Picture the process of building a startup business as something akin to the ‘80s videogame Pitfall. Our hero (the entrepreneur) has to navigate from the beginning of the adventure (designing a product or service) and cross the many difficult steps of creating demand generation to get that deliverable to the carefully selected customers at the end of the sales journey.

While there are no actual crocodiles, scorpions or canyons to contend with in the business world, founders of startups and scale ups may still feel a measure of terror at the prospect of learning what is demand generation, and how to go about creating awareness and building early interest in their company.

Demand generation is a discrete and very nuanced part of startup marketing that begins before someone who fits a company’s customer persona rises to the level of being a lead or prospect.

From there it's the interplay between marketing and sales that represents demand generation, with the goal of building awareness and excitement abut a product, and interest in a company’s offerings through a series of engagements and interactions over time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Early awareness steps lead to more engagement and a “give to get” exchange that starts the process of generating leads and gradually nurturing them toward the sales journey
  • Marketing and sales teams must work together cooperatively throughout the demand generation process, with a system of lead scoring and qualification steps that narrow the focus down to the prospects with the most potential
  • Automation processes for demand generation can be carefully constructed to aggregate data, continuously test the methodology, and build deeper relationships that can turn a first sale into a long-time customer

Embrace The “Give To Get” Model

Demand generation is created with a series of touchpoints enabled through marketing and sales, beginning with activities such as content marketing and brand advertising, and continuing with steps that nurture key prospects forward toward a sale and a lasting customer relationship.

An important conceptual building block of learning what is demand generation comes in the form of the “give to get” model that encourages a potential customer to provide their contact information in exchange for a piece of high-value content or offer that will help them address pain points or needs in their business related to your offering.

Examples of possible give-to-get assets include ebooks, case studies, white papers, explainer videos, or a basic analysis of the prospect’s business through a script on your website. Those assets come later in the process than initial awareness and authority-building pieces such as blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and social media posts, which come early and build familiarity but don’t offer the two-exchange that is crucial for long-term successful demand generation.

That exchange of value is what begins the funnel process that guides the potential customer down the strategic path – carefully designed in advance to mesh with the company’s operational strengths and distinct brand – toward completing a deal. The “give to get” transaction then feeds into a customer relationship management platform where they are scored as a potential customer and nurtured along the appropriate path through a series of engagements and conversion points.

Build Sales And Marketing Success, Together

There is no magic, one-size-fits-all point at which the marketing team should hand off the demand generation process to the sales side. Every company, prospect and sales situation is different, but there are some common considerations that founders can lean on when building their own demand generation engine.

Lead scoring and early qualification steps need to be in place, so the marketing side can turn a large pool of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) into a small but much more valuable group of sales-qualified leads (SQLs) that have a higher likelihood of converting into customers. The CRM your company uses should have the functionality to capture as much customer data as possible at every touchpoint along the sales journey. That data can then be used to A/B test different groups of prospects to evaluate the sales conversion process and make continual improvements in content offerings, timing your outreach, and promotions or discounting to increase sales success.

The way demand generation differs from other marketing and sales strategies is that segments of your ideal customer persona may not yet be aware they could be well served by your solution, and haven’t identified the need for it. Because of this, there is far more work to be done early on via content to explain the offerings, their potential value, and why they are attractive to the sector of the market you are targeting.

The Possibilities Of Automation

Advancements in sales and marketing automation using CRMs and email marketing systems have made the demand generation process far more precise and measurable than ever before. To be effective, automated demand generation campaigns have to be carefully planned out to decide the best steps for customer groups that will need different combinations and schedules of engagements to be nurtured forward toward a sale.

Some considerations when designing an automated demand generation process:

Segmentation – create different categories for groups of leads based on their wants, needs, interest and previous activity with the company

Channels – select which channels such as email, pay-per-click advertising, referrals and other means you want to focus on, and build automation steps based on how leads first enter the funnel

Navigation – designing the customer and sales journey so that it is as intuitive and obvious as possible for the prospect to advance forward in the journey toward a sale

Once the “give to get” threshold has been passed it is crucial to build in steps to encourage a positive decision about further engagement or a potential sale. This can be done with an invite for a meeting or webinar, using coupons or incentives, highlighting the benefits seen by other customers. Those actions build closeness and justification in the mind of a prospect that, as long as they’ve been accurately scored and qualified, will be on the cusp of converting into a customer.

Demand generation will unlock the door to new leads, who will become loyal customers. Look to Sellerant for help building an effective demand generation engine.