Demand generation, aka “demand gen,” isn’t just about leads. Demand gen is about creating high quality leads that engage with your brand – and eventually turn into revenue.
More than ever, marketers and demand generation professionals are facing mounting pressure from their executives to tie marketing efforts to revenue. That’s where demand gen comes in.
The Content Marketing Institute defines demand generation 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 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.”
What a demand gen program looks like
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 demand generation programs
There are three main parts to successful demand generation programs: the players, the methods, and the goals.
- The players
Demand gen should be a collaborative activity between your company’s sales and marketing teams. Some of the players you can expect to see have job titles such as demand gen marketer, marketing operations, or marketing technologist. On the sales side typical titles include sales operations or sales managers. “The sales people 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.
- The methods
Demand generation uses coordinating multi-tiered marketing activities to identify and engage buyers through targeted inbound and outbound activities. There are seven key tactics or methods of 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.
- The goal
Your goal should be to have a well-oiled demand generation process 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 gonna 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.
- 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. Read about proven strategies, in this free eBook: 10 Ways to Nurture the Buyer’s Journey.
- 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. Check out this infographic to see the new buyer’s funnel.
- 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.
Our 7 tactics for a successful demand gen program
We’ve identified seven tactics and methods behind every successful demand gen program: web insights and inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, measuring and optimization, and sales and marketing alignment. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Web insights and inbound marketing
Your website is one of your most important demand generation assets. 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. Check out the 11 website design trends you need to know about.
2. Content marketing
Content marketing is the fuel that powers your demand gen engine. In fact, 75 percent of executives interviewed in Demand Gen’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey say they rely more on content to research purchases than they did a year earlier. And 64 percent say a 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. 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.
There are three pillars of social media strategy vital to the success of your program.
- 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. Read our blog post 12 Brilliant Ways to Save Time on Social Media.
4. Lead nurturing
“Lead nurturing is not about making that sale,” Johnson said. “That’s going to come later once your prospect is qualified and warmed up. Instead, nurturing is about educating, responding to the prospect’s needs, and truly building that trust with them.”
Lead nurturing is a proven method for turning prospects into buyers by systematically contacting prospects over a set amount of time, and providing them content relevant to where they are in their journey. As a rule, only about 25 percent of the new leads that your organization identifies are actually ready to buy. The rest fall somewhere in the full range of a buyer’s journey. Learn Lead Nurturing Basics.
This creates a couple big questions you need to answer. How do you recognize sales-ready leads? And how do you know when the other 75 percent of those leads have changed their minds and are in fact now ready to be passed to sales?
5. Lead scoring
To determine a lead’s sales readiness is where lead scoring comes into play. It’s a way of measuring a prospect’s engagement with your brand and assets, and giving higher points for different activities that show more sales readiness.
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.
6. Measuring and optimization
You need to understand what’s working with your demand gen program and what’s not working, and how to make tweaks to optimize that program. This is a great opportunity for you to reevaluate where your marketing efforts and dollars are going. By measuring the effectiveness of your efforts, you can then focus your attention on the areas of the funnel that aren’t working as smoothly.
Depending on your company’s size in the market, there are a variety of metrics that marketers should be focusing on when it comes to demand generation. In order to get a good pulse on your marketing efforts though, you wanna take a look at things like your closing percentages, cost per acquisition, cost per lead, the average deal size, and the time to close. And what’s interesting is you wanna look at those as a whole for your marketing efforts, but then also by different campaign types because they will differ.
7. Aligning sales and marketing
Demand gen is absolutely a team sport, requiring cooperation between sales and marketing. Make sure you’re talking in the same language – what is a qualified lead, what does that mean to sales, and what does that mean to marketing? Work together to agree on standards for lead scoring, for qualification, and for following up on a lead.
An integrated marketing workspace plays an important part in building a strong sales and marketing relationship.
At its core, demand generation marketers should facilitate the flow of generation leads for your organization, nurture those leads to establish your company as a choice in the consideration process, and ultimately build trust with those leads and your prospects. Once the leads you have generated have been nurtured by your marketing or demand gen team, they will pass off to the sales team once they’ve reached a level of engagement that both sales and marketing have agreed upon as being ready for contact. And sales will then move these prospects to an opportunity stage where they’ll then, hopefully, become customers.