Demand Generation: An A-Z Guide for B2B Marketers (with Strategies & Examples)
September 20, 2017 | Robbie Richards
You’re in the malt shop one day before class when in walks Biff and his crew of goons. “Where’s my homework, McFly?” he demands. Rather than eat a knuckle sandwich, you promise to bring the bully’s homework to his house later so he can take full credit for your work. Little do you know, your future son is watching all this happen.
Marty McFly is on a mission to help you get the girl of your dreams. But to succeed, you have to prove what you’re made of and finally stand up for yourself. So what does the movie Back to the Future have to do with demand generation? Demand generation strategies and teen dramas both want the same thing; to help you to stand out from the crowd and be noticed for who you are and the value you provide.
Brands must raise brand awareness in order to recognize greater revenue growth, just as young adults must grow into their future selves. Savvy marketers use demand gen to skip the growing pains. Demand generation strategies allow you to drive awareness and initiate customer relationships across all channels in the buyer journey.
Before you can turn prospects into leads and leads into sales, you’ve got to get their attention.
But where do you start?
Demand generation is such a broad topic. The strategies, tactics, channels and ways to measure success are endless. Many marketers get overwhelmed, and end up deferring to an unstructured spray-and-pray approach.
Because we’ve put together arguably the most comprehensive demand generation guide you’ll find anywhere on the internet. It’s an A-Z roadmap that will give you the tools and framework needed to approach your demand gen efforts with clarity, confidence and focus.
You’ll learn how to plan, build, execute and measure successful demand generation on autopilot.
Here’s a taste of what is to come (feel free to click the link to jump to a section of interest):
What is demand generation?
What is Demand Generation?
At it’s simplest form:
Demand generation is creating awareness for your product or service in order to drive revenue.
Before potential customers can want what you’re offering, they need to know you exist and can provide the value they seek.
It is a multi-step process targeting a pre-defined audience to introduce your brand as the right solution for their problems.
Not to be confused with lead generation, demand generation initiates the first step in the customer relationship – wherever in the funnel the prospective customer may be.
Demand generation then coaxes prospects down the funnel.
Note: While each function serves a different purpose, they often overlap. For example, sponsored research will create demand and leads. Therefore, it’s a part of both strategies.
Let’s take a closer look…
Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation
Marketing teams have gotten more complicated in recent years. With new technologies hitting the market, new roles are emerging. The line between who does what is getting more blurred, and a lot of us might even say we don’t understand exactly what our marketing teammates do.
If there is a role in marketing that baffles people the most, it’s most likely the delineation between demand generation and lead generation. Not only are the terms broad, you could be forgiven for referring to them as the same thing.
But, while these roles are often overseen by the same person, and sometimes overlap, they are fundamentally different.
Demand generation is what a brand does to drive awareness and capture attention. It’s what makes consumers engage with a brand without yet having tried a product or service.
Primarily a top of the funnel approach, demand gen is the initial touch point and education that positions your brand for future engagements with prospects. It lets people know who you are and what you can do to help them.
Demand gen typically gives away content freely in order to drive awareness. There might be a CTA, but it will come at the end of the piece (Think: “Contact Us or Learn More”).
Lead generation is how a brand turns this awareness into conversions and sales.
Lead generation focuses on driving interest and inquiry into specific products or services. These mid to lower funnel nurturing strategies prioritize collecting customer data and building trust over time.
Picking up where demand gen leaves off, lead gen delivers consistently relevant messaging to identified prospects. Your aim here is to develop the customer relationship and continue to qualify leads for a sale throughout the later stages of the customer journey.
Lead gen typically places content behind a “gate” to motivate form submissions (Think: “Want this awesome asset? Fill out the form to get it”).
We’ll discuss how to qualify leads soon, but let’s first look at key metrics in demand generation.
Demand Generation Metrics
To build a successful demand generation program, we first have to know what success looks like. Here are six demand generation metrics essential to guiding a winning strategy:
A prospect is a contact who fits one of your buyer personas but has yet to express interest. Determining if a contact is a prospect is the first step in the sales process. Do they have pain and budget? Are they are a decision maker?
A lead is an unqualified prospect beginning to show buying behavior. To determine what constitutes buying behavior, open a dialogue between marketing and sales.
An MQL is a marketing qualified lead; someone who’s expressed interest in buying your product or service. What “qualifies” a lead for further marketing will vary, but look for levels of engagement as well as market fit to determine if a lead deserves more nurturing.
An SQL is a sales qualified lead; someone who’s displayed strong buying behavior and been vetted by the marketing and sales team for the next sales phase. Sales reps should only take calls with SQLs—those who have pain, budget and ability to make a purchase decision.
An opportunity has been qualified, entered the sales cycle, and is committed to working with you. These individuals have been contacted, show high levels of interest, and your product/service can actually solve their problem/need.
A closed sale is an individual who has paid for your product or service. Once you’ve closed a sales opportunity, continue to nurture your post-sale customers to encourage upsells, cross-sells, referrals, and garner valuable feedback.
What are the Biggest Challenges for Modern Demand Gen Marketers?
Now we’ve got the terms and definitions out of the way, it’s time to get into real-world applications. What challenges do marketers face when implementing demand generation strategies? There are four primary considerations: empowered buyers, higher expectations, handing off the right leads, and getting full committee buy-in.
Both Forrester and Gartner predict that by 2020, 80% of the buying process will occur without any human contact. Consumers are now in the driver’s seat in their buyer journey. The challenge: brands need to find a way to position themselves as a trusted resource to buyers at every stage in the buyer journey. Nurture, nurture, nurture!
With 81% of consumers conducting online research before purchasing, expectations around the pre-purchase experience are at an all time high. Consumers are impatient. If they don’t find the information they need to move further down the funnel, they won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. Marketbridge tells us that 76% of B2B buyers now prefer to receive content unique to their buying stage.
As personalization becomes more and more important, content will need to become more interactive and engaging, while marketers will need to learn to anticipate consumer wants.
Handing Off the Right Leads
According to Marketing Sherpa, only 27% of leads are sales ready when first captured. Several touches are needed for prospects to gather information, and more are needed for marketing to determine sales readiness. According to research by the Online Marketing Institute, it can take between 6-8 touches to generate a sales-ready lead because of the sheer amount of information required to deem a lead sales-ready.
Marketing Sherpa also found that higher converting marketing teams only passed 12% of leads to sales, compared to the average of 17%. Of that 12%, 40% converted from prospects to leads and 20% converted to sales, versus the respective averages of 34% and 16%. The challenge is investing additional resources to create interactions that help determine if the budget, authority, need and timeframe of a prospect are aligned for a buying decision.
The best companies score and nurture leads extensively to boost quality and close rate.
Answering the Needs of the Committee
Smaller companies between 100-500 employees involve an average of 6.8 persons in a decision. At larger organizations, this number reaches up to 21, says a Marketing Sherpa survey.
Such a large set of stakeholders (with different needs/wants) necessitates a clearly defined content strategy to address each question/concern along the sales cycle.
77% of survey respondents confirm that content targeted to their role would be more valuable. The challenge to marketers is creating and orchestrating a full-service content strategy to suit the decision making needs of the entire audience.
How to Craft Demand Generation Campaigns
Now we’ve seen how to structure marketing messages, let’s examine the three key stages of a successful demand generation program.
Demand generation campaigns are comprehensive and require that you begin with the end in mind.
Define what success means by first aligning sales and marketing across the key metrics outlined at the start of this post. Look to accomplish three objectives before launching campaigns:
- Determine your target audience. Look at current customers and create rich buyer personas that account for where prospects spend time online, the challenges they face, and other demographic data. Once you know your target prospects, mold your strategies to them.
- Deliver valuable content. Use customer profiles to draft a demand generation strategy that delivers valuable content across the most relevant channels and devices. For example, Regalix found 83% of B2B marketers in the awareness stage think social media is the most relevant topic, closely followed by blog posts and infographics. Find your audience where they want to be found, and offer value.
- Set specific goals. Base objectives on industry benchmarks and past performances while mapping back to KPIs. Focus on the number of site visits, MQLs, SQLs, Opportunities, Sales and conversion rates by channel.
Unite sales and marketing to outline a lead scoring model. This will standardize lead quality and prioritize leads in the funnel, helping you target only those folks ready, willing able to buy.
Assign points based upon positive demographic features that align with your product or service, such as industry and company position. Score based upon behavioral metrics like site visits, repeat visits, email opens, shares, and other engagement metrics.
What makes an MQL warrants discussion with your team.But, ask yourself, what demographics are more likely to buy than others? What types of behaviors best indicate intent to purchase?
For example, time on product pages and demo downloads are prime buying signals. The amount of activity is also significant, as a lead who’s consistently read emails and blog posts is aligned with your content and perhaps ready for sales qualification.
Buyer stage and engagement velocity should also be tallied as this provides rich detail on lead readiness and willingness.
This stage is critical for increasing the ROI of your marketing efforts.
According to Hubspot, leads nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.
Demand generation helps you find and engage the right leads, as well as deliver a stream of relevant content based on buyer personas.
Lead nurturing is predictive of future sales because it develops trust in the mid to late stages of the funnel.
Monitor lead behavior to gauge how effective messaging is, and determine lead proximity to a buying decision. Open rates, site visits, shares and other engagement metrics will help guide messaging.
Use lead nurturing data to assess leads who aren’t yet ready to buy, but show interest. Use list segmentation and personalization to ensure you are not over or under selling leads throughout the sales cycle.
9 Effective Demand Generation Strategies
Provide a Free Tool
Increase the demand for your core offering by creating a free tool to complement and draw attention to it.
Address your prospect’s’ problem, then deliver a premium asset positioning your product or service as a possible solution.
A perfect example is Hubspot’s website grader since users interested in assessing site quality will likely want automation. Prospects assess site SEO, design, performance, and security for free.
Meanwhile, the company stays top-of-mind. Hubspot knows free users are more likely to try other products and eventually purchase their core product.
Takeaway: Catching flies with honey works. Help your audience see their problems. And make sure your honey’s sweeter than the competition’s.
User Generated Content
People trust the advice and buy from people they like.
If a brand tells you they’re #1, you turn away. If a customer says the brand is #1, you listen.
Leverage customer reviews, testimonials and user-generated content to generate social proof around your product or service. Turn your customers into your sales engine.
Starbucks gives a shout out to a customer, grabs a quarter million likes, and cements brand loyalty.
Frame landing pages with testimonies. Place reviews on product pages. Circulate a case study showcasing happy customers enjoying your product or service.
Takeaway: Solicit and utilize the goodwill you’ve already generated to attract future customers.
Partner webinars are a high impact demand generation strategy because they allow you to tap into the audiences of everyone you collaborate with.
Work with companies that share an overlapping audience to maximize your returns. If you partner with an industry leader, you’ll gain authority by association.
Takeaway: Partner webinars allow you add new leads to the sales pipeline by tapping into the audiences of influencers and thought leaders. Authority by association!
Retargeting is like that lost puppy that follows you around the park. Eventually, it gets a pat on the head and a treat. This same principle applies to ads that follow you around the internet.
Wordstream research confirms that conversion rates increase the more an ad is served. Facebook custom audiences and Google remarketing are great ways for demand generation marketers to increase their awareness and nurture leads.
This J.Crew sponsored post shows us how timeliness drives the FOMO (fear of missing out) response in consumers. Retargeting allows marketers to stay top of mind with their audience, increasing the number of touchpoints and chance of conversion.
Takeaway: Retargeting allows brands to stay top of mind after the first touch and nurture leads across external channels, at every stage of the buyer journey. It not only increases conversions, but also acts as insanely powerful branding tool.
90% of B2B buyers use organic search specifically to research business purchases. There’s simply no better place to raise your awareness than Google’s front page. The challenge with SEO is always making sure you’re ranking as 94.4% of organic clicks happen on the first page.
If you can’t nab a high spot at the moment, pay-per click ads get you that comparable top-of-SERP attention. Bidding on keywords can get expensive depending upon your industry.
Takeaway: Build out an SEO and content strategy targeting user intent across each stage of the customer journey. Make sure you show up when people are searching for the solutions you provide.
What’s a great way to raise awareness about a topic? Start a conversation in a crowded area. According to Forrester, 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Above, we see how social media app Buffer earns followers with low-pressure, positive posts with stunning visuals from around the world. Who doesn’t want to see that?
Staying current and relevant on social media increases the odds of being selected as a vendor, plus opens up a great channel to deliver awareness-raising content. Less a vehicle for sales, social media users are keen to learn, share, and be entertained. These functions perfectly align with introductory level demand generation efforts.
Focus on developing authority in your market. To level up, try paid ads to boost awareness, and nurture your most qualified leads.
Takeaway: High trust, low-cost platforms with huge user bases make social media a massive demand gen opportunity. Use the platform to build awareness, engage and retarget your ideal customer profile.
Email is critical to every stage of demand generation. Segmented your lists allow you to reach prospects with targeted content. This enables your brand to build strong relationships, nurture leads and move people from one stage of the funnel to the next.
64% of executives interviewed by Demand Gen said content had a significant impact on their buying decision. Use triggered emails to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Maximize content by delivering assets that address specific pain points for your prospects.
For example, this Skillshare email came “new” to the inbox after sampling a free design tutorial. Catering content to specific buyer journeys is a surefire way to spark and sustain demand in your audience.
Think: user reviews on steroids. What famous people use immediately becomes desirable.
A recent Linqia survey found 94% of marketers found influencer marketing effective, specifically in creating authentic content around their brand.
Gain exposure and increase demand for your product or service by partnering with influencers.
For best results, join with influencers who shares your attitudes, a complimentary market, and similar values.
Here we see luxury brand Gilt announcing a new collection by bringing Father’s Day goodwill together with actor Matthew Morrison. With both heart and star power, the e-commerce retailer garners fresh eyes and social proof for their new products.
Takeaway: Boost your visibility and credibility with the help of influencers— piggyback on their popularity and penetrate untapped audiences.
Back to the Future of Demand Generation
If you build it, they likely will not come. If you generate demand, and position your product/service as the best possible solution to a problem, you will keep the sales team very busy.
Create content that aligns with every stage of the buyer journey, score and nurture leads, and make sure your sales team is only talking to SQLs.
Remember: what resonates is what drives demand. Don’t be sheep. Step away from the herd and leverage interactive content types to break through the noise and create more engaging experiences with your customers across every stage of the funnel.
Finally, watch your metrics like a hawk. Which channels have the highest conversion rates? Which mediums drive the highest quality leads? Use the numbers to drive every aspect of of your demand gen funnel.
Back to the Delorean!