You can – and probably do – grab new leads every day.
But do those leads really want what you have?
Without a demand generation plan, they may never realize they do. With an effective demand gen plan, they’ll pay attention, engage with you and – if you get it all right – become a customer.
A demand generation plan should be the perfect marriage (or as perfect as any marriage can be) between the marketing and sales funnels. Ideally, it’s a long marriage – bridging everything from the first interaction with prospects to the point a qualified lead becomes a customer.
Here are four components of a demand generation plan and in-depth tips and tools on making them effective.
Set goals for demand generation plan
Every demand generation plan needs to start with a clear, quantitative goal and set key performance indicators (KPIs). The plan and your approaches will always evolve – so with major changes, the goals might need to be adjusted as well.
“You can’t be successful with demand generation unless you know the sales and/or revenue goal you’re supporting,” says Matt Heinz, Founder and President at Heinz Marketing, and author of Successful Selling. “You cannot buy a beer with a marketing qualified lead! Most marketing is a means unto an end. It’s a critical means, but demand generation must be revenue responsible and revenue aware to be truly impactful.”
Every demand gen program is likely designed to increase revenue, but that’s too broad a goal. Be concrete with an exact and quantifiable goal. For instance:
- Increase sales leads 12% this year.
- Increase customer lifetime values 8%.
- Increase sales of Product X 28% this quarter.
- Convert 25% more sales qualified leads (SQLs) this month.
- Close 8% more sales.
You’ll measure different metrics and have different expectations to reach the goal for each demand gen plan. But experts agree on one thing about every goal: Marketing and Sales need to work together to set and reach them in a demand gen plan. Without early agreement and approval on numbers, approaches and expectations, most plans are doomed.
In addition to the major goal, you’ll want a few shorter-term objectives. That way success can be measured and assessed along the way to be sure you’re headed in the right direction – or if the goal and plan need better alignment.
Measure and document these objectives throughout the plan (and other objectives that are critical to your campaign, organization and/or industry):
- Number of new contacts generated
- Conversion rates from one stage to the next throughout your sales and marketing funnels
- Percentage of accounts touched (successfully and unsuccessfully), and
- Number of leads influenced.
Define the audience for demand generation plan
You know the ins and outs, benefits and competitive advantages of the product or service you’re creating the demand for. And your content is (or will be) created to build demand.
But for whom?
To make your demand gen plan effective, you want to target the right people (essentially at the right time). Forcing a product or service to a broad market won’t make good returns on your investment. If your audience definition is on target, you’ll be able to deliver content that engages them to move through your sales funnel.
Here are best practices for defining your audience:
- Start small. Don’t paint a broad stroke early in the defining stages. It’s more effective to target, design a message for and engage with a small, specific group of leads or prospects.
- Focus on how they discover you, not how you discover them. Find out how your ideal audience looks for and discovers products or services like yours. You can assume they turn to social media, review sites, influencers and news. But you’ll either have to do the research yourself or work with one of the many platforms and solution providers who gather and analyze the data.
- Gather your data. In addition to the search data, use your analytics on website visits (where they come from, what they look at, what they search, etc.) and internal data on who your current customers are. Work with colleagues who have contact with customers – technicians, delivery, customer service, development, etc. – to bring to life your customer persona.
- With all the data, you can build a composite sketch of the key audience you want to reach and attract. Create three to five “people” who are your audience. A template might look like this:
- Add a stock photo for each of your personas. Hang the completed templates in meetings and anywhere you’re working on demand gen, so everyone has a close eye on your audience.
Map and match the customer journey to demand gen
Most demand gen strategies can go weeks, months or longer, depending on organizational buying processes. You don’t want to rush or delay the process. Moving leads through the funnel too quickly with too much demand gen content can leave them confused. Wait too long to give them content and nurture the lead, and prospects will go to a more responsive provider.
What does your customer journey look like? The most basic and common looks much like this:
For each stage within your funnel, define the:
- action a lead must take to move to the next stage of the funnel
- qualities you want a lead to have to move to the next level
- action a lead must take to be removed from the funnel, and
- target conversion rate for each stage of the funnel.
Your customer journey map through the funnel and how it corresponds with the criteria might look like this:
Now you can align the demand gen content you want to use, plus the channels to send it through, with each stage of the buying journey.
If you start with a smaller target audience, you can likely use the same content at the same stages. If your target audience grows, then you might need to narrow content and channels based on different leads’ needs, the timing of the messages or the maturity of the relationships.
Your funnel strategy might look like this:
Add the right content for each stage of demand generation plan
Every demand generation campaign will be different as far as the type of content you use at each stage and how you deliver it. But some content works better at certain stages than others to generate interest, spark engagement and nurture the lead. And some content works wonders throughout the sales funnel.
Top of the funnel content and tactics
At the top of the funnel, the goal is to make prospects aware of you, stir interest, create some demand and generate leads. Building recognition is a score at this stage and getting prospect contact information is a win.
The most effective channels include:
- Advertising (on- and off-line)
- Free online tools
- Press coverage
- Social media
- Guest blogging
- SEO-driven content
- Introductions to research reports
- Industry event attendance
- Industry expert roundups
You want top-of-the-funnel content to be:
- Engaging. The larger audience you’re reaching for at this point isn’t yet interested in high-level, in-depth information. You want to grab attention with some form of interaction – a free offer, a game, request for feedback, etc.
- Customer-centric. Whatever content or tool you use to engage prospects, you want it to be more about them, less about you and your products or services.
- Snackable. Short, enticing information and activity – just enough to build intrigue.
- Visual. You want just enough to attract attention to you and your products or services, but not so much (color, animation, copy) that it detracts from the message.
Middle of the funnel content and tactics
In the middle of the funnel, you want to educate leads and build trust. You give them more content to nurture the budding relationships and build an emotional connection. Then they’ll reward you with extended attention and serious consideration for your product or service.
Now that prospects have opted-in or engaged with you in a different way, the most effective middle-of-the-funnel content and channels are:
- Email campaigns
- Targeted e-newsletters
- In-depth blog posts
- Fact sheets
- White papers
- Social media exchanges
- Case studies
- In-depth research
You want mid-funnel content to be:
- Educational. You want leads and prospects to understand all they can about the buying journey they’re on. Your content can help them learn more about the product or service, industry standards, competitor analysis and how to buy smart and use even smarter.
- Persuasive. Your educational content also needs to persuade prospects and leads that your product or service is the best.
- Targeted. All the content needs to speak directly to the audience that has come this far.
Bottom of the funnel content and tactics
At the bottom of the funnel, salespeople need resources that continue to prove expertise and authority, plus deepen the relationship. The content should highlight product features and benefits more directly than it did before because prospects are seriously considering your product or service.
The most effective content and channels for bottom of the funnel include:
- In-depth research with analysis
- Case studies
- Sales enablement such as apps and purchase analysis tools
- Introduction to and involvement in user communities
You want bottom of the funnel content to be:
- Concise and quick. The content should make it easier for leads to make decisions and accelerate the deal.
- Promotional. All the content should position your products or services as superior to the competitors’ (without slamming the competition). Focus on your value proposition and the benefits prospects will realize with your products or services.
- Inspirational. The content should help prospects justify their decision to choose you and inspire confidence in completing the deal.
- Sharable. Most buying decisions are made by teams these days. You want to give them content that is easy to forward and/or share for discussion within a group.
- Data-driven. Prospects need to continue to see that research and quality analysis backs up your claims.