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Category Evangelism: The New Growth Marketing Playbook

A lot of people want to do Demand Gen. They think that they do. But when you put it in the way we do it, people don't because the measurement is hard. You don’t get the quick hit of vanity metrics that everyone is trained to look for.”

Chris Walker, CEO at Refine Labs


It’s fair to say that Chris has started a marketing revolution. He is the host of the hugely popular Demand Gen Live series and the State of Demand Gen podcast. Forbes even describes him as the “B2B demand generation guru every Series C company should be listening to”. 

We got him on the show to break down what B2B marketers should be doing to grow their companies and their careers. In this episode, Edward and Chris are talking about Category Evangelism* and the modern marketing playbook to grow your pipeline and revenue.

* Fun fact: Chris used and coined the term Category Evangelism for the first time here on the Growth Hub Podcast. History shall remember


In the episode, they cover:

💎 The limitations of the traditional view of demand gen

  • Why you shouldn’t center on lead gen
  • How to move away from demand capture to demand creation
  • Where we went wrong with attribution

💎 The modern playbook for successful demand gen

  • How to know your customer better than anybody else
  • How to win in dark social
  • Why Category Evangelism is the future of marketing

No time to listen to the whole conversation? Here’s a quick recap of the key points.


Why is lead gen the wrong thing to focus on?

Jump to the episode: 2:35


You read that right. If you are focusing your efforts on lead generation, you could be wasting your time and money.

Here’s what Chris has to say about it:

I stopped running lead gen in 2017 because my buyers told me they didn’t buy that way and that they didn’t want to be called by a sales rep unless they actually want to buy something when they signal it to us in certain ways. And the second thing was that we were running lead gen, and it wasn’t driving any results.

And we were getting negative feedback from our sales team like “hey, these people are not ready to buy,” “they are not answering our calls,” “they are saying that they never remember filling out this form.”

That’s when Chris changed his approach.

And then I went on to figure out that there’s basically a new way to do marketing which isn’t focused around generating a high volume of leads. It’s focusing on basically moving your entire market through a buying process at scale by putting out content information in a lot of different channels.”

So they [your target audience] learn things over time, and then when they enter your pipeline, they really want to talk to sales. And the sales reps’ job is not to convince someone that they should buy. The sales reps’ job is to help someone buy what they want to buy.”


What’s the difference between demand capture and demand gen (or demand creation), and why should demand teams be operating much higher up the funnel than they probably are?

Jump to the episode: 4:33


Most marketers out there are focusing on capturing demand. According to Chris, this is a big mistake

The core difference is whether someone’s looking to buy what you’re selling or not.”.”

To illustrate his thoughts, Chris mentioned the invention of eyeglasses.

Before glasses were invented, there were people that just didn’t have very good vision. At some point, people needed to become aware of the problem — that they didn’t have good vision—, and needed to be aware that there were solutions called eyeglasses. Before there were eyeglasses, people didn’t know there was a solution. Making people aware that there’s a problem and a solution and driving them to consider buying that solution. That’s creating demand.

Once people are aware that they have a problem, they’re going to go into certain places to acquire eye-glasses. Today, they’re going to Google Search, they are looking at review sites, talking to their peers, going to your website”.

To make it clearer:

  • Your store is the capture
  • And the ’I need eyeglasses realization' is the creation.

As to why most marketers focus on capturing rather than creating demand? Chris has a simple explanation: it’s more challenging

The creation is challenging to measure, and that's why a lot of companies don’t do it. Creating demand is where you drive your category and your business and how you become a category leader. But there’s a clear distinction about whether you are creating demand or capturing demand, and I feel that most software companies only focus on capturing demand, which means they are just waiting around for someone to realize that they need a solution like yours.”


What is the Attribution Mirage in B2B marketing?

Jump to the episode: 7:40


The attribution mirage (mis)leads companies to focus on specific channels based on what they can measure. Now, if you listen to the Growth Hub Podcast and read our blog regularly, you’ll definitely read and hear that you should focus on what you can measure.


Except that, by only focusing on what you can measure through your attribution software, you could be sacrificing your performance.

B2B companies are looking mainly at software-based attribution in order to measure what things are working and to drive strategy decisions, and they are getting a limited view of what’s happening, which leads to the mirage. The mirage being that attribution software overweights and favors certain channels where buyers are ready to buy. Which then moves companies to think that those are the things that are working. So they move budget and focus and things only into capturing demand channels because the creating demand ones are NOT accurately measured by attribution software.”


Chris talks about the “Dark Socialto qualify those creating demand channels. That includes:

  • Content
  • Platforms like Spotify and YouTube
  • Social Networks like LinkedIn
  • Communities
  • Direct word of Mouth


The problem? Those channels aren’t well tracked, “and it’s where all B2B buying and discovery and research is actually happening.


That’s the mirage. You’re getting a sense that things are working for me based on what my software is telling me. However, it’s just what the software is telling me”, it’s not the whole picture.


When you look at your business and some of the best B2B SaaS companies, what’s working right now, and can you give some examples?

Jump to the episode: 15:31


Chris quickly came up with 3 elements

  • customer research, 
  • category evangelism
  • continuous distribution of information via targeted paid social.


Customer research

The #1 thing that’s working and becoming clear is that companies that understand their customers the best are the ones that are winning. All the things that you see from the outside — the tactics — are driven to the customer, and customer insights are close to them.


Category evangelism

Category evangelism is what Chris defines as a better way to say thought leadership.

Community and thought leadership Category evangelism through people that your buyers trust. For my company, it’s me and the 50 other people that run demand marketing at B2B SaaS companies. In your company, it might be your CFO, your CSO - it depends on who your buyer is and who they trust.


Paid Social

Instead of using paid social to collect a lead - that almost never buys - for $50, look at your available target accounts and markets, and distribute information to them every day so that they learn about our company, category, or product every single day. If you take that approach, you’re creating a scalable distribution of information to all of your customers instead of doing that via a sales rep.


How do you go out there and do that research so you know your customer better than anyone else?

Jump to the episode: 20:51


Chris likes to say that “It’s not a competition,” but the secret formula is to adopt a mindset in which “you understand your customers better than anyone else in your company.” 

It’s what I’ve done for the past ten years of my career because it’s the most valuable. All the strategy insights come from this. The sad thing is that most of your peers never see these insights because they never look for them.

That’s how I’ve been able to go from marketing manager to pretty successful CEO over a 5-year period of time because I’m closer to the people we’re selling to than anyone else. From a career perspective, I’d encourage you to think about this”.



This is it, in a nutshell! 

If you want to get more from Chris, listen to the full episode!


What should you do next?

If you liked what you heard and would like to know more, you should subscribe to the Growth Hub Podcast on your preferred podcast platform. ❤️

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Oh, and we at Advance B2B currently offer our podcast listeners a free SaaS marketing assessment. You can find it here. 


Links to check out


Refine Labs >>

State of Demand Gen >>

Mastery by Robert Greene >>


Follow The Growth Hub on Twitter >>

Follow Edward on Twitter >>