When building a demand generation strategy it’s worth remembering that ‘79% of leads generated by marketing never convert into sales.’ (Marketing Sherpa)
That is a big blow to SaaS marketers stuck on the MQL hamster wheel.
And of the leads generated, only 27% of those leads are qualified.
So how do you fix it?
Write more content, send more emails or run ads?
For SaaS businesses looking to drive awareness, revenue and accelerate their pipeline, there is only one way to do it right.
It’s no wonder that the top SaaS companies are also leaders in demand generation.
But, what does demand generation mean? Well, it’s in the name, right?
Creating demand for your products and services. Wrong!
This is a very common misconception.
Demand generation goes beyond creating demand. It is an umbrella term that spans all your marketing and sales initiatives to develop a highly qualified and predictable pipeline.
And it’s not a magic bean. You can’t sow the seed and expect it to turn into a giant beanstalk overnight.
Demand gen takes time.
So instead of looking at it through the lens of a traditional marketing funnel, take a look at what Alex Kracov , former VP of Marketing at Lattice, put together:
This is the B2B demand generation engine he created at Lattice to grow from 0 to 1700+ customers and millions of dollars in revenue.
If you look at the funnel closely, you find certain aspects of lead generation involved.
So, what is demand generation vs lead generation?
Lead generation is a subset of demand generation that focuses on the top of the funnel. Demand generation focuses on building awareness and interest in the product and getting users to engage with the content.
For visual learners, this graphic by Drift explains the difference brilliantly.
Hopefully, by now, you’re hooked on the concept of demand generation.
And that leads us to actual strategy. Definitions aside, what does a successful demand generation marketing strategy look like?
The first and obvious step is to generate awareness.
Unlike lead generation, content for demand gen is usually ungated to reach a wider audience.
The end game is to build a brand. One that your potential customers can trust and instantly recognise. Even if they don’t need your solution today, you will be at the top of their minds when they do decide to invest.
You see this strategy being implemented in ToFu content and guest posts focused on educating buyers and through intentional and intelligent PR.
Most SaaS companies also offer a free tool relevant to their solution that solves a problem for users.
Take Shopify, for example. Shopify offers a bunch of free tools, from a logo maker to a business loan calculator to its users.
Think of harvesting demand like matchmaking. You have a solution. Your users have a problem.
Your goal is to pair your solution with potential customers. Now, it isn’t easy as swiping right on an app.
But, most companies already invest in capturing demand through SEO, PPC, social media, and email marketing.
What B2B SaaS marketers need to change is the process of identifying high-quality leads or commonly known as lead scoring.
Since traditional strategies result in unqualified leads being passed down to sales teams, sales and marketing need to be on the same page about lead quality.
With a revamped scoring system, it’s easier for sales to know when someone in the funnel is more likely to convert.
Sales and marketing teams are typically like pineapples on pizza. It just doesn’t sit well.
And this is a massive problem in B2B SaaS.
Marketers need to be hands-on after passing on leads to the sales teams. Creating content specifically for leads, offering sales decks, case studies, playbooks, and industry reports help close the lead faster and better.
It goes without saying, but to execute demand generation successfully, you need to build a top-notch demand generation team.
Additional Reading – The Complete Hiring Guide for Demand Generation Jobs
Based on the three key strategies above, here’s a recap of the best practices you must follow:
When you offer a tool or valuable resource for free, it instantly builds trust. A potential customer then thinks, “If they’re offering me this for free, a subscription must deliver even more value.”
When you ungate content, you’re no longer concerned about vanity metrics like MQLs. But how do you define a metric for success?
Look at who is consuming your content instead of unique visitors.
This is a marketing staple. Demand gen or not, you need to nail your buyer persona and create ideal customer profiles.
Automation in marketing is a no-brainer, especially when you consider that marketing automation can lead to a 451% increase in qualified leads (The Annuitas Group.)
With sales and marketing working together in harmony, lead scoring and closing deals is a far more effective process.
Peter Drucker invented modern business management and famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” That goes for demand gen as well. While you skip the vanity metrics, you need to measure lead quality, and marketing influenced revenue.
B2C SaaS companies target a wide audience and have incredibly short sales cycles. Because of this, they often focus on lead generation.
More often than not, B2C SaaS follows a product-led growth model. They target users by offering free trials or a freemium product designed to reduce the time-to-value metric, i.e., the time it takes a customer to reach the aha moment.
B2B SaaS companies, on the other hand, have longer sales cycles, target a much smaller pool of ideal customers and have to establish expertise.
While there are over 20 B2B product-led companies with a combined market cap of $200 billion, PLG does not make sense for all.
Gaetano DiNardi is the former VP of Marketing at Saleshacker and has worked with a lot of B2B tech companies. In the Demand Gen podcast hosted by Chris Walker, CEO at Refine Labs, this is what he had to say –
“You can couple product-led growth and outbound and get to a certain point, but you will eventually start to struggle.”
The struggle is often because of low brand recognition, no emphasis on building community, and overall a lack of tactical know-how regarding demand generation.
Demand generation requires a bottom-up calculation which can be hard to wrap your head around.
Once you nail your strategy and get all your ducks in a row, it’s time to talk marketing ideas.
I’ll get into what successful B2B companies do, why it works for them and how you can implement it.
Before that, take a look at what kind of content works best for B2B SaaS.
Hubspot is a prime example of how to execute this with finesse.
Their resources page hosts eBooks, guides, and templates that you can use. While the content is gated, the leads from these resources are treated as a separate segment from the main website and convert better.
To implement this strategy, take an industry that you cater to and use anonymous data to compile an original report.
Ungate this, and you have a free report to offer potential customers. This also has a wider reach since other websites can cite your research helping you cement your position as an industry leader in your space.
If you think videos don’t matter to B2B, think again.
You’re not selling to buildings. You’re selling to people. And people expect video to be a part of their buyer journey.
The best part? You can leverage videos in all stages of the funnel.
It can boost the performance of your existing content, help you add net-new leads, and become a powerful lead gen machine.
Watch this video by Vidyard that delves into how to use video for net-new leads.
If you’re still convinced about putting in resources creating video content, here’s what Biju Muduli, former VP of Global Demand Generation at Brightcove, has to say about using videos:
“By leveraging benchmarking analytics, marketers can see the metrics that are important to building a basic video strategy, as well as view industry standards to determine what needs to be improved to boost demand gen ROI.”
Since videos can be analysed, data-driven marketers can definitely get behind them.
Marketo is an excellent example of using videos on your website and as a demand generation tactic.
Given the number of tools that allow you to create videos directly from your existing content, the barrier to entry is low. Even using a screen recording tool like Loom can help you create effective product tutorials and personalised content.
For a company just starting to build a brand, webinars are a great way of positioning yourself as an expert.
Webinars also cast a broader but targeted net, leading to qualified leads that speed up your sales cycle.
If you don’t host a webinar yet, becoming a speaker in a webinar is the next best thing to generate demand.
The WordStream and Moz webinar partnership is something you can emulate by reaching out to industry allies to offer unique insights to your audience.
Ashley Levesque, Brand and Revenue Driver at Demio has great actionable tips to drive engaging webinars:
Despite the doomsday prophets claiming email marketing is dead, email marketing is very much alive and kicking.
‘For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.’ (DMA, 2019)
B2B marketing emails fare even better than B2C. The click-to-open ratio is 23% higher for B2B emails.
But the key here is to offer value instead of focusing on how to get the user to the next stage of the funnel.
The newsletter from CB Insights executes this idea to perfection. All the industry insights are curated into a bloody well-done newsletter that aims to educate the reader.
The subject lines are short and quirky.
Anand Sanwal, CEO and Co-founder of CB Insights, explains the money and math behind their headlines, “The #1 goal of a newsletter is to get folks to open it.
That is all.
If they don’t open it, all the great work our research team is lost. So we’ve optimised for getting that initial open. And headlines are the key determinant of whether the newsletter will be opened.”
Before you go, “Whoa! We’re not a B2C brand. We can’t do social or keep up with the trends,” let me tell you that you don’t have to be on TikTok dancing and pointing at the screen.
But in the interest of exploring marketing on TikTok, allow me to share the findings of a week-long experiment run by Dave Gerhardt, Founder of DGMG.
TikTok makes you rethink how video content can be used. While you might think your audience does not live on TikTok and it may be true today. But with one billion users on the platform, your audience will show up eventually.
With other platforms like Instagram and YouTube testing out short-form content, it is evident that videos need to grab attention quickly to perform better on social media.
Circling back to how B2B SaaS companies can use social media, you have to look at LinkedIn’s case study on Gong.io.
Gong.io caters to sales leaders, and LinkedIn is the #1 channel where their target audience hangs out. They started by leveraging employee advocacy and then narrowed their focus to LinkedIn Pages.
Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong, said, “We set a goal of growing our followers to have more people more easily exposed to our content week after week.”
Their approach involved video content that adds value and integrated contests and giveaways.
Gong’s LinkedIn Page following grew by 85% after a month of following the new strategy. Their likes increased by 194%, and they witnessed a 6,893% increase in comments.
Their meteoric growth in the short span proves that organic social and community building must be a part of every B2B company’s demand generation strategy.
If you struggle with social media and community building, you can always hire a specialist to work with your team or as an extension of your team. Keep reading to learn how you can hire the right person.
If you perform a quick search for ‘podcast + demand generation,’ you’ll notice that there at least half a dozen podcasts about demand generation.
Demand genception? 😛
But, all jokes aside, podcasts are a great way to capture demand, and here’s why:
Starting a podcast also has a low barrier to entry. With decent equipment and an emphasis on adding value instead of outright selling, B2B SaaS businesses can ace the podcast strategy.
Further Reading; Demand Generation – How to use LinkedIn Ads to drive more leads
Chris Walker, CEO at Refine Labs and host of the Demand Gen podcast, said, ‘Marketing needs to drive revenue and not be a sales team’s assistant.’
And that brings us to a crucial question.
Who owns demand generation in a B2B SaaS company? Marketing or sales?
The answer is both.
Marketing needs to send qualified leads to sales, and sales needs to share their insights to help marketing cater to user intent for ToFu content.
So, it all comes down to hiring the right people to own demand generation.
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