How to Crush Demand Generation
Finding true cohesion between your most tense departments
It’s a tale as old as time — not Beauty and the Beast, but sales and marketing. These two functions of a company often have tension between them even though to succeed, they need one another. This mashup collides in demand generation and only sales and marketing teams who can find a cohesive bond will win.
Part of the tension with sales and marketing stems from ownership and differing viewpoints of who owns what part of the funnel, why they own it, and how they should move prospects through it. If we look at lead generation, where the goal is to compile a list of leads who have no exposure to your product and you’re not sure if they need or want such a product or service, the role of generating leads can differ from company to company.
A company that has a strong cold-call strategy will likely rely on the sales team to own lead generation while the marketing team continues to use that list to send mass emails. If a company has a strong inbound marketing strategy, then they’ll rely on marketing to generate leads and grow the email list and continue to move leads down the funnel until they become qualified enough for a member of the sales team to take over.
The hand-off in the sales process is a critical point and one that can be debated over how to pass someone to sales and when. Companies and departments can spend so much time thinking about their internal processes and how they’re going to tackle lead or demand generation, that they forget about the actual customer.
When we only think about our efforts and internal function, and not how we can help a customer get what they need faster, we fail.
The difference between lead and demand generation comes down to trust and awareness — not just brand awareness but also a customer needs to be aware that they have a problem and want to find a product or service that will be the right solution for them. Demand generation requires that marketing and sales come together before any strategy or generating begins to get the best possible idea of who their ideal customer is and why. Which takes us to step one in crushing the demand generation game:
1. Know your ideal buyer. Demand generation assumes that there is a demand for your service. There are people or companies out there who have a specific problem and you have their solution. They’re searching for you, and you need to identify them and their behaviors. This is the first step before the action happens — so sales and marketing should come together at this moment. If both teams can collaborate on the demographics and behaviors, the company has the best chance of creating the best target comprised of different viewpoints.
2. Know your competitors. Because a service or product is in demand, you need to know who you are competing with and where you outperform them to differentiate yourself in the market. What keywords do they rank? What blog topics are heavily read and engaged? What are their top and most shareable social posts and how do you compare? Sales and marketing should still bring ideas and collaborate on this portion together. Reps might know who their perceived competitors are out in the field and the market. Marketing can look at those competitors to analyze how their owned properties are performing and how your company compares. If you are working in silos at this point, sales may be looking at a completely different batch of competitors than marketing.
3. Set up a scoring system. Every action and touchpoint a prospective customer has with your content, lead magnet, email, download, social, should be ranked against your ideal buyer persona so that you can see the customer journey and how many touches it takes to move them through the funnel and to eventually close them. Similar to the competitor and persona research, this step is best utilized in collaboration with marketing and sales. Often when things go wrong during the sales process, it’s common for a rep to say they aren’t getting qualified leads or marketing to say that sales just went off message. It could be the case that in lead generation you might not be attracting your target persona. With demand gen, you can score every action a prospect takes and nurture them until they become a hot lead.
4. Give a quality teaser. This type of teasing needs to still be of value but leaves the customer wanting more. You want to build trust and show what you can offer and leave the customer coming back and engaging. Maybe you create a tool or checklist that helps them understand what they could or should be doing. Once they see value in this, they will trust your brand more and be intrigued to see how the full product offering your company has can help them achieve their bottom line. While marketing will create and promote the piece, sales will need to understand the value add so they can use that as a segue or connect it back during the actual sale.
5. Create valuable content. Good content resonates with the right audience on the right platform and encourages them to take action. In demand generation, good content moves a prospect quickly from interested to nurtured to opportunity to closed. SEO should be your best friend. Because customers are looking for a solution, you will want to write and build rank for keywords that attract your ideal customer. While marketing will own the content calendar and strategy, sales can contribute to brainstorming and sharing ideas. If sales had multiple calls in one week where they heard an underlying pain point, marketing can use that intel and turn into a campaign, blog post, email, or webinar.
6. Measure every step. To work together with the lead scoring and customer journey, measuring each blog post, social post, email, or web page traffic will help you understand and optimize each accordingly. If an opportunity gets lost, it’s important to measure why you didn’t close and give that feedback. When sales and marketing can share knowledge on gaps and lessons learned, then the company can tweak strategy and content. This measurement does not include placing blame on where the lead was lost and pointing fingers. Rather, it is a holistic view of gaps and working together to fix for the future. If sales and marketing run separate strategies and start to place blame on one another, the company will suffer.
If the sales team doesn’t understand key messaging, market analysis, what competitors are doing, and how the company is perceived in the market, they cannot close as quickly or answer questions from potential buyers. They also might be spinning wheels in trying to find qualified leads and the sales cycle becomes longer.
If marketing doesn’t learn from sales what common pain points they hear from customers or feedback on how messaging is received, they will not get a full picture of how their content and campaigns are resonating. Metrics are important, and those on the front lines of a company should include their metrics and learning into the mix. Continuing surveying and analyzing your progress and customer journey will allow you to target more accurately and quickly.
So which companies can find the most potential from demand generation? Startups, particularly in technology, who are selling to other businesses are good candidates. These companies often are selling a customized solution that is more complex to understand and learn. They also tend to target an enterprise-level buyer with many needs and decision-makers. Because the sales cycle tends to be longer here, the need for building trust and awareness about your brand and product is critical.
The goal of demand generation is to match your product or service with someone who needs it. The sale will add revenue to the company and the market will find your brand well-positioned as a trusted company. If you find yourself thinking of your marketing or sales counterpart as more of a beast than beauty, try to see the potential of the magic that happens when the two finally realize the benefits of coming together. Turn your household accessories back into humans, or rather, turn your leads into customers.