A new era of demand generation in business to business marketing.
While marketing buzzwords and new automation tools abound, the underlying principles and the basic need for demand generation (gen) remains constant. After all, business to business sales teams need leads—they always have, and always will.
Demand gen programs, regardless of the combination of tactics used, remain the sweet spot of any business to business marketing plan. Why? Because demand gen programs forge relationships between marketing and sales teams, reducing natural animosities, and furthering respect on both sides. Demand gen also makes the marketing team a hero with sales, management, and the board.
What are the trends for Demand Gen?
Direct mail remains a critical weapon
For the past few years, everyone (even martech companies whose bread and butter is email communications) have recognized the return of direct mail in marketing. While we at The Verdi Group have always championed direct mail—industry soothsayers acknowledge that email open rates just aren’t what they were 5-10 years ago. That’s because email needs to be coupled with mail to deliver a memorable impression. The tactile experience of interacting with a direct mail piece, particularly one that is so intriguing that it’s hard to discard, is an irreplaceable campaign component. Plus, when combined with outbound telemarketing, it becomes a sure-fire combo for a high performing B2B campaign.
Account-based marketing (ABM) follows the direct marketing mantra perfectly: “The right offer, to the right person, at the right time.”
B2B sales cycles are typically lengthy, with lots of opportunities to personalize communications based on events in the buyer’s journey. There are known events like the prospect’s budget planning cycles, as well as opportunistic events, such as a new decision-maker arriving on the scene halfway through the sales cycle.
Some communications are event triggered. For example, if the prospect reacts a certain way, then a specific piece of content is delivered appropriate to his or her buying stage. Enabled by business to business marketing automation systems, the execution and tracking of communication touches can be a lot easier. The strategy and mapping of the customer’s journey will always require an investment of time and input from sales so that together they can leverage the prospect’s experience and decide how to facilitate the next steps.
ABM with Verdi’s ‘Needs to Leads’ Program
For decades, The Verdi Group has implemented a program to tease out buying needs at the individual level. It’s called Needs to Leads, it has been implemented in a variety of industries, including financial, telecommunications, and business services. Its centerpiece is an outreach that probes for upcoming buying decisions the prospect/customer may be making in the near future, and how those decisions are likely to be made. The responses are driven through a logic tree to determine which sequence of offers best fits the prospect relative to BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing). We have even used it to determine work style, i.e. the D-I-Yer, the Outsourcer, the Super Manager…and their next content offer (and sales approach) customized based on their style! Needs to Leads can become a foundational layer of an Account-Based Marketing program.
Customized content marketing
Fitting hand in hand with ABM is customized content marketing, or “offers” as we direct marketers think of it.
In addition to customizing content for your primary decision-maker, it’s beneficial to include “influencer marketing”—which involves supporting touches to those who are not the direct buyer, but someone who is instrumental in contributing to the decision. This person typically wields enough power to get your company off the short list of vendors with a simple, “Never heard of them.” Our job as marketers is to create and maintain a positive impression through awareness building and targeted content creation customized to the issues the influencer cares about, which are not necessarily the same as the issues the buyer cares about.
What’s coming down the pike?
The world is abuzz with how artificial intelligence (AI) can further assist direct marketers. The use of AI assistants for lead qualification is intriguing, and has promise for organizations sorting through tens of thousands of leads each year. This prioritization can help yield improvements and sales productivity by determining the leads most worthy of immediate rep follow up.
A final word.
We enter this year optimistic that unfolding technologies that power marketing efforts will deliver new insights to deliver on the one-to-one marketing promise we all strive for. Keep growing and testing new and evolving digital integration techniques that can lend support to traditional direct marketing. The 12-14 touch rule of thumb to generate and nurture a B2B lead is as true as ever, and the sharpening of digital targeting methods will contribute to response.