The essence of good demand generation

The term “demand generation” is tossed around quite a bit and it’s often unclear how it’s meant. For marketers it’s at the core of what we do, create demand for our products and services. But there are so many pieces of demand generation that are often used interchangeably, and this can be confusing. The best definition I’ve seen is in Eric Wittlake’s article “Lead generation is crippling demand generation” where he writes:

Lead generation: collecting registration information, often in exchange for content, in order to build a marketing database for email or telemarketing followup. The direct outcome of lead generation is new contacts available for sales or marketing.

Demand generation: the practice of creating demand for an organization’s products or services through marketing. The direct outcome is your audience is more likely to purchase your products or services.

In order to know what you are doing, you will need to know what you want to accomplish with your marketing. As always, good marketing starts with the end or rather knowing your your goals.

Let’s be clear, the term “demand generation” is not a goal. Yes, the goal is to create more demand, awareness and ultimately leads that convert into sales, but there is so much more to consider, such as branding, marketing strategies, campaigns and, most importantly of all, the customer. Build your goals with consideration for all of these in mind.

Since the overarching goal ­­– which will have variations based on your corporate goals, the content you have in place, your company’s standing, your customers and more – is to create a demand for your products or services focus your content and outreach in a cohesive and engaging story. In other words, to engage current and potential customers to learn more and enter your sales funnel (more on that another time).

Success of this engagement is driven by your content and your customer.

Content: Your content should be driven by your products, strategies and goals, but ultimately your content should be facilitating solutions for your customers and potential customers. Keep it focused, authentic and easy to reach. Manage your campaigns with useful calls-to-action where your customers feel an exchange and not just information to hand over. Create multi-touch opportunities for your potential customers to “get to know” the company and build trust in your brand and services and be sure to analyze what’s working and what’s no so that you can continue to offer content that will engage and create a dialog with these valuable observers of your brand. You know, bring in a human touch, after all, we’re all people behind the brands, right? You can find more information on “humanizing your brand” in HubSpot’s article “12 Simple Ways Marketers Can Humanize Their Brand”.

Customer: Customers are people and they want to be treated as such, not numbers or lead scores in your funnel; additionally, customers today are not passive. Gone are the Mad Men days of brands telling you what you want… but anyone reading this already knows this so we’ll let that dead horse rest. What’s more important is to be where your customer already lives. Create content through several channels so that you can capture your customer’s attention where they are looking. Michael Brenner of B2B Marketing Insider outlines the importance of this in his post “The Multi-Channel Marketing Mandate: Be Where Your Customers Are!”.

Key Takeaways
If you’ve gotten this far, you probably read the article, but in case you didn’t or you just want the shorthand on the three key takeaways, here you go:

  1. Success of this engagement is driven by your content and your customer.
  2. Create the content to facilitate solutions for your customers.
  3. Multi-channel marketing is key with an emphasis on being where your customers already are.
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5 + 1 steps to creating a great social media strategy

Developing a great social media strategy centers around understanding your customers, or rather who you want to engage. As with all marketing, start with your goals. In social media it’s about engagement. But, engagement for the sake of engagement goes nowhere and if you’re building a social media presence for a business (rather than just for yourself) you will want that engagement to go somewhere. Ask yourself why you want all those Facebook fans? Once you’ve connected with them what do you want to do with them? Can the conversation be enough or do you need a call-to-action? If you do, how often and for what? What do you do if your “engaged” community doesn’t respond? A good social media strategy will build an understanding of your positioning and audience so that you can create tactics that will answer these and other important questions.

What’s your endgame?

Step 1: What is the goal? Why are you engaging in social media? Why do you want to connect and why in this medium? There’s a well used argument by marketers that companies need to be involved in social media just because it’s there and people are talking, but this is not a business case for action. The reality is that social media is an opportunity for conversation and just as you choose when and where to speak, which networking mixer to attend, what party to miss, which lecture to drag yourself across the bridge and into the city to hear, you need to decide how you are going to participate in social media. There is a conversation and you need to know how you’re going to listen, speak and be heard. But you can’t know that until you know why. Are you building a network of people who will tell you how much you suck? Are you willing to listen?

According to Brian Solis in his book The End of Business as Usual, brands are no longer created, they are co-created. Customers now have their own audiences and participate in the building of brands through these networks with powerful influence. Brands need to be responsive to what these customers are saying. This is a concern for customer service, production and sales, not just marketing. It’s essential that companies understand that customers do not see departments, they see brands. For this the new media conversation has changed and marketing can no longer own the social media conversation alone. Now, what is your endgame for social media? Define it! Think customer service, think connection, think outreach, think authentic conversation and think these things along with your lead gen, inbound capture responses, your marketing pitch and all of the marketing tools and tactics that are already entrenched throughout social media.

Now you’re ready to build your voice

Step 2: Positioning: Here we go into marketing best practices. Know who you are, what you do, why it matters and what you do better than anyone else. Know these and you’ll see a pattern emerge that will either guide how you position your brand, or let you know how off base you are to what you want to be so that you can reshuffle to where you should be. Branding Strategy Insider’s Branding Blog has a well written breakdown of positioning.

Step 3: Understand your target: Wait, isn’t that what positioning is about? Well yes, but here we actually want to develop a customer persona of each of your target segments. Often we are building outreach to more than one target niche. Great, understand each one. Know their differences and then create outlines for each. Once these are in place (and your strategy is complete) you can build campaigns for each segment as goals dictate.

And finally, tactics

Step 4: Be where your audience already lives. This is a great approach for all marketing outreach. Once you build your segmented customer profiles (above) you’ll have a better sense of where your ideal target customer lives. Are you targeting stay-at-home moms with school aged children? Perhaps LinkedIn is not the most ideal platform for reaching this group, but Facebook, Twitter and Pineterest might offer the connectivity you seek. Are you a B2B marketer looking to better understand your target customer’s final sale to their B2B customer? Now LinkedIn is a great choice.

Step 5: Scheduling. It’s important to post regularly and often, and always keep the conversation authentic. Be mindful that you don’t over post and don’t over-automate your posts. While scheduling software such as Hootsuite, my favorite, is a good choice there are so many more. Check out this list from SocialMedia Examiner Cindy King and her colleagues for more suggestions.

Scheduling software is a great way to map out the basics of your conversation, but remember that this is a conversation, so be sure that it’s not all you do. Your posts are just a guide to the conversation and you need to invest real time conversation participation on all fronts. You need to listen, speak, respond and learn. This conversation with your customers is a gift, their investment in your brand. Don’t miss it, don’t waste it and don’t squander the opportunity.

In addition to your postings, keep up on other conversations about your brand and your competitors. Be mindful of data from your posts and key learning that can translate into stronger engagement, better conversations, more conversions and, the thing so many marketer hate, but need, a path to your social media’s ROI or at minimum a good business case for what you’re doing.

And, just to repeat…

Plus 1 more step: Include everyone! This is so important, I’m saying it again, customers don’t see departments, they see brands, so be sure that all internal stakeholders have access to, or at minimum a say in, your social media conversations. It will be important that you create a strong social media policy (not sure how to do this? About.com and Forbes  both offer a good place to start), be sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them, and then let your trusted employees reach out. Customer service, production and marketing all have strong stakes in ensuring that your customers are happy with your brand.

Now that you have a sound strategy in place, you’re ready to start building your social media plans and outreach. Go, get in the conversation, lead it, listen to it, engage in it and find success.

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Is digital marketing enough?

Digital marketing channels offer direct and powerful data making it attractive for marketers. Regardless of the data gathering system you are using, free, paid or premium, the connection to business intelligence and thus the creation of an ROI (return on investment) story or justification for a campaign is more direct than many other forms of marketing. But is it enough? Is digital marketing, with all of its talk of engagement, truly finding engagement and with the right customers?

The answer to this more important question, as all good marketing practices show, depends on campaign goals and what is being marketed. It is important to build campaigns that resonate with your potential target customer, and in that you need to be where they are. Your customers will only come to you as much as you are in the space where they are looking. If your customers are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. then these are good platforms for engaging. However if your potential target customers are not using social media or if a segment of your target customers are not using social media, looking to other means becomes integral to a fully robust campaign.

Part of planning a robust campaign requires you to understand what your customers are looking to achieve. Again, with all of digital marketing speak focused on “engagement” we must ask ourselves if it is true engagement? Have we actually “heard” our customers? Have they received an authentic message from our brand that opens the doors to true communication? The digital world offers powerful resources for achieving marketing goals, but not in a vacuum.

Additionally, think beyond the digital and build a competitive edge over your competition that may be leaning heavily on social media; build campaigns through other channels as well.

A few other marketing channels to consider (not an exhaustive list, just some sample ideas)
Direct mail: Yes, in today’s world this is digital more often than not. This is a direct email or newsletter sent to subscribers who have opted-in to receive it. If your business merits it, you can still send a postcard, but I would only recommend this for local based businesses targeting smaller groups and each postcard must have a call-to-action for tracking. Going back to digital direct marketing, we all know that most people don’t like junk mail or spam in their in-boxes, so be sure to use an opt-in process for these newsletters and digital postcards. As with all marketing, and even more so with direct mail, it is important to respect the customer, this is one key element in creating true engagement.

Live events: Whether you have a brand ambassador attending live events or you’re hosting an event, people are more connected and interested once they “know” someone at the company. Hosting an event or sending an in-house expert to speak on panels is a great way to build a brand and push your name to the top of the thought leader space.

Traditional advertising: This is tricky and there are many levels of advertising from print and outdoor (billboards, bus benches, etc.) to radio, TV and other broadcast. Again, be sure to have a goal in mind and build your program from your goals backwards so that everything you do can be traced to supporting the goal and achieving success. If there is no way to track the activity, to learn how your message is being received, be careful about spending the money and resources. Be clear with your ad agency and other partners for your best success. With cohesive messaging and planning in place this can be a successful channel, but keep in mind it is probably one of the most expensive.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that all of your digital assets should be tied into any other activity you create. Your brand should reflect the campaign at hand for a cohesive message through all customer touch points. Digital marketing can be enough if that’s the only place your customer looks for answers, but truthfully, the best brands will harness all of their channel strengths to find true engagement where their customers reside, online and offline. A note about best practices, they win out every time. Always know your goals and build to achieve them.

Marketing is not a black art, when done well it’s a mixture of art and science. All marketing channels offer creative brand story telling coupled with data to draw the picture of success; and while digital marketing can be very powerful it is not the only answer for creating the connections that lead to sales.

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