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Demand Generation has become a popular subject in the world of B2B and SaaS marketing.

However, there is still ambiguity around what is it exactly and why is it important. In this article, I pan to cover the scope of demand generation and how can marketers build a demand generation plan.

Please note, if you are looking for a list of demand generation activities, this is not the right place. Although I have given links to the list of demand generation activities, this post would deal with “how to approach the process of demand generation”.

What is Demand Generation?

In simple terms, Demand Generation is the practice of finding, acquiring, and moving leads across the entire sales and marketing funnel.

It covers multiple touch points both offline and online: from social media, content and paid digital campaigns to events, sponsorships and lead qualification.

Finally, it also deals with sales enablement to ensure a consistent approach to reaching out to prospects.

Demand Generation is not Lead Generation

Lead Generation is only one aspect of Demand Generation. It is only restricted to the practice of collecting information on target individuals. This is done by providing gated assets: Free tools, webinars, trials, eBooks etc. These individuals are then qualified or nurtured as sales prospects.

Demand Generation is a blanket set of activities which support the entire sales and marketing cycle: from initial prospect interest and lead generation to lead nurturing and sales enablement.

Can Lead Generation exist in Isolation to Demand Generation?

Yes, it can. Most businesses are only concerned about leads, which can be passed on to the sales team. In fact, it’s a remarkably successful approach for some companies. However, after a certain point of time, it hits the wall. Your prospects fail to resonate with your brand and products.

With that in mind, let’s see how the process looks like and how you should go about formulating your demand generation plan.

Step 1: Define Your Product and Analyse the Target Audience

The first step is to gain a deep understanding of your product and identify the challenges it is addressing for your target audience. Here, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Who is the potential buyer of your product/service? In this, you need to define the industry, the company size and the role of your prospect.
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of your prospect? How does he measure his success?
  • What are the current products/services he is using to fulfill his job responsibilities?
  • What are the challenges faced by him while using that product/service?
  • How does your product solve those challenges for him?
  • What are his key consideration factors before he buys your product?

Answers to these questions would give you a realistic understanding of your product and its utility for the target audience. I have filled one sample template for you. You can use it to guide your thinking.

 

Step 2: Identify the Current Market Situation

The next step is to identify the status of the market. In this, you need to ask 2 key questions:

  • How aware is your buyer about the products in your industry?
  • What are the adoption levels for these products? Is the adoption still restricted to the community of early adopters or has it spread to the mass market?

Let’s take the example of Marketing Automation Technology (Martech) to understand it better.

Most marketers are familiar with these technologies and have adopted them in some or the other way. However, not everyone is aware of all the functionalities.

Below, you will see how different functionalities fall under different adoption segments:

Most marketers still think that these technologies comprise of only e-mail marketing automation or social media marketing automation. These people are at the “Late Majority” stage where everyone is aware of the product and have adopted it in their day to day work.

Let’s take a step further and look at those products which have capabilities to integrate various marketing channels: website, blog, and e-mail. There are still many marketers who have adopted it and many more who are aware of these technologies. These people are at the “Early Majority” stage.

Now, let’s take a step further and look at those products which have capabilities to not only integrate various marketing channels but also inform the marketers about how ready the prospect is to engage with the sales team (Lead Scoring).

In this case, while there might be many marketers who know about it but there are only a few who have adopted it. These people are at the “Early Adopters” stage.

Let’s take the final step and look at those products which not only have all the capabilities discussed above but also can identify prospect’s behavior across various channels and can then define which prospect will see which content at which channel at which stage of the buying journey.

In this case, there are only a few marketers who know about and have adopted these technologies. These marketers are at the “Innovators” stage.

Similarly, you need to go down to the feature level of your product and define where does it fit in the overall market scenario.

Step 3: Identify Current Product Situation

The next step is to identify the awareness and adoption levels of your product. The same steps, followed earlier for identifying the market status, must be followed for identifying your product status. Again, you need to ask those key questions:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • How aware is the buyer about your products?
  • What are the adoption levels of your product vis. a vis. competition?
  • What are the perception levels of your product vis. a vis. competition?

The first 3 steps are the most critical steps to set a solid foundation for any demand generation plan. They help you to do the following:

  • Find gaps in the current awareness levels among the target audience
  • Define sales and marketing priorities

As a marketer, you need to spend the majority of your time finding answers to the above questions. Marketing becomes easy after that. This is where you should constantly keep yourself updated through both primary research (Talk to your customers and sales team) and secondary research (Read whitepapers and books).

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be talking to one customer/prospect every week

Step 4: Set Goals

Once you have the above information, it is time to build your demand generation plan.

Just like any other marketing plan, you need to set S.M.A.R.T goals for your marketing initiatives: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely.

Example of a S.M.A.R.T Goal

 Win 20 customers from North India from Manufacturing Industry in 6 Months 

However, unlike any other marketing plan, you need to think about the entire buying journey while setting these goals.

While you should have a North Star like number of customer wins, this metric should be further broken down into other metrics: Quantity and quality of leads required, number of website visits required, number of content downloads required etc. Your final target should be reverse engineered to define these metrics.

The below diagram shows a basic picture of how it can be done. In reality, it would be much more complex since you would be dealing with multiple channels (both offline and online), content and buyers. The result will vary as you change any factor.

 Step 5: Set-up Smarketing Team

A demand generation marketer is responsible for every stage of the buying funnel.

He does not execute any activity but is responsible for integrating all of them. It is important that he aligns the objectives of all teams and sets SLAs for them to achieve one common set of KPIs. There should be consistency in messaging and integration of channels across the entire organization.

It is the Demand Marketers role to ensure that there is One Objective, One set of SLAs, One Set of KPIs, One Feedback Loop and One Dashboard across the entire team of sales and marketing.

Step 6: Define Activities to Achieve Those Goals

By now, you have the following in place:

  • Product and market knowledge
  • S.M.A.R.T Goals
  • Smarketing Team

Now, you need to define the activities required across the different stages of the buyer’s journey.

This is where the first 4 steps would come in handy. They will help you to identify the current stage of your buyer’s journey and what is your company’s perception in the minds of the buyer. You can then plan demand generation activities accordingly to move the buyer across from one step to the other.

Let’s take an example to understand it better: Consider, your prospect has limited knowledge about your product but is aware about the industry and its recent trends. He is considering a purchase of such a product. Hence your role is to align all teams and define activities to build awareness about your product.

How do you select the right activity to achieve those objectives?

For this, you again need to go back to research mode and understand the media behavior of your prospects:

  • What are their sources of information about new products? Is it through Google browsing or review sites or in-person events or a combination of all these three.
  • What all Social Media platforms are they active on?

Based on their behavior, you plan activities which would help you to achieve your objectives.

Please note: There can be different buying journeys for different buyers. Someone might prefer events while others might prefer review sites. You need to continuously test and optimize your reach-out tactics.

Here is a list of 12 Demand Generation activities which you can use in your demand generation plans.

Step 7: Define Lead Flows

This step is an extension of the previous step. Once you have defined your activities, you need to visualize how a prospect would flow from one buying stage to another.

For example: As mentioned earlier, a prospect can enter from different stages. If he is coming through Events, then you might want to set-up a lead nurturing campaign where you are sending him case studies and reports before qualification. If he is coming through paid search ads, then you can directly qualify him through inside sales. Similarly, there would be multiple buying journeys that you should map out.

This will help you in multiple ways:

  • Identification of gaps in your demand generation plan
  • Optimization of the plan as the execution starts
  • Alignment of the entire team towards a common objective.

Below is a diagram of a sample lead flow. You can use Lucidchart to draw Lead Flow diagrams for your plans.

Step 8: Define Marketing Metrics for all Activities

Once you have defined the activities and visualized the buying journey, you need to define realistic expectations from all activities. For example: In the above lead flow, you need to define clear metrics on the following:

  • Paid Search Ads – Number of website visits and number of leads
  • Events – Number of queries and number of demos
  • Paid LinkedIn Ads (TOFU Offer) – Number of content downloads > Number of Leads

Finally, you need to calculate the following:

  • How many of these leads are finally becoming customers?
  • What is the conversion rate of each channel?
A Demand Marketer lives by the numbers. Being one, you should continuously aim to optimize the entire buying journey.

Step 9: Define SLAs

This is another overlooked step by most marketers. Since every activity is so integrated, you need to define SLAs for every activity. For example:

  • If a prospect fills out a trial form, the sales development representatives need to call the prospect within 24 hours.
  • If the sales development representative qualifies the lead, the sales team need to reach out to the prospect within 7 working days.

These SLAs keep the activities of all the teams integrated with each other and help them achieve a common objective.

Step 10: Prepare for launch

Once everything is in place, you need to prepare for launch.

For that, you need to bring the members of all teams in a common room and take their point of view on the plan. Feedback, if any, should be incorporated at this point of time. It becomes tough to re-orchestrate the different teams once the plan has launched. Every individual/team should be knowing their responsibilities before the plan is put into action.

Step 11: Set Regular Reporting

This is the final step of the process. You should set defined timelines to check the rhythm of your plan across the entire buying journey.

You would have made multiple hypotheses while formulating the demand generation plan. These hypotheses are validated, re-checked and re-framed through regular reporting.

This helps you to continuously optimize your activities and follow a lean approach.

As a demand generation marketer, you should be testing and optimizing every activity across the buying journey, be it at awareness, consideration or close stage.

Conclusion

Demand Generation is a set of marketing and sales activities, which are planned and executed to move a prospect across the buying journey. As a demand generation marketer, your role is to align all teams, define their roles and responsibilities and then continuously optimize each activity to achieve the desired goals.

What are the best practices you follow while formulating your demand generation plan? Please comment below