For the last several years, marketing has been obsessed with lead generation as the holy grail of marketing success. All the buzz has focused on demand capture via lead generation programs.
Like cashiers at the grocery store, teams of SDR’s sit at their computers, qualifying customers who are already ‘down to buy’ and helping them through their checkout process.
The experiment has failed. It’s no longer enough to just put up a couple of Google ads and wait for the leads to come pouring in. Small and medium sized businesses suddenly find themselves drinking from a dry tap, wondering where all the leads have gone.
You Need a Demand Strategy
Ok, so you only really need a demand gen strategy if you want to see reliable, high-quality leads coming through your sales pipeline. If this is you, keep reading.
The goal of demand generation is to create a consistent flow of leads into your business. This helps ensure that you have a steady stream of potential customers to work with, no matter what stage of the buying cycle they’re in or what’s going on in the economy.
Which brings us to tip number one…
Know the Difference between Demand Gen & Lead Gen
Demand generation is often confused with its more popular cousin, lead generation. And that causes problems for both marketing and sales – so let’s break down the difference:
- Lead generation is the process of connecting with people who are already in the market for what you’re selling, and getting them to consider buying from you. It’s the first part of the sales process. We used to call it prospecting (before the Internet, when dinosaurs still walked the earth).
- Demand generation is the thing that comes before lead gen. It’s the process of attracting attention and creating interest, then nurturing leads until they are engaged enough to be open to buying. Ironically, it’s a lot like what we used to refer to as marketing.
As far as your customers are concerned, they become aware of and interested in you through demand generation. They strike up a conversation through lead generation. And they become customers with the help of sales.
Tip: Think of it this way. If marketing were a fraternity, Demand Generation would flirt to get the girls to the party. Lead Generation would buy them a drink or ask them to dance. But it would be up to Sales to propose going steady.
So now that we know who does what, it’s time to…
Define Your Audience
Demand generation is a focused approach that works to fill the top of the marketing funnel and relies heavily on having clearly defined personas.
So first & foremost, make sure you understand who your audience is. Zero in on how they experience the problem you solve. What is happening inside the organization? To them personally? What are the risks? How are their customers impacted? What questions are they asking each other? Their colleagues? Their existing vendors?
Tip: a buyer persona is much more in depth than defining a target market. If you ask your marketing team for a person and they come back with “companies of X employees with Y locations and $Z in annual revenues”, they’re not done. Send them back to keep working.
The next step is to think about which demand generation strategies will do the best job of making them aware of, and interested in, your product or service. Which often comes down to some variation of…
Create Targeted Content
Developing a successful content marketing strategy takes time and effort, but it’s well worth the investment. Build your content calendar based on what you’ve learned about your buyer personas and their buying journey. Answer their questions. Solve their problems. Pique their interest.
Tip: Publishing and distributing content that engages your target audience not only captures their attention, it establishes you as a credible source of information.
Creating highly relevant, engaging content is one of the most important things you can do to generate demand for your product or service. Of course, it’s not enough to simply produce content and hope for the best. You need to put in the work to make sure that your content is seen by the right people.
Which brings us to…
It’s Good to Get Around
Successful demand generation uses a variety of channels to get your message out there. There’s no point in creating great content that no one ever sees.
That means utilizing both paid and organic channels. Things like content syndication, email marketing, phone campaigns, social media, PR, and networking can all form part of your content visibility efforts.
Tip: Don’t turn off lead gen to focus exclusively on the demand side of the equation. It will take time to build momentum in your demand gen program. You still need to eat in the meantime.
By now you might be thinking that successful demand generation takes time and effort. It does but it’s worth it when you see those leads start to flow in. Which you’ll know, as long as you…
Measure Your Results
Before you get too far into your demand gen program, make sure you’re taking the right steps to measure your results and quantify your successes.
Keep your overall business goals in mind when setting up your KPIs. Are you looking to drive brand awareness, introduce a new product, or generate buzz around your company? Defining these targets early on will help keep your campaign on track.
Start by tracking your engagement metrics. This might include things like click-through rates, video view throughs, webinar attendance, or even social media shares. The key here is what signals that your audience is interested in what you have to say.
Tip: Remember that demand generation is a top of funnel activity. Depending on the length of your sales cycle, it will take time for demand gen influenced leads to convert to closed deals. Make sure you are evaluating content over a realistic window of time. We suggest a minimum 6-month window.
Monitor marketing contribution to revenue by asking people how they heard about you on any high-intent web forms. Keep track of the percentage of leads that mention your content marketing efforts. You might be surprised at how much of your business is initially sourced from touchpoints your attribution software can’t track.
Tying your marketing metrics back to how the impact your customer acquisition cost (CAC) will help you make sure that the campaign is performing in terms of acquiring new customers.
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by the work involved, you might we wondering …
Should I Hire a Demand Generation Partner
The answer is maybe — maybe not.
Demand generation is a complex process that requires a lot of knowledge and specialized expertise. It’s something that takes time and experience to get right. And it’s expensive to have a full team in-house.
That said, because most agencies tend to be strong in one or two areas but lack skills in others, at least some of the work is usually parcelled out to freelancers or partners you never even know are involved. The result can be confusion for everyone and disappointment for you.
Which begs the question…
What Else Can I Do
Before you decide whether to contract with an agency, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of success.
- Develop a strong growth strategy. Despite what you read on their website, most agencies think and act tactically. It’s your responsibility to give them the direction they need to do their best work on your behalf. You can usually benefit from the help of an outside consultant to facilitate this process.
- Understand your needs. With your growth strategy in hand, you will know exactly what services you’re looking for, what activities you need help with, and what you’re willing/able to invest.
- Do your research. There are a lot of great agencies out there, but each has different strengths and competencies. Take the time to engage partners that are strong where you need them to be, and if the jargon gets overwhelming, consider bringing in help to support you through the vetting process.
Our clients often find they gets better results and a higher return by hiring a key person in-house who project manages and directs the efforts of one or more freelancers & subcontractors, working with a consultant like 33Dolphins to guide and facilitate the process.
This approach puts you firmly in the driver’s seat of your business, guaranteeing that your strategic direction is established internally while steadily growing your internal capacity and IP.