The ideal scenario
In a perfect world, you would have all the resources imaginable to run your demand generation programs: countless talented individuals, every bit of data possible about your prospects and customers, an unlimited budget, and a year or two to get it all coordinated, orchestrated, and in market. With inexhaustible resources, demand generation teams would have the freedom to try things, see what works and what doesn’t work, iterate, and experiment with new tactics and channels. Working in a research- and resource-rich environment like this one requires little planning or strategy; it’s all tactical, and if it’s not driving the results you need, you divert resources elsewhere.
But, that scenario is never the case. Real budgets have constraints. Personnel is limited and stretched thin — especially these days — among multiple projects. And everything has to be in market and driving leads within a week (or a month, if you’re lucky).
With that in mind, demand generation teams have to create focused strategies to make the most of the finite resources available to them.
But before we get to that, it is important to understand the fundamental elements of demand generation.
Demand generation essentials
Demand generation is any activity that drives awareness or interest in your business’s products or services. The goal of demand generation is to create a consistent pipeline to grow your business. That said, demand generation is not simply marketing, nor is it simply sales; it is a bridge between the two and focuses on getting traffic, nurturing leads, and ultimately passing qualified leads for the sales team to close. Demand generation is about connecting the right information to the right person at the right time so the prospect or customer can make an informed purchasing decision.
When considering metrics for demand generation, targets typically center around revenue, focusing on the overall business plan, and goals. Important metrics for a demand generation team include:
- Conversion rates
- MQLs and SQLs
- Cost per lead
- Cost per acquisition
- Close rate
- Customer lifetime value
- Average deal size
Key Drivers of a Successful Demand Generation Strategy
Identify your audience
Clear identification of your company’s ideal customer profile (ICP) is a foundational step in building successful demand generation strategy.
To build an ICP, document the types of organizations you are best able to serve, those which will get the most value from what you sell and those that are most likely to recognize the value your business offers.
Begin by assembling the necessary firmographic and technographic elements that identify a potential client. For better performance in your eventual demand strategy, add behavioral elements, such as purchase intent data. To activate your program, include specifics on the roles and functions required to gain acceptance.
Dig Into Firmographic Information
Firmographic data places companies in useful categories. These categories include geographic area, number of clients, type of organization, industry, and technologies used (the latter is referred to as technographics, a subset of firmographics). When looking at firmographics, focus on organizations that have a need for what you are selling and can easily adopt your product into their existing workflows and processes without disrupting their business.
In examining firmographic data, it is crucial to identify the following details about a potential customer:
- Company size
- Geographic location
- Organization status (i.e. public or private)
- Ownership (subsidiary, private equity-owned)
- Growth rate
- Recent acquisitions
- Were they bought?
- Did they buy another company?
Gather Purchase Intent Data
No matter what your business sells, having intent signals about your customers and prospects can be the galvanizing force needed to achieve more relevant, timely communications. You’ll make better investments by focusing budget and efforts on authentic, in-market buyers. Without contact-level intent data, it’s difficult for marketers to know what an active buyer (or, more likely, buying group) is researching.
Intent data provides deep intelligence about your audiences and segments that you wouldn’t otherwise know. Intent monitoring may be focused on specific personas to identify buying group members, watch their behaviors, and target them strategically.
Good intent data should include:
- What buyers review, attend, download
- How their behavior relates to pain points or other interests
- How far along they are in their journey
- How intense their interest is
- Whether others at same account or location are researching similar topics
- Who comprises the buying group
Delineating Buying Groups
A successful demand generation plan must consider buying groups. While this additional layer of contacts does create more complexity, mastering the art of engaging at the buying group level can significantly improve an organization’s chances of winning accounts.
A persona’s purchasing behavior and preferences can vary depending on buyer needs, job role, and buyer role. Behaviors are most directly observed in how the persona participates in the buyer journey stages.
A persona may hold one or more of these buyer roles
- Decision maker
Once they recognize a problem or need, buyers within these groups typically go through three phases on their purchasing journeys: care, consider, and choose.
- Care phase: buyers try to understand why they should loosen the status quo and commit to making a change.
- Consider phase: buyers evaluate options and determine which solution best addresses their needs.
- Choose phase: buyers justify the investment and then determine which provider will get their business.
A helpful step in identifying a buying group at a particular account is the development of an audience framework. A framework can organize target market segments and sub-levels like region, industry, organization type, buying centers, and personas engaged in the buying process.
Without this documented framework, demand generation efforts can become misaligned on the target audience and fail to reach the right individuals. Even more damaging, traditional marketing and sales departments may choose to target only the primary persona — someone who’s already familiar with the problem or your solution, or someone who holds a role that is not the correct audience for the content you are sharing.
When designing a demand generation program, successful B2B marketers use the buying group journey map to guide the right combination of marketing interactions and tactics. It also helps with the sequence and timing of tactics.
Operating from the buyer persona’s perspective, a journey map lays out interactions, content choices, and engagement at each stage of the purchase decision. Marketers are then able to use this information to create programs that get buying group members to engage at appropriate points.
Allocate your budget
Back to the resource constraints: we know maximizing available dollars for the greatest ROI is critical to the success of any demand generation program. With your audience — and accounts — identified and categorized, you can begin to calculate where your dollars are best spent.
According to the Wharton School of Business, several factors should influence how much you invest per account. These factors include:
- Annual customer value
- Lifetime customer value
- Total cost of customer acquisition
- Cost per deal won
After you determine the numbers for each, you can determine:
- If your demand generation budget matches your sourced-attribution goals, and
- What accounts should you make a high priority.
According to www.entrepreneur.com, budgeting for 1:few and 1:1 campaigns isn’t as straightforward as budgeting for traditional marketing (and channels). Since ABM is based on more personalized targeting, the spend is dependent on account value rather than a fixed budget. Thus, the more an account is worth, the more money allocated. Often the value of an account isn’t apparent during initial campaign planning, so the budget should be planned to be flexible over time.
Map content to the buyer’s journey
When wooing accounts to your solution or product, content is king, but context is the kingdom.
The ways in which prospects evaluate and buy solutions are often dramatically different from how demand generation teams organize to drive revenue. The result can yield significant gaps between the execution of demand generation plans and prospects’ needs. Nowhere is this more true than in content marketing strategy. Understanding the buyer’s journey is a necessary piece of identifying each personas’ needs at each stage and creating the right content to be delivered at the right time.
Studying which roles and functions have typically engaged with you provides a start. Your sales colleagues can provide insight about exactly who has been involved in both fast-moving deals on the one hand and troublesome ones on the other. Input from the product marketing and customer success teams is likely to enrich your view further. Simply put, you’re looking to identify the critical players in a buying committee at the different journey stages.
What buying tasks or selection criteria must be completed before the journey can move forward? Map your content in terms of what questions each prospect may want answered based on their persona and their actual behavior prior to purchase. Think hard about the subject lines, headlines and abstracts that are likely to resonate with them based on their information needs.
A company or brand’s content strategy can be a complicated beast.. You always have to have an eye on how your company looks and feels in public (every mature organization will have some version of the “brand police” to keep efforts in line). But no matter how good something looks, if it doesn’t perform on some critical measure, it isn’t doing its job. To improve your content strategy going forward, take inventory of what has moved the needle in the past and establish baselines to set clear priorities as your marketing programs progress.
Another tenet of a good content strategy? Relating content form to journey step. Essentially, content in the care stage (see above in the buying group section) should not require a large investment of time, nor should you ask for a prospect’s personal information to grant them access to your content. In other words, content at this stage should include publicly available blogs, short videos, case studies, and web pages. During the care stage, your business’ content needs to demonstrate value and show that your company understands the problems faced by your prospects — and the market in general.
When you establish yourself as a thought leader, show your expertise, and demonstrate empathy in the care stage, your content journey should then move prospects into the consider stage. Here, content assets like eBooks, webinars, and podcasts that require a greater investment of your prospects’ time can further enrich their journey, continue to showcase your company’s expertise at a deeper level, and start exploring solutions. Gating content by asking for personal information is acceptable here.
In the choose phase, whitepapers, demos, consultations, and trials are appropriate. By the nature of the offer at hand, gathering the prospect’s personal information is appropriate and should be required for them to progress to this stage. By the time you reach this part of the journey, you have demonstrated enough value that prospects will have no problem investing their time and telling you about themselves and their organization.
Develop in-market tactics
Everything discussed up to this point has focused on planning, collecting data, and creating content as part of building out your demand generation strategy. Next up is putting those precursors into action. The question then becomes, “How?”
As we all know, there are a multitude of channels to choose from when it comes to getting in market. Ask: which channels are the most important to invest in based on your offering, your target audience and how they consume information? Top areas for consideration are:
- Display and retargeting
- Social channels
- Engaging/interactive website content
- Third-party promotions
- Email marketing (despite the rumors, email isn’t dead)
- Virtual meeting platforms
Audit and iterate
The first time around — and sometimes the 10th time — your demand generation program isn’t going to be perfect, and you may not meet your goals. But that’s not the end of the world. By auditing your strategy and iterating on your initial efforts, you can drive improvement and push closer to revenue-attribution goals.
When it comes to reviewing an existing demand generation strategy, one of the first steps is to validate your ICP. Review the data in your customer relationship management solution to ensure the accounts you are targeting are still in the addressable market for what you are selling. By the same token, you’ll need to know if new companies have entered your ICP so you can segment them into a priority tier and begin targeting them.
Next, it’s a good idea to ensure you have clean data. If you don’t have correct information (name, title, phone number, email, mailing address, etc.) in your databases, then you are missing connections and possibly losing revenue.
Then, look at performance fundamentals: how did your demand generation campaign perform against your set KPIs? Did you drive the requisite marketing or sales qualified leads? What was the sourced revenue from the demand generation activities? What was the cost per deal closed?
Finally, it is time to look at the tactical performance of your activities. The questions asked in this part of your audit center on the strategies themselves. How did my content syndication perform? What were the conversion rates of my emails? How much traffic did I drive to my website? How many leads did I generate from my webinar?
When faced with resource constraints, being thoughtful and judicious with budgets and personnel is critical to demand-generation success. By following the steps outlined in this eBook, successful teams can create repeatable processes that help speed time to market for campaigns and allow for quick pivots when execution isn’t meeting goals.
To turn these strategies into actions, visit our Demand Optimization Checklist. It lays all of this information out into an easy-to-consume checklist that you can use as a guide when you build (or iterate on) your strategy.