I recently tuned into a very interesting Round Table discussion on the B2B social networking site Focus.com. The topic was the “Future of Demand Generation” and included an impressive panel of four industry-veterans who between them had many years’ experience as VPs of Marketing and working with outside companies as independent demand generation consultants.

I thought it would be useful for our Angled End readers to get a grasp on what demand generation actually is, and how it fits into their overall marketing strategy. I also wanted to highlight the key take-away messages from the discussion so our clients and prospective clients can begin to think about how to implement a demand generation strategy with (or without) Angled End’s help.

What is Demand Generation and Why is it so Important?

Simply put, demand generation is any activity conducted by an organization’s marketing department that directly contributes to more revenue (and profit) for the company. This is quite distinct from branding where companies spend thousands (some even millions) of dollars in branding and awareness  campaigns – that is, investment in advertising merely designed to get the word out about the company and keep that company present in the consumer’s mind should they ever need or desire said company’s product offering.

In other words, this is budget that cannot directly be tracked back to revenue for the company. This is because it is virtually impossible to measure the impact of a TV, radio or billboard campaign on your sales team’s pipeline – unless it includes a trackable website URL or freephone number – and therefore on the company’s bottom line.

Your Sales Team is Hungry for Quality Leads!

With demand generation campaigns, the marketing department is solely focused on generating interest and contactable leads for their sales team to follow up with and close, thus leading to quotas being met and growth for the company. The ROI is measured via a marketing automation tool which plugs into the company’s CRM or in-house reporting system, so that campaigns can be assessed as profitable or not, and optimized accordingly.

Key Takeaway: Shift More Marketing Resources to Demand Generation to Boost the Bottom Line!

Why is Website Everything?

Jason Hekl, president of Demand a Lot Marketing (@the_hekler) stated unequivocally on the discussion “Website is everything!” And we at Angled End would have to concur with Jason. Why? Because other forms of lead generation, such as attending trade shows, are an exorbitantly costly way to generate leads for your organization. Agreed there are other purposes for attending trade-shows such as brand awareness, maintaining the image of holding a certain position in the marketplace, and using the time to conduct face-to-face business meetings with existing clients or prospects. However, if we’re strictly talking about demand generation – we agree with Jason that your marketing dollars are far better spent on improving your website experience, creating clear and concise landing pages with ‘Contact Us’ forms embedded, and investing in a marketing automation tool that will allow you to track and measure results. You will find that the average cost per lead and cost per acquisition, metrics that will be high up on your CMO or CEOs radar screen, will be drastically lower using online marketing techniques – and the sales cycle between initial contact and deal close will also often be shortened if you have a website that allows the prospect to easily learn all about you and your product/service before they even make contact.

Key Takeaway: 95% of buyers have researched the product/service they are seeking online before they make contact with a vendor

Pareto Principle and Demand Generation

The 80/20 rule applies here to your target audience. 80% will be conducting research before they make contact with you via your website or sales line. The remaining 20% have already done their research and are now in Buy Mode. Meaning, I have ascertained what type of product I want/need, and I am now looking to who is going to give me:

  1. The best value for money
  2. The best customer service
  3. The best overall experience

As one panelist mentioned, purchasers do not buy based on spec sheets and bells and whistles, they buy on emotion. Which company portrays the image of being the leader in their category (regardless of whether they are or not revenue-wise!) – again, this is why image conveyed via your website is so important – and who has been the most responsive to my inquiries.

Key Takeaway: Buying-decisions are based on emotion, not spec sheets!

What is Marketing Automation and Why Does my Company Need it?

Marketing automation is just that: automating your marketing campaigns using a third-party software module to more effectively track, monitor and optimize your marketing campaigns. This allows you to feel confident that you are devoting time and monetary resources to campaigns that have the greatest impact on generating demand for your company’s product and service.

What Companies Offer Marketing Automation and which Should I Buy?

There are various options on the market today: HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, to name a few. Which platform you opt for will obviously depend in part on your company’s size, growth objectives, and the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when talking to these company’s sales reps. As partners and certified resellers of HubSpot, we are somewhat bias in that we love, love, love their product, service and wealth of free information on their website – and we use of course license the platform ourselves to improve our own inbound marketing and demand generation efforts.

But We’re Still Small… How do we Generate Demand without Fancy Software?

For those of you who are not large enough to work in an organization with a separate sales and marketing department, do not despair. Demand generation can be conducted by any company. Even those with the most minimal of marketing budgets and human resources can generate demand via a simple paid search campaign, starting a blog that goes viral, or a Twitter feed/Facebook page that followers receive special offers from. You can use a good old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet, and field on your contact form on your site asking ‘How you heard about us’ to measure the impact of these efforts.

While demand generation and marketing automation are concepts that have largely been grasped by the high-tech industry and are gaining momentum in the financial services sector, the vast majority of industries are still largely in the dark about these trends and need help from outside consultants such as myself or the Focus panelists to educate them about how to implement an effective strategy that works.

I’ll Say It Again, Website, Website, Website

The ultimate key take-away message from the excellent Focus.com discussion, and which I hope you will take from this article is: your website should be the centerpiece of your marketing efforts and the vast majority of your marketing budget should be directed toward campaigns which drive traffic and leads from your website. You can then filter the wheat from the chaff through lead scoring, and reactivate dormant leads via lead nurturing (but that’s a topic for another blog post) to ensure that your sales team pounces on every lead they receive from you because they know they have a high chance of converting that lead to new business.

Sandy GansSandy Gans is Director of Sales and Internet Marketing at AEI. Feel free to contact Sandy with any questions, or to get a quote for a design or internet marketing project – sandy@angledend.com.