Sam Kuehnle

VP of Demand Generation at Refine Labs

18 Insights 繚 6 Questions 繚 10min Read 繚 11min Listen 繚Connect with Sam on LinkedIn

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Today's buyers are very savvy. Talk to your customers more. Stay close to platforms. See from the front. Break down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble that from the ground up. Staying at the cutting edge. Go against the grain. Run a win-loss analysis regularly. Focusing less on the competition. Attracting top talent. Positive word of mouth. Helping customers achieve their revenue goals and get unstuck in their growth.

Heres what Carl Ferreira said about Sam:

Sam Kuehnle. Hes a friend as well and a colleague. Just a world-class marketer. Bright, bright thinker. Extremely thoughtful. You're going to get way better answers from him than from me on some of these things. He strikes me as the type of guy who probably has some baked-out mental models. He's just a really, really bright marketing leader and does some fantastic work for our team and for our customers. Carl Ferreira, Director of Sales at Refine Labs Listen

What are 3 ways that your team converts your market into revenue?

1) Creating and distributing relevant and shareable content to our ICP for free. So, give, give, give. Let them learn, let them understand who we are. I always say, Today's buyer is very smart. The easiest way to think about it is: many marketers say, Here's our products. Buy our products. But, they never speak about why you need the product, how it's going to help you do your job better. So, by creating that trust and awareness early on, and doing that for free, then they're going to keep seeing that little Refine Labs tag up top and when they finally feel the pain enough, Refine Labs will be top of mind, and that's where theyll go. So that's the main way.

2) Building a community of B2B marketers that go on to spread the word about us to their colleagues, their leadership, their peers. That word of mouth, that positive word of mouth, pays dividends long term.

3) A sales team that solely fields inbound requests. To pay some kudos back to Carl, we have a sales team that solely fields inbound requests, and then they partner with prospects to make sure that they're going to benefit from our philosophy and how we approach it. So, we could win every deal that comes into us, technically, because they want to work with Refine Labs, but we self-select. What are the customers who truly will benefit from our strategy, how we'll go to market with them? We're not shy about also saying, Come back in three months, in 12 months, when you get your next series. Or, it might just be a little bit too complicated for this to work. So, those are probably the three main ways that Id say that we convert our market to revenue.

What are 3 hard problems that you recently overcame?

1) We're a very, very fast-growing company. I joined as the 9th employee back in 2020. We just surpassed employee 100 this week. What you often find is that systems and processes, they start to break down at 50 employees, 100 employees, 200 employees, and we've had to adapt our company to ensure that a) employee happiness and balance are there, and b) customer satisfaction, results, are there. And then, if you do those two things well, you're going to have revenue at the end of the day. But, if you don't address those early on, especially as you're growing and things start to break down, then the business is going to falter as a result. So that's one of the first ones.

2) To get more tactical, another hard problem is iOS 14 cookie tracking attribution, all that stuff that marketers have so long depended on, and how that's impacted marketing results. So, there's now limited data that's passing back to the platform. Our team has to be better at understanding the macro picture of what's working to drive your business results and not just look at: This has a high click through rate, or, This has a low cost per click, but, We started to double our budget this month, or, We doubled down on this persona this month. And then, understanding, did we get more handraisers? Are we seeing an increase in pipeline? Or was that, maybe, not the right move and we need to readjust? So, looking at the larger lens, as there's less visibility back in those ad platforms, has been something that we've had to overcome.

3) Helping clients get unstuck in their growth. So to give an example of this, there've been instances where we'll have a client where we are able to successfully drive an increased number of high-intent handraisers, but they aren't closing as many at the rate that we would expect. So, what we'll do in that instance is just a quick Loss Analysis to understand, why are we losing those deals? And we found, in a couple of these, that it was due to pricing. So, what we do then is we'll work with the customer to illustrate, Hey, there's a mismatch between what your market values your product at and how you're putting that out in your offer, so you either need to add more value or you need to bring down your costs. We were able to do this with a couple of clients. They decrease their costs in those instances and very quickly you're winning deals again. So that's what we like to say, Look at the larger lens of how do you impact your business growth and what all can you do, as a marketer, to successfully do that?

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What are 3 roadblocks that you are working on now?

1) Biggest one: attracting top talent to join Refine Labs. It's an incredible market for job seekers right now, and then very, very competitive for companies to bring in that top talent. So that's a big roadblock that we're working on.

2) Getting more businesses to adapt to this new way of marketing. Gated content, capturing emails, all of that, is really a thing of the past. It does not signal true buying intent anymore. Today's buyers are very savvy. They're doing their own research. They're talking to their peers. How do we get companies to update their marketing strategies to reflect this shift and use pipeline and revenue as success metrics or marketing and not this lead handraiser, where it's people who just want the content or the e-book.

3) Understanding when is it a better time to use a product led motion vs sales led? So think like: free trials, self service. Or, a sales led, get a demo, talk to a sales rep motion. There's a number of factors that come into play with this. So your market, your costs, the list goes on and on. So, working to define when does one work better than the other, or should you offer both?

What are 3 mental models that you use to do your best work?

This one was a funny one. When I read this question, I was thinking like, What do you call these mental models? So, I'm a big fan of The Knowledge Project, Shane Parish. So when I saw that word, I was just like, Oh man, I hope I don't do this some injustice. So I was looking at like, What are the names for these that essentially I use in my day-to-day?

1) First principles. How do you break down complicated problems into basic elements and then reassemble that from the ground up? So, from a marketing standpoint, this is helping customers achieve their revenue goals. We don't start with the lead and MQL targets, because that's kind of like the end game. So, what we like to ask a company is, What's your company or marketing revenue goal? and then we'll work backwards from that. There's way, way, way too many variables that we can play with to achieve that revenue target. So starting it from that side gives us much more flexibility than just saying, You have to hit this lead number and everything else is going to stay constant through the funnel.

2) Seeing from the front. So, personally seeing the front before you make your decisions. Not relying on advisers, maps, reports, other things, which could be faulty, biased, have anything that happens when you play that game of operator. There are constant changes going on in ad platforms, how individuals buy today. What I like to do is stay close to those platforms, always in customer data, so I understand exactly what's going on and then use that to help make relevant recommendations to our customers, and our team, so we're continuing to stay at the cutting edge.

3) Going against the grain. A lot of B2B software products are commodities in the sense that, Crowded space, crowded category. So, if you do what the market leaders are doing, you're going to blend in with everyone else. I found that there was a good blend between understanding what's of interest to your market, but also speaking to that in ways that your competitors are not doing so that you stand out more. What we usually see is the people who are over-focused on competitors are often playing this game of catch-up. But if you focus on the customer first, and you use them to draft your product roadmap and improvements, you're going to be at that leading edge because you're speaking to what your customers want, not what the competitors are doing.

What are 3 techniques that GTM teams need to try?

1) Talk to your customers more. It's simple. I know you hear it from us all the time, but talking to your customers is going to inform you and it's going to help you iterate on your messaging to make it more relevant to them. You'll be able to find more insights on where you should be showing up from a platform standpoint, and you can use it to just find out how you can continue to add value over time. What do they care about this quarter, this year? What are they being held responsible for? And, speaking to that, because that's what's going to make you be the company that they want to work with.

2) Running a win-loss analysis regularly. This is something I often do, probably quarterly, for most of our clients is understanding why you win and lose deals. It's so easy, yet so often overlooked. Its going to tell you exactly what you need to double down on. It's going to tell you what you need to course correct on. And as I said, if you have a good I won't say most, most clients have a clean CRM but, just have your sales reps put in, Why did we win this deal? Why did we lose this deal? Just a quick dropdown. It doesn't have to be anything detailed, but are we winning due to price? Are we losing due to price? Is competitor showing up more often? Are we winning because of functionality? And then, using that to craft your strategy moving forward.

3) Focusing less on the competition. I spoke about this a moment ago, but focusing less on the competition. Go against the grain, focus more on your customers, and really delivering on that, versus trying to play catch-up with, with the big market leaders who have way more budget than you do, already have a strong brand presence. So how do you start to carve your own niche out in the market?

Who are 3 operators that should be our next guests and why?

This was the toughest question of all of these.

1) Sidney Waterfall. She's another VP of Demand here at Refine Labs. The reason that I love working with her is that she's rewriting the playbook for marketing measurement and how to report out on it so that marketers have a seat at the executive table. So, helping marketers just be more informed from operations standpoint, how to report effectively on revenue and how marketing is truly impacting the bottom line.

2) Tim Newborn. Another one is a former colleague of mine. He runs customer advocacy over at InVision. He is one of the best customer marketers that I know, he's been building and curating communities before community was a thing. He's been in this game for super long. He understands the value of relationships, talking to customers and really just showing that you appreciate them and their business overtime.

3) Justin Wheeler. He's a CEO and Co-Founder over at a company called Funraise. They provide software for nonprofits. What I really enjoy about him is that he scratched his own itch. He was at a nonprofit and recognized that the software there wasn't good enough so he started a company to meet the needs of organizations similar to his. He's been his own buyer. He built exactly what is helpful for those growing non-profits. And I think just when you come from that space, it's very different than the CEOs who is brought in to scale and thinks more in terms of margins than they do about the customers.

March 2022 繚 Interview by Chris Morgan, Host of Market-to-Revenue

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Sidney Waterfall
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Sam Kuehnle
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Leslie Venetz
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Jen Allen
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Carl Ferreira
Director of Sales at Refine Labs
Mark Znutas
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