Recently I had the opportunity to moderate an Act-On Conversation on demand generation. The Conversationalists, Jay Hidalgo and Atri Chatterjee, defined demand generation and talked about how personas, sales and marketing alignment, and content marketing are a trifecta for successful demand generation.
What follows below is Part 1 of the transcript of the Conversation.
JANELLE: Hello everyone. I’d like to welcome you to an Act-On Conversation. Today’s Conversation brings together two experts on marketing and demand gen. Jay Hidalgo is the principal of Demand Gen Coach, a unique approach to helping marketers at small to midsize companies develop and implement demand generation programs that yield impressive and measurable results. Throughout his 20 plus years in marketing and sales, Jay has helped companies such as Rubbermaid, Michelin, Pitney Bowes, Toshiba, and others, develop and implement successful demand generation and lead management programs. And we also have Atri Chatterjee, Chief Marketing Officer for Act-On Software. Atri’s background includes executive positions at Symantec, McAfee, and Responsys.
What is demand generation?
JANELLE: Let’s begin by defining our topic. What is demand generation, and how does it differ from lead generation?
JAY: I get this question a lot, and I look at it this way: Demand generation covers all the marketing activities that create awareness and desire for your product, your service, your company. It includes a mix of inbound activities and outbound activities. And the goal of demand gen is to get buyers to come to you, engage with you, and eventually buy your product or service.
Lead generation is a part of the overall demand generation process. At some point during the buying cycle your buyer will make or accept some kind of contact with you. So lead generation is really the process of making that contact, collecting their contact information, and being able then to proactively move them along that buying cycle.
ATRI: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. In some ways I really think of demand gen as everything marketing. Our entire marketing team here at Act-On is in the business of generating demand and generating interest. And that all goes under the cover of demand generation.
Lead generation is a very specific set of tactics that satisfy the part of the goals of demand generation, and tend to be the things that are more quantifiable. And basically in the case of business to business, looking at moving prospects through the funnel of awareness and purchase and conversion and so on and so forth.
JAY: I look at it sometimes from a marketing promotional perspective. Am I creating favor to my organization or to my product or service among the buying community with an activity? If so, then that’s a demand generation activity.
The buying process has changed, and the selling process needs to mirror it
JANELLE: According to Forrester Research, the typical buyer is anywhere from two thirds to 90 percent of the way through the buying process before even agreeing to engage with the sales rep. And the vast majority of buyers start out their buying process with an internet search, which is a huge change from 10 years ago. What does this mean for sales and marketing?
ATRI: We’re seeing every day that the buyer’s journey has changed, in both B2B and B2C. I don’t think there’s anyone today who buys a big ticket item like an automobile or a refrigerator or a dishwasher, without really doing the research up front before they go and buy something.
People approach the buying process by doing work on their own to become smart about things. And that’s really changed the way we on the sales and marketing side of things approach those potential buyers. No longer should we be trying to push things on them, or trying to actively sell them on something. Really, it’s about thinking about the situation in a different way. We need to understand and that these potential buyers are a lot more intelligent, they’ve really done a fair amount of research on their own.
And so we need to think about ways in which we can participate in that research process. How do we give them value when they’re making these considerations? And how do we participate in that?
I think this change really brings these two disciplines a lot closer. On the sales side, I think salespeople need to think more like marketers, think about how you bring something of value to the potential buyer when they’re actually considering you. And from the marketer’s standpoint, they need to think more like a salesperson. They need to think about, okay when I’m doing these particular marketing activities or marketing campaigns or creating content, how do I work in the benefits of a prospect becoming a customer, and how does this help them, and how does this benefit them?
JAY: I’m this buyer that Forrester is talking about. My son needed a laptop computer a few months ago. And we spent the majority of our time shopping online. By the time we got to Best Buy, literally we walked in, grabbed the computer we wanted, had the guy ring us up, and we were out the door.
So the question is, what does this new dynamic mean for marketers? I agree with what you said. It means that we as marketers have to figure out a way to be highly visible during that 70 plus percent of the buying process where we’re not being physically asked to be at the table. Because if we’re not, as marketers, somebody else is. Our competitors are there or others are there taking that spot from us. So what it means, we really have to know where they are searching, we have to know what they are searching for, we have to know what they are looking for, we have to know what they’re thinking.
The more we can get into that mindset of the buyer, the more then we can respond accordingly, we can provide information that they’re looking for, and the better chance we will have of introducing ourselves further at the beginning, closer to the beginning of the buying process.
ATRI: That’s right. And probably when you went to Best Buy, the conversation that you had with the salesperson there was completely different than say five or seven years ago.
ATRI: That salesperson probably treated you completely differently from what they would have done say five or seven years ago where they would have probably led you through this whole process of trying to educate you. This time, they already assumed you were an educated buyer. And now they were more of a consultant, and letting you arrive at your own decision.
JAY: You are so right. The first question he asked is, what computer are you looking for? He assumed that I knew.
ATRI: Yeah, it’s interesting. My family had a similar experience recently. We had to purchase an automobile. And it was exactly like that. We had all the research. We went there. And then it was more of a consultation with the salesperson, and looking to see how best we could get the things that we needed. It ended up being a great discussion because they were not trying to actively sell us something, they were actually actively trying to help us make a decision on things that we had already done the research on.
JAY: In the selling process, when you get to that place, you know you’ve done your homework, you know you’ve gone through the buying cycle. If you get an uneducated salesperson who doesn’t understand this dynamic, they’ll try to take you all the way back to the beginning of the process. There’s nothing more frustrating. When that happens the company loses, because instead of attracting, they’ve alienated the buyer.
JANELLE: I think that it’s important to understand that while you were giving B2C examples, they absolutely apply in the B2B world. Because at the end of the day, whether you’re buying for your personal use, or whether you’re buying to use for your company, you’re approaching your buying process the same way.
JAY: The fallacy is that B2B is businesses selling to other businesses. And actually it’s businesses selling to other people at businesses. We have to keep that in mind.
Point 1 of a winning trifecta: Understanding personas
JANELLE: Jay, can you talk about what a persona is, why they matter, and how you go about developing them?
JAY: Sure. Basically, a persona is a profile or description of that ideal target that you’re going after. In many cases there’s not just one profile that buys a particular product or service. In a B2C scenario you have different types of people that are coming in and looking at your products and services, different individuals, and you can group them into a variety of different categories. In a B2B scenario oftentimes it’s buying roles or work roles that these people have, as salespeople, marketing people, technical people, etc.
These matter tremendously because they are one of the keys to help you hone in and understand who your buyer is. There’s a tremendous amount of information out there that indicates that buyers are saying “Companies don’t know me, they don’t know how to respond to me, they don’t know what I want, who I am,” etc. And so going through the process of building a buyer persona is really the first step in trying to understand in a more detailed way, in a more intimate way, who your buyer is.
When it comes to developing them, what I recommend is, first of all, marketing and sales coming together. Marketing has one view of the customer, sales typically has another view. And to build a persona without each of those groups involved is only going to give you part of the picture.
Second, go through the process of finding out and figuring out what categories you want to create for your persona. The question is, who do we sell to? The question that one of my clients started out with was, “You’re on the trade show floor and you’re hoping your ideal customers come to you. What groups of customers do you want to see?” So it might be their buying role, it might be economic status, it might be based on behavior. Whatever it may be, you decide the different categories you’re going to put them into.
And then thirdly, think through the categories of information that you want to capture on each persona. Do you want information about their background? Do you need information about their buying preferences? Do you want detailed information about their daily activities, the challenges that they face, those kinds of things? You put all that into a matrix. Across the top you have persona labels, and down the left, down the Y-axis, you have individual categories. And then sales and marketing together fill in the data points that will make that up.
This takes time, it takes arguing back and forth, it takes debate, etc., but it’s amazing when that process is done and you have the beginnings of these personas. You start to realize we do have different individuals and we need to think about speaking to each of them individually.
ATRI: Jay, what’s really changing is not only understanding a buyer’s demographics and their firmographics, what’s their position and title in a company, but also looking at some of the behavioral aspects of things.
In today’s world we can actually track a lot of that behavioral activity and enrich that whole concept of what that persona is. In our company we further develop those personas by looking at the behavioral profiles, and what was done in the past, what does the typical person in these different positions do, and what sort of signals do they send us that indicate that they are a very likely candidate and a prospect for being a customer of Act-On, or being a customer of some of our own customers. We’ve been promoting your whole concept of developing the personas with many of our clients.
JAY: That’s great to hear. And you’re absolutely right; the behavioral component is a key element. You can really assume a lot about somebody based on the facts that you know about them, the demographics. But you’re really going to get to know somebody based on what they do. And the more we can watch and understand the behavior of our clientele, of our buyers, the better insight we’re going to have.
JANELLE: I want to add that this has been beneficial even in deciding and figuring out how we’re going to spend our marketing budget. Because once we know who our target audience is and where they are, we can better understand what channels to reach them through, and where we should be spending our money to get in front of them.