The role of demand generation marketing is evolving along with technology, enabling B2B marketers to get better at filling the pipeline with actual opportunities versus just a bunch of leads.
In one of my favorite Ted Talks, Malcolm Gladwell shares a story about choice, happiness and Howard Moskowitz. He talks about Howard’s role as a food scientist, and his work to discover the perfect food products for Campbell’s Soup, Pepsi, and Vlasic Pickles among others.
Now why is this relevant to the role of demand generation, you may ask? Well, as Gladwell summarizes Howard’s revelation, “There is no perfect pickle, only perfect pickles.”
Today’s Demand Gen Marketer is a key cog in your marketing machine, fueling your sales pipeline. But as the buyer’s journey has changed, as B2B decision makers are now a team of buyers, the one-size-fits-all lead has been dumped because it doesn’t work.
Instead, modern marketers take advantage of technology advances to adapt their strategies to engage buyers with a message that is relevant and personalized to that specific buyer, at that specific time.
As a send up to this evolution, Act-On is releasing a series of videos styled in the Big Short way of using metaphors to humorously explain Brand (awareness), Demand, Expand (customer marketing) and how marketing automation can help marketers adapt to the ever-changing buyer’s journey. In the Demand video, we poke fun at stereotypes and how you can’t squeeze every buyer into the same stage of the funnel.
“What used to be called lead generation is now called pipeline generation or demand generation because it’s not just about volume, and putting stuff in the top,” said Kari Seas, Act-On’s head of Demand Generation (interim), and founder of Seas Marketing. “It’s about seeing that lead all the way through the funnel. Marketing has to be able to prove ROI.
“And it’s not just about proving the value that marketing is contributing to the business. That’s important, as any CMO will tell you whose butt’s on the line to deliver those results. But it’s about understanding what’s working and what’s not working, so you can continually optimize and tweak your programs.”
Back in the Good Ol’ Days (or around 2012 and earlier)
As recently as 2012, the demand marketer had to do some manual work to really track a lead through to revenue. The evolution of marketing automation platforms, like Act-On, and the ability to tightly integrate with CRMs like Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, or SugarCRM has increased our confidence in the data.
Back then (and shockingly, even today), many companies only thought about leads in terms of cramming as much as they could into the funnel. Sales was yelling for leads, and telling Marketing ‘our sales people can sort through it and figure it out – we just want leads.’ So the goal was to get as many of your target market as possible into the sales funnel. The thinking was, if they’ve expressed some sort of interest in the topic we’re talking about—which back then was much more focused on product versus building thought leadership—then there’s somewhat of a good chance they might be an opportunity for us.
But when the lead machine eventually kicked into gear, Sales became overwhelmed by these, frankly, unqualified leads. They couldn’t prioritize which leads to focus on; they wasted time on leads that never converted and missed opportunities with leads that could have converted, if only Sales would have given them the time and attention they deserved.
Today’s Demand Gen Marketer
Seas concurs. “Previously—because the technology wasn’t in place to really track how a lead resulted in revenue—it was all about volume at that point. I would say in today’s marketing, demand generation is all about developing a pipeline for your sales team filled with leads most likely to convert into opportunities and eventually result in revenue.”
It begins with a buyer persona: knowing who your target is, what they care about, what problems your offering helps them address, why your offer is relevant, and why it’s unique. You need to understand the buying journey for that persona or personas—which type of information they need at each stage of the buying journey, all the way through from initial awareness to becoming a customer.
You also work with Sales to agree on all funnel definitions: when a marketing-qualified lead becomes a sales-accepted lead, when that SAL becomes a sales-qualified lead, etc.—all the way through to closed/won or closed/lost.
With those building blocks in place, you can then identify which tactics – white papers, webinars, and so forth – you’ll employ to get the conversions you need.
How Marketing Automation Helps
Marketing automation, like Act-On, is ready to help your demand generation scale.
“How marketing automation helps is that you start looking at this less as generating leads and more as ‘how can I have an ongoing conversation with my personas, all the way from when they first are considering this problem through when they become a customer,’” Seas said. “The right marketing automation platform will enable you to have that kind of ongoing conversation, all the way from when they’re a prospect through to becoming a customer, and beyond. And do it in a way that is very natural and seamless, and really helps your buyer overcome any problem they face in their marketing world.”
Act-On helps attract more potential customers through inbound tactics. You’re then able to convert those visitors into sales leads via Act-On’s easy-to-implement forms on webinars and other premium content.
Act-On’s lead scoring lets you prioritize those leads based on the prospect’s engagement. And you can then nurture those leads along their journey, based on their engagement. Through Act-On’s integrations with your favorite CRMs, you’ll get actionable intelligence about a user’s engagement, so your sales team has better, value-added conversations.
Finally, you’ll be able to see the revenue impact of your marketing efforts via Act-On’s reporting tools.
“In this data-driven world, it doesn’t matter what people say or what people do, the data must prove it,” Seas said. “You have to have a marketing automation platform that connects the dots all the way from A to Z, to give you that visibility.”