If you tried to navigate Chicago with a map of Seattle, you’d get lost.
In the same way, if you tried to build a B2B demand generation strategy based on faulty assumptions–or outright myths–you’d probably fail, too. At the very least, you wouldn’t get anywhere near the results you could have gotten if you weren’t hindered by misinformation.
Demand generation marketers, in particular, have a patchwork of myths to work through. And it’s an expensive, time-consuming process to figure out that the assumptions you’ve been working under aren’t true.
This can be especially frustrating if you’ve got limited time and you need maximum results. The more pitfalls you can avoid as you plan a B2B demand strategy, the better.
So here’s your shortcut around the most prevalent demand generation myths. It should help to get you where you want to be much faster. Many of the myths and misconceptions mentioned below are just based on old ways of doing things. It’s 2019 now, so we need to update our thinking, just like we update our tools.
Myth #1: Demand Generation and Lead Generation Are Basically the Same Thing
Have you ever used the terms “demand generation” and “lead generation” interchangeably? You can be honest–we won’t tell.
You certainly aren’t alone if you have. Even Google will return pages about lead generation for certain demand generation keywords.
While it’s really common to confuse them, demand generation is more than lead generation. As explained in one of our of recent blog posts, 5 Skills Every Demand Generation Marketer Should Master, “Demand generation is the umbrella under which all other customer acquisition and early funnel efforts find their footing.”
Demand generation generates interest in your products or services. Lead generation aims to get contact information from people who have presumably (but not necessarily) expressed an interest in your product. Demand generation generates that interest. That interest may turn into leads, but the interest can also come from existing customers.
Content for demand generation tends to have the primary KPI of brand awareness. Content for lead generation tends to be measured by, well, leads.
This may be why we see these two measurements typically competing neck and neck as one of the primary goals for content marketing.
Because its goal is more brand awareness, demand generation content will do better if it is not “gated” (doesn’t require someone to give their contact information in exchange for access to the content).
Myth #2: Demand Generation Doesn’t Need to Be Targeted
If demand generation is for brand awareness, we don’t have to be targeting our demand generation content for specific audiences, right? This is branding–we just want to get the word out to as many people as possible.
Not so fast. You do want to get the word out, but you’re only going to see results later on if you target the right people. You aren’t going to find a lot of CRM software buyers at a kids’ astronomy club.
Remember, too, how much value B2B buyers put in personalized content these days. In fact, 72 percent of them say, “I expect vendors to personalize engagement to my needs.”
These buyers expect a personalized experience, which means they expect to have content designed for them. In fact, if they are saying, “I expect vendors to personalize engagement to my needs,” it sounds like they expect us to personalize the entire buyer’s journey to their needs.
Myth #3: You Can Control the Buyer’s Journey
Most marketers do know that most of the modern buyer’s journey now happens before anyone talks to the sales team. As we discuss in Demand Generation: An A-Z Guide for B2B Marketers (with Strategies & Examples), “Both Forrester and Gartner predict that by 2020, 80 percent of the buying process will occur without any human contact. Consumers are now in the driver’s seat in their buyer journey.”
And yet, we’re still structuring our sales funnels like we can control what these buyers do. There’s this hidden assumption in how many B2B marketers talk that suggests, “sure, these buyers have gone out and done their research, but now that they’re talking to us–to me–we can guide them through their buying decision from here.”
It just isn’t so. Even after a potential buyer has spoken to sales, they can still go do absolutely whatever they want online. They can bounce around through your content with no discernible logic. They can go into forums and find customers who might not have had a perfect experience with your company. They can go check out Glassdoor, and read a review of how your company “really” works from that one disgruntled employee you let go five years ago.
Buyers are completely free to do all of that. Or, they may simply get distracted from the project they needed your product for, and not respond to any sales contacts for two years.
And you can’t control one bit of it.
The only thing you can control is how you handle the situation. You can set up your content and your CRM so that whatever stage of the funnel your prospects are in, or however they want to behave, you can meet them where they are.
It sounds almost philosophical. But grasshopper, you cannot control “your” B2B buyers.
Myth #4: Static Approaches Drive Engagement
This point plays off the last one. We can’t control what our prospects do before they contact us, or even after. We do not control the research and buying process.
In other words, the buying process, or sales funnel, or buyer’s journey (or whatever you want to call it), is not static.
But the content we use to help people through the buyer’s journey shouldn’t be entirely static, either.
Here’s the problem: As you know, there’s a vast sea of content available to B2B buyers. They are practically drowning in content.
Particularly text-based content. And text-based content is getting less and less engagement. Even static PDFs aren’t getting as much engagement as they used to.
In fact, your audience may not even be reading most of your text-based content. Most readers scan. And the longer a document is, the more they scan.
This is why marketers are so interested in video, podcasts, events, and other content formats. One of the most interesting stats we’ve seen recently is that “64 percent of B2B buyers say they prefer podcasts at the top of the funnel, while 48 percent say webinars are valuable to them in the mid-stage of their buying journey.”
But content that responds and changes based on a user’s input is the type of content that’s more likely to catch and hold people’s attention.
We don’t mean just digital interactive content, either. Events, for instance, are excellent for demand gen.
Myth #5: Demand Generation Is Solely for Attracting New Customers
Because demand generation is about awareness–awareness of your products–it tends to be associated with the beginning of the sales cycle. That’s where we get people to learn about us for the first time, right?
Yes, but that’s not its only application. Demand generation can and should be happening throughout the sales funnel, all the way to customer retention.
Examples of mid- to late-funnel content that can be used for demand generation would include webinars, events, and database activation campaigns.
Myth #6: “The Buyer”
When people talk about demand gen, they almost universally talk about “the buyer.” This is good in one way: They are at least talking about the person who will be interacting with your content and working through your sales funnel.
But you are rarely dealing with just one buyer.
B2B businesses don’t generally send one person out to make a purchase. Even a coffee run gets input from multiple people. And according to research, many B2B purchases are made based on the input of six to ten (or even more) buyers or influencers within a company. The larger the organization, the larger the buying committee is likely to be.
So try to shift how you talk about “the buyer.” Your demand generation strategy may work better if you can envision the real team of people who are assessing your services.
Myth #7: Any Digital Marketer Can Fill in As a Demand Generation Marketer
Maybe…if you’re in a pinch. But not if you really want to rock a demand generation program. True demand generation marketers have a specific set of skills, including:
- Google Analytics
- The ability to think like a scientist
- The ability to assess (and learn) new marketing technology/tools
- The ability to use marketing data to find new opportunities
See how this might not be the job for someone weak in analytics skills? That’s no diss to right-brained, more creative thinkers, but a demand generation marketer is going to be doing a lot of heavy number-crunching. They need to be facile with data analysis and martech. Some marketers could be very happy with these sorts of responsibilities. Other marketers, not so much.
There’s one important thing to mention about B2B demand generation myths before we go: One person’s myth can sometimes be another person’s truth.
As you know all too well, what works for one company may not work for another. What works for one project may not work for another. So it’s possible you could find some truth to a few of these “myths,” and you may find that a few “sure thing” demand generation strategies fall flat.
This is what makes marketing interesting. Things don’t always work, and sometimes, stuff you were sure wouldn’t work…does. It can be pretty humbling.
So that’s the real “big idea” takeaway here: Test assumptions. Some things may end up being myths, other things may end up being true. Still, wherever possible, try to learn from other marketers’ mistakes. It can save you a lot of time and money.
While you’re at it, learn how your content can boost demand generation and qualify leads better, and faster. Here are some examples of brands that are seeing a huge ROI on their content and driving thousands of leads each month.
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