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Demand Generation for B2B Businesses: A Practical Guide

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March 22, 2023

What is Demand Generation and where does it come from?

Demand Generation is a marketing approach where you create interest and demand for the product or service you’re trying to sell. You define your audience and serve your prospects content that helps them understand that 1) they have a problem to be solved and 2) you are the one to solve that problem! The ultimate goal is to create inbound leads: prospects who come to you with a request for a demo or proposal. 

Some would say Demand Generation is a counter-reaction to the B2B marketing practices of the past decade where B2B marketing was conducted completely differently. Gated content pieces were at the center of these ‘traditional’ B2B marketing practices. Traffic was sent to landing pages where prospects could leave their contact information for a piece of juicy content. 

After leaving their contact information, they would soon land in an unwanted email flow meant to ‘nurture the prospect’. Or even worse: they would get contacted by the sales department of the organization trying to convert the prospect to a paying customer. 

The moral of the story: B2B marketing used to evolve around ‘pushing people through the funnel’ and trying to get people to convert when they are not ready to do so. This resulted in a waste of time for both the marketing and sales departments since useless leads are generated that are not ready to convert at the moment they are being followed up on. 

Demand Generation is a countering approach that focuses on serving content to a narrowly defined target audience in a consistent and frequent manner in order to create demand, trust, and liking. In this way, you’ll be top of mind when the prospect actually starts searching for a solution. Applying this method means the marketing department is responsible for Marketing Qualified Leads, and Sales is responsible for the follow-up of actual inbound Sales Qualified Leads.

11 Steps to roll out your own Demand Generation strategy

1. Install self-reported attribution

The first step when rolling out a Demand Generation strategy is to make sure that you are measuring success properly. 

Self reported attribution is widely recognized as the most reliable and effective measurement method within B2B. What does it entail? You simply ask inbound leads how they found you.

In practice, this means that you are going to ask (on your contact or demo request form): how did you find us? Keep in mind that this has to be an open-ended question when you want to motivate your leads to tell the whole story. 

To get the most complete answer, you should also ask leads in your sales call to elaborate on their answer by asking:

  1. Where did you first see us?
  2. When did you decide to contact us?

You will find that there is a huge difference between what self-reported attribution measures and what tools like Hubspot or SalesForce measure. An incoming lead via Google might be attributed by Hubspot to Google Organic, but the lead itself might tell you that they have been seeing your LinkedIn Ads over the past months and decided to look you up on Google and contact you. 

So to sum up, before you take any other steps, make sure you measure correctly by implementing self-reported attribution.

2. Define your Ideal Customer Profile

Which customer group experiences the most benefits from your product or service? The chances are high that this is also the customer group that brings in the most revenue. 

We’re talking about the 20% of your customers that bring in 80% of your revenue. Don’t be scared to niche down here. Eventually, you want to create a ‘small’ group of people among whom you want to become truly famous.

Ideal customer profile
Considerations when defining your ideal customer profile

3. Define Core Messaging

When you have decided which group of people you want to become ‘famous’ in, it is time to identify what you want to become famous for. 

It is very likely that you’re operating in a competitive market. So, what are you going to communicate in order to stand out from your competition? What is your unique selling-point?

Whatever you put down on paper is going to be the basis of the narrative you will stick to in the upcoming period.

4. Define Channels

In this step, you define the channels on which you will be distributing your content. Depending on the resources you have, both time and money, you can decide whether you want to focus on organic or paid channels, or both.

Do take into account that for both channels, you will have to create content that your Ideal Customer Profile is going to enjoy consuming. Paid advertising is not an easy way out of not having to create super valuable content. Paid advertising only guarantees that your content is served to your prospective customers, not if they react to it.

Organic channels

You can focus on short-form content or long-form content. For short-form content, you should focus on channels where the algorithm works in your favor. With this, we mean that when you share something, you need to make sure the algorithm offers you the opportunity to reach many prospective customers outside of your own network. 

For both long-form and short-form content, you should choose channels that you know you can set up sustainable processes. Don’t go for a LinkedIn Personal Posting strategy, for instance, when you know you won’t have the time to write content for at least 3 posts per week.

Short form and long form channels
The difference between short and long-form content

Short-form 

  • LI Company Page
  • LI Personal Pages
  • Instagram Reels
  • TikTok
  • Twitter

Long-form

 

  • SEO Blog
  • Podcasts
  • Email marketing


Paid channels

Regarding the paid channels, take into account that you will need enough advertising budget to target your Ideal Customer Profile for a longer period of time. If you want to create demand, you don’t want your ICP to see you once or twice, you want them to see you consistently and frequently for a long period of time.

Channels

  • LinkedIn Ads
  • Meta Ads
  • Google Display / YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat

5. Define Creators & Distributors

Demand Generation evolves around serving content to your Ideal Customer Profile. In this step, you define who creates the content and who distributes it.

Example 1: You’re pursuing a LinkedIn Personal Posting strategy. Who will be writing  the content that will be posted? And which account(s) will be used to post it on? The account of the Founder, the Sales Manager, or maybe the Marketer?

Example 2: You’re pursuing a LinkedIn Advertising strategy. Who writes the advertising copy and creates the advertising designs/videos? And who will eventually put the campaign in LinkedIn Campaign Manager?

The answer to the first question in the two examples helps you to define the Creator(s) and the second question to define the Distributor.

6. Define milestones and set up processes 

If you want to make sure you will be serving your content consistently and frequently, you need to define milestones and processes.

Milestones

How often will you post? How many blogs will you write and in which period of time? How many different content pieces do you want to advertise each month?

Processes

When is content created, checked, and put live? And by whom?

7. Set hypotheses

Now you have defined which content you will create and distribute and how you want to do this, it is time to define a hypothesis: what do you believe you can accomplish with your Demand Generation strategy? If you have no goal in mind, then why would you be doing it? And if you have no idea of the potential ROI, then why would you invest the resources in it? 

Bottomline: Demand Generation is all about generating high-quality inbound leads. Therefore, it makes sense to set a hypothesis per strategy/channel in terms of inbound leads attributed to that strategy/channel. 

Example: If you’re planning to launch your own podcast, your hypothesis might be: After 6 months of podcasting and having created 12 podcasts I want to have at least 3 inbound leads mention the podcast as a positive contributor for them getting in touch with us. 

8. Experimentation 

Everything is set up and ready to go! In this phase, you create and distribute content exactly via the strategy you set up in the previous steps. You should test a channel/strategy by running a campaign for at least 3 months. 

You read that correctly, at least 3 months(!). Demand Generation takes time. You don’t create problem awareness, solution awareness, and trust around your brand in a couple of weeks. You need to serve high-quality content for a longer period of time. This takes a large time investment and, in the case you use paid advertising channels, a significant advertising budget. 

After the first 3+ months, you will know whether you can accept your hypothesis, or if you must reject it. In other words: did you reach your goals? If yes, great, now you’re ready for the next step! 

If not, you will have to fine-tune your strategy to run another round of experiments. In practice, this could mean you need to change your channels or that you need to fine-tune your core messaging.

9. Repeatability 

You had some great results in the experimentation phase, that’s great! But you can only be really happy if you know you’re able to reproduce the results. That is what the ‘repeatability’ phase is all about. You now need to prove that you can get the same (or better) results as before using the same resources and strategy. As a rule of thumb, we normally say that you need to prove repeatability in a period of at least 3 months.

10. Scale & integrate Demand Generation Program

After deciding on your strategy, experimentation, and being able to repeat the results we can be confident that we have found something that works. And if something works, you double down on it! 

In this phase, you find out how you can integrate and scale your Demand Generation programs to maximize positive results. 

11. Working together with a Demand Generation agency

We really hope that the process described above helps you to set up your own Demand Generation strategy. If you find yourself in a position where you don’t have the skills or resources in-house to execute, you might be excited to read we could help you out. 

Our agency, Dapper, helps B2B companies set up and execute Demand Generation strategies. We’re the leading Demand Generation Agency in Europe and are happy to think along. Click here if you want to learn more about our Demand Generation service. Feel free to book a free Demand Generation strategy session by contacting us

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