appropriate for the channel. You can do that and post it. The header image shows up, there's a link.

Chris Walker [00:37:15]:
People are going to click on it. They're still going to go to your website, but they're going to land on a different framing of the exact same information. Which leads me to the next point of that ends up being a really interesting model for paid. After that, I think like social proof and custard testimonials are great if you share them organic and get engagement, but if it's a really good piece of content, you should pay the three to $0.07 that it costs to get it in front of your exact target customer and precise targeting. So I think using some paid, you don't have to go out and spend a million bucks, but some paid distribution to get that to the people who matter, I think is another core component. And then lastly, in just the content variation, Dave alluded to this a little bit. But like, whether it's the news banner with the image that then has the link, or whether it's a picture with a quote, or whether it's a video that's 30 seconds, and is that video like a raw cut from a podcast or is it a professionally produced animation? I think you just have a lot of flexibility on it. You know what the message is, you know what the customer is, but how you actually tell that story and how you get it to the right people, I think there's a lot of creativity in there, which is some of the magic in marketing.

Abby Guest [00:38:15]:
All right, we got another question. They can't talk, so I'm going to read that for them. But how do you communicate to management if they're concerned about employees faces being the company, gaining followers? How do you combat basically personal brand of an employee? This customer is worried that this employee is going to leave if they build a personal brand.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:38:37]:
Tough deal. I get frustrated with this question because it's like we want all the benefits from the thing, but none of the risk. And in business, in life and any, there's going to be risks to anything. And so you risk the employee building up a brand on social media and leaving. However, with that, you also get lots of benefits from that. And so I think there's going to be trade offs. It's never going to be this, obviously, if you think this person is leaving now, then don't make them the face of the company. But if we often make this up, and I hate this excuse.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:39:06]:
Do we know that Sydney is leaving? No, we're, we're just saying that, okay. We don't want her to build a following on LinkedIn because what if one day she does leave? Okay, so what should we do instead? I don't know. Let's do more paid, let's do more company page. It's not apples to apples comparison, there's some trade offs. Chris, what, what's your opinion on this as a business owner that executives and.

Chris Walker [00:39:27]:
Founders of b, two b companies have not figured out how to properly quantify the value that's created from someone that has a personal brand on LinkedIn. Theyre pumped to pay their best sales rep 450 grand a year. But then you got someone thats blowing up, thats a marketing manager or an SDR or your HR manager, thats youre targeting them. Thats blowing up on LinkedIn making ninety five k a year and theyre scared that persons going to leave. Well, the person is now a lot more valuable than when they entered your company and made $95,000. If you dont want to lose them, just like you dont want to lose your CTO or whoever else is really important in your company, incentivize the people so they want to keep staying long term. It's just I don't see this as rather complicated. People are leaving because they have options.

Chris Walker [00:40:08]:
So what you need to do as an employer is continue to be their best option. And many employers take that type of stuff for granted, are no longer the best option. The employee leaves because they're a lot more valuable than the financial benefits they're getting from the company and that's the right decision for them. And so I think just having an objectivity as executives around this and say, okay, this person is more valuable, are we willing to pay the money to continue to have them at our company or incentivize them long term with stock options or whatever we decide so that they'll be invested in the long term and we can build this together or not. You want the best player in the NFL, you better be ready to pay up for the best player. And if you want to have a mediocre player, then that's what you're going to pay for. And I, I just think that people haven't properly quantified the impact that comes from someone that really knows how to.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:40:53]:
Do this yet and the company benefits on the way up. Let's say you are that employee making 95 grand, but you blow up on LinkedIn like there's, because you're talking about your company like the company is benefiting from that. You're wildly under investing in this resource that you're getting a lot of unexpected value from. So I can understand why it's a challenging conversation inside of the company, but I think that the pros outweigh the cons. And if you don't do it, another company in your industry is going to and people want to buy from people and they're going to continue to follow people on LinkedIn and learn about them from them. So it's a scarcity versus abundancy thing, I think.

Chris Walker [00:41:30]:
Great way to end. Totally agree.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:41:31]:

Abby Guest [00:41:32]:
We're going to do one more live question and then give you guys enough time to wrap up with closing thoughts or final questions between you two. So let's bring on Casper.

Casper Guest [00:41:41]:
I have a question about the testing your messaging on organic before going paid, and I totally agree with the concept. One thing I wanted to add is most of people on LinkedIn, as I wrote in my message, 99% of people on LinkedIn don't have a huge following, at least in my case. What I've seen is I've gotten a lot better insights actually talking to potential customer, my existing customers, and just generally talking to people on a live event or webinar. I want to hear your thoughts on the whole posting on LinkedIn because I see if you have the next 30 posts on LinkedIn organically and you want to find out what's working the best in terms of testing your messaging. If you get an average, you have the same average of likes or engagement per posts. How can you even figure out, even with you guys like you, Dave and Chris, if you have 50 or 100,000 followers, if you get 500 or 600 likes per post, and everybody is like, oh, great points. How do you know what's really working and what you should put in front of your target group to actually drive revenue?

Chris Walker [00:42:43]:
I think there's a real meaningful difference between messaging and then putting content in and seeing if it works or not in the channel. To me, messaging is what you say and why you say it, and content is how you say it and where you say it. And so when you think about messaging, I totally agree. The best way to figure out messaging go and talk to customers, run the test, see what works in sales processes, collect customer insights, run surveys, do product marketing and strategy to figure that stuff out or be in a community and try things. Like a lot of the stuff that I post on LinkedIn. I'm not guessing because I already said it in front of a bunch of people and I saw your heads nod earlier. And so I'm not really trying to figure out the messaging, so to speak, when I post things on LinkedIn, but how I say it and what time I post on it, and whether it's a video or a text post or I used a vertical video because I'm testing something from TikTok those are the things that are interesting to figure out. And then just if you find something that works that you can then you have validated with an audience and then you can just add a little bit of money to make sure the right people see it, I think is a sound strategy.

Chris Walker [00:43:49]:
But thank you for the clarification. That's really important. I do not recommend using LinkedIn paid or LinkedIn organic to try and figure out your messaging. As an early stage company, I think that you should go out and talk to customers and do real product marketing to figure that stuff out and have a real hypothesis and test it in sales and close deals and then start to use the advertising once you have it actually proven out.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:44:12]:
Yeah. Just to, just to build on that, I talk to customers like exit five members often now, and I might write something or the community or say something on a conversation, exactly what you said with this, Chris. And I see people's head nod and I might make a note and be like, I use that line about, you know, whatever. Life is too short to work for a CEO who doesn't get marketing some nonsense like that. Right? I see everybody like in the room light up and I'm like, okay, then when I'm going to write my next batch of LinkedIn content, I'm going to then try that message there and then, okay. You get a bunch of reactions to that. That's how you know. And so I'm obsessed about, I have this like, notion file where I am screenshotting LinkedIn messages, email replies, things people say on social.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:44:53]:
And I just call it like the exit five messaging swipe file. I'm always looking for ways that people are talking about our business there. And then I use that to then go and write the LinkedIn content. I think that was such an important distinction, Chris, because we kind of started talking about like test on LinkedIn, see what works. But it actually starts in smaller. It starts in like, you might have a dinner with Pep or whoever, right? And you're like, oh, we talked about this. This concept's really interesting. Now I'm going to go write some content about that and go see what the reaction is.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:45:21]:
The other thing I want to mention is you mentioned like, you know, every post has 500 likes or whatever. That might be true. I do think that there is some gut and qualitative part of this also, which is like, let's take, don't just go and look at likes, but very clearly, if you go and read the comments, you can get a sense of, oh, the reaction to this one is different. And so if you just looked at 500 likes, 30 comments, and every post had the same, you're not going to. That's not the same level of insight to be like when I actually go and I see that's an ICP level customer, that, oh, interesting. This CMO has never commented on anything I've written before. You need to build in that level of qualitative piece here to match the actual hard data. I think that's a very underrated thing.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:46:06]:
Also, sometimes I use this app called Shield, and this just proves the point here, which is like, I use Shield and I go and I look at posts that I wrote two or three years ago, right? They were popular. Then I sort them by impressions and engagement and I literally copy them and I repost them again and they have the same reaction. And so that's just a sign to me that, oh, this topic is really interesting when I write this, like ten tips to grow your career faster in b two B marketing, I could post that every three weeks and it's going to have a good response. That's a good enough sign for me that, okay, maybe I should go make a talk around this, or this should be a video that we go make. I do think that that's a very underrated piece of being able to use LinkedIn.

Chris Walker [00:46:44]:
Perfect. Dave, thanks for being here, man. It was really awesome to see you personally. Everyone that came to the event, thank you. We're going to have this once a month. The next one up is with the CMO of cognism, Alice de Courcy, who has wrote famous book. She did mention me in the book, which I'm happy about. But her journey as a first time CMO, really moving from a very lead generation oriented to a demand creation and demand generation oriented.

Chris Walker [00:47:06]:
Just a great success story. So looking forward to having her on the show next month. Sidney can talk through how you get registered for that one as well. But Dave, any final stuff you want people, any key points you want people to take away before we head out?

Dave Gerhardt  [00:47:17]:
No, this was great. It was. I'm energized to be talking to you again. That was very exciting. I put a link to exit five in the chat. We did this a while ago and it was great. So just, you can use the DG promo code that's in the chat if you want to come in and talk more about. We talk about LinkedIn and stuff like this a lot in our community.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:47:33]:
Feel free to come and do that. Otherwise, I'll see you in Chris's comments somewhere on LinkedIn in the future.

Chris Walker [00:47:38]:
Thanks, Dave. Hope you all have a great rest of your week and a good weekend. Bye, everyone.

Dave Gerhardt  [00:47:42]:
See you later. Exit.
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