Search driven tactics are great when people are already searching for you, your product, or your service, but what happens when they don’t know you exist or that you solve a problem they may or may not know that they have?
This guide to demand generation will help you boost awareness and drive organic traffic.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (Google Ads / SEM) are great lead capture channels and they are very cost effective, but they rely on plentiful existing demand to successfully capture that traffic.
When demand doesn’t exist these channels underperform and businesses unrightfully judge them as poor channels to utilize in their marketing efforts. In this scenario, going after lead capture channels first is putting the cart before the horse. If nobody knows who you are (brand recognition) or needs what you provide (new product or service) then there are no “cheap” leads available to capture.
If this is the case, it’s your responsibility to create that demand and demand generation needs to be the primary strategy for your marketing approach.
When is demand generation the right strategy?
The more specialized your business is or niched your product, the more likely you are to require a hefty amount of demand generation to gain any traction in the market. Here are a few scenarios that would require a demand generation strategy as opposed to a lead capture strategy.
You offer niched expert B2B services.
If your company primarily does business with other professional businesses, then it likely has a unique position in the market providing a novel process or customized service. This novel offering likely solves a problem that your target audience knows exists, but is unaware of your solution or potentially isn’t even aware of the problem they have. They need to be made aware of both the problem and your solution in a non-direct sales manner to start building the trust that leads to a sale when they eventually need your help.
Your product is the first/best of its kind.
With any new product, the first goal of marketing needs to be over communicating the need for that product to the target audience. Repeatedly emphasize the pain point that the product alleviates. If the product is new in an existing market, it should clearly state why it’s superior. If it’s not superior (or cheaper), then expect your marketing to return below average results.
Your business is brand new to the market.
Nobody knows who you are. Simple as that. The first touch-point with your business should not be a sales experience. Rarely, if ever, is someone convinced to trust a business if their first interaction is an ask to buy from you. In this case, the first baby step to foundational demand generation is simply spreading the word you exist so that when your future marketing efforts are put into play, there is a level of familiarity with your brand that earns your prospects attention.
Why businesses avoid demand generation.
The unpopular truth about demand generation is that it’s not easily measured and doesn’t result in an immediate and trackable sales ROI in the same way that a lead capture strategy does. So the decision to favor this strategy and focus on it is unpopular with business owners who want unreasonably quick results or the marketers who are reporting to those owners and are unable to get their buy-in.
Creating demand for a product or service and gaining traction in an industry does not happen overnight. It takes multiple touch points, messaging angles, and sometimes even an introductory offer or trial period to build brand recognition and trust with your target audience.
So everyone skips it. This results in lead capture campaigns through premature SEO and SEM tactics that perform subpar or outright terribly.
How you can create market demand.
There are a variety of ways to build demand in a market. They involve both traditional and digital marketing tactics, but no matter the channel, your audience can in most cases still be directed to a digital experience that can be tracked to understand their journey.
Public Relations (PR)
If you have a new business or product that’s unique to the market, chances are there is a media or online news outlet that’s willing to do a story on it. Secondarily, if you are a cause based or community driven business, you can parlay that cause into newsworthy stories that can be picked up by the media. This is an amazing way to develop earned media to build brand recognition and educate the public on your offering or mission.
Branded Educational Content
If you are solving a unique or unknown problem, there is no better way to educate your target audience than producing content that brings it to their attention. This content can be on your website, in downloadable materials, boosted through paid social media campaigns, or published in industry/market publications. This type of content builds authority in your market, making you the voice of progress and a trustworthy provider.
Attending in-person events provides your business the opportunity to start developing relationships with potential customers. Even better, engaging with events as a speaker allows you to not only build relationships and spread your name, but it provides you an authoritative platform to become a voice in your market. This is an incredible trust building tactic.
Supporting events, causes, or organizations within your community or industry is a great way to brand build and show your commitment to furthering the market as a leader. Most sponsorships also involve an interactive element of networking or access to attendee data that you can use to your benefit later on as well.
Social Media Promotion
The next best thing to earned media provided by PR is social media placements. Using this channel to promote your content and educate your target audience is a great way to create multiple touch points over time in an indirect way. These soft touches increase brand recognition and build trust over time for when your prospects are ready to buy.
At some point traditional display advertising will help assist in brand recognition and awareness, but it falls lower on the list as it’s typically a minimal touchpoint that focuses almost entirely on remaining top-of-mind with your audience. As time passes, shifting advertising from a first-touch awareness campaign to a multi-touch retargeting campaign is a better use of this channel.
How can you track progress with demand generation?
Unlike SEO, SEM, Display Advertising, and Social Media Advertising, demand generation isn’t a direct appeal for sales and in most cases doesn’t involve paid clicks that can be tracked to a sale. Demand generation tracking elements are correlations. This aspect of a demand generation strategy makes owners and marketers uncomfortable, but it’s the hard truth.
Increased brand awareness and the furthered education of your target audience of their need that you solve will result in more branded search visits to your website. Branded search is one of the few easy metrics to track in Search Console and can infer that your demand generation is working in a way that your prospects have the knowledge to search for your business name directly vs the generic service or product type.
Service or Product Page Entries
For novel or unique products, if your goal is to increase awareness of that offering, then any specific searches related to that offering would be in part due to your demand generation tactics. Growth in website traffic entering via the product or service pages would indicate that those offerings are starting to be searched for directly.
Overall Website Visits
As your brand and offering awareness grows, your website traffic in general will grow with it. This may not initially result in a direct correlation with sales, but it will show early returns on gaining traction in your market.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) Growth
Successful demand generation should grow MQLs over time. These MQLs may not fully be of high quality to start, but over time as the demand grows and the market becomes more educated, the quality of these MQLs should improve and lead to a higher percentage converting to actual sales.
When to start demand generation.
Sooner rather than later. It’s most likely that those reading this article are not on the cusp of launching a new business or product/service offering. In that case, this article may have been either an uncomfortable read or an inspiring one. My hope is it’s the latter.
It’s time to commit a portion of your marketing budget towards demand generation and not only get started but truly understand how to judge its success.
If you’re having trouble growing and converting sales online, start with creating a positive selling environment and customer buying experience.