In a competitive global economy, companies need to constantly ensure they are identifying, engaging, and converting high-quality leads. Demand generation programs are the mix of sales and marketing initiatives that engage prospects to generate interest in your product or service, nurture high-value prospects along the buyers’ journey, and retain them. They are a vital means through which B2B companies build awareness and acquire new customers. In this article, we will discuss the challenges businesses face when trying to build effective demand generation programs, as well as strategies for overcoming those challenges.
1. Not being able to identify the buying committee: In many companies, buying decisions are not made by a single person, but rather a committee of decision makers who must sign off on a major B2B product purchase. B2B marketers and sales teams need to be able to identify and target the entire buying committee.
2. Not personalizing content: It’s a huge mistake to serve the same basic content to the CMO on the buying committee as you do to the IT manager. In fact, Not speaking appropriately to a given stakeholder could cause the company as a whole to disengage and cost you the sale.
3. Not offering the right content at the right time: The timing of content is just as important as the copy. The B2B sales cycle can be a long process, and at each stage of the journey, buyers require certain content to help advance their decision-making. Businesses must be able to distinguish between buyers who are in the initial research phase (and need content that tells them who your company is) and those in the later stages of selecting a product (when they need content that is more granular regarding product features).
4. Not knowing when to hand off leads to sales: Timing is an important part of any sales process. Marketing and sales need to work together to ensure that leads are handed off at the right time.
5. Underestimating the importance of lead prioritization: There are only so many hours in the day. Sales teams need to focus their efforts on the deals that are the most likely to close and provide the most value to the company.
To overcome these challenges, companies must take a holistic approach to demand generation. Let’s take a look at all of the components that must be considered.
Find and target leads that are the most likely to convert with a solid demand generation program.
A holistic approach to demand generation should be approached with the goal of creating integrated, omni-channel experiences for the prospective customer. Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind.
1. Gather and analyze web insights: Knowledge is power. Analytics surrounding website traffic volume, bounce rate, visits, visit flow and unique visitors can help you identify prospect preferences, interests and pain points, content preferences, and even urgency. For example, if visitors are exiting on a page without taking a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter or promotion, you might need to switch up your CTAs. If you are getting a lot of traffic through a specific search term, perhaps writing a gated content piece around that concept will help visitors convert.
2. Invest in inbound marketing: Inbound marketing generally uses attractive content pieces, such as blogs, whitepapers, and webinars, to encourage potential customers to actively opt into your communications. These hand-raising prospects are often low-hanging fruit for marketing and sales teams, so marketers should be sure to invest in a solid inbound strategy.
3. Content marketing: Content should be meaningful to your target audience. However, just as important as what’s in your content is timing. Compelling content, deployed to the right members of the buying group at the appropriate time, is what’s going to be most effective. Content should be designed to introduce potential buyers to your services in the research phase and nurture them along the buyers’ journey with content that will deepen their understanding while touting your value proposition.
4. Be proactive with social acquisition: Posting to your company’s social channels is great, but to really create demand for your product, you need to focus on customer needs and social venues where those customers are naturally spending their time. Joining online discussion groups and starting conversations where they make sense are ways to engage with prospects who are genuinely interested in your services.
5. Make sure sales and marketing are on the same page: When it comes to demand generation, sales and marketing need to be aligned around the definition of a qualified lead. A recent Forrester report found that 72% of firms said their greatest sales and marketing challenge was managing data and sharing insights across organizational silos.1 There is no universal standard defining what a qualified lead looks like, which leaves it up to individual companies to decide. Sales and marketing should work together to define what a “qualified lead” looks like in their organization. Some potential criteria could include: readiness to buy, reaching a certain level of engagement, awareness of need, and sense of urgency. No matter what decision you come to, communication between these two departments is key.
6. Don’t skip lead scoring: Lead scoring is a way of ranking prospects in terms of how valuable they might be to the organization. This process is critical in determining when a lead is ready to go to sales. A MarketingSherpa survey found that companies using lead scoring processes increased their lead gen program ROI by 77%.2
Demand generation can be daunting, but there are many tools that marketers and sales teams can use to attract and convert leads. By aligning internally, being proactive with inbound lead strategies, investing in smart content marketing, and leveraging important analytics, companies can see a huge leap in their qualified prospects.
Mike Pruett is a sales veteran, with more than 20 years of experience under his belt. Mike helps Data Axle clients drive meaningful relationships and bottom-line results using a combination of award-winning B2B Data, Intent, and vast industry knowledge. Demand generation and digital marketing are his specialties. In his spare time, you can find him camping or fly fishing Oregon's many rivers.