By Chuck Leddy
It’s a rather bold statement – demand gen beats lead gen. How did we get there? Marketing technology may be driving more efficiency, helping marketers drive a higher quantity of leads. But what martech isn’t necessarily driving is higher quality leads that convert to more revenues and higher lifetime customer value. Ironically, the martech-enabled ease of automating marketing campaigns to track customer interactions and generate leads may be causing marketers to give priority to lead quantity over lead quality. All while potentially eroding customer experience and long-term trust. More isn’t necessarily better.
As John Webb, Managing Director of Dennis Publishing, explained at Ignite London 2020 (a virtual event hosted by B2B Marketing), “only 27% of leads ever get contacted,” while 4 out of 5 leads never turn into any revenue. The problem here isn’t the quantity of leads, but lead quality and how marketers are following up and converting those leads (or failing to). The solution, says Webb, is clear: marketers should move away from a focus on lead gen and instead broaden their scope to embrace demand generation, using content, data, and AI to build a demand engine to stimulate more quality leads that convert to more revenues. How can marketers do this? Webb detailed a 5-step process in his presentation:
Step 1: Start by holistically understanding the B2B buyer’s journey
The B2B buyer’s journey is increasingly complex, including more touchpoints and stakeholders than ever before. Webb notes that “the B2B buying journey is 20% longer today than just 5 years ago,” which only adds to the challenges marketers face in navigating it. And as we referenced earlier, while lead quantity may be growing (aided by martech/automation), lead quality is not.
Marketers need to first map out their buyer’s full journey, then look for opportunities to move the customer forward in that journey through providing helpful information and insight. Demand generation is all about making it easier for customers to buy from you. Typically, helping customers comes first and the buying comes later in the journey.
Step 2: Understand that demand gen is a process, not a one-time event
Think of demand gen as a 4-step process: (1) understand what the customer’s goals; (2) engage and educate the customer so she can achieve her goals; (3) qualify the customer and convert (this is lead gen); and (4) amplify and strengthen the relationship over time. As Webb explains it, “marketers should be growing the demand across the buyer’s journey: it’s about the overall experience we’re giving them” and not just closing a lead. Whereas lead gen can feel transactional and short-term to customers, demand gen is relational and long-term.
Demand gen’s goal is to stimulate a sustainable number of quality leads. Marketers do so by helping customers make better buying decisions.
“With demand gen,” says Webb, “you’re continuously nurturing, educating and engaging the customer: demand gen is always-on, whereas lead gen is more off and on.”
Step 3: Create your demand gen engine
When you provide real value to customers in the form of helpful content, they return the favor by purchasing. Of course, marketers will need multiple channels to offer content to customers, including email newsletters, social media, ads, and more. “The goal of demand gen is to capture the customer’s permission and data,” says Webb, which enables marketers to plug that data into their martech stacks in order to drive efficiency and more personalize interactions. Marketing shouldn’t be done “to” customers, but “with” them.
Increasingly, the B2B buyer’s journey is digital. In fact, notes Webb, “67% of B2B journeys are now happening digitally.” So marketers need to nurture digitally too, because “96% of your website visitors aren’t ready to buy immediately,” notes Webb. They are seeking information and insight to help them buy, which marketers must provide via content to move the journey forward.
Step 4: Leverage the right content to stimulate demand
Think of content as a guide helping your customers move forward in their buying decision. Web recommends that marketers “help customers understand the problem they’re seeking to solve; educate them on how they can approach solving the problem; and support them in their decision about how to solve the problem.”
Content must combine empathy — a clear understanding of customer pain points — with a positive, solutions-oriented approach to providing help. Content must also be tailored to where the customer happens to be in their buying journey: one size doesn’t fit all customers and touchpoints.
Step 5: Learn and apply lessons from your data to inform content
Data, especially a data-enabled examination of historical patterns of customer behavior, can empower marketers in multiple ways:
- Deploy data to create customer profiles and segments to better target content.
- Leverage data to better understand the sequence of steps buyers take to reach a buying decision
- Use content to accelerate that buying process every step of the way
“Marketers can leverage these data-enabled insights to fine-tune demand generation and move buyers along the journey,” says Webb.
The result? More quality leads: nurtured leads result in purchases that are 47% larger, notes Webb, and also creates more sustainable customer relationships.
The takeaway is that you shouldn’t focus on quantity and sacrifice quality, but you should instead seek to stimulate demand (demand gen) at every step of the buyer’s journey, which leads to higher conversion rates, larger B2B purchases, and higher marketing ROI. Doing demand gen right will take a more holistic approach – customers, data, martech, and content. Doing it right also leads to more conversions, more revenues, and more long-term relationships with customers based on an ongoing, mutual exchange of value. That’s the gold standard in B2B marketing.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you take your demand gen performance to the next level.