5 Essential Steps to Build a Demand Generation Strategy

May 25, 2021
Contributor: Samantha Bonanno

A strong demand generation program builds brand awareness and authority, and produces thoughtful, engaging content that drives interest and cultivates leads.

Demand generation (or demand gen) is an essential part of a healthy business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing strategy. 

What is demand generation?

Demand generation is a marketing strategy focused on building reliable brand awareness and interest, resulting in high-quality leads. 

Demand gen can make a business’s marketing messages sound more authoritative, carry more weight with prospective clients and ultimately help increase revenue by farming strong leads.

What is the difference between demand gen and lead gen? These two strategies (although sometimes referenced interchangeably) have very different goals. 

Where demand generation strives to build brand awareness and authority so potential customers reliably enter the purchase track, a lead generation strategy focuses on turning an engaged audience into leads via direct outreach. 

Let’s take a look at five essential steps to build a successful B2B demand generation strategy.

Step 1. Build awareness

With today’s competitive sales and marketing landscape, brand awareness is critical for a consistent flow of quality leads. And while it may seem straightforward, building brand awareness isn't simply gaining the attention of a potential buyer. 

A true and lasting brand awareness strategy leaves potential buyers with a lingering, positive impression of a company, and makes them more likely to trust that company when it offers solutions to the customer's challenges or needs. 

One surefire way to increase visibility to and credibility with buyers? Customer reviews. Specifically, recent, authentic reviews.

Businesses should prioritize authentic customer reviews because they offer a brief, peer-provided product summary and help buyers narrow their focus. 

Individually, reviews act as candid consumer feedback related to real-world use, free from marketing hype. Collectively, customer reviews provide high-level insights that help buyers quickly filter through a massive amount of available products. 

Learn more about how to ensure high-quality, authentic customer reviews in our “Reviews Quality Comes First” white paper.

Step 2. Develop a content strategy

Hand-in-hand with brand awareness, building industry expertise is a key element of reliable demand gen. Industry expertise means that your brand is seen as an authority in its field from the very first interaction with a potential customer. 

This kind of expertise helps build client trust, and lays the groundwork for important conversations about customer pain points and the solutions your business can offer. A solid content marketing strategy that offers timely, helpful insights at each step of the purchase journey is the best way to build expertise. 

Providing content that answers buyer questions/concerns while they move through their purchase journey builds purchase confidence and brand credibility. Those customers will remember your brand as a guide within the marketplace and look to your business as a subject matter expert for future needs. 

If you have the marketing resources, develop curated or personalized content to address the needs of a specific kind of high-value lead. This could mean leads that most reliably convert or leads that are prepared to invest the most money with your company. Use segment-specific information to craft content and calls to action (CTAs) that guide buyers through their purchase and anticipate questions and concerns common to your group of high-value leads.

Include messaging that solves for hurdles from the very first time a lead comes across your product or service to their final questions about purchasing. When in doubt, focus on the primary reasons buyers consider a product or service provider as they are first searching.

Content types that align to each stage of the sales funnel

Step 3. Nurture high-quality leads

Once you’ve made first contact with a potential customer, your marketing team hands over the lead details to the sales team and congratulates each other on a job well done, right?

Wrong. Healthy, reliable demand generation requires a full lead nurturing strategy from first contact through decision and purchase. 

Marketing teams should work alongside sales throughout the purchase journey, remaining in tune with buyer questions, concerns and attitudes. Depending on how robust their resources are, marketing teams should continue to interact with these high-value leads all the way through purchase by providing helpful content to answer common questions.

Your marketing team should focus on the types of content prospective clients need, as well as the most appropriate channels to share that information. The goal with this kind of targeted nurture campaign is to reach customers with the right content or assets at the moment when that information is most helpful to them. 

We recommend closely monitoring lead feedback to get a sense of whether your outreach strategies are meeting customer needs. Regularly review lead nurture track performance data and take note of stages that receive greater engagement or increase unsubscribe rates. Adjust your lead nurture tracks and messaging accordingly as often as necessary to maximize results.

Step 4. Incorporate account-based marketing

As you begin to see a reliable trickle of leads coming in from your demand gen strategies, you may want to fast-track high-value leads. This is where an account-based marketing strategy can set teams up for success.

What is account-based marketing? 

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategy in which a supplier targets a select group of accounts that represent significantly higher expansion or growth opportunities with tailored marketing and sales support.

Everything in an account-based marketing strategy depends on a deep, reliable understanding of the accounts and audiences you’re targeting. ABM requires marketing and sales teams to strategically select accounts to target and nurture through customized engagement and support. 

Marketing teams should design target company personas based on high-value clients that are most likely to convert or grow. Evaluate what business objectives and values these target accounts tend to share, as well as what major steps in their buying journey precede purchase. 

Use the target personas to inform how you market to these leads, providing them with personalized content that directly addresses their unique pain points and questions.

For step-by-step help building an account selection process and launching an ABM program, read "How to Establish an ABM Strategy."

Step 5. Invest in partner marketing

The recent rapid shift from in-person to virtual business interactions mean a sharper increased focus on digital marketing. Even as businesses begin to return to safe, in-person interactions with customers and staff, it seems likely that increased digital interactions are here to stay. 

Companies need to share their message online, but pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns can be difficult to manage alone. Partnering with a third-party provider can enable your business to reach a curated, prescreened audience.

Many companies choose to start on some of the broadest search or social media platforms, but then struggle to narrow their messaging. A simpler way to quickly get your message in front of the right people is to find a partner that has already carved out the online audience you want. 

For just about any product or service, a base of potential customers is waiting. Third-party partners can get your company’s products or services in front of the right buyers at the right point. 

Looking for more information on PPC campaigns? Check out this guide on how to find a partner for PPC performance.

Launch your demand generation strategy

Building awareness, creating and nurturing opportunities, and prompting engagement through a deliberate content strategy are essential to grow revenue. A strong demand generation strategy will help your business bring in reliable, high-quality leads and ultimately grow your business.

For more resources like these, or to partner with software vendors and connect with in-market buyers, through research, reviews and lead generation, check out Gartner Digital Markets

The Software Marketer's Guide to Paid Media

Generate more high-quality leads with less budget.

Samantha Bonanno

Samantha is a Senior Specialist Analyst for Gartner Digital Markets, where she offers insight and thought leadership on marketing trends and best practices for small and midsize businesses. An Upstate New York native, Sam spends her free time backpacking with her dogs and holding snobby opinions on craft beer and single-origin coffee. Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn.

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