Level Setting Your Demand Generation

This is a guest post by Mallory Lee, who is a talented marketing leader in the Indianapolis tech community. Previously, at ExactTarget, Mallory helped run our demand gen team, managing a $30M budget. She is a go-to source for marketing ops and ROI-focused marketing. Recently, she joined Cheetah Digital as Head of Global Marketing Operations.

If you’re like most companies, your demand gen programs fall into one of three categories. They are either A) rocking and rolling B) ‘doing just fine, thank you very much’ or C) need some help to move up and to the right. Or maybe you’re thinking that you have a huge backlog of demand gen ideas you didn’t even get to launch last year due to time and budget constraints.

Whichever camp you’re in, there is room to improve your demand generation strength and performance right now. I recently did some brainstorming with a partner around how I would personally tackle a demand gen “level set”, and wanted to share it with you.

Whether your demand generation programs are doing great, just okay, or they’re stalled and need help, there is room to improve strength and performance right now.

The outcome of a good level set is clear direction on which initiatives you’ll stop, start, or tweak. I approach the process in 3 phases:

  1. Set goals and benchmarks for evaluation
  2. Shore up current programs to align with unit economics goals
  3. Introduce new programs and tests, looking for repeatability

Set Goals and Benchmarks

The idea of this first phase is to identify the metrics and benchmarks you’ll use to judge your demand generating programs by. Putting the measuring stick in place will allow you to uniformly evaluate each initiative. To do this, I suggest partnering up with your finance team to determine the following:

  • In the coming quarters and years, where is the company driving to in terms of scale? There are probably CAC (customer acquisition cost) goals that you should be working toward with sales.
  • What is the marketing budget that will achieve the CAC target?
  • What revenue targets are in place? Per your demand generation model, how many opportunities do sales and marketing need to provide? Next, decide how many of the opportunities are created by marketing demand generation.
  • With these pieces in place, you can arrive at a desired cost per opportunity. I suggest for the figure to be looked at in two ways – first, “fully loaded” — including the cost of your team. Second, program spend only (taking out overhead, salaries, and the like). Using an assumed conversion rate from inbound lead to opportunity or outbound contact to opportunity, you’ve then got cost per lead/contact.
  • Other metrics may emerge as important such as lead conversion rate, opportunity acceptance rate, ACV, or average deal age by program. This will be unique to your business… but look for those metrics which help your funnel velocity improve, overall.

Shore Up Current Programs

I look at “current programs” on two axes. First, the channel that is bringing in demand. This will look like your lead sources, something like advertising, trade shows, etc. Second, you’ll look at the tactic or initiative grouped at a campaign level. So within trade shows you might have a particular partner that you’ve done several events with. Under advertising , ou can group performance by publication, etc. Looking at both of these views will help you uncover the potential outliers within channel numbers.

Evaluate each channel and initiative with the metrics you’ve defined in phase 1. Now you have a report card for each demand gen program. Depending on the results you find, you may have a lot of clean up work to do, or find that certain initiatives ought to be scrapped altogether. My suggestion is to consider the time and effort it will take to get a program back in line with desired targets. If that cost is high enough that it’ll further derail your efforts, then consider eliminating the activity. If one campaign is driving up the cost per opportunity for an entire channel, maybe the campaign should be moved to a different channel.

Don’t forget the cost of your team in this exercise. It takes time, but it’s worth it. Split up the cost of your team across lead sources and programs by allocating the percentage mix of their time against salary. This may reveal a high cost program in which you’re using two people where one would do just fine.

Lastly, Look for weaknesses in tactics where a particular rate might not be up to standard. (ie – does paid search have a low landing page conversion rate and that’s the reason we don’t have enough leads to make the program efficient?) Each program has its own mini-funnel from impression to lead creation to opportunity generation.

Test New Stuff!

Here’s the fun part: new things. If you don’t already have a testing budget, I’d highly recommend setting aside a small amount each quarter for this purpose. While it can be an expensive lesson in what doesn’t work, you can also uncover the next big thing for your organization. Adding new demand generation programs each year and testing the latest and greatest ideas will keep things fresh and push your team to new levels of skill and creativity. Here are some potential ideas for new and different things to try:

  • Account Based Marketing: This can range from advertising with a partner like Terminus to creating custom landing pages for big prospects. Think about it generally as “personalizing everything”.
  • Integrate Direct Mail: You may already be sending branded packages to top prospects, but I suggest trying to find ways to systematically integrate it into programs. Check out what Autopilot offers with Lob. Another option for Salesforce users I like is PrintSF. (at the time of writing, their website was serving an error, hope everything is up soon)
  • A/B Testing: Use your testing budget on testing — this can drive more efficiency from the website and your lead nurturing programs.
  • Introduce Artificial Intelligence: Hello, buzzword! But seriously, check out Quanitfi to add a layer of extreme experimentation to your advertising.
  • Try out Email Signature Marketing: This can be a cost-effective way to really boost referral traffic to either your website or specific initiatives you want to highlight like a conference. Sigstr is a great place to start kicking the tires.
  • Do more with Field Marketing: Are you already hosting intimate, high-value dinners that combine top prospects and happy customers? This is a big value add in pipeline acceleration and close rate improvement. Bonus: do quick testimonial interviews with your customers at the event to use on your website.
  • Make sure you’re well-reviewed: User reviews are everything lately. I personally used G2 Crowd for some major research to rebuild an entire marketing tech stack for a client of mine. Not only did I trust the reviews, I used charts to show me which other competitors I should be looking at but wasn’t aware of. Like it or not, a lack of reviews may be a false indication that your product isn’t well-loved.

This list is not the longest, but I hope there’s at least one new thing for you to try. My final suggestion in the phase of finding new stuff to do: Talk to your customers. Find out where they spend their (digital) time and which events they attend.

When searching for new demand generation initiatives to try, consult your customers. Find out where they spend their time and look for opportunities to be there, too.

What are your tried and true methods for refreshing your demand gen programs each year? I’d love to hear them!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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