The Top 5 Mistakes Companies Make Building Demand Generation

Most B2B companies are realizing that, to hit their growth goals, they need to shift the focus of their marketing from branding and awareness to lead generation. So they task marketing leadership with building a demand generation engine and run into myriad problems. 

In our experience, here are the top 5 mistakes B2B companies make when trying to build their demand generation engine: 

#1 Starting with marketing automation

Without question, marketing automation tools such as Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, etc., have changed the way that B2B companies market their products and services. And the functionality included in all of them is fantastic—and getting better every day.

But I think we can agree that they are expensive, and most companies grossly underestimate the challenges associated with them, such as the amount of content they now need to produce, the internal process changes that need to be implemented in both sales and marketing, and how the entire process will be measured (and what to measure).

Marketing automation is only 20% of the overall solution, and the result is that companies throw money away because they’re using a small fraction of their overall capabilities. 

#2 The marketing skill set you currently employ is inadequate for demand generation

In general, resources are the biggest challenge to running a demand generation program that is actually going to provide actionable sales intelligence. In other words, the people that ran the events in the past don’t have the same skills and resources needed for the new world. (They may still be necessary, just not in a demand generation function.)

A demand generation program requires a consistent drum beat of content. But it’s not as simple as hiring one key person; it’s very rare for all of the necessary skills to exist in one person, or even several people. You’re going to need designers, copywriters, video producers, and post production editors, developers, and so on. All of these resources are extremely expensive (even on a fractional basis), not to mention the challenges of hiring the right people in the first place. 

A 2013 Gleanster report on Marketing Automation ( presented a survey highlighting the most challenging aspects of marketing automation:

  • Creating enough content at a reasonable cost – 97%
  • Data quality and integration – 85%
  • Poor marketing processes – 84%
  • Rethinking legacy process – 75%
  • Lack of skilled staff – 73%
  • Lack of funding – 62%
  • Selecting metrics – 52%
  • Senior management mindset – 40%

#3 Companies outsource content development to the wrong agencies

Very few content marketing agencies actually know how to put together an end-to-end digital demand generation solution that is going to produce actionable sales intelligence. And truth be told, most content marketing agencies are repurposed PR firms, web developers, and branding consultants. They may be good at getting exposure and driving traffic to your blog—and don’t get me wrong, this is important. But when it comes to closing the loop, it falls apart.

#4 Marketing leadership doesn’t know what a demand generation engine is supposed to look like

Maybe I’m being a little hard on marketers here, but it’s important that we understand where the disconnect is. Marketing leaders are used to hiring both internally and externally for content development, advertising, public relations, websites, events, and branding. Many may also be well versed in using software tools such as marketing automation, CRMs, and other conversion tools. 

But demand generation is new territory. Assuming that today’s average marketer knows what a closed loop solution is supposed to look like (and this is a very large assumption), they hodgepodge together some freelancers and agencies, and maybe they combine some internal staff like a marketing director to pull it all together. And it kinda works to drive traffic, but it’s not converting into sales conversations. (Click here for what it should look like.)

#5 Sales is not set up to convert marketing qualified leads into opportunities

Many companies still have the age old disconnect: “The leads my marketing department provides suck!” (And marketing says that they provide a ton of leads and sales can’t convert!)

Have you heard the old adage that it takes 7 touches to make a sale? In the new buyer’s journey, our data indicates that number to now be 20, 30, or even 100 or more touches before someone is ready to take a call with you. We’ve had people in our database that have gone for several years without clicking on a single link and then suddenly there’s activity and they become a client. 

Do you really want your expensive, commissioned sales reps performing the nurturing functions required to turn these leads into appointments? 

Well, guess what? They’re not going to. 

Most data says that they’ll give up after 3 or 4 attempts. Paul Rafferty, Sales Engine CEO, likes to say that “the fish don’t jump in the boat.” In other words, when someone downloads an article, is that a prospect? We don’t know. You need someone to nurture them, provide more information, and be a resource (business development, inside sales, etc.) until they’re ready to engage with a salesperson.

The times have changed, and so should your follow-up processes.

It’s no wonder that this process falls apart at many different levels. Because we’ve been doing this as a content marketing agency for many years, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t (and we’re constantly learning, too). In any case, if your digital demand generation program is falling short of creating the leads necessary to build your sales pipeline, we’re happy to discuss.