Think of the last time you watched a YouTube video or read an online article providing a solution to a problem or a step-by-step process to help you master a skill. Did the helpful information compel you to explore what else this company could offer? Did you click on other videos or articles they produced? Did you visit their website to learn more about their products or services? If so, you may have participated in a multichannel demand generation strategy, a deliberate approach to create value and generate sales opportunities.
Demand generation is different from traditional marketing and PR in that it leverages attraction rather than promotion. Customers hunger to know more when they search for and engage with content that helps them understand how a company might solve their problem. Many times they will covertly explore a company’s products or services via multiple sources, weighing their perception of our expertise and quality before we ever have the opportunity to directly engage with them in person or over the phone.
The BaaM (Business as a Ministry) operating philosophy compels us to run profitable, expanding companies. Likewise, responding to our customers’ needs compels us to be mindful of “no problem, no sale.” How we demonstrate our ability to solve our customers’ problems is what secures an ongoing relationship. This begins with identifying the challenges facing our current customers and providing satisfying solutions.
“Why do customers end up choosing you instead of a competitor? We like to tell ourselves it’s because our product or service is simply the best out there and everyone can see what a special little snowflake it is. But that’s not how it works. It’s because your customer had a problem, and they believed your product or service would solve it.”
— Donald Miller, “7 Reasons Your Website Isn’t Working”
Content Marketing is Not Just for Lead Generation
It’s easy to dismiss a demand generation strategy if the majority of a company’s leads are not generated via digital channels. However, demand generation strategies streamline current sales processes by introducing sequenced content that educates and nurtures customers through stages of the buyer journey (lead nurturing). This approach shortens the sales cycle by cultivating an informed, confident buyer, ready for a sales team to close the sale.
In 2019, a Demand Gen survey revealed the following:
- 66% of respondents saw a measurable difference in the results of their nurtured leads versus non-nurtured leads
- 42% experienced nurtured leads moving faster through the sales pipeline
Marketo, a leading CRM and marketing automation platform provider, suggests companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. However, even when a sale is closed, content marketing continues to perform. Demand generation equips our current customers to advocate for our brand, continuing the two-way street of value creation. Additionally, our marketing team can work closely with sales and account managers to define buyer journey stages and discover opportunities to deliver valuable content to satisfied customers. This will improve retention and increase account-based sales revenue.
Creating a Demand Generation Cycle
Demand generation reaches far beyond the first stage in a buyer’s journey. When implemented across marketing, sales, customer service, and account management, it becomes a self-sufficient engine to generate revenue from both current and potential customers.
Three Demand Generation Fundamentals
C12 Member Tim Kachuriak is the Chief Innovation Officer for NextAfter. The firm helps large non-profit organizations leverage content they are already producing to acquire new donors, deepen relationships with existing donors, and maximize donor lifetime value. He shares three prerequisites for a successful demand generation strategy.
1. Discover Focus
We must have absolute clarity about who our Ideal Customer is and what makes them a good fit for our products or services. Make a list of your top 5 to 10 customers and ask, “What is their profile?,” “Why did they buy from us in the first place?,” and “Why do they continue to buy from us?” The goal is to get a better understanding of the attributes and similarities of our best customers so that we can focus our demand generation program to attract more prospects who buy like them.
2. Get Specific
With an ideal customer profile, we can retrace the acquisition stages from initial lead capture through closed sale. Ask your team, “What are the questions we had to answer at each stage of the customer journey?” “Where did the leads come from?” “What questions did we have to answer during the initial conversation?” “What are the typical objections that we must overcome?” We can identify the specific questions we must answer for ideal prospects and then create content that helps shape the correct conclusions at each stage in the buying or decision-making journey.
3. Be Willing to Exchange
Content that attracts our ideal prospects may not attract another group of people. It might even repel them—and that’s okay! Ultimately, acceptance of these trade-offs will ensure the sales team does not waste energy trying to force a prospect to conform to our ideal profile—or worse, generate a potentially problematic or disengaged customer.
Producing Compelling Content
An effective demand generation content strategy does not require a full-time copywriter, graphic designer, or a video production team to produce compelling content. We can start by demonstrating our expertise to potential customers who want to learn more about the subjects in which we are experts. This does require an open hand to sharing some of the “secret sauce” that makes us competitive. But providing supreme upfront value establishes our brand as trustworthy.
Modern consumers are increasingly educated, more skeptical of brands’ marketing claims, and perceptive to bait-and-switch offers. As integrous God-honoring businesses, we can stand out by reducing uncertainty and providing helpful information during the early stages of the buyer journey. As a customer acquisition strategy, demand generation aims at the same goal as traditional lead generation: to convert sales. But in demand generation, the top of the funnel may be wider and less visible, but no less effective.
FYI: Google’s latest search algorithms are designed to transcend text and give higher priority to images, podcasts, and videos. And video content has increased sales for 80% of marketers across multiple industries.
Examples of Modern Content
Gifs and Memes
Content That Matters – Matt Harrison, CEO of WellAware and C12 Member, was confident in his product but frustrated by moderate sales. Watch the video below to see how they transitioned from a dated sales approach to a content marketing strategy.
Clickbait Catches the Wrong Fish
As Christians, everything we do in business should be honest. Our content offers or product deliveries should reflect our brand promises. Slick verbiage can generate clicks and downloads, but we shouldn’t utilize empty promises or content teasers to trick visitors into divulging their contact information. A few planks of helpful information scaffolded by an overbearing sales pitch will sour our brand image. If we promise value but deliver content with little to no application, we burn the bridge of trust we’re trying to build. A charred bridge can rarely be rebuilt, especially in the absence of an already established customer relationship. When it comes to demand generation, the old sales adage of “underpromise and overdeliver” applies. When our brand surprises and delights prospects by delivering unexpected value through a piece of content, it emboldens prospects to continue the conversation.
A Demand Generation Strategy Is Not Wired to a Switch
The value of a demand generation strategy involves building long-term prospect and customer relationships. Implementation does not always produce immediate, measurable results any more than building a solid bridge will be completed in a day. It takes time to design a strategy and content plan, produce content, measure KPIs, and make tweaks. But providing valuable content that positions our brand as a trusted resource makes the buying process easier for both buyers and sellers. As Allan Dib states in The 1-Page Marketing Plan, this play shows we are willing to give long before we take, which breaks down sales resistance. Dib believes delivering valuable content throughout all stages of the marketing and sales funnel can transition our brand perception from a pest to a welcome guest.
To learn more about how to elevate your company’s brand position in your industry, download our e-book.
Reflection & Application:
What expertise could your company share with potential customers that is low-cost and easy-to-produce?
Determine the least effective stages in your marketing and sales process, and discuss how developing informative or value-driven content might perform some of the “heavy lifting” of customer conversion.