1 of 2: Elements of a Modern Demand Generation Plan … Overview + Buyer-Targeting Context
How many posts a week do you find with ‘tips and tricks’ for improving your demand generation program or for leveraging marketing automation technology? These posts are valuable, yet if you are part of the 97-98% of B2B marketers that either are not currently using marketing automation technology or that are not using it successfully – a reality I covered in parts one and two my ‘Real State’ of modern demand generation series – then you’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Where’s the gap?
I find B2B marketers increasingly ‘get’ the key building blocks. They know – at least subconsciously – they need both process and technology (even if they don’t act on it). And a growing group understands that in order to do successful online demand generation, they need some combination of marketing automation, together with lead management strategy and content marketing strategy. B2B marketers also are increasingly aware of the importance of holistic nurturing. Unfortunately, these remain mostly tactical considerations for far too many B2B marketers. I think this is why demand generation remains a tactical, not strategic, consideration inside far too many companies, and why many have a narrow scope of what demand generation entails. Yet even if you understand that demand generation is strategic, there remains an obvious, glaring gap … the ‘big gap’ … which is what the majority of B2B marketers still struggle with …
How do you build a modern demand generation program? What does that entail? Where do you start? What are the keys to success?
I think this is the real disconnect for many B2B marketers today. They do not really understand what it looks like to architect an entire, modern demand generation program, end-to-end – one that is appropriate for a marketing environment in which power has shifted from sellers to buyers and where Web 2.0 realities predominate. These B2B marketers need a way to sort out how all of these tactical systems and advice in blog posts and through consultants all come together in a real program. (In fact, this is a major reason why I joined Left Brain Marketing – to help clients close this very gap and bring it all together.)
The starting place should be your demand generation plan. So what are the key elements of a modern demand generation plan?
Below are the elements we address when we build a demand generation plan for our clients at Left Brain Marketing – organized into two buckets: first, buyer-targeting context and second, buyer-conversion program models. This is the framework we use, and I think understanding it will help you tackle your own plan.
Part One: Buyer-Targeting Context
The start of building a successful demand generation plan is laying the context. In this case, it’s gaining a complete sense of the environment in which you are targeting a specific buyer and where you have specific goals for the results of this targeting.
> Qualitative and quantitative objectives: What are you trying to achieve with your demand generation program? “Do you have specific, quantitative demand generation objectives to meet every quarter?” asks marketing strategist Howard Sewell in a recent blog post. “Or are you simply given a budget and then try to accomplish as much as possible based on that budget?” While you want an integrative program – where revenue is certainly the final objective and budget is a constraint – you’ve got to be more granular than this. Typically demand generation programs cover the point up until when a lead is handed over to and/or vetted by sales (whether new or repeat business). At Left Brain Marketing, we call this mature, fully-vetted lead a Sales Opportunity. How do you define a Sales Opportunity? This is something that should be developed via joint marketing/sales collaboration, and everyone should be onboard with it. This is your qualitative objective. So then you need to figure out how many Sales Opportunities per month are required to achieve your targets for Closed-Won deals (based on your projected win rate)? This is your quantitative objective. This is where everything starts. If you know what a Sales Opportunity looks like and how many per month you are trying to achieve, you have a clear objective you can then build a demand generation plan to reliably achieve.
> Buying-process profile: While it’s critical to have qualitative and quantitative objectives, demand generation does not happen in a vacuum; moreover, in the current environment, B2B marketers have less control over buyer engagement in the demand generation process. So you need to have a clear sense of the buying process your targeted buyer goes through. One, how do they buy – i.e., what stages do they go through and who is involved? And two, what information do they consume on the way to making a purchase decision? You need to do this research – which typically is an extension of the basic persona work your product marketing teams and or sales teams have probably already engaged with. The challenge with traditional personas, though, is that they are very product centric – profiling how a buyer uses the product/service being offered. This is of limited use to demand generation. It’s thus critical to flip this approach in building a buying-process profile. Start with the buyer’s pain point and their subsequent search for a solution, and figure out how that will eventually meet up with your product/service.
> Baseline conversion data estimates: With a sense of quantitative objectives and an awareness of your targeted buyer’s information consumption pattern – particularly the channels where you are likely to engage them – it’s possible to go out and start to build a baseline of channel-specific conversion step data to drive your demand generation math. If you’re building a demand generation program for a going concern, you should start with your own historical data; if your plan is for a new venture, you will probably lean more heavily on industry baselines. Your demand generation agency is one source of this information, and it should be able to help you model this. Another source is industry analyst firms such as SiriusDecisions and Aberdeen Group – both of which have impressed me in recent years with their quantitative demand generation research. Also, analyzing conversion data also requires having a conversion model – something we’ll talk more about in the near future when Left Brain Marketing releases a white paper on The Left Brain Model, a revised way of thinking about the conversion process. But either way, you need a baseline – somewhere to start – and you need to know it will be an estimate, and that a key to optimizing your demand generation program over time will be comparing baseline to actual performance.
> Reverse funnel math: Now you need to put all of your contextual inputs together. Given your objectives and considering both your buying-process profile and baseline conversion data estimates, it’s now time to figure out the current and/or anticipated routes, steps and conversion rates that lead to your objective. To do this you have to work backwards, and typically this is book-ended by some very large numbers for estimated total number of inbound and outbound marketing Prospect impressions you’ll need to drive to acquire enough Respondents – i.e., raw leads – and subsequently to hit your targeted number of Sales Opportunities per month. John Neeson with SiriusDecisions refers to this as ‘reversing the waterfall’ in a recent blog post: “[D]etermine the marketing requirements needed to achieve these sales programs. Establish what the number of leads will be, what marketing will source and what they will influence.”
Understanding the dynamics of what it takes to reach our targeted buyer is just the start of formulating your demand generation plan. Next step is to build out the model for how we will do this — engaging, acquiring and nurturing our targeted buyer …
Today’s post is part one of a two-part series. In one of the next posts on this site — sometime in the next week or two – I’ll cover part two of this series, which will dig into the key buyer-conversion program models that underlie a successful, modern demand generation plan and that address how to put buyer-targeting context into action. ~ABN