How CMOs can dial up demand generation in the worst of times
To some B2B chief marketing officers, there is no demand without brand. But to make up for sales teams that haven’t adapted to the absence of events and face-to-face selling, CMOs are being asked to focus almost exclusively on demand generation. And this pivot is arriving on the back of budget cuts, making it easier said than done.
One CMO who understands the challenges of B2B demand generation is Kevin Fliess of Altum, the grant management software company. Fliess explains why demand generation is so popular with CEOs and chief financial officers, how to turn a homepage into a “store,” how content and messaging fit into the mix, when to unleash the power of “free” and which metrics really matter (Hint: high value leads and marketing-originated sales).
What is the most important aspect of demand generation?
You have to prove the value of what you're doing. That's always been true in marketing. But now, with the CFO scrutinizing every purchase, it’s really incumbent upon CMOs to show return on marketing investment in hard dollars. One of the things I've learned over my career is that there are a lot of influence marketing metrics out there, but at the end of the day, what gets chief operating officers and CEOs and CFOs excited is demand gen.
You need to be able to actually show what I call marketing originated bookings or marketing originated sales. For every dollar you put into that marketing engine, how many dollars is the business getting back out? That's really what the CFOs want to see. You have to prove the value each and every day, and really understanding your metrics is central to that.
Where should a CMO start with demand generation?
Start with the website. Now more than ever, with so much business moving online, your website is your storefront. Your homepage is the front door to your business. We’ve all seen the Gartner stats or the Forrester stats that 65-75% of the buyer’s journey happens before they talk to anyone in sales. Well, they're going to your website and they're going to your competitor’s website. That's where it begins. Your website needs to be light. It needs to be airy. Less is more. Focus on snackable content and get them to that call to action as quickly as possible. You want to hook them with a message and give them a reason to explore a little bit more deeply.
What is the role of messaging in demand generation?
You need clear and compelling message right up front. It sounds so simple to do, but you need a hook. You need something provocative and aspirational and empathetic right now that really shows you understand your customers’ and your prospects’ plights. The goal used to be to get your customer promoted. Now, the goal is to help your customer’s business survive this pandemic and maybe help them grow along the way. You need a very succinct and provocative message, then you need a simple, simple, simple user experience.
How can businesses keep messaging simple?
It's about understanding what's essential to your business and, more importantly, what's essential to your customers. What are those demand drivers? What are those strategic products or services that your business offers that are going to be the growth drivers of your business? You need to put your attention there. It's a little bit of this over that. Just like a product manager would prioritize features in a backlog, marketers need to prioritize messages that they want to communicate to the market.
How important is it to have free trials?
Wherever possible, whatever you can do to remove impediments from that trial process is incredibly important. Right now, obviously, free is an incredibly powerful tool. I still see a lot of websites that say, 'Get a demo,' and I have to fill out a form to get it. I understand that because some products require a solution engineer to do a custom demo, but to the extent you can be more transparent, do. My world is B2B SaaS, so I definitely think to the extent you can offer up your products in a frictionless model (think e-commerce), the happier your sales team is going to be because those are real qualified opportunities.
If you give product away, how do you make sure it turns into revenue?
You need a really strong sales and marketing handshake when you run a trial like this. With customers signing up for a free trial, the onus really moves to sales and solution engineering to check in on those customers almost every week and make sure they have everything. It's almost like onboarding a paid customer. They need to have a sense of your customer experience and what it’s going to be like to be a paying customer. You really want to ensure that the trial is successful for them, that they're getting value out of that solution or service.
How does proprietary research and content fit into demand generation?
Every business, regardless of the vertical you're in, has unique insights and knowledge that is valuable to customers and prospects. The goal is to figure out what content you have that no one else has and marry that to the needs of your audience. Then translate those data into insights and stories. You don’t need to produce lengthy white papers to be successful. Simple infographics work great. It’s much more about substance than style.
How did rebranding help from a demand generation standpoint?
Having that purpose-driven statement that really communicates the essence of what you do quickly and succinctly, and in a way that is provocative, is really important. The brand is the foundation from which the messaging flows. It aligns your campaigns. It makes it clear about who your target segment is. It helps align the sales organization around who we're going after and what we stand for. That lasting purpose, that central message, is really helpful for an organization right now to weather the storm. You need that organizational north star regardless of which way the wind is shifting right now.
How do you measure the quality of leads?
The high value leads, the ones you respond to instantaneously if you can because they're actively shopping and showing intent, might represent 10% of the leads in your organization. The other 90% are doing their research and taking their time. The onus is on the business to make sure that you track each and every interaction. You need marketing attribution for those that are shopping, and then you need a scoring model. You want to basically look at organizations in terms of their company size, title and vertical. Next, develop a scoring model, then you assign a value to each of those interactions that's happening in that shopping process. What you can do is deliver a set of scored leads to sales. I call them dynamic leads as opposed to high value leads. For those dynamic leads, we're going to follow up with those in order of the score or the letter grade. We're always working the highest value leads first.