Demand generation is a data-driven marketing program leveraging the inbound methodology to drive awareness and interest throughout the entire buyer and customer lifecycle. Demand generation is focused on revenue creation and is most successful when executed through an integrated tech stack.
A true demand generation strategy accounts for every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey — all the way from anonymous visitor to delighted customer and throughout the customer’s lifetime. It leverages data to align your marketing and sales teams, track marketing's contribution to revenue and, most importantly, drive growth for your organization.
Demand Generation Fundamentals
Since demand generation programs encompass every single touchpoint (from building awareness through customer retention), they can be broken down into four manageable parts: brand awareness, inbound marketing, sales enablement, and customer retention.
In order to generate demand, people have to know who you are. The first step is to develop brand awareness, the extent to which contacts and customers are able to recollect and recognize your brand.
Brand Awareness Methods
- Building brand identity: Your brand is effectively the sum total of all your customer touchpoints, and as such, it helps your business differentiate itself from competitors. Building your brand identity in order to drive affinity and recognition across your audience is vital to facilitate the recollection of your company and offering.
- Properly identifying buyer personas: In order to facilitate recall, you need to first know who the people are you’re trying to reach. Without properly identifying and outlining your buyer personas, you won’t be able to reach your potential customers where they are, making this stage of the process vital to your success.
- Establishing thought leadership: Maintaining thought leadership will help to position you as an authority in your space. When people think about your industry or the problem you solve, they are more apt to think of you if you’ve established thought leadership.
- Leveraging a strong social media presence: In the same vein as thought leadership, maintaining a strong social media presence is integral to brand recall. Leveraging social media is one of the easiest ways to communicate your brand. Individuals begin to associate what you post about with your brand. It also allows you to showcase your company culture and ideals in a succinct and authentic way.
- Maintaining public relations management: Maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship between the public and your organization is vital to developing good brand awareness.
- Creating a go-to-market strategy: Your go-to-market strategy can be thought of as a hypothesis, with demand generation being the first experiment. Ultimately, you don’t know exactly what your market will demand from your offering or how quickly people will adopt your brand, but you can use your initial understanding and research on potential customers to get started. From there, you can use your demand generation efforts to inform your brand and product strategy moving forward — better aligning your brand and offering with buyer needs and positioning them for enhanced recall in the future.
Many believe the misconception that demand generation and inbound marketing are one in the same. But they're not. Demand generation is a function; you want to generate demand for your product or service. Meanwhile, inbound marketing is the method by which you can carry out that function. If you believe in educating your customer base and guiding them through the funnel with valuable content and offers, inbound marketing can help you do that.
Inbound marketing tactics work not only to convert visitors into leads and nurture leads into customers but also to generate demand for your product or service. After all, inbound is all about enabling consumers to identify and solve for their challenges with the help of your organization.
The list below details the essential inbound marketing elements needed to properly execute a comprehensive demand generation strategy.
Inbound Marketing Methods
- Blogging and SEO: In order to educate your visitors and begin to guide them down your funnel, you must be able to attract them to your website. Writing blogs about the topics your contacts care about and optimizing that content for search is a great way to organically draw visitors to your site.
- Paid advertising: Paid advertising can include targeted ad campaigns on both paid search and paid social channels. While it is often associated with inbound marketing, paid advertising can be executed with an inbound approach. Like blogging and SEO, it attracts visitors to your site by focusing on the keywords you know your buyers will be searching for.
- Gated content: Gated content consists of e-books, guides, white papers, videos or any other content that is worth downloading because it provides high value to your visitors and leads. These materials are vital because they allow you to continue educating contacts through the buying process. Additionally, when visitors fill out forms to access gated content, your company gets access to their information and they become leads.
- Lead generation: You’re not going to be able to sell to anyone without first generating leads. Ultimately, your sales team needs someone to follow up with. A lead is an individual that has voluntarily given you their information, providing candidates for you to nurture into marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). Besides filling out forms on gated content offers, you can also capture contacts’ information through chatbots, giving you another lead generation channel.
- Chatbots and conversational marketing: Chatbots are another channel to engage with prospects and customers who are visiting your website. From lead generation to qualification, and customer support, chatbots both automated and live provide website visitors with the ability to answer their questions in real time with minimal effort.
- Email marketing and lead nurturing: You’re not going to get a contact to go from converting into a lead to becoming a customer without educating them further, especially if your company has a complex sales process or a long sales cycle. By sending your contacts emails with valuable content and other resources, you can nurture them through the funnel. At each stage, you can present the next logical step, helping them progress along their journey.
- Website conversion rate optimization: With the proper optimization, your website is a powerful way to help your organization capture qualified leads for your product or service. Through Call-To-Action (CTA) strategy and organization, strategic conversion points, clear labels, and visitor-centric navigation you can not only offer value to visitors but nurture prospects as well.
Marketing and sales alignment is critical to the success of your entire business. Fortunately, sales enablement initiatives driven by a comprehensive demand generation strategy can promote unification across marketing and sales and, in turn, close more business.
The list below features foundational sales enablement methods, tactics and examples that can be executed by your marketing team to close the gap between marketing and sales.
Sales Enablement Methods
- Testimonials: A testimonial is like a trust mark. In a testimonial, someone considered to be a peer to your buyers endorses your company, suggesting to your potential customers that they should be confident in your skills and offering.
- Case studies: Case studies are similar to testimonials, but they provide proof to buyers of the work you’ve done. They also help buyers build trust while offering tangible results for buyers to consider.
- Battle cards: While testimonials and case studies are customer-facing, battle cards are internal tools. Fact sheets provide information about your product or service, covering elements that could arise during sales calls. These often include comparisons between your product and those of your competitors, allowing sales reps to have peace of mind when discussing your competitive landscape.
- Estimate and discount calculators: At the end of the day, conversations with potential customers come down to the amount of value that they can gain from a partnership with you. With that in mind, it’s wise to help your sales team, and the end customer for that matter, visualize an outline of how much value contacts are going to receive by agreeing to a deal. Estimate and discount calculators help with that.
While acquiring new business is important, retaining, delighting and evangelizing your existing customers is critical for achieving sustained growth with your demand generation strategy.
You always want to go above and beyond for your customers, providing them with the ultimate impression of your company and your delivery. By under-promising and over-delivering, you can delight customers at every step of their journey. Of course, providing excellent customer service in this way is just one important method to fuel customer retention.
Customer Retention Methods
- Execute client marketing initiatives: You should always ensure your clients are aware of any new products or services that are available that could improve their experience. HubSpot is a great example of this. When they recently rolled out their Service Hub software, a tool focused on strengthening customer experience, they sent information out to their existing Marketing Hub and Sales Hub customers, telling them about their new product. Often, companies provide discounts to their existing customers to prompt such purchases.
- Use a knowledge base: By leveraging a knowledge base, a technology used to store information about your product (e.g. “how to” and “help” articles), you can help people get more value. It allows you to communicate how customers should effectively use your offering and outlines best practices for different scenarios.
- Employ a ticketing system: Whenever you are working with another company, consumer questions and problems will inevitably arise. A ticket system, a software that compiles all your customer support requests from various channels and helps you manage them, provides a simple means for clients to submit issues, or tickets, to you. From there, you can categorize, catalog and address the issues as quickly as possible, increasing customer satisfaction because people know their voices are heard.
- Appreciate your customers: Customer appreciation can include exclusive offers and services along with the events you host for your customers. These small tokens of appreciation can go a long way toward retaining customers and making them feel acknowledged.
- Generate up-sells and renewals: If you deliver your offering well, you should generate up-sells and renewals, but that doesn’t mean you can just bank on expansion happening. You should have a team devoted to helping customers understand when their renewals are coming up and what products or services are best suited for them. You’ll be able to generate more opportunities that way as people are more likely to take the next step after they’re prompted.
- Encourage feedback and make iterations: Demand generation should be a cycle. You market, sell and deliver your offering to individuals and then you interpret how they move through their buyer and customer journeys. Ultimately, you want to determine how you can improve your product and process. If you are thorough and track how people are experiencing your product at every step of the journey, then you can go back to the beginning and make the experience better for the next person.
- Leverage Net Promoter Score (NPS): Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures how likely someone is to recommend your company to others on a 1–10 scale. Using this customer satisfaction metric, you can easily identify how loyal your customers are and divide them into three categories: promoters (9+), passives (7–8), and detractors (0–6). Since it’s a standard tool that’s used across industries, you can compare how you’re doing against your competition or over the entire market. Another benefit is that by identifying customers who are promoters of your brand, you can pinpoint individuals who are good candidates to contribute testimonials and case studies.
Demand Generation and Revenue Performance
Whether through the process of net new lead generation or customer expansion, your demand generation strategy is only as effective as the revenue it generates, and the efficiency with which it delivers pipeline. This principle has led to the rapid expansion of revenue operations as a discipline.
Revenue Operations (RevOps) should be accounted for in your demand generation program, either through an in-house RevOps team, a partner, or a combination of in-house and partner services. At its core, RevOps is the process of aligning technologies, stakeholders, and business processes to fuel revenue growth and expansion.
An effective approach will be multidisciplinary and combine technical and strategic functions, including the following:
- Implementation and platform setup based on your unique business practices, including form strategy, lifecycle stage definition, and lead scoring.
- Technical integration to drive a frictionless experience between systems with clean and unified data throughout.
- Process and playbook design as well as effective training to align stakeholders behind a process and ensure no revenue opportunities are lost or stalled
- Reporting and analysis to pinpoint funnel and pipeline gaps. At a minimum, this reporting should represent every lifecycle stage a prospect passes through with your company from the first touch to becoming a customer, with clear visibility into your conversion rates at every stage: visitors to leads, leads to opportunities, and opportunities to customers. Measuring your funnel stages and conversion rates will take place in your CRM and rely heavily on your marketing automation tool as well as your sales team’s manual data entry.
5 Tenets of a Successful Demand Generation Program
1. Give value before asking for value
You can’t reasonably expect your target audience to take a desired action without making it worth their while. In today’s world, demand generation needs to work harder than simply generating leads to support sales. Through a customer-centric approach, businesses must provide the right information to the right people at the right time in order to help them achieve their desired goals.
Placing the customer at the center of your demand generation efforts should be your top priority, while getting them to consider your brand as the perfect fit for your needs as a follow-up objective. Before you ask prospective leads for something, make sure you’re first giving them something valuable that they need.
2. Know your audience
You could provide the best software or services that surpass anything else on the market, but if it’s not being marketed to the right audience, you’ll ultimately be disappointed with the leads you generate. Developing effective marketing collateral starts with understanding who your audience is and what drives them to take action. Understanding their pain points and defining how your business solves for them is a critical first step towards identifying your target audience.
In order to find out who your target audience is — and isn’t — create buyer personas or customer avatars to help you better understand the real people you’re trying to reach. With a strong sense of your buyer personas’ challenges, day-to-day responsibilities, and aspirations, you can more effectively cater content to their particular needs.
3. Create original content
These days, every business is engaging in some form of content marketing. And unless you’re promoting a first-of-its-kind product, odds are you’ll be competing with others to earn your target audience’s attention. Looking to the established players in your space is helpful in knowing the type of content your audience wants, but closely mimicking that same content doesn’t do anything to differentiate your business in the eyes of the consumer.
The benefits of publishing original, unique content is two-fold. First, it works to set your brand apart from competitors. Find a particular niche or value prop about your company that no one else can offer, and let it shine through in your content. Second, original content can bolster your SEO efforts. Google will push you down the search results if your content closely mirrors existing content or is stuffed to the brim with keywords, so make sure the content you create is uniquely your own.
4. Listen to your data
Don’t let gut feelings and hunches guide your important decisions. The most effective demand generation strategies are data-driven ones, so look to your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to maximize the effectiveness of your funnel. Metrics such as closing percentage, funnel conversion rate, cost-per-acquisition, and lifetime customer value can all shed light on where improvements to your demand generation efforts are needed. With the right data at your fingertips, you can take the guesswork out of demand generation and improve the quality of leads while maximizing ROI in the long run.
5. Test, Test, Test
Speaking of removing the guesswork from demand generation, testing multiple variants can help you optimize content marketing performance and continually improve content quality going forward. A/B testing is a tried-and-true method for testing different versions of content against one another and seeing which one outperforms the other. In turn, you gain a better understanding of the type of content that strongly resonates with your target audience.
Whether it’s nailing down the specific wording of a call-to-action, striking the right brand voice, or figuring out the perfect color palette, A/B testing helps you identify what works and what doesn’t. As you continually test over time, you’ll know how to increase user engagement, boost conversion rates, and generate more qualified leads.
Take Demand Generation to the Next Level
A demand generation program is an essential step toward optimizing your marketing funnel and increasing your lead generation efforts. For a comprehensive look into what it takes to be a demand generation marketer and the tactics, you can start deploying within your organization, download our Essential Guide to Demand Generation.
This post was originally published June 7, 2018 and has been updated for relevance and accuracy.
Tag(s): Demand Generation
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.