How to Build Your Demand Generation Process for Peak ROI | Linkflow
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How to Build Your Demand Generation Process for Peak ROI

March 07, 2024

Your customers complete as much as 70% of their decision-making process before talking to Sales.

And they don’t magically appear in the middle of the funnel. They’ve already discovered you, become interested in your products, and determined their need for them.

So…how do you get them over that critical first hurdle? How do you get them from 0 to “aware” and from “aware” to “interested”?

Easy: Demand generation.

What is demand generation?

Demand generation is a comprehensive sales and marketing approach that focuses on driving awareness and interest for your products or services. It encompasses all the top-of-funnel activities aimed at attracting potential customers and getting them to start engaging with your brand.

A demand generation strategy brings together various marketing techniques and channels to:

  • Assess how well a particular audience knows your brand
  • Identify ways to introduce your brand to new buyer groups
  • Nurture those new relationships by building trust and authority

Eventually, customers will be ready to take action. They might book a demo, start a free trial, register for a webinar, or request more information.

But there are dozens of touchpoints and interactions leading up to that point. And your ability to execute on those determines whether or not they wind up taking the final action.

That’s what demand generation is for.

Demand generation vs. lead generation

Maybe you’ve heard sales and marketing teams use the terms interchangeably.

Sure, there’s some overlap in the broader tactics you’ll use for each (demand gen tactics sometimes generate leads, and vice versa).

But when we look closer at lead generation vs. demand generation,
we realize they’re quite different.

Demand generation is awareness-focused, with less emphasis on who you’re making aware. It’s a top-of-funnel marketing strategy, meaning you’ll cast a wide net. You want to build brand recognition and educate as many people as you can about your brand/product, so your target audience is less narrowly defined.

Lead generation is laser-focused on high-quality leads. It’s a bottom-of-funnel strategy meant to convert individual prospects into customers. If you were to cast a wide net here, your sales team would want to rip everyone’s heads off because they’d spend their days talking with people who would never buy from you.

The relationship between the two is straightforward: You need demand generation to create a pool of potential customers, and you need lead
generation to narrow down, compel, nurture, and close them.

8 strategies for a winning demand generation program

Content marketing

Content marketing is one of those demand generation strategies everyone knows about but few do right.

Since generating awareness is your primary goal, you need a different
approach from other phases of the funnel. Blog posts, social media content, guest posts, and infographics are all geared towards increasing brand
recognition, building trust, and positioning your company as the “go-to” in your space.

Here are a few types of content that are super effective at creating demand:

  • Top-of-funnel informational content addresses buyers’ questions and concerns (or brings important ones to their attention). It establishes
    credibility, reinforces that you’re a subject matter expert, and builds
    purchase confidence.
  • Social media content from your company, sales reps, and execs makes your brand more personable and easier to connect with.
  • Interactive tools like Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer or SproutSocial’s social media image resizing tool relate directly to a pain point you solve, and they start to drum up interest in what a complete solution might look like.

In a way, this article itself is a perfect example of demand gen content. Although a slice of those who read this article might become Linkflow
customers, we know hundreds won’t.

But, they’ll know who we are. And if they learn something they can apply to their own demand generation strategy, they’ll know from that point forward we’re pros when it comes to inbound marketing.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

You can’t say “content marketing” without also mentioning SEO.

It’s a long-term play, so you might not immediately think of it as “demand generation.”  But search engines are the #1 place buyers go for pre-purchase research (and it’s not even close).

Your ability to show up in search results, therefore, significantly impacts how much success you enjoy at the top of the funnel.

Part of your content strategy should be focused on:

  • Covering topics your target audience is looking for more information on
  • Optimizing demand generation content for relevant search terms
  • Indexing your content for Google and Bing’s search bots to find and crawl
  • Building high-quality backlinks to your top-performing demand gen content (so those pages rank higher in search results)

Email campaigns

You need a prospect’s email address before you can reach out to them, which email normally falls under the “lead generation” domain (you can’t just add randos to your email list).

But email still serves a purpose in demand generation, especially if your sales cycle is on the longer side.

Earlier in the post, I mentioned the importance of educating people at the top of the funnel. Email is great for that because you can personalize and
segment your campaigns for better results.

  • Send out a regular email newsletter with your latest informational content
  • Segment email blasts to promote blog posts and resources directly related to a prospect’s interests (e.g., if they’re in the healthcare industry, send them healthcare-related content)
  • Create how-to and educational email sequences where you solve a prospect’s problem with your content and product

It’s also worth mentioning marketing and sales teams use email differently. For your sales team, email is the epitome of casting a wide net.

Backlinko analyzed 12 million cold emails and found that 8.5% of outreach emails receive responses. That’s low (you need to send ~306 emails to acquire one lead).

But it’s successful enough that nearly half of B2B sellers consider it the most effective channel.

Social media marketing

Social media is one of the best places to connect with today’s buyers, B2B or B2C.

  • It’s casual
  • Everyone’s already (happy to be) on it
  • You can inject some personality into your brand

It’s much easier to be creative on social media than anywhere else.

There are two types of social media content to prioritize for demand generation: user-generated content (UGC) and company-generated content.

User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like — content your customers create about you (think: reviews, TikTok posts, and Instagram stories). It’s great for demand generation because it:

  • Boosts your brand visibility
  • Builds buyer trust
  • Feels more authentic
  • Influences (or determines) purchase decisions

Although it’s “organic,” you can encourage UGC by proactively asking for reviews and shares, or by running contests and promotions that require customers to share their experiences.

Just look at Starbucks’s #RedCupContest they host every December to get everyone talking about their new Christmas cups (and flavors).

You can also amplify the impact of UGC by republishing it on your own social channels or incorporating it into your content.

Most B2Cs already do this. For example, most of GoPro’s really cool Insta posts come from everyday users who mention the brand or submit their footage.

You can also do this for B2B demand generation. Notion, the task management software company, reposts its users’ productivity hacks, creative use cases, and team collab setups all the time.

As for your company specifically, social media content is your chance to:

  • Engage followers
  • Share newsworthy company updates, press releases, and milestones
  • Show off your culture
  • Showcase customer stories
  • Share information

There are literally millions of ways to do this. It requires some creativity. But the main purpose is to get your logo and brand name in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Back in 2017, Wendy’s generated tons of demand on Twitter when they went viral for their hilariously mean responses to competitors and everyday Twitter users.

In B2B, your execs and sales team members should also be using LinkedIn to connect with prospects and share their own content on LinkedIn.

Take Gabi Sayah, for example. He runs the sales team at Deeto, a B2B SaaS company. He’s a resource for sales professionals, and he’s got ~30,000 followers.

But he strategically positions some of his content to include Deeto’s product. Here’s a look at the bottom half of that post:

Although he’s primarily trying to build his own personal brand, his content also functions as a soft promotion for Deeto (to hundreds of thousands of people, might I add).

Downloadable resources

During the Awareness stage, I mentioned you can demonstrate value to your target customers by offering a free tool.

You can use a similar approach to capture existing demand. 

The only difference is, this time, you exchange that resource for an email address, which you can use to run email campaigns like the examples I mentioned above.

  • Industry reports
  • Webinars (live or pre-recorded)
  • Ebooks and guides
  • Whitepapers and research papers
  • Free trials
  • Free templates
  • Anything related to your product

My one piece of advice here is to avoid gating content like blog posts, case studies, statistical roundups (like my article on B2B content marketing trends) and videos. These are search engine candy, and they help prospects in the Awareness stage find you. 

Plus, they’ll earn you backlinks if people can read them.

Paid channels

Paid search and social ads amplify your content. You can use them to drive traffic to a specific landing page, product, resource, or gated content.

Google Ads is a good place to start with paid search. You can pay to have your business appear at the top of Google’s search results page for specific keywords.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and/or Twitter ads are great for promoting gated resources and new product features. 

The added benefit of these channels over just organic is they allow you to immediately target specific job titles, industries, and interests to find the most valuable prospects.

Event marketing

If you want to generate demand, few tactics will bring you as high a success rate as event marketing. Unlike other marketing efforts we’ve mentioned, they cast a smaller net, but the quality of leads is generally higher because prospects are actually showing up to interact with your brand.

There are two main event marketing strategies for demand generation: hosting your own events, and sponsoring relevant industry events.

You can host webinars, workshops, or seminars to establish thought leadership and showcase your product. You can also feature guest speakers to attract a bigger audience.

Industry-related events, like conferences and trade shows, are great opportunities to meet potential customers face-to-face and showcase your product. They’re also a good opportunity for networking with other industry professionals (some of whom might also be buyers).

Intent data

Intent data is data that shows a prospect’s “intent” to buy. The easiest way to explain it is with retargeting ads.

Ever browse an online store, add something to your cart, but then forget about it or decide not to make the purchase?

If you later saw an ad for that same item on another site (like Facebook), it’s because of intent data. That ad is there because the intent data tells the advertiser that you’re interested in buying that item.

You can collect this type of data through various sources:

  • Cookies
  • IP addresses
  • Search history
  • Website clicks and interactions
  • Form submissions
  • Social media engagement (likes, shares, comments)

Intent data helps you understand where a prospect is in their buyer’s journey so you can tailor your messaging and targeting accordingly.

Building an ROI-focused demand generation process

1. Set goals. 

First, you need to determine how you’re going to measure success, what your current benchmarks are, and the kind of increase you want to see.

Demand generation metrics include:

  • Website traffic (unique and returning visitors)
  • Click-through rate
  • Social media and website engagement
  • Brand mentions
  • Cost per lead (CPL)

On a broader scale, you’ll also want to benchmark your leads/meetings/opportunities generated, sales pipeline value, customer acquisition cost, and customer lifetime value to see the actual return on investment you’re generating.

2. Create personas.

Speaking of ROI…you won’t see much of it if you don’t create audience personas. Without knowing who your target customers are, you won’t know how to create the right messaging or targeting for your sales and marketing efforts.

Obviously, nobody’s going to resonate with your content because they’re a technical decision-maker at a SaaS company with 200-500 employees. But using identifiers and specific pain points will help you understand your buyers’ needs and challenges, and how to approach them.

3. Choose your strategies.

Choose the channels your customers are most likely to engage with.

  • What social media platforms do your audience members hang out on?
  • Where are they most likely to look for resources?
  • What are their interests?
  • How much time do they spend online?

Your demand generation activities will flop if you don’t focus your energy where your audience already is.

4. Strategize your content.

The goal of demand gen isn’t to sell your products. The topics you address through demand generation marketing should be residually related to your product, but not explicitly about it.

For example:

  • A CRM software company might publish an article about productivity for sales teams.
  • A cybersecurity company could create a guide on how to protect your company’s data.
  • A healthcare consulting firm could host a webinar on the impact of technology on patient care.

The point is, the content should be valuable and relevant to your target audience, but not overtly promotional.

5. Align your sales and marketing team.

Although marketing teams create your demand generation content, they aren’t the only ones who need to be involved. Sales teams deal with customers directly, so they know their pain points and needs better than anyone.

Marketers should also allocate some time to creating internal content sellers can use as a sales enablement tool. Sales decks and playbooks help sellers maintain brand consistency and demonstrate expertise when they interact with prospects.

6. Track and test everything.

You can (and should) A/B test everything in your marketing automation and web analytics software.

  • Messaging
  • Product positioning
  • Content types and topics
  • Calls-to-action
  • Images and graphics

You’ll never know what’s going to be a hit unless you try everything. And you’ll never know what to recreate unless you monitor it.

7. Partner with the experts.

It seems like companies always want to say, “Content is king.”

Then they have interns run their social media, ChatGPT run their blog, and a freelancer halfway across the world run their email marketing for $10/hr.

Or worse, they hire one “full-stack” marketer to run the whole show.

Reality is, you’re not going to get high-quality content and marketing from a one-person-show, low-cost labor, or someone who’s winging it.

Book a call with us to chat about two of the most crucial elements of your demand generation strategy — web content and SEO.

Brittney Fred, SEO Analyst
Brittney has been working in SEO and digital marketing for ten years and specializes in content strategy for the B2B SaaS industry. She is based in Denver, CO and absolutely fits the Denverite stereotype. You’re just as likely to find her hiking, snowboarding, or doing yoga as reading sci-fi or playing video games.