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How can B2B marketers make demand generation work?

Traditional lead generation has always been clumsy and awkward. Too often the drive for leads is still a race to the bottom. Companies end up spending on quantity and have to identify the quality with resource-heavy, time-consuming in-house filtering processes.

All marketing approaches are an attempt to find the right people at the right moment. In business-to-business marketing, the conventional approach has been to use technology to drive scale and efficiency in lead generation. Of course, the problem is that the sales funnel seizes up with poor quality leads, which have to be sifted and qualified. Many never even get that far resulting in huge levels of wastage. Organisations need to re-focus on overall demand generation.

Demand generation delivers quality, self-filtering leads that therefore convert. It achieves this by focussing on the overall buyer journey, rather than merely the end. The promotion of quantity rather than quality has had a detrimental effect on the customer experience. It has encouraged marketers to drive potential clients through old-fashioned, brand-specific relationship systems. In the past it’s been a one-dimensional approach, offering an asset and asking clients to sign-up, in return for their permission to be contacted. This has often resulted in a disconnect and a dispiriting experience for potential buyers, which starts to erode trust in the brand itself.

Lead capture needs to be about more than just finding people. It should be about actually moving them along their buyer journeys. Demand generation focuses not on identifying prospects, but on stimulating and transitioning them from apathy to action and awareness to purchase.

So where is the best place to capture potential buyers and convert them? It’s where they are already consuming content and looking for information. Demand Gen research shows that 47% of business buyers read around three to five pieces of content online 1 before engaging with a salesperson. 95% of B2B buyers 2 end up buying from an organisation that was able to guide them through  the buyer journey with content.

By working with the owners of that content, i.e. forward-thinking publishers, brands can benefit from continued relevance, credibility and intelligence across the buyer journey. They can become a valued part of the process, not just a predatory by-stander. This generates warmer prospects and they begin to filter  themselves.

Engaging with customers in the right context makes it easier for B2B marketers to identify, and then convert, potential buyers. Companies need to connect with potential customers wherever they happen to be online. People are not static; they migrate across channels and sites. Brands need to move too, to harness the engagement and intelligence publishers can provide and nurture potential buyers. It’s no longer about focussing on one channel. It’s about being present in which ever channels your customer uses. B2B Marketing people already know this. When asked about the tools and tactics they expect to use in 2020, 41% of them cited multi-channel nurturing

Effective demand gen models should be adept at connecting the dots and spotting patterns. Systems should be able to recognise behaviour and track intent of course - the big difference comes with the ability to marry that intent with context. In today’s world, demand generation should make it easier to understand the markers and respond at the right moment, something that traditional approaches to lead generation still don’t do.

So how would this approach affect the brand/publisher relationship?

Companies should work with publishers to combine their editorial credibility, rich customer data and technology to deliver joined-up buyer journeys. Tapping into their editorial knowledge can give sales teams a more ‘interpreted’ understanding of audiences: what they’re interested in; how they’re looking for information on the products and services that they’re intending to buy; and what, how and when they’ll actually purchase. Brands can then use these insights to stimulate and grow demand beyond merely capturing it.

This focus on stimulating and growing demand will lead to more engaged, informed and predisposed customer prospects. Beyond simply identifying and classifying leads, businesses should be able to understand, persuade and move audiences. And spend less time and effort sifting irrelevant leads. Publishers and brands need to refocus on the customer journey to create a natural approach to engagement and nurture, which allows companies to focus on quality prospects. It’s therefore time to kill off lead generation and revamp demand generation.

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