2 of 2: Elements of a Modern Demand Generation Plan … Program Translation
Today’s post is part two of a two-part series I started about two weeks ago. In part one, I covered two main points: One, the greatest challenges most B2B marketers face in building a modern demand generation program is that they have no idea how to do this or where to start. Two, the first step in building a successful demand generation plan is to do some analysis. I called this developing ‘buyer-targeting context’ – i.e., understanding the environment within which you are targeting your buyer, what your objectives are and what it will take to get there. And I addressed the qualitative and quantitative analysis necessary to establish this context. In part two today, I’ll dig into what it takes to translate this context into an executable demand generation plan. ~ABN
Part Two: Program Translation
Developing your initial buyer-targeting context gives you the baseline you need to start to build your demand generation plan. By this point, you should have a clear idea of the following: who your target buyer is; what constitutes a lead that is qualified to go to sales; what are the conversion steps and quantitative dynamics you’ll face in your nurturing programs; and what your overall ‘reverse-funnel math’ looks like. These are all critical inputs.
Next our goal is to translate this analytical insight into a successful demand generation program.
So how do we get there? Obviously we’re building one large, integrative model, but that larger model is the sum of several sub models that are focused on better aligning buyer behavior with our marketing and sales funnel. When it comes to program translation, the three major models you should focus on are engagement, acquisition and nurturing.
Below is a conceptual overview of these three models in the context of overall program translation.
Given a combination of the objectives we determined in Part One of our planning process and the constraints of our marketing budget, and considering the key indicators that we will use to assess the performance of our program (i.e., our ‘KPIs’), we want to build a plan that connects with and converts prospects into buyers. And, of course, our system will be underpinned by a variety of marketing technologies (which I’ll note later in this post).
One additional overlay to this is your overall lead-stage conversion model. At Left Brain Marketing, we leverage our own proprietary model – ‘The Left Brain Model’ – which we made public last week. (BTW, If you are interested in learning more about our model, check out the press release or download the whitepaper). I’ll reference various stages of this model below, so I wanted to introduce the concept. I also wanted to highlight that the goal of The Left Brain Model is to help structure interactions with prospective buyers so that they move from Prospect stage through to eventually becoming a Sales Opportunity – a process that will be propelled by your engagement, acquisition and nurturing models below.
Successful demand generation starts with basic Prospect engagement. How do you engage with and shape the direction of a buyer in the earlier stages of their buying process?
Research by former XEROX sales trainer Robert Jolles for his book, Customer Centered Selling, indicates B2B buyers spend 79% of their time in the earliest portion of the buying process – i.e., acknowledging they have a problem and thinking through it, but not yet committing to the formal search for a solution. The goals of an engagement model thus are to connect with a buyer during his/her ‘upstream’ decision making; to help shape the answer to the question “What solution should I be searching for?”; and to begin to align initial information-seeking activity with our demand generation objectives.
The starting place for developing your engagement model is the ‘buying-process profile’ we developed in the analysis phase of our planning (in part one). The goal now is to map that profile against specific mediums and to start to develop content offers that will facilitate upstream engagement and education.
In the modern B2B buying environment, a substantial portion of the buyer education process will be played out by the buyer engaging with online content. In fact, more than half of your quantitative target for demand generation ‘impressions’ should be via inbound marketing channels. Inbound channels cover how you will engage your targeted buyer via a combination of organic search, search ads and non-search inbound (including social media). And you will enable inbound engagement primarily via relevant content (especially Web, blog and social content) and via community engagement.
This represents a shift for many marketers, though, away from a traditional interruptive/’push’ mindset when it comes to demand generation. They are used to planning that ‘if I push X offers into the marketplace, then they will yield Y results.’ Inbound marketing represents a transition to a concept of what is a more sustainable, organic and continuous demand generation approach – which breaks the mold for traditional ‘campaigns.’
SAP Director of Online and Social Media Marketing Michael Brenner notes this evolution in a recent blog post:
Our customers do not decide to start searching for solutions to their problems because we decided to run a campaign. Demand is “always on,” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So why shouldn’t your marketing?
We need an always on demand strategy that utilizes an effective inbound marketing approach: optimized website, consistent paid search activity, drip nurture programs and marketing automation. The cost of going in and out of the marketplace with time-bound campaigns often cannot compare to an effective always on campaign.
Inbound marketing is critical; however, traditional, outbound marketing tactics also will continue to play a key role for the future. This includes activities such as sponsoring third-party events and Webinars and leveraging qualified third-party email/direct mail lists. One key to success with modern outbound marketing is to invest in programs that blur the lines between inbound and outbound, that are ‘semi-interruptive.’ That’s where thought leadership programs such as a Webinar – when it leverages true, educational content – are a great tactical component. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of where outbound fits into the mix. Often it is best to target a specific outbound offer to someone who is later in his/her upstream decision-making, as this person – with a more concrete sense of what (s)he is looking for – is more likely to respond to an interruptive offer. Finally, buyer preference remains a key guiding principle with outbound tactics.
How do you conceptualize and organize your engagement model? I believe your plan has two major axes. One, there are the intermediary stages of consideration buyers will go through as they seek the answer to “What solution should I be looking for?” Two, there are a combination of inbound and outbound channels buyers might consult to find an answer. So I think of this initial picture as essentially a grid of the two factors, and the composite shows us the various areas and issues where we need to populate content. The goal of our engagement model thus is to deliver this combination of inbound and outbound impressions that will cover every potential method of influencing and engaging a buyer in his/her upstream decision making.
Despite the importance of inbound marketing and of content – which I think of as the ‘secret sauce’ in the modern demand generation environment – the truth remains we still need to convert this potential into active interaction.
“[C]ontent views don’t create demand, actions do,” content marketing expert Aradath Albee thoughtfully reminds us in a blog post. Ideally you’ve already aligned your inbound marketing with the upstream decision-making by your buyer. So your acquisition model should cover that next step.
There are three keys to this. One is ensuring all of your engagement streams flow into your nurturing stream. Two is to have a sense of the percentage contribution by channel so that you can better plan against required upstream impressions for downstream conversions in your funnel math. Three – perhaps the most important piece – is setting up your upstream engagement and subsequent content offers and campaigns to convert Prospects to Respondents. This is the link between engagement and nurturing.
One key to acquisition conversion is to seed ‘catalyst content’ within your portfolio of inbound and outbound engagement content – and to ensure everything points to this catalyst content (the content in the lower right hand corner of the example below). This is content that goes beyond helping you ‘get found’ and shaping upstream decision making, as we focused in our engagement model. Catalyst content is literally the piece that conceptually says ‘if you’re searching for X, then this will really interest you.’ I know that statement may not be clear, but it’s the logical next step between the buyer’s initial search for enlightenment and his/her transition into a formal search. Catalyst content, thus, is actually the first step of the nurturing process; it should require a minimal level of registration; and engagement in catalyst content should move your buyer from Prospect to Respondent stage.
An example of an acquisition model appears below.
I’ll point out that when planning your acquisition model, I believe you literally need to map it all out so that you can see the flows and think through the dependencies, as the example shows.
A critical outcome of acquisition thus should be the initial identification of your prospective buyer, in case previous interactions were anonymous. Whereas before your Prospects were a blend of those that are known and those that are unknown, acquisition provides these Prospects with an opportunity to identify themselves and move to Respondent stage. “As individual prospects become known, uniquely identifying them by an identifier such as an email address or other ID becomes possible,” comments Eloqua CTO Steve Woods in a recent blog post. This is important both for tracking and for setting the stage for subsequent nurturing of prospects from Respondent to Sales Ready Lead.
Once you’ve engaged and identified your prospective buyer, and you’ve secured a basic level of ‘response,’ the next step is to nurture that prospect to the point of being ready to speak with a salesperson – a level of interaction we refer to as a Sales Ready Lead in The Left Brain Model.
There are four major components of a successful nurturing model: core nurturing logic, content, progressive profiling and a scoring model. When everything is working correctly, the four work together in close coordination with each other and are integrative components.
Everything begins with your core nurturing logic. What is the pattern of buyer interactions that you are planning to leverage to move a buyer from Respondent to Sales Ready Lead? The first part of nurturing logic is of course your lead stages, but these lead stages must be closely mapped to the buyer’s buying process and to key information-acquisition objectives you can align with each lead stage. Keep in mind that what is different here from the earlier engagement model is that now the buyer is in a formal buying process – a checkpoint we helped clear in the acquisition model. So instead of trying to figure out what type of solution the buyer needs, the buyer is now focused on getting to a short list of viable potential vendors (within the solution category the buyer has already locked on) to more formally evaluate them and engage with your sales rep. The pattern of nurturing thus should not be to merely or haphazardly offer content and interact with a buyer until you say ‘okay, ready to go to the next stage’; instead, there should be a series of content that moves the buyer forward in his/her education process and enables that buyer to clear key lead-stage checkpoints along the way, ensuring your nurturing produces a qualified lead and a buyer predisposed to your solution at the same time.
To accomplish this, content must be closely aligned with this pattern of interactions. I highlighted in a past blog post this idea of how you should go about ‘layering’ your nurturing content (see example below) – so I won’t repeat that post – but the takeaway is that your content must be purposeful and back up your nurturing logic.
Progressive profiling is a key component of your nurturing model. It is a technique that ensures your interaction with buyers is two way – i.e., you’re not only offering content but you’re also capturing insights into the buyer. And progressive profiling covers both buyer behavior and also core demographic information, such as name, role, company, etc. The information captured via progressive profiling is the stuff that helps you qualify your lead and better target subsequent interactions and nurturing.
So what governs overall forward motion of buyers through this nurturing model? The combination of content offers and progressive profiling should enable you to subsequently ‘score’ a buyer at each interaction, and this pattern of scores should ultimately determine if a buyer is a fit at each stage and therefore should move to the next stage. There is a lot more to say about scoring, so I’ll reserve some of my comments for a deeper-dive post at a later date, but the most important thing to recognize is that scoring is about building a composite picture of your ‘ideal buyer’ and that your scoring model thus is something that you will be constantly working to refine at the same time as you are refining your understanding of your ideal buyer. “Scoring models are never perfect in their first iteration,” notes Marcus Tewksbury in his online demand generation guide. “Establishing an effective model is an iterative process of adjusting the measures, the point allotments, and the sales ready threshold.”
As you did with the acquisition model, your nurturing model is something you will script out – drawing out the logic and overlaying the content, progressive profiling and scoring model.
Once you have your engagement, acquisition and nurturing models fully-baked, you are ready to leverage your marketing technology systems – which should support your strategy, rather than dictate it. The usual suspects are marketing automation and CRM, but other critical elements include a strong blog CMS, your company’s Website CMS, other inbound marketing tools, and analytics that are able to see beyond merely one system or domain and instead gain a total picture of engagement with your targeted buyer.
There is certainly more to say around the details and best practices of building out your sub models and of operating and refining your demand generation program. In fact KPIs is one area where we shold go deeper, but I’ll limit the scope of this post for now. Nonetheless, I hope this post and the previous one represents a good starting place for wrapping your head around how to approach and build a successful demand generation plan.
And if you’d like to chat more about the content in this series, @ reply or DM me on Twitter or fill out a contact form and I’ll get back to you — as I’m sure some of you might have questions on some of the sections above.