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How to Build a Proven Digital Demand Generation Program

Feb 22, 2022

We live in a world with too much information. And too little time to take all the information in.

As marketers, we’ve never had a harder time to cut through all the noise. So, if what we’re putting into the world doesn’t resonate, it’s obviously going to get ignored. Our job, as marketers, is to make our demand generation efforts impossible to ignore.

According to Gartner’s 2021 technology end-user buying behaviour survey, the pandemic has seen some really interesting shifts. Sales are speeding up and riskier projects are being given the go ahead. Alongside this, buyers are willing to work with technology vendors not previously on their approved lists.

So, if you stop and think about that for a moment, there’s a huge opportunity.

If you can get your demand generation efforts right, you can start to take advantage of all these shifts in buying behaviours.

But all of these trends aside, we can’t remove ourselves from the reality of the demand generation task ahead of ourselves. It’s still a really long hard slog for us to gain, capture and retain attention throughout the entire buyer journey: from consideration through to evaluation and to purchase.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: how we can prepare and implement a successful demand generation program?

According to Garner, there are four steps you need to take:

1.    Provide Adequate Budget & Attention To Your Demand Generation

2.    Optimise your Website

3.    Pre-Frame Your Messaging

4.    Retell Your Customers’ Stories

Individually, they may seem simple but when implemented together, they will significantly grow your demand generation efforts.

So let’s have a look at them in more detail.

1.    Provide Adequate Budget & Attention To Your Demand Generation

When allocating a decent budget to demand generation you need to have some guides for that budget. From their technology benchmarks, Gartner states that the average sub. $250 million company in IT services and software spends just 3% of revenue on marketing – and that doesn’t change wherever they are in the world.

That 3% of revenue is not going to be enough to sustain double-digit revenue growth over a protracted period of time. Looking at the high growth software providers, they spend more than 8%. And the top 25% of software companies that have high revenue growth, spend year-on-year 20% of their revenue on marketing. But that money is not wasted. That 20% spend affords them a 44% growth. So, there is definitely a correlation between marketing spend and sustained growth.

So, assuming you can successfully pitch for an adequate budget, how do you spend that money?

According to Gartner, you should be breaking this down roughly into thirds. A third allocated to the top of the funnel, a third to the middle / bottom of the funnel and a third to client retention and advocacy. Make sure your team allocates the spend correctly so you can track effort according to ‘top’, ‘middle’ and ‘post’.

In contrast, it won’t work if you’re spending all your budget at the top of the funnel, generating awareness. You’ve got to know whether it’s working for you, and that can only occur if you track the whole funnel and see the results of your spend.

Next on your demand generation focus is to create greenfield demand through inbound marketing.

This focuses on turning impressions and interactions into qualified engagement, drawing the audience in so they register or contact you for more information.

You then have to provide a dedicated effort into nurturing those leads, helping your sales team reduce the sales cycle time. By increasing urgency in the middle of the funnel, this actually helps increase your budget at the top because once you can prove that your top-end activity leads directly to sales you can argue for a larger budget.

One of the keys here is to nurture your existing customers into becoming advocates for your brand which then feeds right back into the top of the funnel. However, there’s no point in doing demand generation if you’ve got a churn issue. You don’t fix a leaky bucket by filling it with more water.

So, get all of these different steps working in unison and then you can increase the flow. After that, the next step is to optimise your website.

2.    Optimise your Website

70% of customers say the decision to purchase is affected by website load times. Just one to three seconds of additional payload time increases the propensity for bounce by 32%. Up to 10 seconds and the probability of bounce increases to 123%.

If your website is slow, it’s better to not start paid marketing at all. You’ve got to get it fixed. And it’s not just because the audience may bounce, if you know if they have a frustrating experience, it directly impacts your ability to rank on search. 

On top of that, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google all use it in their algorithms for their paid advertising. So, if you’re going to be doing paid advertising, you are impacting your CPA (your cost per acquisition) by having a slow website. And even if you have a completely performing turbo fast website, you’ve really got to take a critical assessment of your brand image whether the website is conveying the perception that you want your audience to view. Over the last 12 months, Gartner has seen that websites have never been more important than they are today. Your website is your storefront window to the world. Time after time, Gartner sees their clients trying to throw a lot of cash into paid advertising, but they haven’t fixed the place that they’re sending people to.

Think about it. Where is the first place that someone’s going to jump on when you’ve made a direct contact or a cold call? They are going to go to your website. If your website doesn’t meet the claim that you are a product leader with a world-class nimble R&D team, then they will lose trust in your claims. Gartner has found that even if the website has a great look and feel, often the messaging doesn’t convey the kind of experience the people they are targeting are looking for.

Those segments of your audiences that are in consideration mode are evaluating the market. They’re looking at your competitors and they’re assessing whether you would be a strong partner for them. The completely cold audience, which have no brand awareness of you, and actually own a modicum of awareness of the pains and problems that you solve, they’re the ones that you need to be focusing on drawing them in. You need to make them engaged and intrigued so that they dwell long enough so that you can influence them – and that they don’t bounce.

 

3.    Pre-Frame Your Messaging

In most cases, organisation’s websites don’t have a poor UX or a poor design, they’re just targeting the wrong audiences.

So, with that in mind, even with a great website, you’ve got to shift your messaging. This is called pre-framing. Let’s take a look at some example messaging that is common on websites of IT companies:

  •  Future proof your ___ with our cloud platform
  • We transform your company with our cutting-edge software.
  • We give teams access to the tools they need.
  • Monitor and control your security from a central system.
  • Your digital transformation partner.

 

Think about these messages from the perspective of the audience, especially the audience that has no brand recognition or even maybe only a superficial understanding of the pains and problems that you could be solving for them. These statements don’t really provide a connection with your audience. It’s like turning up to the first date and asking for the engagement ring.

What does your total addressable look market look like? Imagine that everybody that you could go and market and sell your products and services too. There’s a really thin sliver of a percentage of this pie that are evaluating solutions today. Sounds good that but you know in many ways just appealing to them puts yourself in a position where you could be in a competitive scenario. And in many ways you’re not really doing demand generation at all. You’re just sitting there to try and fulfil the demand that is already in the market.

Instead, you should be broadening your thinking too a much larger chunk of that total addressable market. To change your messaging, you need to be aware that there are a set of pre-existing conditions, frustrations, or catalysts that have to exist for an organisation to consider your products.

That’s what you need to go to market with. if you look at a typical sales funnel where we’re building awareness, generating interest, consideration and driving through to purchase. The organisations with the statements above, when they start their demand generation efforts, are trying to do direct response or trying to change customer thinking and teach them something new, but without doing the early legwork.

Reviewing the statements again, each one is very future-leaning. They require the audience to join the dots and think about what could be possible. Instead, your job is to actually make them feel that they can connect. And that they need to fix something or they need to do something better, or there’s an amazing opportunity that they need to be part of.

So, for all of the messages that you put out into the world, I’d like to go and think about from what to what. You know both the business benefits and the personal best fits. As I said before, there are sets of frustration catalysts. Things that have to exist for an organisation to consider your products. You have to overtly market to those. The counter of that is the desired future. Where do we want to go? And many times what we see is that people are just focusing on this future. This makes it incredibly difficult for you to cut through and for your audience to personalise and fill an emotional connection. Instead, describe it differently by knowing what your customers need to fix, accomplish or avoid.

You also need to create urgency, in your audiences mind. There are two flavours of this that you can apply in this format.

You can create inclusionary urgency, which is ‘I need to be a part of that scenario. I know the buyers is stimulating.’ The buyers need to participate in a desirable outcome or exclusionary urgency which is ‘I need to make sure that I’m not part of that outcome of that scenario’. So either one of those pre-frames that talks about the customer’s current situation is really powerful.

We need to ask ourselves: what are the pains? What are the top sets of pains that we should go in market to and then what are the sets of desires that we want to unlock in in our audience? One way to do that well is to reverse engineer it from the top performers. Go into LinkedIn. Go into any page of a company that is spending a lot and highly optimised and have a look at what they what they are advertising. You can go into posts and you can go to ads and you can see exactly what their marketing. Learn from it, reverse engineer. And then finding that you need to map your product benefits or your service and capabilities to the current situation and the desired future.

One of the ways to do that is to talk to your customers. To have success stories, but it’s just the process that you’re going through which will help you to create this pre-framing.

4.    Retell Your Customers’ Stories

Finally, case studies create credibility in the market. They are incredibly valuable, not only for pure demand generation but right across the funnel. From removing and handling objections to operating as sales tools for your sales team.

You should be putting customer success stories right at the very top of your agenda, along with thought leadership for the types of tools that you need for demand generation.

Gartner did a study where they looked back several decades and they looked at what was it that comprised of super-high growth companies? What were they do differently? These were companies that sustained high double-digit if not triple-digit growth year-on-year. Gartner found that not only did they spend a lot more in sales and marketing, as you might expect, but there is a three to one ratio between them talking about customer success is the success stories of their customers versus their own features, functions and capabilities.

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Every piece of paper, every advert, every website, every page that they have, they’re always talking about their customers. If you think about it, before the Industrial Age, before agriculture, we sat around campfires and we told each other stories.

The stories always had common patterns and the patterns, the same sort of things we see reflected in a Disney movie or in a great novel. They speak to us these real, living, breathing people. There are heroes of the stories. And there’s an overcoming of adversity, of bumps in the road. And ultimately, there’s a moral to the story.

Create a really impactful customer success story and put into practice several different success stories which have heroes of the story. Ensure they have a premise which you can relate to and that they include setbacks that have been overcome. This will create an emotional connection.

You should be unlocking emotions in your audience. Choose an Inherent need that we have as a human being, along with social affirmation and elevation of power and status, and these are all things that you can capture in an incredible success story.

But it isn’t just the act of having a document that you put on your website that these top performers are actually absorbing. They’re constantly interviewing their customers. And it’s their customers that are writing their marketing messages that they put out into the world. So, you should be putting this right at the very top of your agenda. No one really buys a product by what they think the product will do for them.

Speak to your customers and understand them. This should be based on how you improve your products and services. Learn from them how you can create these incredible stories which are going to resonate and cut through a really noisy marketplace.

Interviewing customers makes them heroes. You can then use this to amplify what your customers are saying.

In Summary

So in summary, you’ve got to have an adequate budget. You can’t do demand generation on a shoestring.

But you also shouldn’t be just throwing money at the issue. You need those guide rails that are going to help you with your business model.

Secondly, you need to optimise your website. Build, rebuild it if you need to, but improve your messaging. You then need to pre-frame your messaging in a way that connects to a broader audience. 

And finally, you need to talk to your customers. To learn how to interview them so you get below the superficial answers that they might give you to start with. Then get incredible compelling stories that you put out into the market.

*This blog was based on a webinar given by a Gartner analyst on the topic of demand generation.

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