Demand generation, aka “demand gen,” isn’t just about leads. Demand gen marketing is about creating high-quality leads that engage with your brand – and eventually, turn into revenue.
More than ever, marketers and demand generation teams are facing mounting pressure from their executives to tie marketing efforts to revenue. That’s where a solid demand generation strategy comes into play.
What Is Demand Generation Marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute defines demand generation marketing as “the practice of creating demand for an organization’s product or services through marketing.”
“What’s really important here is the direct outcome. Your audience should be more likely to purchase your products or services,” said Rachel Rosin, Act-On’s Web and Content Optimization Manager. “Successful demand generation programs aren’t just about the sheer volume of leads. A successful demand generation program is measured by:
- The quality of your leads
- What you’re able to convert to revenue
- The ability to prove your contribution to your company’s bottom line.”
Demand Gen vs. Lead Gen
Demand generation is conducted through a number of different tactics to generate leads. These include filling out a form, downloading a piece of content, signing up for a webinar, and so forth.
From there, the lead is nurtured from that first interaction along a journey to the consideration phase where marketing passes the qualified lead off to sales.
Not all nurtured leads are always going to be sales-ready. But if they aren’t ready to buy now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t ever buy. Sales can return those leads back to marketing for further nurturing. Marketing can re-engage those leads, and try to again reach that benchmark level of interaction to return them back to sales for further conversations.
3 parts to a good demand generation strategy
There are three main parts to a successful demand generation strategy: the players, the methods, and the goals.
1. The players
Demand gen should be a collaborative activity between your company’s sales and marketing teams. Some of the players on your demand generation team will include job titles such as demand gen marketing team lead, marketing operations, or marketing technologist. On the sales side, typical titles include sales operations or sales managers. “The salespeople play a key role in helping to define these processes and maintain an open line of communication with the marketing team members, which really makes a huge difference,” Rosin said.
2. The methods
Demand generation marketing uses coordinated, multi-tiered activities to identify and engage buyers through targeted inbound and outbound activities. There are seven key tactics tied to demand generation: web insights and inbound marketing, content marketing, social media engagement, lead nurturing, lead scoring, measuring and optimization, and sales and marketing alignment. We’ll dive deeper into each of these methods in a bit.
3. The goal
Your goal should be to have a well-oiled demand generation program that improves lead quality, accelerates the buying cycle, and improves conversion rates from your initial inquiries to qualified opportunities.
“The most important goal, however, is to generate higher revenue from your marketing source leads,” said Janelle Johnson, Act-On’s Senior Director for Global Segment Marketing. “What it all boils down to is quality, not quantity.”
Pumping your pipeline full of high volume with low-quality leads isn’t going to help your company, especially in the long run. And it can definitely deteriorate your relationship with your sales team. You really have to focus your time and energy on generating those high-quality leads that will convert in order to truly achieve demand generation success.
3 challenges for today’s marketer
Generating those high-quality leads is made tougher by three challenges for today’s marketer: empowered buyers, high expectations, and pressure to perform.
1. Empowered buyers
Consumers are now in the driver’s seat in their buying journey. In fact, 40 percent of buyers wait longer than they did in the past to initiate contact with a vendor, and buyers typically get 60 percent through the buying journey before they engage with a salesperson. Today’s marketers have to find a way to position their companies as trusted advisors to buyers as they move along their journey. With 58 percent of buyers spending more time researching their options than they did in the past, it’s imperative that you engage with your buyers by building relationships and trust. Because if you don’t, you better believe that your competitors will.
2. Higher expectations
With so much access to information and choices, buyers expect more from the companies with whom they interact. Today’s buyers live in an always-on world, filled with instantly available, highly personalized apps, messages, offers, and services. That’s pretty incredible, but it also challenges us as marketers to anticipate the needs of our consumers and deliver thoughtful content related to their needs. Cookie-cutter marketing content and one-size-fits all communication does not work in this new environment.
3. Pressure to perform
With all the technology available at our fingertips, we can now tie most of our marketing efforts to revenue. It’s becoming more and more common for marketing to have a revenue goal, just like sales. A well-planned demand gen process can address these challenges by offering an efficient and reliable process to identify and engage these empowered buyers and turn quality leads into revenue that’s measured.
7 strategies for a successful demand generation program
1. Web insights and inbound marketing
Your website is one of your most important demand generation strategies. It is where you can observe the digital fingerprints of people visiting your website, which reveal their interests, pain points, content preferences, and even urgency. Many inbound marketing tactics include content offers, blog posts, and other website resources.
2. Content marketing
Content marketing is the fuel that powers your demand gen engine. In fact, 70% of buyers ranked “relevant content that speaks directly to our company” as “very important” in the Demand Gen 2020 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, with 76% of respondents saying the winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
Your content powers the inbound activities that attract and pull prospects into your sales funnel. Content can include anything from blog posts, press releases, case studies, eBooks, white papers, infographics, videos, emails, and so much more. If you can build it, they are likely to come.
The most important piece of a content marketing strategy is matching content with the prospect’s individual pain points, readiness to buy, content preferences, and where they’re at in their purchasing journey. You should start by asking yourself and your sales team a few questions like:
- Who are our ideal prospects and customers?
- How do they go about making buying decisions?
- What are their questions and their pain points?
- What are some of their common objections?
You use answers to those questions to guide the content you create, making it more relevant to your audience, which will help you attract higher quality, more suitable leads.
3. Social media marketing
Social networks today aren’t just a B2C marketing tool; they also make a great channel for demand generation. According to the 2014 Demand Gen Report content preferences survey, 75 percent of B2B executives get more of their content through social networks or peer connection now than they did a year ago. And according to Forrester’s B2B Social Technographics, fully 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Besides impacting lead gen activities, social networks may also influence your prospects’ vendor selection and buying decisions.
- The first is focus. Always be focused on your customers’ needs. This includes listening, joining groups, and creating conversations.
- Secondly, you’ll want to inform. This includes educating your audience on all things related to your vertical – or theirs.
- And the final pillar is trust. If you’re successful in the first two pillars, then the third one should follow suit easily.
The most important part of a social media strategy should be to build rapport with your audience so that they can look to you as a thought leader and a problem solver, and to really build trust. You should work to inspire your audience consistently. It’s easier than you think.
4. Lead scoring
Lead scoring uses a point system to assign values based on a person’s online and offline behavior. These actions can help us gauge where the buyer is on their journey and their growing sales readiness. Typically, sales and marketing teams within an organization will work together to determine how many points a prospect will get for different activities. For example, reading a blog post might get you two points and downloading a white paper might be worth five. Responding to a prospecting email might get you 10.
Once a lead has accrued enough points (based on your organization and how your organization defines that quality lead), they can be passed to sales, flagged for follow up, or dropped into a more accelerated nurture program. Lead scoring is a crucial piece of the demand generation machine. In fact, according to Marketing Sherpa, organizations that use lead scoring see a 77 percent increase lift in their lead generation ROI.