The Ultimate Guide to B2B Demand Generation

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the ultimate guide to b2b demand generation

In today’s age, buyers are more informed, discerning, and autonomous than ever before. That means that generating demand is harder, and brands need to give audiences the types of content they want to consume without requiring them to talk to a salesperson. 

If your audience can’t see you, they can’t choose you. They need to know who you are, and what you do and then be compelled to search for you, follow you, and engage with your content. 

So how can B2Bs manage all that? Simple, demand generation.

What is B2B demand generation?

B2B demand generation is an integrated marketing communications strategy that aims to drive awareness of and interest in a brand’s products and services. Demand generation targets qualified leads through education, addressing consumer pain points, and offering solutions to those pain points. 

The goal of demand generation is, quite simply, to generate demand! This is accomplished by building brand awareness and developing a captive audience who engages with your brand by consuming your content, engaging on social media, and more. Ultimately, demand generation should produce more qualified leads and convert more of those leads into customers. It’s a cross-silo effort from marketing, sales, product development, and more, and it can include tactics like: 

  • Email marketing
  • E-books
  • Thought leadership
  • Brand messaging
  • Content marketing
  • Press releases
  • Social media marketing
  • Influencer collaborations
  • Webinars

Out of all these tactics and more, 79% of marketers say email is the most effective tactic for demand generation. However, as with all forms of marketing, differentiation is crucial, and brands should employ a variety of tactics to meet goals more efficiently. 

Related reading: The Demand Generation: What It Is and Why You Want to Be A Part of It

Demand Generation versus Lead Generation

So if demand generation is instilling interest in a brand’s products or services, what’s the difference between that and lead generation? 

While demand generation is all about creating awareness, interest, and a demand for your products or services, lead generation is focused on identifying potential customers and nurturing a relationship with those prospects. 

So why shouldn’t businesses place all their focus on finding and targeting leads? Well, did you know that 80% of new leads never actually translate into sales? Part of demand generation is helping people really understand your business, your products and services, your value system and mission. The more people are aware of and understand your brand, the more effectively you can implement a lead generation strategy to “capture” that demand. 

So, in the long-term view, B2B brands need demand generation strategies that create a groundswell of interest so that when marketers and sales teams employ lead generation strategies, it’s like (qualified) fish in a barrel. 

Related Reading: 9 Key Lead Generation Strategies for SaaS Companies 

Benefits of Demand Generation 

When companies invest in generating demand alongside generating leads, they are sure to see a number of positives, including: 

  • Higher-quality Leads
  • Lower Acquisition Costs
  • Increased Retention
  • Increased Revenue 

To execute a demand generation strategy well, companies need to have a presence where their target audience is (most often social media, which LinkedIn and Twitter being key for B2Bs), they need to be easily searchable, and they need to have a wealth of informative content that runs the spectrum from the basics of what they do and who they are, to the specifics of each component of their product or service, to how their product or service is used in certain industries, what their belief system is in regards to CSR, who their leadership is, and more. 

The key to a strong demand gen strategy is to go beyond creating awareness. Strong demand generation marketing includes informing and educating your audience, engaging with them, and giving them the resources to learn more about your brand if they so choose. Then, if they become a lead, they will have already interacted with your brand in a number of ways before reaching a salesperson, meaning your sales reps only interact with truly qualified prospects, lowering your acquisition cost along the way. 

B2B Demand Generation 101

Demand Generation Strategies

Create and share high-quality content. 

High-quality content is the crux of any good demand generation strategy. B2B buyers can be anywhere from 57% to 70% through the sales cycle before a salesperson is ever involved. Because they get most of their information online—and are making most of their decision, if not entirely making up their mind—before speaking with a salesperson, brands must have high-quality, valuable content that anticipates prospects’ needs and wants and has answers and solutions prepared.  

Use thought leadership to spark conversations.

Thought leadership is one facet of high-quality content that brands can use in their demand gen strategies, but it is also a strategy in and of itself. Leveraging thought leadership to spark conversations about your prospects’ biggest pain points, interests, or ideas in your industry is a great way to build personal connections, which is the necessary first step toward investing in a long-term relationship with that prospect. 

Have a consistent social media presence.

Social media is key for building awareness and starting conversations. A strategic and creative social media marketing strategy may mean targetting your audience through B2B paid ads and keeping them informed and engaged through an active organic social media strategy. Beyond getting in front of your audience, social media is also a great way to get feedback from your audience and learn about what they’re interested in, what their pain points are, and what resonates. Through social listening, you can identify key conversations in your industry, and strategize how you can put your brand at the middle of them. 

Partner with influencers.

Looking to get your brand in front of tens of thousands of eyes along with a recommendation from someone those eyes already trust? Try influencer marketing. B2B influencer marketing accomplishes the brand awareness component by broadcasting your brand to an already-engaged audience. And on top of that, because the audience already enjoys your influencer partner, they are more likely to heed the influencer’s review or recommendation—giving your brand automatic brand awareness and credibility. 

Related Reading: Influencer (Creator) Marketing for B2B: A Guide for Those Just Getting Started – Zen Media

Demand Generation KPIs

With any new marketing strategy, it’s important to identify the must-measure KPIs. What metrics will tell you how your new digital campaign is performing? In order to assess and pivot your demand generation strategies, you must know your best acquisition channel as well as buyer intent and buyer closing data. 

Marketers can define their brand’s best acquisition channel by tracking the number of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) per channel and the close rate of prospects per channel. This, of course, is done after deals have been closed (some of them, anyway). 

Buyer intent data, however, indicates to marketers where prospects are in their journey—evaluating their actions online with your content, products, competitors, events, influencers, and more. The post-sale data here is closing data, in other words: why did the sale close? Buyer intent data shows you where your prospect is in the sales journey, but knowing why they chose your product, what made them decide when they decided, and other qualitative questions can paint a picture of your customer acquisition journey that you may never have seen before. Then you can take that data and interweave it with the knowledge of your brand’s best acquisition channel for a seamless strategy. 

2023 B2B Demand Generation Trends

AI and Automation

AI and automation are hot topics across the marketing universe, and demand generation is in on it too. According to the 2022 Demand Gen Report, 39% of marketers said automation was a key initiative for 2022. The same report in 2021 showed that while buying interactions jumped during the pandemic, only 19% of buyers spoke to a vendor’s representative. It’s clear that AI and automation will be imperative in the coming years. 

Knowing and implementing the right AI tools is crucial for marketing these days, and that’s especially true for demand generation. For example, the right automation tools can reduce the manual labor associated with lead scoring—the process that marketing and sales teams use to identify qualified leads. And with the rise of conversational marketing (and the decline in buyers’ interest in interacting with a salesperson), chatbots, messaging apps, and voice assistants will only get smarter and more effective. 

Related Reading: The Pros and Cons of AI in Marketing

Depend on data

In the KPIs above, we talked about buyer intent and buyer closing data, and the importance of understanding both qualitative and quantitative mxetrics to evaluate your customer experience and demand gen strategies. Ultimately, however, brands need to depend on all kinds of first-party data—data given to them consensually by audiences. 

With a cookieless future ahead, marketers need to rely on privacy-friendly ways to gather, store and analyze data. Synthesizing data to gain insights will be a challenge, but that’s why it’s imperative brands begin the first-party data and privacy-first journey now while they have time before Google steals our cookies. 

Go beyond blogs

When we talk about providing strong, informative, and engaging content—we mean blogs, sure, but that isn’t all we mean. Content runs the gamut from blogs to video content to infographics to podcasts, and beyond. Don’t sleep on your content strategy—take your content and look at it from all angles. Video has been trending for the last few years as the most consumable form of content—According to Forrester: One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Make sure video is included in your content strategy. 

Related reading: Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle Your Content – Zen Media

Ready to launch your demand generation marketing campaign? Great! Need a little help working out the finer points? Let’s talk. 

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