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Demand generation in 3 steps – see beyond the top of the funnel

September 3, 2019
Samuli Isomäki

The most common misconception about demand generation is that it’s just about the acquisition of new users and customers. In reality, demand generation done right is much more. It’s the entire acquisition process that nurtures your customers through the entire funnel. Demand generation is about creating a continuous flow of stimulus that motivates potential customers into not only considering your product or service, but actually guides them all the way to the actual purchase and beyond.

In contemporary times, marketer messages are lost in the loud noise of others and the average consumer has reached a saturation point that makes them blind and deaf to generic marketing efforts. Demand Generation done right tries to avoid this through a variety of means.

Read on for the series of 16 demand generation actions, taken together in 3 steps, that produce real results. 

Gathering data

Gather as much data regarding factors that motivate your potential customers and communicate those trigger points across your marketing platforms. What this does is give you a constantly growing base on which you can then build and use the general information you receive (e.g. the level of seniority of your potential customers, the type of businesses they represent, the content they’re interested in) as a base for further expanding and more accurately targeting your potential base of customers.

Through efficient identification and consistency in your marketing, you start forming a base of potential customers who are more likely to have an interest in your product or service. You can then start reaching these people through more personalised means and avoid the pitfalls of marketing carpet bombing. A personalised, targeted message responding to a need you have identified improves the effectiveness of your marketing considerably.

At this point, your customer is hopefully on the verge of purchase and maybe through your efforts, you have received their contact information and can further pinpoint your efforts to individual users and convert them into customers. You then nurture the loyalty of these customers through further serving their specific needs and reward them for choosing you and your company. Simple, right?

Efforts rewarded

Does the above seem like a lot of work? If you do it by hand and for each user, it is. But that’s where marketing automation comes in. Does all this seem confusing? Let me assure you, it isn’t. What it takes is a dedicated effort in determining what you want to be doing and how you want to measure your effectiveness. Then, with proper tagging, you can enable tracking across your various platforms and automation systems, at which point you have your basics set up.

What comes next is putting your plans into action: Your campaigns are launched across channels to create sufficient stimulus for prospective users and you start building your funnel. At this point, we have built the basis for marketing automation, which will ensure that none of your effort is wasted and all prospective users feel the warm embrace of your nurturing funnel.

The pitfall for most marketers is that most marketing is ad hoc and spur-of-the-moment. A product manager wants their product promoted on Google Ads, so a campaign is launched. On the other hand, the CEO wants to show pictures of the staff working on Instagram. You, the marketer would instead prefer to run a Facebook campaign because you feel like that’s where your target audience is. There are now three ongoing marketing efforts, but they’re all pulling in different directions. There’s no coordination nor is there a long-term plan.

Successful demand generation is a concerted multi-channel effort where you have specifically determined key performance indicators (KPIs) that serve as the guiding red line to all your efforts. You build your campaigns – all your campaigns – to serve those goals. Successful demand generation depends on this coordination but in turn, it rewards you with more accuracy in your marketing which in turn means more revenue and can help you reduce the cost of marketing.

How do you know when you’re successful? When your marketing efforts convert your users into not just customers but also evangelists. These people recommend your products and services to their network and in turn, this social proofing helps you expand even further. This requires a long-term commitment and one-time ad campaigns disconnected from one another simply won’t do.

Time is on your side

As described above, successful demand generation is a long-term thing. Thankfully, time is a friend and ally of the demand generation specialist because it helps you not only to come up with the answer to the problem your users have but to come up with ways to solve it. All campaigns you run should always have a bit of variety and you should always be benchmarking against yourself and different customer groups. As you identify types of prospective users, you can test against these groups and use different types of methods for reaching your goals. What this takes is a bit of time and effort, but it rewards you with better-performing marketing efforts. Be experimental. Be bold. A generic marketing message is the blandest thing imaginable.

An analytical mindset, a creative take on things and the willingness to experiment is what sets successful marketers apart from the rest. It’s entirely too common for marketers to simply launch a campaign only to run a report once the campaign is done and then take that report to the board, who are none the wiser about what has been done to make this campaign a success or a failure. There’s no single best practice that you can adhere to and each campaign should receive the same optimisation treatment as the last because you don’t want to end up treading water with something that may have worked in the past.

Most unknown or niche websites receive very little traffic. They receive very few returning users and while it may seem like a tall order to convert your small corner of the web into a lead generator, it is doable. I’ve gone over the steps in length so let me just give you a short recap about what goes into the funnel.

Step 1: Drive traffic to your site with all means available to you. This includes:

  • Increasing organic traffic through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by creating content directed at your prospective customers and specifically answering a problem you’ve identified
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) targeted at your niche and leading to high-quality landing pages, which you’ve optimised in concert with your SEO efforts. A lot of companies miss the synergy between SEM and SEO
  • Social Media campaigns. You might wonder why a B2B company would need to promote on social media, but it’s important to remember that at the end of the day you are indeed marketing to people…and people these days tend to be on social media. At this stage, you want to give your prospective customers all the stimuli possible
  • Display Advertising on various networks. Again, even if you think your brand is a household name, known to everyone in the industry – it isn’t. And even if it is, display advertisement is the first step in making you familiar, sending out that message and building a base of customers. All’s fair in love and marketing!
  • Programmatic, automatically-targeted marketing
  • Content marketing, an approach creating and sharing valuable, relevant and consistent content (ebooks, blogs, infographics, webinars and so on) to attract and retain your target audiences and to drive customer action
  • A lot to consider? If you have your long-term plan set, each campaign takes a couple of hours to set up. Then it’s merely a question of how much you’re looking to spend on your first step and what are you getting out of it in return. Remember, this is only step 1 – we’re only building interest here.

Step 2: Start converting the mass you cultivated in the previous step into customers that are actively considering you to serve their needs. The efforts taken here are done in concert with step 1. Both steps can and should benefit each other.

  • Continue your SEO efforts, generating new content that answers more specific questions in your field of work. There are always questions your customers have that aren’t asked aloud and if you not only identify these questions but also come up with actionable answers, you’ve gone a long way in casting yourself as a reliable partner
  • Make SEM campaigns that are more specifically targeted. If in step 1 you carpet-bombed with generic, all-encompassing ads, here you want to use the lingo of your industry and answer the specific needs that your customers have
  • The first remarketing campaigns are launched – one targeting all who came to your site during first step efforts, another for those who fulfilled a specific goal. You start identifying user groups
  • Marketing automation starts. You’ve drafted materials for specific user groups and your marketing automation system takes care of the individual messaging or other efforts you have in place
  • Content marketing continues as a supporting effort.

Notice how the paths are already starting to take shape. There’s a clear start in the first step and here you’re already cultivating the users you reached into actual customers. We’re getting closer to the green.

Step 3: We’re on the verge of converting! Our lead nurturing is paying off and through our efforts, we’ve identified potential leads and have handed them over to our sales team. The team takes over and we’re now playing support so that the customer remembers us as they’re making the final decision. Our actions at this point are:

  • Remarketing. Our previous remarketing campaigns have sustained interest in our products and services and we want to make sure this continues all the way through to the finish line. The efforts here are more targeted – we’re hoping to get that big fish so we promote content to make us appear reliable, friendly and ready to serve
  • Marketing automation continues. As the customer moves down the path we’ve laid out for them, our automation makes sure that they’re reminded about us and what we do on a predetermined schedule
  • Conversion optimisation takes place as first sales are conducted. We learn from the cases we lost and from those that we won. What worked? What didn’t? Is there something we can do to improve our online presence to help closing sales? There always is!

Does the buck stop here? We made the sale, what more is there to it? Like you and I both know, the real value to business comes from returning customers. We don’t want to let all the effort we went through go to waste, so let’s make sure they stay happy. Here’s what we can do online:

  • Continue with marketing automation. Customers that made a purchase might receive a message asking for a review, seeing if they need help with the product a couple of weeks in and maybe another a few months down the line, asking if we could contact them for an interview. We want to convert their good experience into social proof to support the top of our funnel
  • Social media marketing to customers continues – they remember us through non-invasive means and we nurture their loyalty with certain rewards.

This isn’t the end, either. It all starts anew and customers coming through the funnel are now our benchmark. We use them to assist in our marketing through social proofing and we ensure that they stay happy through automation. The funnel feeds itself if you take care of it.

Wrap it up already!

I began this article with the idea that I’d give a brief taste of what demand generation is. It grew as I went along and, looking back at it, I still consider it a brief taste. I could go on about the online presence you need if you want to be successful, but I’ll leave that for our one-on-one conversation. You can do all of this by yourself, but if you need a hand I’ll be more than happy to help you in setting up your demand generation system.

Want to learn more about demand generation?

We are happy to invite you to our demand generation webinar series. Secure your spot and register now!

Samuli Isomäki
Samuli has years of experience in business development, sales & marketing. The last five years he has been concentrating on digital business and marketing development and at ID BBN he leads the Demand generation team. Samuli’s versatile know-how combined with experience in planning and implementing international campaigns empowers companies to achieve digital exposure and growth. When not working Samuli likes to spend his time outdoors and enjoy nature. And he doesn't even get lost every time he is out there…