The State of Demand Generation

March 22, 2012

If you missed the DemandCon Conference hosted earlier this month in San Francisco, the online recording of the sessions is worth checking out. BrightTalk did an excellent job with the recordings and is making all of them available for free on their website.

There are over 20 presentations available, ranging from Social CRM and Lead Generation, to Case Studies and Sales Enablement. A must-watch presentation, though, is the keynote address “The State of Demand Creation“, by Tony Jaros, SVP Research for SiriusDecisions. Here are some of my notes.

SiriusDecisions State of Demand Gen 2012

The State of Demand Generation 2012

Why is demand generation so important? According to Tony Jaros, marketers will typically spend 60% of their budget on demand generation programs. The problem is, there are 4 key battles playing out in organizations:

  1. Task ownership (who does what in demand gen process)
  2. Buying cycle control (you need to facilitate the buying process and understand what is required of you as a result)
  3. Create sufficient content (how can we possibly keep up with demand for content?)
  4. Create demand while we sleep (build a “perpetual demand engine”)

Tony says that SiriusDecisions is in the process of revising their demand generation waterfall framework (Inquiries > Marketing Qualified Leads > Sales Accepted Leads > Sales Qualified Leads > Deal Closed), but shared some interesting facts about typical conversion rates and contrasted those with what they consider “best-in-class” companies:

Typical Rates for the Average B2B Company:

  • Inquiries to MQL: 4.4%
  • MQL to SAL: 66%
  • SAL to SQL: 49%
  • SQL to Close: 20%

The numbers above mean that out of 1,000 inquiries, the typical organization will close 2.9 deals.

Best Practice B2B Company Rates:

  • Inquiries to MQL: 9.3%
  • MQL to SAL: 85%
  • SAL to SQL: 62%
  • SQL to Close: 29%

Best practice companies, on the other hand, will typically close 14 deals out of 1,000 inquiries.

The 5 Critical Tasks

How do you get to be a “best practice” company and increase your efficiency? SiriusDecisions says that to drive best-in-class performance, sales and marketing must align around five waterfall-based jobs:

  • Seed (use of traditional and social media to set the stage for demand creation)
  • Create (generation of “original” demand, focusing on quality, i.e. generating a better lead for sales)
  • Nurture (care and feeding of prospects that aren’t ready for sales or that have fallen out of the waterfall)
  • Enable (help reps increase productivity, both for sales and marketing-sourced demand)
  • Accelerate (help sales move deals more quickly through the pipeline)

This all leads to a few things. For one, the rise of the “Demand Center” taking away tasks that were typically the domain of Field Marketing. But, more importantly, demand creation has become more complex, requiring increasingly specialized skills. And so, there are new roles coming down the pike based on each of the critical tasks mentioned before:

Seed:

  • Content strategist
  • Inbound marketer

Create:

  • Automation expert
  • Web anthropologist

Nurture:

  • Nurturing specialist

Accelerate:

  • Acceleration specialist

The Customer Buying Cycle Framework

According to SiriusDecisions, buyers go through three stages and six steps during their buying process.

Stage 1: Education
– Loosening the status quo
– Committing to change

Stage 2: Solution
– Exploring possible solutions
– Commiting to a solution

Stage 3: Vendor Selection
– Justifying the decision
– Making the selection

Buyers move in and out of each stage. You have to be prepared to engage them throughout the cycle. The problem, though, is that marketers have to face the realities of the B2B Buying Cycle:

  • You control less
  • You see less
  • Your sales resources will often be in reactive mode

Organizations have to become better at determining what need and what questions buyers have when they decide to engage in the sales process. Understanding the buying cycle and the key needs buyers have at each point can help marketers and sales reps. Create a knowledge base with relevant content that your sales team can leverage during the sales cycle.

Content Creation Challenges

The biggest complaint from marketers is that they can’t keep up with content creation needs (multi-touch programs, social media, nurturing programs, thought leadership, etc.).

Why companies can’t keep up? Usually because marketers suffer from:

  • No accountability (is everybody’s job and nobody’s job, there is a void in planning and strategy related to content creation)
  • Lack of targeting (too broad a vision/strategy which is never revised)
  • Rampart waste (content created has no memory, not related to previous content, not connected to other content, and has no story; and limited ability to find what’s needed)
  • Burned cycles (lack of buyer knowledge, and lack of specificity)

Centralized responsibility for content strategy is becoming a requirement for highly effecitve b2b marketing. AKA the rise of the “Content Strategist“, which is someone that has:

  • Accountability
  • Authority
  • Responsibility
  • Organization
  • Measurement

Another issue when it comes to content creation is that most organizations engagage in “absolute targetting“, they think about everyone that could potentially buy what they are selling, and create content accordingly which means response rates are low, and quality of leads is also low.

Marketers should instead engage in “relative targeting“. You want to take your industry and segment it into sub-verticals and rank them in terms of external factors (trends, category spend, product use and importance, competitive presence). Then, use internal factors (solutions delta, domain knowledge, messaging, sales readiness, and database) to select the best segment for you to go after.

Content Audit

Best in class companies are auditing their assets. There are two steps for that:

  1. Classify by content type (white papers, brochures, testimonials, videos, case studies, etc.)
  2. Evaluate each piece of content (quality, relevance, value, influence on buyer perception)

The Complete B2B Persona

Buyer personas are all the hype again, and for good reason. They are the first step in your content planning process. SiriusDecisions has a B2B Persona template they use which you should consider for your next content creation project. Here are the key things they look at when creating the persona:

  • Job role
  • Demographics
  • Buying Center (the department that makes the buying decision)
  • Common titles
  • Position in the org chart
  • Challenges (what are the challenges this person faces?)
  • Initiatives (what initiatives in this person involved with?)
  • Buyer role type (influencer, decision maker, etc.)
  • Interaction preferences (how do they prefer to communicate)
  • Watering Holes (where do they go to get info they want)

The Perpetual Demand Creation

The presentation ends with the idea of the PDC (Perpetual Demand Creation). Building the perpetual demand creation involves a set of strategies to create efficiencies and improve performance over time:

  • Inbound Marketing
  • Website Conversion Optimization
  • Lead Nurturing
  • Sales Programs

As I said, there is a lot of good information presented and is definitely worth watching the BrighTalk recording in full.


A Content Rules Cheat Sheet

March 15, 2012

Content Rules Book

Edit: The PDF is now back online, link at the end of the post.

Edit: The authors of the book asked me to make a slight change to the PDF byline. Will be uploading the updated version of the Cheat Sheet shortly.

Edited: In my haste, I neglected to ask permission from the authors to put this cheat sheet together. As per their request I am taking the link down.

I’ve got to admit, I am a big fan of the “Content Rules” book, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman. No, is not groundbreaking or earth-shattering content. Actually, a lot of the stuff you probably are already doing and it kinda seems natural once you read it. But boy, is it actionable. It consolidates a lot of what is out there about content marketing and delivers it in an easy to read format with no gobbledigook or too much fanfare. Yes, I think I like it more than a few other books out there because of the straight-forwardness (is this a word?) of the language the authors use.

While a longer book review is in order, I just wanted to share something I’ve created with you. The book is based on 11 content rules:

  1. Embrace being a publisher
  2. Insight inspires originality
  3. Build momentum
  4. Speak human
  5. Reimagine, don’t recycle
  6. Share or solve, don’t shill
  7. Show, don’t just tell
  8. Do something unexpected
  9. Stoke the campfire
  10. Create wings and roots
  11. Play to your strengths

As you might imagine, each rule alone is not much and anyone can do it. Heck you are probably already doing a handful even without knowing. But, like a good superhero story, when put together they unleash the power of great content creation.

For those of us who read the book and keep coming back to it for additional insights, I have created a “Content Rules Cheat Sheet“. Is basically the list of rules put together nicely in a PDF that you can download, print, and peg to your wall/board/monitor/etc. Use it as a reminder and as a checklist. Give to the new intern to make a few copies and spread around the office and present your team members with a copy printed in nice paper. Click below to view and download it.


How to Build a Content Development Plan for Your Site

March 13, 2012

Note: this is another great guest post by Brad Shorr. See his bio at the end.

Have you ever visited a website that looked like a teenager’s bedroom – content strewn about everywhere, overflowing with information yet impossible to find what you’re looking for? This often happens when a firm fails to make a long-term content development plan a component of its new site launch.

The consequences of haphazard content development are quite serious:

  • Interested prospects can’t find what they are looking for, so they click off the site.
  • Prospects who are ready to buy get confused, frustrated, or lost on the site – and fail to convert.
  • All visitors leave with an impression that the firm is as disorganized as its site.

Here are ways to prevent these things from happening.

1. Long-term Focus

Most Web development projects are obsessed with the immediate future: We have to get the site launched on time; we have to get it done within budget.

In terms of content, avoid the very strong temptation to cram everything you want to say into the initial launch. You won’t have enough time, and you won’t have enough money. Instead, identify the content you must have for launch, and then schedule the content you want to have for future phases of the project.

2. Go from General to Specific over Time

The most important content to present on the initial launch of a business site is the overview. Give prospects and customers the big picture: what you do, what problems you solve, what benefits you offer, and why people should buy from you.

If you do nothing more than get those simple points across, you’ll have a manageable number of pages to produce for the launch, and you won’t obscure the message with distracting details. And as a consequence of that, you’ll have a site with content that effectively supports lead generation.

3. Logically Layer On the Details

Develop a more detailed picture of your firm over time by adding new layers of content. For instance, consider a restaurant supply business. A simple, long-term content plan for its products could look something like this:

  1. Launch Phase: One Products Overview page with a brief summary of all product groups.
  2. Second Phase: Build out Product Group pages with more detail on Furniture, Bar Supplies, Kitchen Supplies, etc.
  3. Third Phase: Build out detailed Item pages for the 10 most popular items in each Product Group.
  4. Fourth Phase: Build out detailed Item pages for the next 25 most popular items in each Product Group.

4. Content Categories and Subcategories

The above tip refers to content depth, but let’s take a minute to consider content breadth. For a launch phase, these content categories are generally indispensible:

  • Products
  • Services
  • About
  • Contact

From here, much can be added in future project phases. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities.

  • Category: Testimonials
  • Category: Case Studies
  • Category: Careers
  • Subcategory of Products: FAQs
  • Subcategory of Services: Important Resources
  • Subcategory of About: Charitable Giving

Creating these additional content sections requires a lot of time and creativity. If information is thrown together at the launch phase to meet a tight deadline or budget, entire sections may well come off looking extremely lame. Again, it’s preferable to think long-term and patiently roll out new content based on a plan.

Key Takeaways

By mapping all this out in advance, not only will content be delivered to visitors in logically organized and digestible chunks, designers and programmers will be able to build proper layouts and navigation into the site from the beginning.  Over the long-term, your site will be as clean as the bedroom you see to the right.

This point cannot be overemphasized. Content should drive any web development project! If designers and programmers don’t know where the content is heading, they can only guess at how much room to allocate for future navigational links, where those links should go, and what they should look like.

Quite often, this is why a mature site has navigation that appears haphazard and cramped, that has crucial call to action blocks hidden in obscure corners of the page. The firm boxed itself into a corner as it added content and did not have the resources to rebuild the site from the ground up. Not a good situation to be in, but one that is all too common.

About the Author

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing firm. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as video broadcast equipment and gloves for electrical work. Brad is an experienced content strategist, SEO copywriter and blogger.

(Image Credits: Image 1, © Iriana Shiyan #39382212; Image 2, © Joseph Helfenberger #1106456 – Fotolia.)


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