What is Demand Generation? The Complete Beginner's Guide
"What is demand generation? Is it different from inbound marketing? How?"
"Why do I keep hearing this term? It sounds like something I should know about…"
Believe me, if you're reading this article, you already do know about demand generation. You just might not know you know.
This guide will take apart and examine the three pillars of demand generation. I'lll also give you a 7-step walkthrough for how you can start rolling with demand generation today.
Demand generation strategies have driven most of Wishpond's growth in the past few years. Advertising and PR are great, but since 2013 we've prioritized the demand gen strategies I'll go over in this guide.
So this is something I'm really excited about, and know can have high-impact on your business as well.
Click below to navigate the guide.
Table of Contents (Click to Jump)
What is Demand Generation?
That's a great question, and one we should get out of the way as soon as possible...
Demand Generation encompasses the marketing strategies designed to drive awareness and interest in a business' products.
It's an umbrella term which encompasses social media, inbound marketing, email marketing, real-world marketing and customer retention strategies.
It does not cover advertising or PR.
There's two points in that demand generation definition that I'd like to pull out and take a look at before we get started:
1. "Drive Awareness"
Part of generating demand for your business' product is about driving awareness of the fact that you exist.
This can be done through content marketing and SEO, social media, community outreach, affiliate marketing and more.
2. "Drive Interest"
Once people are aware you exist, you need to have a secondary strategy in place to communicate your value.
I don't care that Salesforce is extremely well-known. If I don't need a CRM platform (or don't believe I do), why would I care?
Driving interest can also be done through all the strategies above, but it also involves the other side of demand generation - email marketing and customer retention.
Demand Generation: Strategies to Reach New Prospective Customers
The strategies I'll go over in this section are designed to get your business in front of people who might be interested in buying your products.
This can, of course, also be done with Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and a solid public relations strategy. But, for the purposes of this guide (and to align ourselves with the whole idea of demand generation), we'll ignore those and focus instead on the three most impactful demand generation strategies to drive awareness.
Social media, if invested in correctly and optimized (with management tools, visual marketing apps, and a well-measured approach, can be profitable without having to pay for exposure.
It's a challenge, though, for sure. The organic reach on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest are extremely limited (as the platforms are encouraging businesses to pay-to-play).
Here's what I recommend to get organic reach and brand awareness on social media:
- Choose a couple social platforms on which to focus your time and energy. Don't spread yourself too thin.
- To get rolling, start off with frequent social media promotions to increase your number of Fans and Followers. Use social incentives (bonus entry rewards for Liking or Sharing your promotion) to spread the word and get more Followers. Exclude past entrants from your targeted posts when promoting a new campaign.
- Measure the success you see on social media with a comprehensive analytics tool (either within your social media management tool or the platform itself). Measure how much time you're spending and the dollar value of engagement you receive. Remember that social media, like content marketing is a long-game. It takes several months for anything to happen (though social promotions can help you get a boost).
To learn more about social media marketing, including when you shouldn't invest in it (and where you should invest), as well as how you can get started, check out my article, "Social Media Marketing Plan: An 11-Step Template." To see a full guide to the tools necessary to make it profitable, check out "50 Social Media Tools: The Ultimate List 2017."
Content marketing is a huge part of driving awareness about, and generating demand for, your business.
Imagine the content you create as a megaphone. When you start out, without content, your business is only able to whisper into the buying world. As you create more and more content, your voice gets a bit louder - because you're more likely to be found, more successful on social media, and because the more content you create the more respect you'll get from Google.
STEP 1: SEO
When we're talking about the content marketing strategies to reach new prospective customers, we're primarily talking about content's role in SEO.
SEO, very simply, comprises the strategies that businesses use to get their brand on the first page of search results when someone types in something related to them.
How to start ranking and generating awareness of your brand through search results:
- Identify key words and phrases associated with your business. For Wishpond's marketing campaign software, we target tool searches, questions associated with how to use tools like ours, and queries associated with strategies which use our tools.
- Identify what the competition is for your keywords. If a given keyword is dominated by a competitor, create better content than what they're produced (longer, higher density of keywords, etc) or go for lower-hanging fruit. Tools like LongTail Pro and BuzzSumo can help identify the types of content you should be creating.
- Start creating content with those key phrases as the URL and interspersed frequently throughout the content.
- Create long-form, high-quality content.
STEP 2: PROMOTION:
A big part of content marketing is also promotion. Become more active on communities like Reddit, GrowthHackers.com, Inbound.org and those which are most relevant to your business.
Tap into influencer marketing to increase the organic reach of your content. For a guide, check out "Influence Marketing: How to Amplify Your Content with Social Leaders."
STEP 3: USING CONTENT TO GENERATE LEADS:
Content marketing is only valuable if you're able to turn traffic into customers. And once you're driving readers, for many businesses that means turning those readers into leads.
For a guide to using content to generate leads, check out "The Complete Guide to Gating your Content."
To learn more about content marketing and how you can build a more powerful inbound strategy, check out my article, "How to Build a More Complete Content Marketing Strategy." You can also grab a high-value tools guide with "77 Tremendous Tools to Make You a Content Marketing Superstar."
Real-world marketing still has a place in getting your business out there. Conferences, local meet-ups, job fairs - all these can showcase your business to the people who are there - and therein lies the problem of real-world marketing.
If your business is new on the stage, you need to implement strategies designed to show you to as much of that stage as possible.
This is the problem I see with a lot of early-stage, well-funded tech startups (and perhaps why so many of them fail): If you have a bunch of VC money, you're going to hire the marketing team with the most proven experience.
Unfortunately, that often means you're hiring people who haven't had to "break into" their industry. If they have that experience you want, they're likely corporate marketers who have marketed businesses who are already well-known to the entire business stage. They're not breaking onto it, needing to try innovative strategies to be seen. They're people who need to keep their brand top-of-mind - people who need to give buyers a reason to go with their well-known brand over a well-known competitor.
And that's why digital marketing and the strategies of growth hacking are so powerful. They allow you reach a massive audience with a limited budget. Yes, it's scarier, but it's also more powerful in the early stages.
Then again, I'm a startup marketer, so I'm as biased as they come...
Demand Generation: Strategies to Engage Prospective Customers
Now we really get into the nitty gritty of demand generation - actually generating demand for your business. Creating awareness is only 1/3rd of the battle, we still need to get people to actually buy and then stay with us for more than a week or first purchase.
Let's dive into those strategies which convince people who know who we are that our product is worth buying. Let's dive into the strategies which get people to buy. After all, why else are we here?
Once you've created a content funnel based around SEO, promotion and lead generation, you can continue to use it to generate demand for your tools.
Incorporate your content, including how-to guides, case studies, platform walkthroughs, video, "about us-style" pieces and more, into your email marketing campaigns which turn prospective customers (leads) into paying customers.
Content plays a major role in building trust and a relationship with prospective customers. After all, I'm far more likely to buy from someone I know - far more likely to buy from someone I trust.
Here's an example of an article from the CEO and founder of Buffer, in which he is completely open about why a couple of the other co-founders are moving on:
To learn more about using content marketing to engage with the prospective customers who already know you check out my article on Content Marketing Institute, "Transparency Reveals Great Content Opportunity."
Before we dive into how you can use email marketing and where it fits within the demand generation sphere, I think it's worth it to introduce you to a few statistics…
- For every $1 spent on email marketing, some businesses can get an average return of $38.
- People are twice as likely to sign up for your email list as they are to interact with you on Facebook.
- 72% of consumers would rather receive email than any other source of business communication.
- 61% of consumers are happy to receive promotional emails on a weekly basis, so long as those emails actually deliver value.
- Personalized emails (even the ones which you automate) receive transaction rates that are six times higher than others.
In short, email isn't dead.
Here's a few best practices that will enable you to succeed with email marketing right off the bat:
- Personalize where possible. It's going to very quickly become impossible for you to send an email to every one of your prospective customers, but the more personal you can be the higher your response rates and the more frequently people will convert to a paid purchase. As a result, it's worth learning how to incorporate merge tags and liquid code as soon as possible.
- Automate where possible. Your sales team might be able to, predominantly, email customers and prospective customers manually. But getting people from blog subscriber to sales lead takes a serious effort. My recommendation is to use a email automation tool to help you set up triggered workflows and drip campaigns which automatically turn new prospective customers into sales leads.
- Segment. Let's say you write on a couple different blog topics (like Wishpond, who writes on more advanced growth marketing stuff as well as social media). It's far more effective for us to email growth marketing subscribers content which is relevant to them and their business' goals than it is to email them everything about a new Twitter algorithm.
Here's a snapshot of a few of Wishpond's own segments, including our three newsletter segments:
To dive into email marketing, particularly the automation side of it, check out "10 Steps to Email Automation Success." We also have a resource giving you 19 of our highest-performing email marketing templates.
Demand Generation: Strategies to Engage Existing Customers
You need to keep people engaged with your platform or product to keep the demand for it high. Whatever your product is, it needs to be valuable enough to buyers that they keep coming back.
For software, this is done with several elements (which I'll go over in this section). But, in general, think of it as based around three primary factors:
- Education: If your users don't know how to use your tool or service, they won't see the value in it. For some software providers, especially, this may mean you need to require people attend a training call.
- Value: If your users don't get value from your tool, they won't re-subscribe the next time they're prompted.
- Positive Opinion: If users don't like you or have a negative experience when they interact with you, they'll leave far faster than if they have the same experience of the tool but a positive relationship. This is where customer success and customer support work.
Let's break down a few actionable strategies you can use to better onboard users and keep customer retention high.
The first few weeks (or months, in some industries) are the most worrisome for any business. Once you get people over that hurdle of signing up, you need to ensure their first few experiences with you are positive ones.
This is where user onboarding comes in.
Here's an example of a questionnaire we're testing, which would show as soon as people enter our platform.
Information given to us from this questionnaire (it'd be five concurrent forms) allows us to better understand what our users are looking to achieve and frames how we can contact them.
Here's an example of the video which shows up as soon as someone arrives in our landing page builder. It gives them a 26-minute walkthrough on everything they need to know about our tool:
For more on user onboarding, check out the fantastic resources at UserOnboard.com. You can also check out (and download) the emails we send our new users at "19 Proven Email Marketing Templates We Use to Sell, Nurture, Onboard, and Reach Out."
Customer retention is all about ensuring that your customers enjoy their experience with your platform or product. Keeping their demand for your product high is as important as getting them to use it in the first place.
And there's a few elements of this…
1. A Strong Product:
Nothing else matters if your product or tool sucks. No customer support team is possibly awesome enough to make people happy if they can't use your software or hate your UX.
Here's an example from our own landing page builder, with everything visible, large buttons and clear choices:
2. A Strong Brand: This is actually a big one. I know I kind of belittled those corporate marketers who focus only on brand reputation over brand growth, but once you hit a few customers you need to put a bit of time into what they think of you as a company.
I'll use your tool if it's awesome, even if I don't know who you are. But I'm less likely to stick around if you have a bit of downtime, I experience a bug, or I'm disappointed by a new feature.
Users are more likely to forgive their friends than they are a faceless company who has never responded to their emails.
A big part of this can be social media, particularly Instagram. Here's an example from Hootsuite where they showcase their brand identity:
And here's an example from Buffer, whose transparency efforts go a long way to create trust with their customers:
3. Customer Support:
This is a no-brainer. Your support team needs to be competent. They need to know your system, know your product. And that doesn't just include the FAQs.
A good support team has more training sessions than any other team in your company. And don't just fob this off to your most recent recent college grad. These are the people who have the most contact with your existing users, and the most potential to stop them if they want to leave.
Pay these people.
Note: A huge part of a successful customer support team is communication. If your growth team decides to run a pricing page test, your support guys need to know before it's run. Otherwise, when they're approached with someone asking "Yesterday I saw your product as being 49.99. Why is it now 54.99?" they won't know how to answer. This might seem like a no-brainer, but creating solid lines of communication between product development, marketing, sales and your customer support team isn't something to skip over.
4. Customer Success:
Whether through mandatory demos, extensive email onboarding, in-platform tool-tips or a comprehensive help center (or all of those things), you need to be showing and telling your users exactly how they can find success with your platform.
They won't last half an hour if they don't succeed.
Here's an example of an automatic chat window which is shown to our platform users as soon as they launch a landing page:
How to Start Rolling with Demand Generation
Here's a 7-step walkthrough of actionable steps you can take today to start with demand generation for your new business.
Step 1: Start with a website you love
Start by establishing a website that you want people to see.
Don't attend a single conference unless you know that the card you hand over has a website URL which you'll be proud people visit.
Your website is the face of your business online. Don't go to any parties (including advertising, blogging, PR, anything) until that face is a smiling one.
Step 2: Get rolling with blogging
Even if nobody is reading your content for the first few months, you're establishing a digital footprint (we could get into domain authority and SEO for years, but I'd recommend you buy SEO for Dummies and go from there instead).
Step 3: Start engaging on social media networks and with online communities in your industry.
The place to start with social media really is a social promotion. There's no better way to build your Follower list quickly and start generating engagement.
Step 4: Start building your list
Add a list-building plugin to your blog (or start with Wishpond's marketing campaign software). Create content that people might want to subscribe to.
A great strategy for this is to do something similar to Groove's "Journey to 100k," where they released a weekly article tracking the strategies they used to they grow.
Step 5: Start creating email-gated content
This is a big part of building your list beyond subscribers. Check out my Complete Guide to Gating your Content for a comprehensive look.
Step 6: Automate
For a while, you can do your outreach manually, but (hopefully) that'll quickly become impossible.
Use a marketing or email automation platform to make it easier for you to effectively email your subscribers and prospective customers.
Check out "How to Create Email Drip Campaigns to Nurture Leads" for more on automating email.
Step 7: Optimize
Once you've started to automate, you officially have a sales funnel in place.
You're creating content which is driving traffic; you're collecting lead and contact data from email-gated content or a subscriber list; and you're emailing that list either with information that encourages them to buy or a prompt to get on a call.
So you need to start thinking about optimizing that funnel.
This is where A/B testing and site optimization comes into play.
For a walkthrough on how we optimize our site and drive reliable growth, take a look at my article "How We Drive Massive Growth by Running Calculated, High-Risk Tests."
To learn more about how to structure your sales funnel, check out "The Foundational Guide to Your Online Marketing and Sales Funnel." For a walkthrough on creating a sales funnel focused on content marketing, you can read "A Proven Blueprint for Creating a Sales Funnel with Content." For optimization, check out "The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization."
Wrapping it Up
Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what demand generation is and how you can use it to grow your business.
It's a pretty massive topic, but I hope I've covered it and illuminated some of the confusion you had.
If you have any questions whatsoever about any of the tactics or strategies you've seen in this article, don't hesitate to let me know in the comment section!