Demand generation is a B2B marketing discipline designed to create interest in products and services that results in greater sales pipeline opportunities and revenue. A comprehensive, effective demand generation strategy will also result in happier customers and better sales-marketing alignment.

B2B demand generation is experiencing a shift away from lead quantity being considered a key metric. Generating interest in products and services includes building brand authority and increasing brand recognition. Marketers who focus on the entire sales funnel can measure the impact of their efforts more effectively as well as better forecast future success.

Supporting full-funnel demand gen in 2018 involves building closer partnerships, a relentless pursuit of operational efficiency and, often, the adoption of new technologies. In this article, we examine eight best practices marketers should adopt in 2018 to implement effective, full-funnel demand generation strategies.

8 Ways to Elevate Demand Generation in 2018

1. Centralize Lead Sources & Automate Top-Funnel Processes

Mid-funnel processes have become efficient in the past decade due to widespread adoption of marketing automation platforms (MAP). Giselle Abramovich recently reported that fifty-five percent of B2B brands are using automation technologies to nurture leads, perform progressive profiling on leads and present personalized content. Abramovich also noted that 91% of the most successful B2B marketers rate MAP as “very important” to the overall success of their initiatives.

While marketing automation has definitely created efficiency in the middle of the sales funnel, top-of-the-funnel activities remain manual, disjointed and somewhat ineffective for many B2B marketing organizations.

Adopting technologies for top-of-the-funnel automation can enable marketers to centralize their lead sources and gain operational efficiency through the automation of processes such as vendor management, lead data validation, standardization and enhancement, and closed-loop reporting.

2. Adopt More Sophisticated Account-Based Marketing Tactics

Account-based marketing (ABM) can be an important strategic addition for B2B demand marketers in 2018. While 97 percent of B2B marketing organizations report that ABM has a higher ROI than other strategies, according to Marketo, ineffective ABM tactics may not yield considerable lift in revenue.

Many demand marketing organizations are still using rudimentary practices while trying to adopt ABM, such as buying cold contact lists and blasting them with emails.

This is not a recipe for ABM success in 2018.

Marketo’s Patrick Groover writes that “new tools have emerged that can truly handle the discipline and rigor required for account targeting strategies” at scale. Marketing automation platforms, demand generation tools and shared technologies that power sales-marketing alignment matter to effective ABM.

Account Based Marketing (ABM) for the Efficient B2B Marketer from Interate

3. Focus on Data Quality & Automate Data Governance Efforts

It’s hard to scale demand generation efforts when your department is drowning in low-quality data. B2B Marketers are familiar with many demand generation data-quality issues, including wasted budget on low-quality leads, difficulty triaging leads for nurturing and low sales conversion rates. Marketers also may find themselves spending a great deal of time manually verifying or formatting data to fit into their marketing automation or customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Using the right MarTech tools for demand generation can ensure lead data is high-quality, standardize lead data to match MAP and CRM fields for automated lead upload, and enhance leads with additional data points.

4. Measure and Report Lead Velocity Rate (QLVR)

Lead velocity, or Qualified Lead Velocity Rate (QLVR), was defined in 2012 by Venture Capitalist Jason Lemkin as “your growth in qualified leads, measured month over month, every month.” Lemkin believes QLVR is the single most-important B2B marketing metric for strategic demand generation, which he says is, “ real time, not lagging, and it clearly predicts your future revenues and growth.”

Your current month’s sales revenue doesn’t represent marketing-qualified leads that were converted this month. The average lead lifecycle for many B2B firms is 6-12 months. Your new clients may have become opportunities an entire year ago.

Lead velocity is among the most meaningful ways to measure marketing performance and your firm’s future profitability in 3, 6 or 12 months.

QLVR is calculated as follows: Divide this month’s marketing qualified lead (MQL) conversions by last month’s. Then, multiply that number by 100.

Lead Velocity = [(Marketing-Qualified Lead Conversions This Month) /(Marketing-Qualified Leads Converted Last Month)] * 100

5. Communicate Frequently with Sales & Customer Service

Most demand marketers are familiar with the value of sales-marketing alignment. When B2B marketing and sales teams communicate frequently and share success metrics, organizations can benefit from higher lead quality and superior customer experiences. Rachel Martinez revealed research that organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 38% higher sales win rates and 36% higher customer retention rates.

Creating alignment between sales, marketing and customer service can further lead to an improved customer experience (CX). Not only can marketing benefit from educating clients, but this alignment can also support more effective execution. Marketing can help the sales and customer success teams understand how to use “marketing content” to assist in moving prospects through the buyer’s journey, as well as support customer cross-selling and upselling activities.

6. Interface Directly with Clients

While marketers may not traditionally engage with clients, there’s value in opening lines of communication with your existing customers. Marketers who interact with customers can gain new, deeper knowledge of what it takes to attract and retain happy clients. Clients can provide perspective on unique product or service value and insights to refine buyer persona profiles.

Marketer’s visibility into current clients can be enabled through frequent communication with the sales and customer success teams. Better yet, B2B marketing teams should advocate for direct access to customers. Forbes contributor Alan Hall writes that business leaders should, “invite all employees to regularly visit with customers, regardless of their assignments,” in order to disseminate a company-wide connection to the client base.

Clients may also reveal insights into marketing industry trends and issues that marketers were not previously aware of. This information can be used to create relevant content around industry-related needs, concerns and issues that speak directly to future prospects and existing customers.

7. Co-Create Content and Events with Other Brands

Partner marketing is the practice of collaborative marketing efforts between brands with complimentary, generally non-competing products. By sharing resources, expertise and audiences, brands who collaborate to create premium content or host in-person events can experience broader exposure, higher engagement with their audiences.

Original research, webinars and research-driven white papers are just three opportunities for co-creation. Michael Patterson of Sprout Social believes “it’s important to work with companies that may have a similar audience to yours but don’t offer a competitive product.” It’s an easy way to get in front of new, relevant prospects while not risking losing existing opportunities to a competitor.

8. Understand & Prepare for Expanding Data Privacy Regulations

What does B2B marketing have to do with data privacy? Plenty!

This is especially true for B2B marketing organizations operating or doing business in the European Union. These firms are subject to new data protection laws from the European Union, known as the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Scheduled to take effect in May 2018, the GDPR is the most significant and broad-reaching compliance measure for data privacy ever. EMEA VP Byrony Seifert writes “Every industry that stores individual person data will… have to upgrade their systems to be GDPR compliant.”

The impact is particularly significant for B2B tech firms, including cloud and software companies.

Marketing decisions around compliance with GDPR and other regulations should always be made in consultation with legal counsel. However, marketers who have previously acquired 3rd-party data for demand generation are now responsible for ensuring consent from contacts. As marketers face the expectation of full compliance by May, evaluating your 3rd-party data sources, upgrading systems and updating processes may be key to avoid regulatory risks.

While it’s hard to say for certain which new demand generation and B2B marketing trends will emerge in 2018, it’s safe to say that the best-performing organizations won’t take a passive stance. Adapting to changing times and improving demand generation requires marketers to balance new technologies, ways of creating content, compliance requirements and modes of internal collaboration.

Demand Gen in 2018 looks nothing like Demand Gen in 2014. Are you ready? Click here to download the free “Demand Marketing Assessment Guide and Workbook.”