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Whether a business is a new or established brand, a large portion of its marketing efforts consists of building demand for its products or services.
A core component of these marketing efforts is the ability to present its services to solve problems that exist in a target market. When that target audience knows those products or services can solve their needs, then there is an inherent demand.
However, if a company identifies a problem the target audience doesn't know it has, marketers will need to develop demand-generation strategies to address those issues. Demand-generation strategies -- such as producing the right content -- help an audience understand their pain points, as well as identify how those products and services best fit their needs.
What is demand generation?
Demand generation is a marketing initiative designed to excite prospects and build awareness of a business's products or services. Using a demand generation approach to marketing enables a company to discover new markets, re-engage current customers and generate buzz in the industry.
Demand generation is not just an early-stage marketing tactic or a branding exercise; it includes a variety of touchpoints throughout the customer journey to create or support interest in the offerings of a company. Content such as blog posts, case studies or events all have their places in the customer lifecycle, and each one can build demand for a company's products or services.
The goal of demand generation is to attract, nurture and convert key prospects and build long-term relationships with customers. It is not a quick fix, call center phone campaign, email newsletter or banner ad. These items, among others, supplement demand-generation strategies, but do not take the approach toward building that interest or relationship with the prospect.
Formally implementing a demand generation approach to marketing programs includes a combination of strategic planning and tactical execution. Here are some demand-generation strategies to consider.
1. Set up and measure KPIs
Part of the foundation for a successful demand generation strategy is identifying how businesses will measure success. These metrics will indicate to businesses what marketing programs are most effective and those that are not. This will enable better insights into what programs a business should continue to allocate budget and resources.
A business should measure a combination of campaign-specific and website-related KPIs to help determine the effect of demand generation on its marketing plans. Some important KPIs include:
- cost per lead,
- customer lifetime value,
- landing page conversion rates,
- customer retention rate and
- return on ad spend.
On top of these metrics, organizations should consider developing an attribution model to identify which touchpoints or marketing channels assisted in conversions, and which ones will help identify the ROI by channel, such as email, social media, paid ads and more.
2. Create and refine buyer personas
Buyer personas are representations of an ideal customer profile, enabling a business to understand more about what is important to its target audiences. Developing buyer personas will help organizations focus on the unique needs of the buyer and allocate marketing efforts toward more qualified prospects.
Buyer personas include the pain points and challenges the target audience faces along with demographics information and decision-making habits. For example, if a B2B customer pain point is to reduce operational costs, this information helps marketing teams identify which types of content could address this challenge and which programs elicit action from those personas. By having comprehensive buyer personas, businesses can deliver much more personalized marketing content for the end user and deliver a more positive experience with a brand.
Many marketing software vendors -- such as HubSpot -- provide customers with buyer persona templates they can download to help create profiles.
3. Use lead scoring
Lead scoring is a process that businesses can use to determine the worthiness of a lead. Organizations do this by attaching numeric values to leads based on a customer's behavior and engagement with marketing campaigns to gauge interest in its products or services. A prospect that repeatedly opens emails, attends events or downloads content from a brand is more likely to match a company's ideal buyer persona, thus making them a more qualified lead to have sales engage with when the time is right.
Marketing departments use lead scoring as a way to identify prospects that are sales ready -- or pre-qualified based on their marketing engagement -- and can move on to the sales team to qualify into an opportunity, a key component of the customer journey.
A good lead scoring strategy includes both positive and negative attributes related to a user's activity. For example, someone that downloads three content assets would receive positive points toward a numeric score, whereas someone that unsubscribes from a mailing list or doesn't visit a company's website in a certain time period would receive negative points toward their numeric scores. The collective sum of a user's activity will result in a marketing qualified lead or show someone as a bad fit that should not be prioritized as a good lead.
There are templates and guides to help with building and managing buyer personas, as well as marketing software that can help teams build and track a company's lead scoring model.
Marketing automation vendors, such as HubSpot, Pardot and Act-On, track user behavior and demographics data and assign points based on a scale developed by sales and marketing teams.
4. Invest in content creation
Content itself is the key to sharing information about how a product or service solves a customer need or addresses a pain point. Content is what end users engage with while doing their research and is at the center of marketing programs throughout the buyer journey, enabling teams to attract, nurture and convert prospects. This is a big part of any inbound marketing strategy.
Businesses can generate content for each stage of the customer journey, which assists in pushing prospects further along. Organizations can create demand for a product or service -- especially when the target audience is not aware that a problem exists -- through the words and offers it puts out. Here are some examples of content that resonate well with audiences:
- Blog posts. This type of content can cover key topics and show thought leadership to build early trust and authority.
- Webinars. Especially now, during a global pandemic, webinars are a way for businesses to educate prospects on problems that exist and how they can solve them. Oftentimes, interactive presentations can include live demonstrations and Q&A sessions with larger audiences that may be the ideal buyer persona for a company.
- Whitepapers and e-books. Businesses often gate these thought leadership pieces behind a form to capture lead information, but these pieces can also educate prospects or validate that a product or service will address their needs. Organizations can use these at multiple steps in the customer journey.
- Customer success stories. These content pieces reinforce the idea that there are others out there who have benefited from a company's offerings. Case studies are the best form of social proof, which businesses can distribute across all marketing channels.
Many businesses use file-sharing systems such as Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive and Dropbox to keep track of the content that marketing teams create. However, digital asset management systems such as Brandfolder, MediaValet and Widen Collective offer more advanced tools for content and creative teams to manage internal content assets.
5. Increase brand awareness
By acting as a thought leader in a space, businesses increase not only their authority, but brand awareness. Having a social media strategy to promote content across various social media channels -- such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -- where customers engage with content is a great way to build awareness.
Developing partnerships with the key leaders within a given vertical is one way to drive brand awareness. Buyers in various industries are often members of industry organizations or they attend relevant events. When a company builds a relationship with these partners, they can expose their brand to a target audience who may not have heard of them by syndicating content on the partner's websites.
Sending out press releases is another great way to build brand awareness, as the media can share them with their networks. This builds on the concept of "earned media" and is great exposure for brand awareness. In this case, an industry thought leader sharing an article or press release from a brand -- on its own -- is free publicity, and a company benefits by being exposed to these new networks.
Lastly, businesses can share the content they create on as many channels as possible. Between social media, emails, website placement, paid ads and even third-party tools -- such as LinkedIn groups and Medium -- there are plenty of places to share worthwhile content with prospects. However, it's important for businesses to know their audience and meet them where they spend most of their time -- especially when it comes to social media.
6. Create free offers and trials
Giving prospects the opportunity to test drive a platform or service -- if a company can offer this -- is a great way for prospects to interact with a business. They will get firsthand experience from seeing how the free trial could solve their problem or make their lives easier in the long run. Sometimes, it is just a way to excite prospective customers about the product.
Having people sign up for a free trial can also receive a high point value in a lead scoring model because that registration point is typically a big buying signal and could identify someone as a marketing qualified lead. Sales representatives can use the information they collect during the free trial registration process to build better profiles of prospects so when they speak to them, they are more informed about their specific use cases or needs.