Traditionally lead generation was about getting a list of contacts together and going through them one by one until you got a bite. It was a very tedious process which was rarely that effective and wasn’t generally liked by either those doing it, or those on the receiving end of the cold calls.
But times have changed.
Thanks to the internet there are now loads of efficient tactics and tools available for businesses to use to generate leads and land the customers they really want.
From demand generation to lead generation, inbound marketing, content marketing and social selling, there are all sorts of strategies out there. The trick to using any of them is to understand how they work and how best to apply them in practice.
Overall, the goal of each tactic will be the same - to keep the tills ringing and paying customers raving about your products - but there are some important distinctions that can be made between them. Especially if you compare demand generation and lead generation.
So, what’s demand generation all about and how can you ensure you’re using it to its full potential?
What is demand generation?
The clue is in the title - demand generation simply means generating demand for your products and services.
However, it doesn’t just refer to online lead generation tactics, such as conversion offers and offering a download on your website in exchange for a lead’s contact details. It’s about having a mindset that places customers at the center of the whole sales and marketing process. The aim being to create awareness by showing leads that you have the answer to their problems.
In short, a demand generation plan is the best strategy you can use to reach exactly those people who need and want what you have to offer.
For demand generation to work, sales and marketing teams need to be fully aligned. They need to be working together to create campaigns and strategies that will attract, nurture and convert leads.
Sounds great, hey? But it doesn’t work so well in all situations.
If you’re a start up, you may be solving a problem that people aren’t even aware they have yet. This quote from Henry Ford sums it up neatly: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
In this case, demand generation isn’t going to be as effective. Instead, you should be focusing on driving awareness, which will be a whole different ball game calling for different messaging and tactics.
You’ll be looking at influencer marketing, event marketing and a thorough PR outreach program, whereas a typical demand generation plan will address people who are already aware that a problem exists.
How to do demand generation well
So, now we know what it is and what it’s best used for, let’s look at how to do it effectively.
1. Align your teams
If you haven’t already done so, then this should be your first step.
For demand generation to work really well, all your customer facing teams need to be working together to serve the customer and provide a 360-degree’ customer experience.
For example, your customer services team will hear about all kinds of issues people have once they become customers. These insights need to be fed back to the product development team and also to sales and marketing. Armed with this kind of information, teams will be able to produce even better content that potentially helps minimize or eliminate such issues before they arise.
An FAQ page is a great example. The type of content you produce here should be based on the questions and issues that arise out of real sales conversations and customer service incidents.
If you provide comprehensive information here, before a sale is even made, then your hit rate in terms of good fit customers will rocket. That is simply because more people will find out beforehand whether your product or service work for them and their individual needs.
Sales and marketing team alignment is unfortunately still pretty rare. However, the rewards that can potentially be reaped are huge. Ultimately, it could help you take your business up a gear in every way.
For more advice, check out our blog: “Smarketing How to align your marketing and sales teams” where we cover the issue in greater detail and suggest ways to go about making it happen.
2. Change your mindset - focus on the customer
Is your organization focused on what you do and who you are, instead of how you can solve your customers’ problems?
Having a brochure-style website with prominent sections on awards the company has won and other industry news is often a dead giveaway here.
Consumers, prospects and buyers are a lot more informed nowadays than they ever were in the past. They no longer want (or need) to listen to sales reps talking about their company and how great it is.
Buyers are used to researching things for themselves. They will find any information they can online and make decisions, long before they ever contact any vendors.
When they eventually contact a potential supplier, they are just after one thing - to confirm if you can help solve their problem. Later on in the decision making process, when they’re just about to choose who to go with, they will become interested in you as a company and your history. But until then, they simply won’t care. They will only want to know about solutions to their problem.
Stepping into the shoes of your potential customers could lead to some great insights. And it will definitely lead to very different marketing strategies, messages and content.
Demand generation is about creating a lead generation strategy that focuses on solving problems and your website must also reflect that. It needs to be modern, responsive and solely concentrated on the browsing visitor. Aim to take them by the hand and to guide them along, introducing them step-by-step to the answers they are looking for.
We talk more about this topic in our blog: getting your customer-centric approach right.
3. Understand the data
Demand generation needs to be a data driven process. Every decision you make should be based on the story your data is telling you.
When you first start out you’ll need to make some informed guesses. Then as data begins coming through over the course of running your campaigns, start using it to evaluate the performance and validity of those assumptions.
Test, analyze, revise and test again. Make it a continuous circle as it’s something you simply cannot afford to let slide when you’re working in modern marketing and sales departments.
It’s also crucial that you’re not only able to rely on your data but can also interpret it correctly. There will be lots of room for interpretation and the stories the data tells you and how you present it can all have an impact.
Plus, don’t forget about your targets. Relying on data is one thing, figuring out the KPIs that you need to track and monitor is another.
Top tips from businesses who use demand generation
In this comprehensive guide to demand generation, Referral Saasquatch interviews several businesses about their experiences. Here are some of their top tips we’ve pulled from what they had to say:
- Use segmentation: the narrower and more defined your segments are, the easier it will be to reach them
- Think about qualification: know who your ideal customer is and what a good fit will be, then ensure you have a process for qualifying them
- Use the right tactics: be sure you know why you are applying certain tactics to your strategy. Simply attending a conference may cost a lot but not bring you much in return. Have clear goals in mind and understand where each kind of strategy will work best
- Set goals: know what you are aiming for
- Use varied content: words alone are no longer enough, visuals, audio and interactive content are needed to get your message out
- Get personal: people do business with people and that is certainly true in B2B, so show your personal side
- Have evergreen content: stop thinking about time sensitive campaigns alone, build evergreen content that is usable all the time
All sales and marketing tactics may have the same end goal, but as we’ve discussed here, there are also some important differences between them.
In the end, whatever tactics you choose to implement - and whether you go down the demand generation route - it will only work if you have a plan, are thorough and go for it 100%. That’s how you’ll ensure you reach the right people, who have a need, want what you have to offer and will be willing to pay for it.