A Resolution Worth Keeping: Planning Your Demand Generation for 2018

A new year has begun, and that means it’s resolution season — but not just for individuals making commitments to hit the gym or get a grip on their finances. Businesses can kick off the year with their own lists of resolutions, and if “improving demand generation” is one of yours, you’re definitely not alone. As competition in the B2B sales and marketing world continues to escalate, more brands are discovering the tremendous benefits of lead generation done well. As with any strategic initiative, the key to securing a steady stream of quality leads and reaching your demand gen goals for 2018 comes down to good solid planning.

Why Demand Generation?

Today’s B2B sales and marketing teams face a host of challenges in their mission to reach prospects who need their products and services. Most targets are inundated with sales messages to the point where most of it becomes “white noise,” and caller ID has made cold calling all but obsolete. With demand generation, marketers can gain the attention of prospective clients with engaging content — ebooks, white papers, and other resources tailored to their specific needs — and guide them into the sales funnel through attraction rather than through ham-handed sales tactics.

When prospects submit information in exchange for demand-generating content, they give marketing and sales teams a vital asset: intelligence. The more sales reps know about their targeted prospects, the better prepared they will be to:

  • Assign priority to the prospects with the highest probability of becoming customers
  • Direct the sales conversation towards each target’s specific needs, pain points, and ambitions for the future
  • Schedule their communications for times when targets are most likely to respond

Fueling the Fire with Marketing Automation and Intent Monitoring

Once organizations have the basic intelligence needed to begin the sales process, marketing automation can take their efforts to a whole new level. Teams can identify leads for further engagement and automate follow-up communications, which offer further opportunities to collect information. When marketing automation works in conjunction with intent monitoring, marketing and sales teams have a powerful tool that enables them to track and measure their targets’ online activities, discover when leads meet specific buying conditions, and focus their efforts on activities that generate results.

By using intent monitoring and marketing automation, organizations in any industry can realize an array of compelling benefits:

  • Eliminate cold calling: Marketing automation can generate a stream of qualified leads that makes cold calls unnecessary.
  • Know your targets in advance: Sales teams can use the intel they’ve collected to focus on each target’s specific pain points and offer their expertise in solving those problems.
  • Pinpoint your timing: As leads become more sales-qualified through the engagement process, your sales teams will gain important clues regarding the best times to call.
  • Use email efficiently and effectively: The days of “batch and blast” email campaigns are over. Marketing automation allows marketers to use the intelligence they collect in personalizing emails and delivering them at the optimal times to produce a response. Your CRM solution can capture responses to your email outreach and allow you to gain a deeper understanding of each target.
  • Remove the guesswork: Historically, B2B sales and marketing has involved a large amount of guesswork — using what little we knew about targets to guess which ones were most likely to buy. With intent monitoring, you can find out what targets are thinking by monitoring what they do online and use that intel to put them in the proper queue for the sales process, no guesswork required.
  • Align sales and marketing: Studies show that a majority of top-performing companies have a strong understanding between sales and marketing teams, and successful demand generation demands that sales and marketing work together from the moment a lead appears all the way through the sales funnel. When each side better understands the other’s role, the organization is far better equipped to benefit from a strong lead gen strategy.

Expert Predictions for 2018

According to sales and marketing thought leaders, 2018 will be a year of evolution for organizations looking to get more from their demand generation strategies. Among their specific predictions are:

  • Methods will be key: Sales and marketing teams must refine their methods to match the needs and preferences of each target at each stage of the sales funnel.
  • Inbound and outbound will complement each other: We can finally put an end to the debate over whether inbound or outbound marketing is more effective. The answer is both — if we use them strategically and leverage the strengths of each approach at the appropriate point in the engagement process.
  • Content marketing will continue to gain importance: Today’s prospects expect to receive something of value before they’ll even consider listening to your sales message. By delivering quality content via videos, blogs, webinars, and other venues, you can establish yourself as a thought leader and attract prospects who are looking for answers.

Building Your 2018 Lead Generation Plan

Planning your lead generation for 2018 may seem like a complex task, but it’s actually quite simple. The starting point is remembering that any successful lead gen program incorporates three equally important parts:

  • The Players: Build processes that incorporate collaboration between sales and marketing. Think beyond job titles and focus on what each side contributes at each level of the lead generation and engagement process.
  • The Methods: Remember that demand generation requires coordinating multiple levels of sales and marketing activities, both inbound and outbound. Determine which methods are most likely to produce results from your targets, and build a strategy that leverages the strengths of each approach at the optimal time.
  • The Goal: Remember that the measure of success in demand generation is not the volume of leads produced, but the quality of those leads. Establish the goal of building a sophisticated, high-performance demand gen process designed to bring in quality leads and guide them all the way through the sales funnel in a way that speaks to their needs and preferences.

Setting Up for Success

As marketing teams put the pieces in place for a successful 2018, lead generation is shaping up to be they key to engaging hard-to-reach prospects. By putting the most important pieces in place — players, methods, and goal — and fueling the process with marketing automation and intent monitoring, your team can set your organization up to bring in more qualified leads, optimize the engagement process using real data, and close more of the deals that will advance you towards your revenue goals.

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