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6 min read

How to nail demand generation

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Lorena Morales gave this talk at the B2B Marketing Festival in June 2022.

I’m Lorena Morales, Director of Revenue Operations at JLL. This article is going to be a short one, but a sweet one. We’ll be exploring how to become a demand generation pro. As well as demand generation, we’ll touch on lead generation because neither one can exist without the other. Let's jump in.

Marketing in the modern era

There are two sides to marketing. One side is strategic. It’s all about how we position our brand, sell our product, do effective competitive analysis, and pass the ball to product marketing to own that story with intention. The other side of marketing is more tactical, and this is where lead gen and demand gen come into play.

We're going to look more closely at both sides of marketing, but first I want to talk about the massive changes we’ve seen over the last few years. I think the pandemic changed marketing forever. At the very least, it accelerated existing trends. A lot of companies that I saw in my consulting days relied on sales teams and events to move people down the pipeline and convert them. When the pandemic hit, it forced us to activate all of our digital efforts and strategies, and a lot of people didn't know how to do that. We had to learn on the go as fast as we could.

It's also important to touch on the buyer’s journey. How many times have you heard that 80% of the buyer’s journey has already happened before the customer speaks to sales? Probably a million times, right? We're in the era of the hyper-informed customer, the person that goes into your website already knowing the features, pricing, and competitors. They’re armed with pretty much all the information they could have.

That means companies have to be more strategic, and so our tactics have changed radically in recent years and, hopefully, they're gonna keep evolving.

What is demand generation?

When we talk about demand gen, we need to talk about branding because they have so much in common. Both demand gen and branding are about how we communicate with buyers and make them think, “I want that product. I need that product in my life.”

However, it’s important to note that leads are not part of how we execute demand gen or branding. Sales has not come into the picture yet. Leads are the output of our demand gen or branding efforts.

So let’s look at lead generation. 10 or 15 years ago, we didn’t have all the enrichment tools that we have today. Back then, lead generation was a numbers game; the whole purpose of the marketing team was to build lists as fast as possible and turn them into marketing-qualified leads in the hopes that they would become sales-qualified leads. Then, we’d pray to the gods that those would convert to closed-won opportunities.

Those days are gone. Now, lead generation is about nurturing. Nurturing is the keyword here. It’s what we do when prospects are ready to be moved in a certain direction in order to become closed-won opportunities.

So what is the difference between demand gen and lead gen? The graphic below from HubSpot makes it crystal clear. Demand gen is a top-of-the-funnel action, and lead gen is more of a bottom-of-the-funnel action.

Image by Hubspot

However, when people ask me what they should execute first – demand gen or lead gen – there’s no perfect answer. What I can tell you is that you cannot do effective lead generation without doing demand generation first. You can’t nurture someone who hasn’t even been drawn to your website. Let's be mindful of that.

Lead gen and demand gen tactics

Let's look at some tactics to generate demand and eventually leads. I’m going to share with you a controversial opinion: I believe in ungating content. Why do I believe in this? Because the days of creating content just to move people down the funnel are gone.

We need to give people access to the most valuable pieces of content we possess. That could be research, long-form articles, or any other type of content that you historically have gated in order to get an email address. The strategy of exchanging content for contact details is over. Nobody wants that experience. Nobody wants to be spammed over and over again by the same company, so let's stop doing that.

Another powerful component of demand generation is blog content. You can write your own blog content or have guest writers – both can be equally successful.

However, I have seen the blogging strategy being played terribly. Pouring time, effort, money, and resources into creating a blog that is ultimately unsearchable? Big mistake. Big. Huge! I started my career in SEO a long time ago, and I believe that these days SEO is not just a nice-to-have – it’s a must. I’ve even seen companies with an entire team dedicated to SEO.

Creativity also needs to be a part of your demand gen strategy. This creativity can take many forms. I’ve seen influencers being used more and more in B2B because they have the credibility that businesses don't. It's also been super fun to see organizations do road shows to attract their customers – that’s a fantastic play. These are just some examples – it’s up to you to see how far your creativity can take you.

How to make your demand gen efforts stand out

With that said, let’s look at how to be different when practicing demand generation. There are a couple of things you can do.

First of all, if your annual contract value is around 3K, it might be a good idea for you to move to a self-service model. Why? Because then you stop using resources that you probably don't need to. It's not for everyone, but I've seen it work successfully in the past.

The second and probably most important thing I’ll say in this whole article is get 👏to 👏 know 👏your 👏customers👏. Interview them often. Stop playing the telephone game with sales. It's heartbreaking to see how little we generally talk to our customers. “How often should I interview my customers?” you may ask. That depends on your organization, but at least once a month.

You also need to find the right people to learn from. Nobody's born knowing how to do everything. You only need to glance at LinkedIn to see that we’re living in a time when everyone is trying to create a brand. I don't believe that everyone should be doing that; however, I do see some people doing the talking the talk and walking the walk – those are the little gems that you need to seek out right away. Be open, be genuine, and ask them for their guidance.

Take me as an example. I went from revenue operations in the SaaS space to revenue operations in a publicly traded company. That was a huge change for me. I needed to unlearn some habits and learn new ones in order to make it, so I reached out to people with the experience to help me do that. I’d encourage you to do the same.

Next, make sure you understand marketing fundamentals. You might be thinking, “Lorena, what do you mean by that?” What I mean is go and understand the new concepts that are emerging in our field, things like micro-segmentation.

Be genuinely curious about all the functions and branches involved in demand generation. If you want to be a great demand generation practitioner, you need to know content, you need to know paid acquisition, you even need to know finance, and you need need need to know product. If you don't talk to product, you're lost.

I could go on with the list of functions you need to know, but my point is that you need to have skills in several areas. I call this type of person a perfect generalist. It’s someone who could succeed in sales, marketing, and probably customer success as well. Perfect generalists are the new unicorns, and I believe in them because I happen to be one. It can be done, and I encourage you to make it happen.

My last recommendation here is for people who are just starting their careers: find a company where you can be a generalist. Find a company that will allow you to sit in on prospecting calls with sales, ask product what's going on, and sit down with customer success to talk about renewals, upselling, and cross-selling. If you can find an organization that allows you the freedom to ask those questions, I promise it’s going to be worth it.

Written by:

Lorena Morales

Lorena Morales

Director of Revenue Operations at JLL.

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How to nail demand generation