165: Master Your Top of Funnel with Christian Banach

Christian Banach is the Principal & Chief Growth Officer of Christian Banach LLC. He helps agencies land 6 and 7-figure opportunities predictably through consulting, training, and outsourced lead generation services. We discuss the benefits of mastering your top-of-funnel, ways to provide customized value to clients, and the future of communicating with prospects. 

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Master Your Top of Funnel with Christian Banach

Our guest is Christian Banach, the owner of Christian Banach LSC that helps technology enabled marketing agencies to predictably land six and seven figure opportunities. Christian, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me on Steve, looking forward to this conversation.

So before we plunge into your frameworks that you teach and you practice, let’s talk about how did you get here? What led you to establishing a business development consulting business?

I can’t say that I grew up and decided, you know what, this is what I want to do when I get older. It was definitely an interesting journey that I had gone on, but I had always been entrepreneurial. I was a kid that growing up was buying and selling baseball cards. I was cutting the neighbor’s lawn. And one of those businesses actually started sort of accidentally where a group of friends of mine got together and we rented out a banquet hall and booked some DJs and we decided we were going to throw our own teen dance party and invited a bunch of high schools and colleges and boom, it went off really successfully. And we made some money, we had a lot of fun and I ended up doing more and more of these events and ended up, that’s how I paid my way through college. Got out of college and went to go work as a marketing coordinator. Was still doing these events on the side but realized I was having more fun making more money doing these events.

So I ended up leaving that coordinator job and went all in. I got an office, hired some of the people that were helping me on the side full time. And what started as banquet hall parties turned into major concert venues. And we worked with Lady Gaga, we worked with Pitbull and some really big artists. And along the way, I started getting involved in experiential marketing and working directly with brands and with agencies, Allstate, Toyota, some really big companies. So that essentially was my entrance into more of the agency space. And things buzzed along really well for the, you know, 15 years. But then the 2008 recession hit and business dried up. And like a lot of companies, I was struggling and I didn’t have a sales process or a framework at the time. It was really a word of mouth and referrals type of business.

So I went out and I hired a consultant to come in and help me and they really started to give me what is today a ground work of my company and I really gravitated towards BizDev. So after like a couple more years of still struggling a long ago I decided I was going to close down my business and I was ready for a change and I went to go work at agencies doing business development. Had done that for about 10 years, really loved it. Discovered along the way my superpower was really generating those top of funnel opportunities, generating those initial leads with big enterprise type companies. Fast forward, all of this is leading up to how we got here today, the pandemic hit. And in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to do something on my own again, but I wasn’t sure what, when or how. And I saw agencies and other businesses were really struggling because of the pandemic. And I felt this time though, just like that consultant had helped me a decade earlier, I felt I could help others and ended up leaving the agency I was at and formed this company and here we are two and a half plus years later and things are going great.

That is a really interesting, really amazing story. It happens all the time that a business hits a roadblock, a constraint, and then they wreck their brains, they somehow figure it out and then it becomes a strength.


And actually I recently came out to this book, Strategy OS, and this is one of the tenants that I discovered through my research that for the big companies, they actually became big because they had constraints and they overcame them and they turned it into a strength. So that’s fantastic. So, so let’s talk about the framework, some of the frameworks that maybe you’ve got taught by your consultant at the time or something that you may have involved into your own system. What is your favorite framework for business development?

Yeah, this has been a culmination of all the work starting back from that consultant through the last 10 years and even prior. Some of these things and practices I have, I practiced but I didn’t really know I was practicing them. It wasn’t something formal but we’ve now branded the process, we call it Propel. And it is really, think of it as a go-to-market framework for companies. And while we do work a lot with agencies, this really is framework applies to any sort of business. And Propel is really about how you’re going to bring your brand to market and get you from point A, where you’re at today, to point B. And that’s obviously where you want to go. And I’m happy to dive into the different steps if you’d like me to.

Yeah, PROPEL, so that’s an acronym. Yeah, please explain to our audience how they can PROPEL their company to market.

Yeah, absolutely. So PROPEL, yes, it is an acronym and it starts first and foremost with the first P, which is picking a pivotal problem. And this is actually something that I did initially learn from that sales consultant. But when I say picking a pivotal problem, it’s really zeroing in on what are the problems that clients of yours are coming to you to solve. I need a website, for example, is not a problem. It might be a solution to a problem. Maybe your sales are down. Maybe you need more leads, and maybe then a new website would help solve that. But that’s in and of itself not a problem. And working with companies, they a lot of times can’t articulate really they say what they do but they don’t really know why they’re doing it. So it’s working first and foremost understand what that means for you and it’s looking at your past clients, it’s looking at deals you won, deals you lost, and who’s been most profitable for you and ideally you’re trying to find problems that are both urgent and important for businesses to solve because if these are just sort of nice to have problems it’s going to be very hard to scale your business based off of that. So that’s really the first step is getting really clear and most businesses solve multiple problems. It’s not like you have to zero in on just one, but you want to get clear. And what are those three, four, maybe five top problems?

Picking a pivotal problem - it's really zeroing in on what are the problems that clients of yours are coming to you to solve. Click To Tweet

I like this urgent and important. Sometimes they get caught up in the urgent important and they’re not focusing enough in the important, but not urgent. But when it comes to selling, that’s probably makes sense that you want to go where the urgent pain is. Obviously, that’s important as well, but it has to have the urgency so that it motivates the customer to act and pull the trigger. So that’s, so first P is pick a pivotal problem. So what’s the second letter in the problem? What does R stand for?

Yeah, so R is really researching audience segments. So now you’ve gotten clear on what are the problems you solve, you got to figure out who’s experiencing those problems. So it’s looking at various industries. It’s looking inward at maybe the region that you are operating in other forms. So what you want to really do here is you’re building out an ideal company profile. You’re building out buyer persona. So who within those companies are the right decision makers or influencers that you should be talking to. And ultimately what you want to land at is you want to land at a target account list. These are the industries and the companies that we think are experiencing this problem and these are who we’re going to start to target with our outbound efforts. So that’s the R, is the research audience segments and then the next part is O, which is own the journey. And this is something that is oftentimes overlooked is that you really want to get and understand the buyer journey, which we know is not a linear process. It’s really people can come and go sometimes they might be at the awareness stage, sometimes they come into the decision stage. So the idea here though is that you are going to think about what are the questions, the objections, what is really going through the mind of a buyer at the awareness stage, at the consideration stage, and at the decision making stage. And you want to make sure that you have content that can address each one of these different stages. Because if somebody is coming into you and all you have is decision-making content, they’re not going to even get in your funnel in the first place. Conversely, you might have just awareness type content and they’re going to end up falling out of your, your funnel if you don’t have content to nurture them along that journey.

Researching audience segments - you got to figure out who's experiencing those problems. So it's looking at various industries. It's looking inward at maybe the region that you are operating in other forms. Click To Tweet

I love that. This is, I never thought of it this way, that the buyer journey has these different stages. People when they are just developing the awareness, there is even a solution to that problem. Maybe they are not even articulating their own problem. And then the consideration when they are actually looking out and searching for alternatives, they’re looking for the cure. So you want to be on the radar there. And finally, the decision making stage, that is very, very interesting. So if our time is not limited, I would now have a question about how these different stages look like, but let’s move on. Let’s propel forward. So we have the identified the pivotal problem. We researched the ODS target markets, you know, who to target to get our solution to the problem. Then we know that there are these three different phases in the buyer journey. So we need to tap into it, create content. So we are now serving up the content to the journey, owning the journey. So what comes next?

Own the journey - this is something that is oftentimes overlooked is that you really want to get and understand the buyer journey, which we know is not a linear process. Click To Tweet

So the next part is provide value. And this is very key here. And when we’re taking more of a proactive approach to generating business, we have to keep in mind that the prospect did not necessarily ask for us to reach out to them. Right? We have a hunch right that they are experiencing this problem we’ve done our homework we’ve done our research on it on them but they haven’t asked to be reached out. So we call it a give to get. And what I mean by that is when we’re reaching out we’re not going to just ask for them to say hey we want to get 15 minutes in your calendar so we could tell you all about our product or service and how great we are and our culture and all these other things when there’s nothing in it for the prospect at that point. So what we work with our clients on and advise them to do is look inward and look at your subject matter experts, look at the resources you have, look at your capabilities and how can you take that and package it in a way that will give value back to the prospect. So in many cases for our clients that might come in the form of a workshop or an inspiration session where the company then is reaching out to provide some sort of insights or trends or other learnings that can educate the buyer about that problem that we think they’re experiencing. We also have clients that will maybe organize a private virtual panel or virtual networking event where you might invite, say, eight, ten different decision makers at these companies that you want to work with. And you are now inviting them to talk about this pivotal problem and learn from their peers. And now you’re the facilitator of that. Even a podcast like this could be used as a way to get on the radar of some of your prospects that you want to have by hosting a podcast like this. You can invite them on. You are giving them some publicity and then they’re giving you their time and an opportunity to be. So we see just dramatically better results when you’re reaching out, giving something to the prospect versus just immediately asking for something back from them, which was either be that time or their product or a project of some sort.

Provide value - advise the client and look at your subject matter experts, look at the resources you have, look at your capabilities and how can you take that and package it in a way that will give value back to the prospect. Click To Tweet

But this is super interesting. I recently hired someone who reached out, it was a copywriter and he, he read one of my books or at least he studied one of my books and he wrote what he said was a banner Amazon page for my book. And I was so impressed. I instantly hired him and he worked on actually three or four different projects the next six months for me. That was an example. Now, I always was wondering, how do you find a way to invest in these, to provide customized value, but at the same time, don’t set yourself too thin because if only one out of a hundred people will hire you even with the value, you will not be able to provide a hundred people with value and make you pitch because it’s just not going to be time efficient. So is there like a shortcut to that?

Yeah, I think there’s a couple of things to think about. You’re going to want again, in this research in the audience segments phase, you might have what I would call maybe like tier one accounts. These are ones that there’s a large upside to it. They could be a six or seven figure opportunity so they warrant the extra effort. That you might have tier two accounts that maybe you know yes you’ll take the work from them but it’s probably not going to be a huge account and probably not the same level of effort in your providing value. So that’s one thing to think about. The other thing to think about is whatever you’re doing from providing value you want to make it scalable. I wouldn’t recommend necessarily unless it’s a super big high value client doing a bunch of work if they haven’t already met with you in some way shape or form. So for example we get some clients that they do a lot of like digital audits for companies and they could in theory spend a bunch of time and effort building out this digital audit and sharing it with them before they even meet and who knows if they even respond to the email. We don’t advise doing that.

Instead, it’s let’s first and foremost reach out and see if they’re even interested in such an audit. And can they at least give you maybe 15 minutes of their time to just talk about the audit, make sure it’s aligned with you. And if you feel good at that moment that, you know, this could lead to something and they seem genuinely interested, then you move forward and you put all the work into creating the audit. You just want to be careful what you do. Even if you’re doing like a workshop, you’re not going to maybe do an all day, eight hour workshop. Maybe you give them a half hour, hour, you give them a taste of what it could be. And if they like it and there’s some good chemistry, hopefully there’s then a next step and they can actually pay you for that project. Think of it almost like a ladder. You’re going to get them to the first step with this, you know, provide value. But if they want to engage further and you’re going to put more time into it, that’s going to be the second step of the latter.

So recently I received a couple of LinkedIn approaches and people said, I did something for you, would you like to get it? And I thought, if they really did something for me, why didn’t they just send it to me? And now that you explain it, maybe they didn’t do it for me, but if I was interested, they would quickly do it for me and then they would send it to me.

I would imagine, yeah.

So that’s the approach. Okay. So we are at prop. So we got, we identified the problem, we are, we have the target market, the, we own the journey so we know how to tap into the awareness, conservation, decision making of the prospect. We have provided value, so prop, and then we have two more letters in the acronym.

The next one is E, which is evaluate channels. And that is really looking at, in this day and age, you have almost an endless number of channels to reach prospects. You have everything from your traditional cold emails and cold calling, LinkedIn, but there’s other social media channels and there’s live events and there’s conferences and there’s podcasts and a whole slew of things that you could potentially do. So the next step here is really looking at that target audience and figuring out where are they? Because odds are unless you’re the biggest of the biggest companies, you don’t have an unlimited budget. You have to be judicious on how you spend it and you want to focus maybe on the top 1, 2, 3 maybe channels that this audience is in at any given time. So that’s really what you want to do here. And what’s also key to recognize is that keep in mind the different stages of that buyer journey.

Evaluate channels - looking at that target audience and figuring out where are they. Click To Tweet

What we talked about, some prospects might be more heavily on a certain channel in the awareness stage, but on the decision or consideration stage, maybe they’re on a different type of channel. So you want to make sure you have each of the channels covers at least the three of the different parts of the stage. So that’s the E is the channels. And then the last part is to launch. That’s the L. And we think of this as launching in 30 day sprints or 30 day experiments. And the reason why we think of it this way is we’ve done all this research and usually we get it pretty right. But the reality is the market’s going to tell us whether this is working or it’s not working. There’s a lot of variables here. You can get everything right, but if you’re in the wrong channel, it might not work. It might have worked if you were on a different channel, or maybe it was the audience. Everything was this particular industry. It didn’t work and it would work for another industry. So there’s a lot of levers to pull. So we think of these as quick iterations. You put it in the market, see if what’s working, what’s not working. If it is working, how do you double, triple, quadruple down on it? If it’s not working, you need to evaluate that. Is this something that just needs a little bit of a tweak?

Launch - launching in 30 day sprints or 30 day experiments. Click To Tweet

Again, maybe it’s a channel, maybe it’s a pivotal problem, or do we just, is our gut really just telling us that this isn’t the right fit right now and we need to just completely pivot to a different type of an experiment. But the idea is you think about these in experiments. We like 30 days in particular because we find that it gives you enough time to at least get in the market, start to see some positive signals or not. You’re not going to have it all figured out. You’re probably not going to even win business. I don’t mean that. I’m talking about just some positive signals. You’re getting responses. People are answering. It just seems like this has maybe got some momentum here. If you do it longer, then you definitely run the risk of spending six months in something only to find out that it’s not working and you just wasted half the year. Anything shorter probably isn’t enough time to give it enough of a go to see if it works. So that’s the last step is to launch and then, you know, these experiments and then ideally scale.

That’s very interesting. And then you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work. Or basically keep doing what’s not working. So what is your experience? How many iterations it takes for someone to find. something that really clicks?

I can’t say that there’s any data that I have that backs it up. I think every client is a little and what works and what doesn’t. If you’re completely brand new to doing any of this, it may take a little bit longer because a lot of the clients we work with, like my company did at one point, my first company, they’ve grown through word of mouth and referral. So they’ve just taken business that came into them through friends and family. They may not even know still what pivotal problem that they even solved. So that might be the first thing that they’re testing. And so that it may take a little bit longer. But then again, like if you know the industry, you know your business well, and you can get certain things right, it may take shorter. It’s hard to say, but I think in most cases, if you’ve been running experiments for about six months, you should have stumbled upon at least one or two that seem like they’re working. If you haven’t at that point, I get a little bit worried about the program or something seems to be amiss. I think within six months, you should start to see enough positive signals from different experiments that you can really start to move to more of that scale phase.

I like this approach. It is scientific, but it’s also practical. Can you give me an example of a client you’ve worked with where you started with a certain approach and then you iterated a couple of times and then how it then molded into something scalable and then what happened?

Yeah. Let me think here. Yeah, a couple come to mind. A lot of what I think for the clients that we work with, one of the variables that seems to kind of trigger one thing or another where it’s really sometimes the industries that they’re targeting. You know, the message and the problem when we’re targeting, let’s say, consumer package goods is, might not resonate with that particular audience. But then when we move into a different category like healthcare, all of a sudden there’s meetings. It’s the same offer, it’s the same providing value, it’s the same pivotal problem. It’s all of these same things, but just moving into a different industry, we’ve seen different results from it. So that’s one that, that comes to mind.

And I think within that channels is also another one like we when we’re launching campaigns we typically are doing phone outreach and email outreach as well as doing doing some things on LinkedIn and we sometimes pretty quickly can see that there’s a certain channel that might not be working. So I think it’s important like when you’re doing these experiments to leave yourself some flexibility also even within the individual campaigns. So yes I’ve seen certainly again just moving into a different industry has been key. What we’re seeing also is the offer so that providing value that give the get. We just recently even we’ve had a client that was really struggling along and you know we would get a meeting or so here with their target audience but it wasn’t really clicking as well as we had all hoped. And the reality was we were doing like a workshop type of approach and our gut told us that the insights that were being shared weren’t that unique or different and maybe interesting. The client does great work, but the actual insights weren’t anything that groundbreaking. So we thought maybe that’s the reason behind the challenge. So we actually pivoted then to a different give to get where it was like I had mentioned earlier, we did a virtual panel. So now the idea was, hey, we think this is a problem that you might be experiencing and we’re organizing a group of eight decision makers in your field and we’re going to sit down like a fireside chat and talk about it. Was that something you’d maybe want to participate in?

And it was all done virtually and sure enough, we filled the entire group with these decision makers and they really saw value into being able to meet some of their peers in the same industry because they don’t get that anywhere else. They work in their own office and they don’t really get to meet other people and they’re busy. So the opportunity to unpack this problem with somebody else was appealing to them. And so one might ask, well, what’s in it for the client that organized this? Well, because they were the facilitator of this, they were automatically thought of as an authority on the topic and they got to meet each one of these participants, listen into their conversations and hear what some of their pain points and challenges were, and then they took those insights and following that they reached out and they started scheduling one-to-one meetings with these participants to specifically talk about some of the problems that were addressed and brought up on that panel. So again, same client, same problem, just changing the give-to-get from insight session delivered by the client to a panel where you’re going to talk about it amongst your peers.

Yeah, that is very powerful. People love to hear from their peers, often more than from a service provider, because the peers are seen to be more authentic and more like them and more, yeah, more, more authentic primarily. That’s very interesting. Okay, our time is coming to an end here on this conversation. One question that’s staggering for me, Ernest, is how do you see the trends evolving? So we see that since the early 2000s, I see that cold calls basically start to go away. Now cold emails seem to be going away as well because there’s so much noise that people just tune out. A lot of people don’t even use email anymore. What do you see is the big shift? LinkedIn was very, very powerful for a while, but then the noise on LinkedIn became very, very big as well. Now AI is coming in that is going to kind of ratchet up the noise potentially even more because that individuals don’t even have to use their own time to create it. So what do you see? Where is this all communication with prospect business is going?

Yeah, that’s a question that I think about all the time. And what we are seeing is that yes, years ago, it was good enough to just send out a cold email or place a cold call and share your value prop and people would want to have a conversation with you. But to your point, there’s just so much noise that’s out there. People have become blind to this type of communication. So just like when web banners first came out, people would actually click on them. Now, when’s the last time anybody’s clicked on a banner with on purpose versus accidentally. And the same thing is happening, unfortunately, with more, this kind of more outbound. However, the companies that are doing well with it have kind of returned to some basics. And it’s really about building a brand, building awareness around that brand, and also creating demand. And you, it’s not a one or the other. We really think about this as kind of a yin and a yang. If you want to be successful with an outbound approach, you have to have that awareness and demand creation piece.

So when you do send out that full email or place that full call or send that LinkedIn DM, they’re like, oh, I remember seeing that that company. I remember that that individual and you are able to then stand out in the inbox. Conversely, what we see is brands that are just doing the awareness and demand creation and they’re hoping that prospects just go to their website, fill out the form and give them business. And the reality is there is on the opposite side. There’s so much other content that is out there that it’s really hard. You can’t expect these prospects to initiate all of that. And yes, you’re gonna get some inbound leads. I do expect that. But if you really wanna capitalize on all that awareness and demand you’ve created, you have to have a way to capture that. And we believe taking that more outbound based approach to capture that demand is the way to do it. We really think you can’t just do one or the other. You have to be doing both this day and age to cut through and generate what you need to generate.

Okay, so that maybe could be a whole separate podcast. But I wonder what these outbound steps would be. I mean, you mentioned that give to get. So maybe opening that, hey, I have something for you. If you want it, I give it to you, something like that. Maybe there are other ways. So those of you listeners would like to find out what these other ways are, then you can reach out to Christian. So where can they, these listeners find out more about what you’re teaching, your propel framework and your company?

Yeah, I would say the best place to go would be our website, which is christianbanach.com. That’s C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N and then Banach, B-A-N-A-C-H. So christianbanach.com. Within there, there’s a bunch of resources. We have a free masterclass that talks about Propel. We have a free email newsletter you could sign up to to get these types of insights. So that would probably be the best place. Or you can also follow me on LinkedIn and I’m posting content. I answer all my own messages. If anybody has a question about anything they heard here today, happy to hopefully provide some further insights to answer those. So yeah, either the web or LinkedIn.

Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you, Christian, for coming on the show, explaining the Propel framework, which seems to be very powerful and some really interesting parts to it. Especially what I liked was the awareness, making this distinction of the awareness, the consideration and the decision, different phases of the customer when they would want to find relevant content for their journey, their bio journey, that’s very unique. Thanks for coming and sharing. And for those who are listening, stay tuned because every week I have an entrepreneur that discovered a shortcut in their business and sharing it with you. So stay tuned. Thank you, Christian.


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