The current state of demand generation

Before considering the future of demand gen, marketers must confront the barriers inhibiting their current marketing programmes. 

Consider demand generation in its entirety 

Today demand generation needs to be seen as one part of a holistic programme. You need to look at the full length of the marketing funnel due to the interplay between the different channels. Perkbox, for example, used to do lots of paid social media because the customer journey was pretty linear, says marketing director James Arnall. 

But he’s witnessed that spend on Facebook has an impact on Google search volumes, which makes brand search go up. Demand gen is no longer about chasing leads down the funnel that you can hand off and forget about to the sales team.

This interplay between brands is something the team at Campaign Monitor has also seen. They are now using B2C channels – such as broadcast radio, podcast sponsorship and subway takeovers – to support its demand gen efforts. These channels are used to stimulate an aided awareness in the brand in a noisy martech space with many established players. 

Unfortunately, many marketers neglect this long-term brand building in favor of short-term direct response tactics, which can be easier to prove against targets.

Take another look at the funnel 

Most B2B marketers will be familiar with the statistic that decision-makers are now 60-70% through the buying journey by the time they engage with your sales process. 

That research was carried out more than two years ago, and according to Shane Phair of Campaign Monitor, that’s now closer to 90% for smaller customers or e-commerce processes. This change in buyer behaviour has a knock-on effect on demand generation. It’s driven the need for aided awareness to support other tactics, as highlighted above. 

The emergence of content marketing as a significant area over the past five years is another indicator of the focus on the research stage of the customer journey. A lot of content marketing remains low-quality or is designed to deliver an immediate response rather than as part of a wider nurturing strategy. 

Investing in content marketing and boosting its quality will provide a greater reason for customers to opt-in to marketing and boost trust, which should ultimately increase conversions. 

Demand generation is a game of establishing what to do to get someone to hand over their details. Although the journey has shifted, the buying triggers remain the same as they always have. Understanding the emotions of your customers, and basing your content around them, is crucial. Emotion doesn’t mean you need to come up with tear-jerking campaigns, but being aware that B2B buyers are taking personal risks, which could cost them their credibility, or even their job.

Get your incentives right 

The challenges marketers face around demand generation are exacerbated by bad incentives, says Metia’s Peter Morgan. Demand gen in B2B is rarely a mass-marketing drive, yet many top-of-funnel investments in paid media are run by agencies compensated on commission, encouraging them to spend money in bulk and quickly. 

This is most common in blended businesses, where B2C marketing dominates the strategy that B2B has to go along with. Some marketers (primarily in organisations where sales and marketing are siloed) are still incentivised on lead quantity rather than quality. While that can be changed through the introduction of a new leader or CMO, if the culture of the organisation is motivated on the volume of leads or engagements your strategy will focus on that. 

With the quantity of data and analytics available to marketers it’s a surprise these bad incentives haven’t been driven out.

But the reality is that many marketers have been slow to adopt these. The siloed behaviour often prevents access to the full array of data, or tech stacks are not configured to reveal where marketing spend is delivering ROI.

Why less email marketing might be a good thing 

The introduction of GDPR in Europe meant databases had to be purged and contact lists greatly reduced. A number of businesses have scaled back their email marketing as a result, looking to other ways, such as paid social, to nurture prospects in the funnel. 

Those who refined their distribution lists in advance of the new legislation have seen engagement (in terms of both open and click-through rates) increase significantly, according to Shane Phair, who previously led demand gen at the file transfer brand Cleo. 

The reason is simple – customers are now getting the communications they want to receive. Improved segmentation and personalisation have also played a key role in boosting engagement rates, as it gives the impression brands are talking directly to those customers.

It’s about so much more than SEO 

The search engine has been one of the major drivers of demand generation. Not only can prospective customers find information on you, they can come right to your website. Now though, the lines have blurred between traditional organic SEO and paid-for advertising – to the extent that more than half of people who click on a Google Ad link don’t know they’re clicking on a paid-for link at all. 

While traditional SEO has lost some of the importance it once had, it’s one of the few scalable channels demand gen marketers have. Yet, there is a limit to this, and while paid search is great at capturing demand, it has a limited capacity for generating it (prospects have to search for you, or one of your related-terms, to find you). It will remain a core demand gen strategy – but it’s really demand capture – and marketers will need to come up with new ways of finding that white space of prospects in the market.

Preparation points

  • Consider demand generation in the round: Understand the interplay between the various channels in the marketing mix and how they combine to achieve conversion in the customer journey. 
  • Invest in quality content: Understand the emotions at play in the customer journey and create quality content around these conversion triggers to establish a ‘mutual resonance’ between brand and audience. 
  • Challenge bad incentives: Siloed behaviour is the enemy of successful demand gen. Ensure both marketing and sales are incentivised to drive the required outcomes. 
  • Be adaptable to the changing landscape: No channel is successful forever. Email marketing and traditional SEO are less powerful than they were, so understand which channels in the marketing mix work for your audience. 

Marketing Operations and Technology

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