“Ads don’t move people in-market. People move themselves in-market when they experience a need for a solution. When they enter a relevant buying situation.”
—Ty Heath, Director of Market Engagement for the B2B Institute at LinkedIn
What is the digital marketing change you should be making in 2023? At ClearEdge, our digital marketing experts agree that shifting focus from merely collecting marketing-qualified leads to creating sustainable, long-term interest and demand is the most important digital move you can make.
Don’t get us wrong. The ability to capture contact information is undoubtedly valuable, especially when it’s a metric used by sales teams. However, if your marketing efforts solely focus on lead generation, they will limit long-term growth as your business misses opportunities to nurture relationships and trust while focusing on the wrong KPIs.
We’ve seen better (and repeatable) long-term growth and success for our clients when they use a mixed demand gen and lead gen approach.
First of all: What’s the difference between lead and demand gen?
Are lead gen and demand gen the same thing? No.
- Demand generation: Focuses on building brand awareness, generating interest, and building long-term relationships, typically by focusing on ungated content and warming up the prospect until they’re ready to buy by contacting sales. The prospect moves themselves in-market rather than nurturing moving them in-market. Demand gen is a longer-term approach, but the sales cycles are often shorter since the prospect is familiar with the brand and how the brand’s solutions can solve the prospect’s unique problems.
- Lead generation: Focuses on collecting contact information via gated content or forms (a lead). The lead could be any level of interest typically. The program focuses on gathering info, adding the prospect to a CRM to be nurtured, and then passed to sales. Nurturing moves the prospect in market, but the cycle is typically longer than demand generation programs, even though this is generally considered a shorter-term approach.
In our experience, the best results come from focusing on demand gen efforts first, then incorporating lead gen efforts. You can’t generate quality leads if you haven’t generated the demand.
How do you make the shift and transition from lead gen programs to demand gen?
First, it starts with ensuring alignment between marketing and sales regarding KPIs. Suppose you are currently only focusing on marketing leads as a primary KPI for sales. In that case, it may be shocking from a sales perspective to integrate a demand gen program, which often results in fewer but higher-quality leads. This is where alignment between sales and marketing comes into play. Careful planning and effective change management using the steps below can facilitate an effective transition.
- Establish Clear Objectives: Clearly define the goals and objectives of the transition. This involves aligning marketing and sales teams on the benefits of demand generation, such as higher-quality leads, increased revenue, and improved customer engagement.
- Collaborate and Align KPIs: Foster collaboration between marketing and sales teams to establish shared Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Move beyond solely focusing on marketing leads as a primary KPI for sales. Instead, create metrics that reflect the entire customer journey and emphasize lead quality, conversion rates, revenue generation, and customer lifetime value.
- Educate and Communicate: Educate marketing and sales teams about the concept and benefits of demand generation. Highlight how it differs from traditional lead generation and emphasize the long-term advantages of nurturing prospects throughout the buying process. Transparent and consistent communication is crucial to gain buy-in and build a shared understanding.
- Develop a Lead Scoring System: Within your CRM, implement a lead scoring system that assigns values based on lead quality and engagement with your website and campaigns. This will help identify the highest-value prospects. Refine the scoring criteria over time to align marketing and sales perspectives and ensure accurate lead qualification.
- Content and Campaign Alignment: Create and optimize marketing content and campaigns to support demand generation efforts. Focus on producing educational and thought-provoking content that addresses potential buyers’ pain points at different stages of the customer journey and shows your unique value proposition. Align marketing materials with the desired outcomes of demand generation, such as building brand awareness, establishing credibility, and nurturing long-term relationships.
- Implement Multi-channel, Full-funnel Campaigns: This helps you not only focus on the small percentage of people who are in-market today but allows you to create a pipeline of future opportunities.
- Implement Lead Nurturing Strategies: Develop comprehensive lead nurturing strategies that include personalized and targeted communication across multiple channels. Leverage marketing automation to serve relevant content at the right time, enabling potential customers to progress through the sales funnel.
- Continuous Monitoring and Optimization: Continuously monitor and measure the performance of demand generation programs. Track key metrics such as conversion rates, and with more sophisticated tracking methods, pipeline velocity, and revenue generated. Analyze the data to identify areas of improvement and optimize campaigns, messaging, and lead management processes accordingly.
- Collaboration and Feedback: Encourage regular collaboration and feedback between marketing and sales. Create opportunities for meetings, sharing success stories, and exchanging insights. This collaboration will strengthen alignment, create shared ownership, and drive ongoing improvement.
And remember this: It’s not likely that your ideal buyer is actively in-market whenever you need them to be. That doesn’t mean that your business can’t be actively in their minds. Blended lead and demand gen programs will do the important work of elevating your brand, making it the first thing people think of when they are in-market and looking to buy.