5 tips for demand management best practice
Buyer empowerment is acting as a catalyst for change in B2B marketing. For decades sector leaders have paid lip service to the need for better cohesion between sales and marketing. Now it’s crunch time.
An increasingly self-initiated buyer market means that customer-led demand generation needs to be at the forefront of B2B communications. For this to work, sales and marketing have to unite in continuous, blended conversations with buyers.
That might sound like a quest for the Holy Grail. But in fact, it can be achieved with Demand Management, where different aspects of demand creation, progression and conversion are organised centrally. Here are five ways to forge a path towards a common ground, facilitating higher quality leads and better conversion ratios.
1. Develop audience-aligned strategies
Understanding your audience has never been more important. Knowing job roles is just the starting point, you need a good depth of data so you can hypothesise about workplace challenges people face and their personal ambitions.
An appreciation of your audience’s pain points and motivators, as well as their role in the decision making process, enables demand marketing to be shaped intelligently. This is where ‘personas’ come in to play. Personas describe all of the key characteristics of different groups within your audience, ranging from preferred comms channels through to the challenges and targets they face. Audience aligned strategies using personas work equally well whether you’re looking at high-touch one-to-one marketing and nurture with enterprise organisations, high-reach account management into the SME market or a blend of the two for mid-market clients.
2. Synchronise content with buyer cycle stages
According to SiriusDecisions, many B2B brands still rely heavily on outbound sales and marketing tactics, whereas buyers typically use four key resources to educate themselves:
- Looking online (finding content)
- Using search engines (finding content)
- Vendor websites (finding content)
- Social media/asking peers (ultimately, finding content)
Clearly, content is critical in the new buyer environment.
Good content marketing is all about finding the balance between quantity and quality. An ad hoc, scattergun approach is unlikely to reap many benefits. However, strategic content creation and delivery, cleverly aligned with buyer cycle stages, ensures the right information is conveyed at the right time to influence decision making. This is a powerful enabling factor for core functions of demand generation, such as tele-prospecting.
3. Adopt the right level of lead qualification
Lead qualification frameworks such as BANT provide a useful shared benchmark for sales and marketing professionals. But they shouldn’t be set in stone.
Think about adjusting qualification criteria according to wider factors, such as how established the brand is in the target sector, the demand type you are creating (e.g. for a tried-and-tested product versus a completely new concept) or the capacity and needs of the sales team at a given point in time.
4. Lead management and handover
Establishing a simple, transparent lead handover process is vital to achieve the nirvana of continuous, blended conversations. Critical success factors include recording full details on all leads and appointments, establishing clear BANT qualification criteria for hot, warm and cold leads, setting up an ‘accept/reject’ process between marketing and sales, and validating accuracy of lead information.
The sales team’s acceptance of leads should be based on the depth of information provided, for instance:
- Customer deep dive profile
- BANT information
- Project requirements & fit for client
- Marketing history of contact
- Anecdotal notes from lead development or tele-prospecting agents
5. Measuring your marketing (and acting accordingly)
Marketers are increasingly being challenged to prove ROI and develop a cycle of continual improvement. However, complex multichannel demand marketing processes can make this difficult.
One solution is to aggregate and track marketing activity - especially across handover points - then build up more complex attribution models spanning the entire demand waterfall.
Business intelligence platforms such as Qlikview can act as a valuable tool, enabling weekly consolidated dashboard reporting comprising:
- Number of calls
- Number of decision maker / influencer conversations
- Number of BANT leads generated
- Lead conversion rates
- Leads generated versus targets
- Sales accepted leads
- Opportunities pipeline
- Closed revenue
- Certification of reps
Weekly updates on these key metrics enable managers to keep a finger on the pulse of progress, and they can form the backbone of formal monthly and quarterly business reviews.
Demand management is undeniably complex. But it offers an intelligent way to square-up to the intricate nature of today’s buyer journeys. Establishing best practice procedures and enlisting the support of trusted external partners can enable better sales and marketing cohesion. And that is the cornerstone of truly customer-led communications.