I see a common challenge in B2B marketing: teams looking for more budget and resources for demand generation programs.
“Now wait a minute,” you might say. “It seems like generating demand for leads is the only thing we do.
To be clear, I mean the real demand generation, not mid-funnel, inbound lead generation, nurturing, or sales assistance. These are “demand identification” tactics where marketing teams promote content to buyers who are already looking for solutions. You’re trying to attract prospects who realize a change is needed but haven’t figured out the best options.
Demand generation is different. It happens when prospects don’t realize yet they have a need or a want. You are trying to create demand where there is little or none. When you talk about the “customer journey,” you have to ask yourself how you engage people in your desire for them to take the journey in the first place.
I frequently come across B2B organizations where teams can get a lot of resources or budget from upper management to nurture leads, get them to salespeople, and develop content that talks about solving challenges X, Y, or Z. But they are also frustrated in their ability to develop content and programs to generate awareness and demand for understanding what even solving X, Y or Z means.
As a marketer at a B2B tech company told me, “We can’t get the resources/budget creating programs to teach businesses why the challenge our solution solves even exists. They only want to spend money on people who are already searching for products on Google to solve it.
A phone, a game, a car and an album hit the market
Quick quiz: what do these products have in common? iPhone, Rubik’s Cube, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Toyota Corolla?
You’re right if you guessed they were top sellers all time products. This success came because of another commonality – they had marketing programs that generated asked.
Let me explain the secret to you. As much as people like to believe that the brightest new products come from careful, contemplative thought and research into determining what potential customers need and want, the simple truth is that most don’t. do not. They are either new and improved versions of something on the market – something for which the demand already exists. Or they’re new and innovative but unrelated to what customers have identified as missing in their lives.
For example, Toyota built the Corolla as gradual improvement on its Publica model, which received a mixed reception from Japanese buyers. On the other hand, the Rubik’s Cube was something new and new invented by Hungarian design professor Ernő Rubik. Apple software engineer Jean-Marie Hullot came up with an exploratory idea for an iPhone, which initially didn’t have Steve Jobs’ backing.
In other words, no one needed or asked for a Rubik’s Cube, an iPhone or a Toyota Corolla. No one was asked what they wanted in their next cell phone or what kind of three-dimensional puzzle would be most compelling. No one has been asked about Michael Jackson’s next album.
The secret to the success of these four best-selling products – and so many others – first occurs when someone sees something that doesn’t exist or envisions a customer experience that will be better or more engaging. Then, the marketers of this “new” product devote a significant amount of their resources to creating experiences to stimulate customers’ interest in exploring the journey they might take.
Generating demand like a Thriller
Now, most of you are marketing products or creating content for products that are already in the market. You definitely need to have real demand generation in your marketing mix. Regardless of how and where your product or service got to where it is, you must continue to create demand for it. You need to engage your audiences in experiences that generate demand.
If you keep brandishing your product, service, or content and saying, “Here’s the answer to your known need,” either people won’t recognize it or you’ll run out of people who do. In both scenarios, you end up in the worst marketing place – people don’t care about your brand or your product. You must constantly strive to attract potential customers who are unfamiliar with your brand, products or services, and make them want to know.
For years, this first part of the customer journey has been at the heart of great content marketing. Pause and think about the bestsellers I mentioned. Maybe Michael Jackson’s album sounded different. It is the best-selling album of all time (70 million copies to date).
Surely Jackson didn’t start his creative process thinking “who are all the people who don’t know they need my new album” before he started writing songs for Thriller.
No of course not. But I guarantee you that CBS Records (Jackson’s record company at the time) did. They invested great resources in the then innovative marketing idea of highly produced music, making the most expensive and longest running video of its time. This is how the marketing team generated huge new demand in the market that would be filled with Thriller music.
The CBS Records marketing team didn’t start with a new finished album, banked on Jackson’s current audience, and sold it like every other album with a “differentiating” tagline like “It’s the most recent Michael Jackson”. No. They started with the marketing experiment to reach new customers – those who didn’t know they wanted a new Michael Jackson record – and worked backwards to see what kind of content could be created to generate that kind of demand. for the product.
Demand generation is at the heart of marketing
Some say that real demand generation programs are underfunded because senior management is worried about “leaving money on the table” if they don’t fully fund the generation of existing leads and sales aid programs. They don’t want to risk diverting money to outreach when marketing isn’t generating enough leads to fuel sales.
In the short term, they may be right. But in the long term, this thinking poses a big risk. Senior management should know that fueling sales enablement with enough leads isn’t just about converting known leads into interested leads. It’s also about converting unknown leads into known leads.
Marketers also fall for this short-term thinking challenge. Think about it. Your team will produce an awesome new content marketing project to serve the business. You do so in accordance with the company’s current mission and goals. You are so engrossed in your brand or product and what you are selling that you limit ideas to what you are trying to sell.
Is it any wonder that most companies’ blogs, social networks and online resource centers are just glorified brochures, talking about the product and how it solves everything you might need? It’s like being on a date with someone who stops talking nonstop for a while and says, “Enough about me. What do you think of me?”
Demand generation is an essential and vital part of your ongoing marketing strategy. But you need to understand that this goes beyond short-term efforts of simply nurturing existing leads or targeting “buyers” who understand they have a need that your solution will solve.
This is where content marketing (through education and thought leadership) and brand marketing come in. Remember: if you tell someone something, they’ll probably forget it. If you teach someone something, they might remember it. But if you inspire someone, they will learn with you.
It’s your story. Say it well.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute