An Effective Demand Creation Plan Requires Some Homework

Fire, Ready, Aim

Committing the organization to develop a new offering takes time money and effort.  Unfortunately, building a sales pipeline of qualified opportunities is not something most organizations concern themselves with in most stages of development.  More often than not, marketing has to move into the “hurry up offense” when the development effort moves to GA and the product passes from development to marketing and quota assignments are made for the sales people–as the focus turns from developing product to selling product.  The best time to start the demand creation planning process is when the development project is first funding, however, most organizations do not abide but this marketing fundamental.

An Image Depicting An Effective Demand Creation Plan Requires Homework to Be Done UpfrontIt’s Easy to Spend Money

A go-to-market plan can be prepared by anyone and many times marketing is set-up to fail from the start as the proper homework is rarely completed. The lack of time, expertise, resources, etc. can contribute to a fast food approach to building lead generation and lead management plans with poor results usually being returned. The problem is that executive management, especially the CEO and CFO, see the time and money spent programs and mistakenly assume that marketing is ineffective or does not understand the product or market. Efficient and effective demand creation and demand management plans can be put together, but it is usually only done by a very small percentage of marketers. The marketers that are successful have an uncanny ability to balance tactical execution, strategic thinking and a strong understanding of the business model and marketing’s interrelatedness into each function.

When first putting together a demand creation plan, it’s smart to start by developing objectives that cascade down from corporate objectives.  The revenue or bookings targets must be reverse engineered back to qualified opportunities, qualified leads and responses for geographies, products and distribution channels. This plan must be developed in a joint effort between sales and marketing. The next step in the process is to formulate the demand creation strategy, which will basically outline how you will go about achieving your objectives. The development of messaging and offers are usually the next logical step in completing the demand creation plan. When all of the elements of the go-to-market plan have been put in place, it becomes fairly obvious which demand creation vehicles are the most appropriate. Demand management, or response and lead follow-up is a critical step that must be completely thought through to exhaust all reasonable efforts to convert responses to qualified opportunities.  Now that you have the framework of the revenue puzzle in place, there are still finer details to contemplate. Focusing on the core elements of program development listed below, you will discover just how efficient and effective your initiatives can be.

Shinny Metal Object Syndrome and Trial and Error

A common mistake that too many companies make is to adopt a throw it all out there and hope for the best attitude when marketing or to pursue a trial and error approach with the hypothesis that you will figure it out. The feeling is that rather than doing the proper planning and analysis (size the market, develop compelling messaging, develop a target account profile, develop personas, create a buyer behavior model, etc.) that there will be as much success if the offering is marketed to every user, company, industry, and geographic location. Sure, a blind chimpanzee occasionally finds a banana but the probability of success increases exponentially if you do your homework upfront. This doesn’t mean that non-targeted companies won’t buy at some point in time, but there is a much better chance of delivering a high ROI by chasing qualified targets as opposed to outliers. It’s important to remember that there is a finite amount of time, money, and people at your disposal, all of which will be most efficiently put to use when you create a laser focus.

Targets – Roles in the Buying Process

Deciding on the size of the organization (industry, revenues, employees, etc.) to market to is a good start for developing a laser focus, but it’s far from being enough information to build a complete customer acquisition plan around. The questions that need to be asked are demographic and psychographic questions with the goal of understanding what people/organizations are trying to accomplish, why they have not solved this problem yet, the cost or pain of not solving the problem, the value derived form solving the problem, who else is trying to solve this problem, what are the competitive alternatives and substitues, compelling events and who wins and who loses from solving the problem.

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These are all questions that cannot simply be answered by setting up accounts on social networks or by placing calls to a list broker. It is achieved by developing an integrated plan that touches on classical and progressive marketing strategies, market research and social media. The one question that can drive the plan forward is one that can only be answered by sales: What is the Target Account Profile (TAP) of a qualified prospect that they believe where in the sales pipeline would result in a closed won deal.

Both sales and marketing must be involved in developing the TAP, with each delivering a mutually agreed upon set of assumptions. This is essential in creating a customer acquisition plan that will answer the following questions: What is the size of the market? Who is the target audience? What are the offers? What is the value proposition? What are the correct sales conversations and follow up process? When both sides can fully agree on the answers to each question, they will have developed an incredibly efficient pipeline that will have a positive effect on ROI.

The smaller and more targeted you can make your list of prospects the better, as doing so will limit the amount of time and energy spent on working with them. This will allow you to stretch the budget a lot further than you would expect. For example, if your prospect list sits at 10,000 companies strong and your budget is $100,000, you will have $10 per organization. Compare that to a list that contains 500 hot prospects, leaving you a budget of $2,000 per organization.

Sales Conversations

There can be anywhere from 100 to 1,000 different companies chasing the same buyer at any given time. What happens is that those buyers often end up throwing the messages of each company into one big bucket. The buyer becomes confused and unable to match a specific message with the company that is sending it.  This can even happen when the buyer clearly remembers the message. They might just then associate it with a competitor who has more regular contact with them than you do or with a company has established a stronger brand around the core positioning/messaging. This is a problem that affects all organizations, big or small, and needs to be addressed upfront to create a unique value proposition, differentiated positioning and compelling messaging.

The scenario outlined above makes it vitally important to develop a message that resonates with your target prospects. The first part of that message should clearly show the problems that your product solves, as well as the unique benefits of using your product, as opposed to a similar offering from other competitors. In order to do this effectively, you need to understand exactly who these people are and how to establish a strong positioning in their mind. You must identify what is they wish to accomplish and who they trust to help them do so, either directly or indirectly.  Once you have compiled that information, it becomes easier to put together a compelling sales conversation that addresses all of those points and which will resonate, no matter which stage of the buying process they are in.  The communication has to maintain a consistent tone, look, and feel. That means making sure that the website, call guides, social media, presentations, business cards, brochures, etc. have to have the same message at their core.

Offers Should Not Be After Thoughts

Offers should not be an after thought or be plucked from the air at the last moment as the program is launched. The customer acquisition initiative should be built on forging an ongoing relationship with the suspect, prospect or customer that is cultivated and developed over time.  As the TAP and Buyer Behavior Model are constructed, key themes should be identified that will guided the demand creation plan.  In addition, insight into the pains, benefits, compelling events and how decisions are made will provide insight into the appropriate sales conversations.  Once you understand what is it that makes them tick, you will then be able to deliver offers that are completely compelling to them.

This is the backdrop that should be used to create content / offers that compliment programs as opposed to rummaging through existing content or what was doen last year and slapping it into the campaign.  Attention needs to be placed on whether offer is for suspects, prospects or customers, the theme of the promotion, the specific product promoted, geography, seasons, personality of the company, etc.  Remember, a great deal of work has taken place to get someone to the offer stage so it is wise to spend a considerable amount of time thinking through the offer, otherwise, all of the time and money spent to this point has been for not.

Follow-up – Convert From Response to Qualified Lead to Qualified Opportunity

The last step is to have a comprehensive, sustained and integrated follow-up for each initiative. Even if you have put the best demand creation plan in place, the results will be less than stellar if you fail to follow up in a methodical manner. Bad hand-offs between marketing and sales can also hurt the bottom line and create a finger pointing atmosphere that will negatively impact productivity. The general rule of thumb is that an inquiry has to be touched a minimum of 10 times before it can be categorized as warm, cold, or referral. This highlights just how important it is that sales as marketing work together to create clear expectations, clean processes, consistent terminology, and a definitive outline of roles and responsibilities. Sales and marketing should feel ownership of the process by jointly developing the TAP, call guides, scripts for voicemail, sales conversations, content and the buyer behavior model to name just a few.

Marketing is an imperfect blend of art and science. It works best when there is alignment between sales and marketing, a solid got-to-market plan time, clean processes, integrated systems, executive commitment and everyone focused on a the same goal.  However, this is only a table stake in today’s markets.  Everyone needs to do their homework upfront as there are no short cuts.  Not spending the appropriate time and effort upfront will set the organization up to fail and it may create numerous fire drills as bandaids are applied as issues arise from the lack of planning.

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