The near future of demand generation

Demand generation will need to become more strategic in the next two to five years as buyers demand a more personalised customer journey.

Demand generation will be perceived as more strategic 

A few years ago, the title ‘head of demand generation’ may have seemed unusual. Now it’s a common role among even mid-size businesses trying to manage their marketing activity. Demand generation has traditionally been perceived as a tactical activity. As such it doesn’t have a high profile, and is often considered low skilled and is even outsourced to low cost locations when done at scale. In the future, firms will have to think of it more strategically. 

That’ll mean placing more importance on it, and investing more in it. Demand gen has traditionally been seen as a low-value, tactical pursuit, but a high volume blitz won’t be viable in the future. As multinationals merge and consolidate at the top of the market, the number of vital decision-makers to reach is getting smaller, and the majority of organisations are employing third-party resource, internal sales or business development teams after this diminishing set of targets. 

The demand generation marketers of two to five years’ time will need to be much smarter in their approach. This will require organisations to change their mindset away from the game of chasing high-volume numbers. Individuals will need to be upskilled to provide the level of account insight necessary for these smaller audiences. 

There will also have to be investment in new technology to determine whether the strategy is effective. Insight-driven demand gen is not a short-term strategy with instant results. You can’t expect to put in 200 calls over two weeks and guarantee 10 meeting opportunities for the pipeline. 

Senior management will have to be educated about this. Looking further ahead, an increase in strategic importance will see organisations bring low-cost offshore demand gen resource back home, creating highly-skilled onshore teams, that’ll probably be part of a demand center. 

They will work to produce and act on insights developed both by humans and through technology such as predictive analytics.

Insights will be the foundation of strategy 

We are already witnessing the rising importance of personalisation in reaching prospects, and the need for this will grow stronger over the next five years. 

This personalisation will be based on audience insights, meaning marketers will need deep, account-level understanding to establish what pushes buyers through the funnel quicker. 

Martech will play a role in delivering some of this additional insight. Technology, such as predictive marketing and intent data platforms, will become more sophisticated in tracking customer interests and where they are in the buying cycle. This will enable marketers to address the timeliness and relevance of the communications they receive. 

Customer research is not a one-time activity. Insights about your customers will continue to change and evolve over time, so marketers need to continuously listen and interpret what they’re saying so they can react accordingly.

The rise of the influencer sale

It’s difficult to guarantee which channels will remain popular and which will wane over the next few years. Who would have predicted the growth of social media when the first marketing automation platforms launched?

As Perkbox’s James Arnall says, it’ll always be about reaching the right audience through the right channels – we just don’t yet know what the right channels of the future will be. Shane Phair of Campaign Monitor is convinced influencers will have a bigger role to play in the future. These should be advocates of your brand – not the paid-for posts by celebrities you might associate with the term influencer. 

They could be existing customers or market experts, such as analysts. Their tasks could range from social sharing to carrying out product demos for prospects, or speaking at events. These influencers bring authenticity, a degree of independence and command respect. When you combine them with your other channels and touchpoints, they can be powerful at driving awareness.

The demand center of the future

A number of forward thinking businesses – Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce among them – are centralising their demand generation activities into one function. The logic is sound; locate all demand gen expertise in the same area to break down siloes, combine the technical and analytical skills needed to create a center of excellence and take advantage of economies of scale. 

The benefits, according to research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) can be significant. One organisation cut the cost of a lead by 30%. Another doubled its percentage of new marketing revenue from 20% to 50%. A third saw conversion rates triple. BCG identified nine requirements of the best demand centers. 

  • Vision: A shared vision of what the demand center is for, and which products, regions and channels it should serve.
  • Customer journey: The demand center should orchestrate and execute improved customer journeys that are different from the competition. 
  • Planning and alignment: Constant testing, measuring and learning is vital. Clear metrics on revenue impact are in place. There is investment in marketing and sales communication. 
  • Operational design: The operating model has been fully designed in advance, specifying what activity is handled centrally and locally. 
  • Funding: Current marketing spend is redirected to the demand center. BCG highlighted a tech business that funded 50% of its investment by redirecting underperforming marketing spend. 
  • Tech stack: Technology is assessed and planned upfront with the support of IT. CRM and marketing automation platforms are essential, followed by content management and attribution tools.
  • Data: Few companies have it, but a clean, common data source is necessary. Integrated data is used to generate insights on customer needs and behaviours. 
  • Pilots: The most successful organisations started with small-scale trials and build these up over time. 
  • Change management: Companies should invest in change management and people skills. The process should begin with an assessment of the maturity of the organisation’s marketing capability

Preparation points 

  • Raise the profile of demand generation. Lay the groundwork for future strategic use of demand gen. Showing senior management its impact through results is the best way to guarantee future support and investment. 
  • Start to develop deeper insights. No matter what happens in the future, greater details about customers and their motivations will be crucial in providing a more personal experience in the future. 
  • Restructure your operations for true integration. A demand center can break down siloes and create economies of scale. It may only be suitable for those with large or global marketing functions, but the benefits can be significant.

Marketing Operations and Technology

With technology becoming a huge part of the day to day lives it is also enriching the marketing world. Martech can help everything run a lot smoother by ensuring a streamlined, workflow, creating better projects and making way for new opportunities. 

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