At the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference, Christy Ferguson began her session on Optimizing Demand Generation with the statement that marketers love benchmarks.
She quickly followed with “Benchmarks are averages. How many of you came here today to be average?”
Just as Todd Berkowitz made the case that ABM is not a Demand Gen Program, Ferguson points out that demand gen is not a top-of-funnel exercise. Yet when Gartner looks at the data, many marketers are focusing their demand gen programs on the top of the funnel.
Making her point, Ferguson says, “Accelerating deals and driving business growth is a full-funnel exercise.”
In her session on Building Your Demand Gen Program, Ferguson defines demand gen as:
“The true point of demand gen is to generate, manage, and convert buyers with a propensity to buy from you to drive business growth.”
Demand gen is not just about leads, it’s about higher quality leads that will buy. In fact, Ferguson shared, marketers who invest in demand gen programs see 20% revenue growth over those who don’t.
Successful Demand Gen Starts with Foundation, Not Content
Ferguson says that she often sees marketers starting with content, without taking the time to set the foundation with objectives and segmentation. The issue is that not doing this work leads marketers to widen their focus too broadly without the detail needed to be successful.
For example, when asked about objectives, quite often she’ll hear something like, we want to grow 3X in the next 3 years. This isn’t a bad goal. The problem is there’s nothing specific about where that growth will come from.
To set appropriate objectives, Ferguson says you need to identify sources of revenue and then answer these questions:
What percentage of revenue is coming from each source?
- Is it an existing product or a new one?
- What’s the route to market? (direct, channel, hybrid)
- Is the target market new logos or existing customers?
- Which geos/regions produce how much revenue?
The answers to these questions help to define a specific objective. An example Ferguson shared:
We want to increase revenue by $900k from Product A in the U.S.in 2019 via our direct sales team. We forecast current pipeline to close 30% of this revenue.
Marketers need this level of detail to understand what programs to create and deliver, as well as to understand how to prove the value of marketing to the business. Ferguson defines this as revenue and where it came from.
Segmentation is likewise too broad without detail. Examples include, we sell to the C-Suite or we target SMBs or Enterprise companies. Ferguson recommends that marketers pull their personas off the shelf and make sure they have the specifics to inform your segmentation choices based on buyers with the most propensity to buy.
Don’t Make the Mistake of Content for the Sake of Content
Producing and publishing content is only valuable for demand gen if it’s tied to a strategy that is based on defined objectives and segmentation. Gartner’s best practice is to relate content to the activity streams of your buyer persona which are defined as Exploratory, Evaluation, and Engagement.
Ferguson reminds us that even once buyers engage with your sales reps, that’s not the only thing they do, so marketers need to remain vigilant in providing content that keeps their attention focused on solving the problem. Her advice is to conduct a content inventory and audit to assign content to activity streams and identify the gaps. Now you have a strategic reason for creating content to fill them.
Thought leadership and free trials are high-value content during the mid-stage of the journey. Just make sure that thought leadership is about your buyer, not your company or product. Ferguson says that marketers selling a product too complex or custom to offer a free trial should consider how they can trial a part of it. The trial is about providing the experience of what it’s like to be a customer. Show them how something they care about or struggle with can be different and better. Give them a taste.
Value assessment tools (ROI and TCO calculators), implementation guides and eBooks improve the chances of conversion in late stage buyers from 2X to 3.3X versus other content types.
Ferguson’s advice on value assessments is to keep them simple and make sure the data you’re asking for can be supplied by the person taking the assessment. If they must go look for it, they won’t complete the assessment.
Choose Channels that Align with Objectives and Activity Streams
Quite often, marketers select the channels they think they should select. They sponsor trade shows and events, send emails and publish on their own social channels. However, without brand awareness, engagement can be scarce.
Just as tricky is understanding that buyers don’t align with your defined sales process or even a defined buying journey. They move in and out of streams throughout the process. You need to choose channels that align with your objectives and their activity streams, as well as to have the visibility to understand recent activity and how to build from that behavior.
In the mid- to late-stages, once sales reps step in, a sales enablement platform can give you clear visibility into how buyers are engaging with the content sales shares, in addition to how they’re engaging with content as reported by your marketing automation platform for specific demand gen programs.
Gartner research finds that you can increase conversions by 7% if you use more than 10 marketing channels. It’s also interesting to note that mid- and late-funnel content bring that jump in conversions where top-of-funnel content only results in a bump of 3%.
While social platforms, email and websites are the most used channels, the highest performers are also using Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Offline Media, such as direct mail or publishing in print magazines or advertising on subscription radio, as more affordable options.
While most marketers will say they have nurture programs, quite often what they mean is an email drip campaign. Ferguson stresses that nurture programs need to be multi-channel. While email is still important, consider adding in paid social and display/retargeting advertising.
She points out that LinkedIn has a program for targeting people who have engaged with your website.
By expanding your nurture programs to multi-channel, you can reduce the frequency of your email sends, thus garnering more interest in the inbox because it’s less expected.
You Need More CTAs
The other finding from Gartner research is that using six or more calls to action (CTAs) in your demand gen programs will result in a 5% increase in conversions in mid- to late-funnel stages.
Gartner research also finds that thought leadership content is an underutilized resource. Marketers who use thought leadership content in their demand gen programs improve their chances of conversion by 2.8X over those who don’t use it.
Free trials are another type of content that will increase your conversion chances by 1.9X based on top performers.
Value assessment tools, implementation guides and eBooks also improve your chances of conversion, as evidenced by top performers in the research. Ferguson says she rarely sees eBooks and that implementation guides give buyers an idea of what it will be like to install and use your product. She also points out that they are rich sources for keyword indexing that drives organic traffic.
More is Better
As was the case for ABM, it’s also true for Demand Gen. Investment is required to be successful. In the case of demand gen this means, more strategic content, calls to action and channels in play.
Just make sure you’ve worked to get executive buy-in that your cost per lead (CPL) will increase. However, if you can achieve the numbers shown by the top performers in Gartner’s research, the spend will more than pay off in business growth.
Below is your cheat sheet for optimizing your marketing mix: