The future of demand generation
Demand generation (or demand gen) can only be understood by first defining the word demand. Harken back to your Economics 101 and recall that demand represents a person’s desire and ability to purchase something. But it doesn’t mean that just because someone seems interested in buying he or she has financial means to do so.
Demand generation therefore encompasses all activities that help attract, engage, and convert likely customers. Depending on your industry, ideal customer profile (ICP), and personas, this may include a combination of:
- Outbound sales
- Content marketing and SEO
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media marketing
- Trade shows and virtual events
- Email marketing
- Direct mail
- Affiliate and referral programs
- Upselling or cross-selling to existing customers
Note that I bolded the phrase ‘likely customers’ in the previous paragraph. Why? Unlike traditional lead generation programs, which tend to focus on net-new emails or contacts, demand generation is focused on delivering net-new customers. Marketers, myself included, should pay special attention to this reality. Filling your CRM with 1,000 new email addresses that never convert is a waste of time and money. It pains me to say that, but it’s true.
So, what’s the best approach for implementing a scalable demand gen program that delivers results? Let’s take a closer look.
How to improve demand gen in 2021 & beyond
If demand generation is a multi-faceted endeavor that involves numerous disciplines, departments, and stakeholders, what can you do to maximize its impact for your company? Here are four steps to take in 2021.
1. Start with an objective view of your existing demand generation efforts
Whether you realize it or not, you already have programs in place that generate demand. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business!) To measure the impact of your existing demand gen efforts, jump into your CRM and pull a report of closed opportunities over the past year. Customize the report to include the originating source, such as outbound sales, existing customer upgrades, paid ads, social media, etc. Now analyze the data to understand where revenue is coming from. Visualizing your data as a pie chart can be a simple, yet effective way to understand what’s working—and what’s not. Here’s an example.
In the example above, it’s clear that outbound sales is the largest demand generator. That being said, this chart tells us nothing about how effective sales is at generating demand. If the company’s sales team consists of 25 account executives and 10 sales development representatives (SDRs), then the fully loaded cost of closing one sales deal may be exponentially greater than a self-service deal from organic search. Spend time analyzing historical deal data from a variety of vantage points.
2. Develop a plan for collecting better data
As you analyze historical data, you’ll likely identify gaps that make it difficult to answer all of your demand gen questions. After all, customer data is not limited to basic contact information, such as job title, revenue size, and related opportunities. To truly understand demand gen’s impact on the customer journey, you may need to go deeper and begin collecting the following data.
Trade shows are great for generating lots of business cards but not for closing deals. One lead from a trade show may require dozens of sales and marketing interactions before he or she has the desire and ability to buy. Collecting web and email interaction data in your CRM provides in-depth insight for understanding which demand gen channels, campaigns, messages, and content influence a customer’s buying decision.
Behavioral data is particularly useful for understanding the impact of your cross-sell and up-sell demand gen activities. For example, if you’re a software company, you might collect clickstream data from your app to measure interest in gated features. Simple adjustments to your product interface could have a major impact on awareness for and, as a result, demand for premium plans.
Customers can be an excellent source of new ideas, and demand generation is no exception. Why not ask your customers for demand-generating ideas? Survey your customers and ask them to share feedback on:
- Which industry websites, journals, and publications do you read?
- What type of content would you like to receive from us?
- What would make you more likely to tell a friend about our company’s solution?
- If you were the marketing manager for our company, where would you advertise?
- What trade shows or virtual events do you regularly attend?
3. Align your sales & marketing teams
Sales and marketing teams tend to be the largest generators of demand for companies. Unfortunately, they’re rarely in alignment with one another. Inconsistent terminology, competing objectives, and siloed systems are just a few of the reasons why organizations consistently struggle to align these two groups.
If you’ve struggled to align your sales and marketing teams in the past, fear not. A well-structured demand generation initiative can be the perfect opportunity to foster cross-departmental alignment and simultaneously drive enhanced top-line performance. Alignment usually starts at the top, so your first step should involve gaining buy-in from sales and marketing leaders on a shared set of objectives, methods, and metrics.
Once aligned on the big picture, leadership must continuously work together to operationalize the vision. Check out Insightly’s sales and marketing alignment series for tips on accomplishing that goal.
4. Unify your demand gen systems into one platform
As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a blurred line between sales, marketing, and other demand generating functions. Allowing sales to work in one siloed system and marketing to work in another is not a viable solution in today’s competitive landscape. In short, you need the right technology to help you collect the right data, align your people, and understand what’s working.
Revenue generating teams want fewer, better systems. Ideally, they want one system that empowers them to visualize the buyer journey, create segmented lists of likely customers, and automatically engage buyers in a personalized way.
Unifying your demand generating efforts into one platform, such as Insightly, is a smart first step toward enabling this reality. Your revenue teams will spend less time on time-consuming data integrations and imports and more time on what matters most: developing highly targeted campaigns, programs, and initiatives that increase demand for your products or services.
They’ll also have access to better data—and more of it—presented in a visually appealing way that simplifies decision-making and team alignment.
Maximize the impact of your future demand gen efforts
Customer behavior continues to change at a rapid pace. To compete, companies must view demand generation as a strategic initiative that requires buy-in from leadership, a commitment to cross-departmental alignment, and technology that supports data-driven demand generation.
Ready to see how a unified CRM for sales and marketing can help you take demand generation to the next level? Request a free demo with an Insightly representative. No commitment required.