6 Essentials of Successful B2B Demand Generation Marketing for 2019
April 2, 2019 | David Cunningham
B2B demand generation marketing is evolving. It’s not enough to generate leads or even marketing-qualified leads anymore. Marketers need to be delivering the types of leads Sales wants: Leads that become closed deals.
The need for higher quality leads isn’t just aspirational for marketers, either. It’s tied to their paychecks and bonuses. Their marketing efforts are now expected to generate real and quantifiable business.
To wit: 30% of the marketers in DemandGen’s 2018 Benchmark Survey said “pipeline influenced” is the primary metric used to measure their performance. Thirty-three percent said it was MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) or SALs (Sales Accepted Leads). The SALs metric is particularly interesting – it shows how marketers are increasingly being held accountable to Sales.
So the days of just racking up lots of leads – any leads – are over. And as that graph right above also shows, the days of just generating more traffic to your website are way over.
Now it’s time to generate business. To contribute to revenue. To give Sales the types of leads they’ve wanted all along.
Historically, of course, marketing and sales alignment
We want your Sales department to be among that 28% – to be the type of demand generation marketer that not only drives revenue but also gets credit for it.
That’s no small task, but it’s possible. Here’s what you’ll need to do it:
1. Identify What Is Working For Marketing And Sales
Achieving alignment between Marketing and Sales is hard enough – don’t break what’s already working. Even if there is friction between departments, there’s usually some kernel of a process that is functional.
Find that kernel, and figure out why it’s working. Then start building bridges with Sales. They should be in the room from the beginning as you develop your demand generation plans.
As you build a buyer’s journey through content designed to gather information about your prospects, you’ll need input from Sales for every step. Ask them:
- What questions should you ask to qualify leads properly?
- What contact information or other background does Sales want so they can have a meaningful conversion with prospects?
- What “digital body language” would convince Sales that a prospect doesn’t need any more nurturing – that they are ready to sign a deal?
Building a targeted, interactive path for prospects is possible by strategically creating and administering new assets. It will allow you to start having communications that are more like conversations with prospects, instead of being locked in the old model of one-way communication.
Interactive marketing assets judiciously gather information that will reveal who the real prospects are. This is the type of information Sales needs – and that you, the marketer need to build a better demand generation program.
Also, keep in mind that Sales and Marketing alignment is not a “one and done” sort of thing. Make space for input from Sales at every point of planning and development – from brainstorming sessions for content all the way through to what you want to test on landing pages.
2. Think Of Your Customers’ Success As You Publish Content.
Good content serves its audience first, and its creators (the company) second.
In other words, the less you sell, the more trust you build. This is proven out in research.
The most successful B2B content marketers are considerably more likely to say they “prioritize the audience’s informational needs over our sales/promotional message.”
3. Use Your Content And Your Content Strategy To Learn About Your Prospects
It’s past time for demand generation marketing to “think beyond the download.” For example, just because someone downloaded a content asset doesn’t mean they want to buy your product or services. There’s no reason to mark them as a real lead based upon only that action.
Also, just because someone downloaded an asset doesn’t mean they read/watched/listened to that asset, either. We need to better understand the intent of the people who are interacting with our content. Their intent will tell us a lot about how we should respond to their interest if we respond at all.
Smart content can do this. It can go beyond the traditional triggers of downloads and clicks. An interactive PDF, for instance, can ask sales-qualifying questions at different points throughout the document. An interactive assessment can glean enormous amounts of useful information for your Sales team – all while giving your prospect personalized information that is helpful for their specific situation.
If marketers are going to deliver the leads that turn into closed deals, we have to get smarter about gathering information about our prospects. We need actionable information, too. Everybody knows Marketing has a ton of data, but much of it is siloed or inaccessible.
Smarter marketing assets can help with this as well. Each asset gathers information about each prospect, and tracking the prospect’s buyer’s journey can help us understand what our prospects need as well.
This is sophisticated stuff, no doubt. It requires us to have tight control over the data we’re gathering, and will probably even require some machine learning or AI applications to sift through all the signals to find actionable information and deliver it in a personalized way.
But it can be done. And even if we don’t get all the way to data perfection, we can at least start to do better. As mentioned above, it’s time to think past the download – to find out how our prospects are consuming and responding to our content, or if they’re even consuming and responding to our content.
4. Test, Test, Implement…And Test Again
Think of all your existing demand generation efforts as a rough draft. They’re good – and they’re a good start. But they can always be improved.
This is where testing comes in. It’s an ideal way to continually improve what you’ve got: Kaizen for marketers if you will.
Testing doesn’t have to be a complex, burdensome process. And over time, even small improvements can add up. Even a 1% improvement every day can result in massive gains over the course of one year.
So where should you start with testing?
As you begin testing, make sure you verify that the quality of your leads doesn’t dip. It’s easy to think that one email outperformed another simply because it got a higher open rate. But what really matters is whether you’re getting more closed deals – not just more email clicks.
Also, be sure to get statistically-valid results from your tests. This sounds boring, but it’s essential to know if you have a winner. And it isn’t hard to do, either. Just use any one of the free split-test tools available to confirm you’ve got a winner.
Both those pieces of advice will mean your testing program has to move more slowly, and that means you’ll have to run fewer tests. This is okay. That limitation will force you only to test what matters. Think more strategically than just changing the call-to-action button colors.
5. Create Content That Aligns With The Buyer’s Journey
You’ve probably heard of TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU. They aren’t some weird social media trend, they’re Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel content.
Content marketers tend to focus more on top of the funnel content. This may be driven by the old desire to get more leads. Now that our priorities have shifted to getting better leads, it’s time to develop more content for the later phases of the buyer’s journey.
Over-investing in top of the funnel content is one of the most significant differences between successful and unsuccessful B2B content marketers. In the CMI/Marketing Profs study cited above, successful marketers were almost three times more likely to say they “craft content based on specific points/stages of the buyer’s journey.”
For ideas on exactly how to shift your content development toward this ideal, see our blog post, Full Funnel Marketing: What It Is, And How To Do It Properly (With Strategies And Examples).
6. Build Customized Content With Influencers And Non-Competitive Brands.
Finding and engaging an audience is a lot of work, but there are ways to make it easier. One of the best ways to do that is to work with influencers and non-competitive brands. If you’ve chosen the right partner, they will already have developed an audience that’s a match for what you offer. So instead of trying to “boil the ocean” to drum up demand, you’ll be connecting with pre-made audiences like your own. You’ll share audiences with your content partners.
That’s a powerful competitive edge, but it’s not the only reason to partner with influencers and other brands. It also reduces the work – and the costs – of creating high-quality content. They get the benefit of exposure to your audience, and you get the benefit of the exposure to theirs. And you both cut the costs of creating great content.
Webinars are a great example of co-created content and how to get in front of new, but sympathetic audiences. Research can also be a good way to partner. Just be sure you pick your partners carefully. For more ideas on how to identify ideal partners for this type of project, see Kaleigh Moore’s blog post, Once You’ve Found the Right Influencer for Your Vertical, Then What?
It’s an exciting, though challenging, time to be in demand generation marketing. Marketers have more tools than ever before, but also far higher expectations for their work. Still – we’re getting better at what we do all the time. Just keep chipping away at the areas we’ve outlined, and you’ll continue to enjoy steady improvements. And who knows, maybe you’ll even land a bonus or a raise.