What Does a Demand Generation Program Actually Look Like?

As a marketing leader, have you been tasked with building a demand generation program designed to funnel leads to salespeople? For most B2B companies with a complex, relationship based selling process, a demand generation program that provides actionable sales intelligence is one of the best options at their disposal. Last year, Sales Engine was able to generate 66 percent of our total sales pipeline through a closed-loop demand generation program, and we’re getting similar results for our clients.

Sounds good, right? 

A word of caution—this process falls apart all over the place. Most companies start with buying marketing automation without a solid strategy and underestimate the amount of content they require. The sales team is not set up to qualify and nurture leads, and management isn’t committed to supplying the time and money it takes to get it up and running. 

Why You Need Demand Generation

The buyer is more and more in control of this process—which means that they don’t have to talk to salespeople anymore to get the information they need to make an informed decision. Think about how you buy products and services now as opposed to just 10 years ago.

For example, even buying a car has drastically changed. Would you go into a dealership without having done your research on the Internet first? I wouldn’t. And neither would the buyer of your products and services. 

Sales Isn’t What It Used to Be

Because people don’t get the information they need from salespeople to make an informed decision, they really don’t have to talk to your sales reps. The result is that sales is frustrated because they don’t have as much control as they used to. Companies are missing revenue projections and sales reps are missing their quotas, causing an endless cycle of turnover. 

Marketing’s New Role

Marketing cannot rely on branding and positioning initiatives to provide air cover for sales people. So the goal of today’s B2B demand generation program must be to create actionable sales intelligence that results in conversations and appointments—it’s the only way to drive revenue growth.

So What Should It Look Like?

What hasn’t changed is that people buy from people they know, like, and trust. The difference is that we’re now using content marketing to build that trust and demonstrate that you can solve their problem. (The “like” part is still up to you.)

We start by developing an editorial calendar of thought leadership topics that our prospects are interested in and then start slotting in campaigns accordingly. Blogs and other articles are produced, emails are sent out, social media is updated, and so on. 

People start clicking on links, downloading articles, and commenting on posts. We already know who they are, because we’ve either sent content to them via email, or they’ve entered their contact information because the piece was gated. 

When someone clicks on a link, downloads a white paper, or registers for a webinar, our business development rep (BDR) gets an email alert saying that one of their prospects is checking out an article. The BDR sees the email, looks up their lead record in the CRM, and sees that this person came into the system six months ago, clicked on a few campaigns, and then went dormant for a while until today. So what is it about this particular campaign that piqued their interest?

The BDR follows a nurturing process with that marketing qualified lead to see if he or she can be a resource, providing follow-up materials and trying to engage in a sales conversation. 

The BDR knows how to follow up with this potential prospect because marketing has provided them with a sales playbook that contains the current campaign and some potential reasons that person might be interested in clicking on that article in the first place. Armed with all of this actionable sales intelligence, a nurturing track that includes one-to-one communications commences.

The prospect receives the communication from the BDR and it often turns out that they are interested in talking to someone because they were so impressed with the level of professional communication and resources provided by the company. So, we set an appointment with a salesperson to have a conversation. (We call this a “sales accepted lead” or “SAL.”)

Sales takes the appointment and decides what on the right course of action (either moving through the sales process or qualifying it out).

Simultaneously, management queries the CRM quarterly to find out: 

  1. How many marketing qualified leads (MQLs) did we generate in the last month? 
  2. And, of those leads, how many were our business development team able to turn into appointments (SALs)? 
  3. And of those appointments, how many turned into opportunities where we sent proposals and/or competed for a deal? (sales qualified leads or SQLs)
  4. How many SQLs did we close?

When executed correctly, it then becomes easy to determine where you should be spending marketing dollars because statistically we know that X number of MQLs turns into Y SALs.

So to hit our growth numbers, we then figure out how many MQLs we need to generate. But, because we have real data, we know what buttons to push and where our money is best spent: 

  • Do we need to generate more content?
  • Do we need to make additions to our database?
  • Do we need a better follow-up and nurturing process for our BDRs? 
  • How can we increase the closing percentage of SQLs?

All of these activities can then be budgeted for in terms of time and dollars based on cash flow and priority.