Archives for posts with tag: Demand Generation

Ask any business leader what their primary business challenge is and you’ll often hear words like ‘demand’, ‘pipeline’ or ‘more, better leads’. There are very few businesses that can rely on a never-ending stream of inbound enquiries from prospects or customers looking to buy.

Generating demand is generally the domain of the marketing department, although in business-to-business environments it’s not uncommon for the sales people to be expected to find or develop about half of the demand themselves. Many businesses therefore take a well resourced, scientific and automated approach to being in the right places with the right content to engage those people looking to fix a problem or exploit an opportunity.

Despite what you might have read from the minority of practitioners who’ve written or published ‘how to’ books, blogs or videos on the subject, while the principles are straightforward the practice is hard, especially when the business has a relentless demand for high quantity, high quality expressions of interest to keep its costs of acquisition at manageable levels. What often happens is that instead of demand generation you get demand degeneration, by which I mean a lack or shortfall of pipeline for your products and services.

What are the reasons for this? As you might expect, they’re many and varied. Incorrect market sizing, poor segmentation, a lack of understanding of the customer, inferior or inappropriate content, and insufficient or manually dependent activities are some of the common reasons. There’s also a requirement to stay current with trends and technologies in demand generation, since ways of engaging with customers have a natural lifecycle that means they won’t always be productive and will be replaced by new ways.

It takes a relentless drive and relentless inquisitiveness to engender relentless interest in something. That’s a pretty tall order to avoid demand degeneration, and the good business will recognise this and have in place parallel activities like customer advocacy to keep the pump primed.

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Funnel and Hubspot Flywheen

Funnel and Hubspot Flywheel

For decades we’ve been talking about funnels – or hoppers – to talk about how we manage sales, especially in B2B circles. Marketing throws leads into the top of the funnel, perhaps helps leads advance down the funnel, and sales pushes them down through the bottom until they emerge out of the funnel as a customer, a sale. It’s also assumed that the funnel has holes in the sides, since leads and opportunities get qualified out or are lost during their journey, but that’s not really talked about and not what I’m talking about either.

Then there’s the flywheel. The flywheel analogy and image is a Hubspot creation, – at least I think they originated it – and aims to better integrate the customer, ideally the delighted customer, into the selling process from an advocacy point of view. After all, with the funnel, once the opportunity emerges as a customer there’s not a natural way for it to come back into the funnel as a repeat customer or as an influencer to a new customer.

I like the flywheel approach, although I prefer a wheel analogy myself, and I can see where they’re going with the idea that a flywheel increases in speed due to the rotational energy of delighted customers feeding fuel to the marketing and sales engine.

Hubspot acknowledges that you still need funnels in a business that measures its success, and argues that you can put funnels within the various stages of the flywheel. That doesn’t seem particularly elegant and they don’t even try to present it visually. But, viewing your customer’s buying journey as a circle rather than a straight line certainly helps you keep your focus on developing your existing business and leveraging customers to bring in new business.

Apparently it takes between 12 and 17 touches before a prospect engages with you. A touch being a call attempt, voicemail, email, ping and so on. I’ve heard varying numbers around that, but in any event it’s a lot. And there’s a load of reasons why they don’t engage with you before then:

  • They’re not interested
  • They’re not around
  • They’re too busy
  • They have other priorities

Even if you happen to pique their interest, still they might not respond, which is for another reason:

  • They can’t retain anything!

Your average crazy busy prospect is so busy skim-reading everything that even if they do want to act on something but don’t do it right away, they forget about it. Even if they have a vague recollection of something they wanted to act on, they can’t remember who the email was from or what the subject line might have been.

So you have to absolutely catch them with good topics and good timing, when they can follow the AIDA process through in one go. Awareness – see the email; Interest – read it and be engaged; Decision – decide to take action; Action – they actually take action, in your favour, hopefully.

17 touches…

We’re always encouraged to look forward, to plan for the future. I remember trying to get an interview for a job a long time ago. ‘Do you want a copy of my CV? I asked. ‘No,’ said the guy, I’m more interested in what you’re planning to do, not what you’ve done.’

I admit it’s unusual for a recruiter to say that, and I should temper his comment by saying that it turns out he was head of a multi-level marketing company, but my point is that people take the approach that since you can’t change the past should focus on doing something about the future. Past performance is not a guide to future performance, the financial ads are fond of telling us.

The past can inform, however. That’s why we learn the importance of the rear view mirror when we start driving. Nowhere is this more important than in monthly or quarterly demand generation plans, or in fact any kind of plan. It’s all too tempting to sweep the last indifferent plan under the rug and start again with a fresh- forward-looking plan. If you do that every period, you’re not accountable, because you’re not learning or improving with experience. You have no reference point and you’re simply presenting yourself as a moving target for people whose aim will eventually catch up with you.

So before you build your next demand generation plan, measure and analyse what worked the last time, and what the conversion rates were at each stage, so that you can plan the next period with some knowledge. You should then be able to improve your targeting and forecasting with each subsequent period, having done the closed loop thing on the previous period.

Practice makes permanent if you never look back, but it makes perfect if you look back and learn.

I recently wrote a post on the successful sales manager’s magic word. That word was buffer.

It might also be prudent to offer a suggestion on what the successful marketing manager’s magic word is.

That word is buffer, as well. In fact, building buffer is a pretty good mantra for everything we do, from all types of work to how we manage our leisure time, our coffee appointments, our train departures and our meetings.

Just as the successful sales manager builds buffer around a team target that’s lower than the sum of the individual rep targets, so too should the successful marketing manager build buffers around the different marketing initiatives, especially around demand generation which in B2B circles is so essential to the successful sales manager, relying as they do on a steady stream of leads from marketing.

If you have a team of individual outbound ‘demand gen’ reps working the phones, make sure that the total of their individual targets is more than the team or company total. Similarly, if you have a range of outbound activities planned for the quarter, make sure that the sum of the targets for each of those activities – in terms of leads, opportunities and resulting revenues – exceeds the team or company total. You need to insure yourself against activities not happening or underperforming, or a rep underperforming, getting sick or leaving to give you a back-fill headache.

Remember to go back and measure the actual performance against target too, for the previous period. Then over time you can improve and be able to refine the amount of buffer you need to build into each area.

Even the best laid plans and estimates go awry. Give yourself some buffer, to make sure you can over-deliver on your promises.