Marketers are now faced with the need to evaluate how they have organized their operations, as well as how to deliver best practices in demand generation, lead management and go-to-market operations. The following four fundamental shifts have given rise to rapid transformational changes within B2B marketing:

  1. Unlimited access to information for B2B buyers
  2. A cultural shift to a self-serve model
  3. A desire for buyers to conduct their own research prior to engaging vendors
  4. A broad range of new marketing automation and data management technologies

To provide structure and guidance for long-term demand generation success, KERN has organized the broad range of B2B demand generation best practices and principles into eight fundamental pillars. For an overview of the eight pillars, click here.

This second blog post in our series on demand generation focuses on the best practices within Pillar 1. Subsequent blogs will cover the remaining seven pillars, taking a deep dive into various best-practice areas within each pillar.


The first pillar comprises the strategies and best practices required to manage a highly effective demand generation operation. These include:

  • Business strategies based on compelling differentiation and competitive advantage
  • An ROI-centric marketing leadership culture with financially based campaign briefs and corresponding investment decisions
  • The integration of brand essence and brand story within demand generation campaign implementations
  • Closed-loop demand center operational structure

Let’s look at each one of these areas more closely.

Successful demand generation programs and campaigns are built on top of highly compelling and dramatically differentiated product marketing strategies. From the start, demand generation assumes that the product or service to be marketed has been created to fill an unmet need in the market. The ultimate product offering, be it a data storage solution, security software or a consulting service, must bring significant value to its potential consumers.

While this concept is fundamental, what is critical is ensuring that the product development specialists educate the demand generation team on the primary research findings, as well as the rationale and analysis that supported the justification for the product’s origin and conception. The absence of this foundational education is likely to doom the entire demand generation exercise. Therefore, this critical step cannot be skipped.

Sadly, the absence of proper education is a far-too-common occurrence. More times than I can count, I’ve been asked to participate in programs in which our client marketers are tasked with designing and creating messaging, content and campaigns for a given product offering without having firsthand knowledge of the issues or problems that a product is solving. Thus, messaging and content strategy is based on a best guess and many times doesn’t resonate with prospects. Ultimately, the programs inevitably underperform against expectations.

How often does this happen in your organization?

The next strategy within Pillar 1 is having an ROI-centric marketing culture. This means everyone from senior leadership all the way downstream to the campaign managers must understand that there needs to be specific and measurable program goals and an expected return on marketing investments. It further means that program briefs and their corresponding budgets come with pipeline projections, cost-per-lead metrics and expected marketing contributions to sales outcomes.

When a marketing organization lacks the discipline to establish and remain accountable for financial and performance goals, a lack of intensity on delivery develops within the team. Thus, this best practice calls for each major brief to contain financial performance goals aligned to the business mission and revenue objectives of the enterprise.

Another best practice within Pillar 1 is the skill of harnessing a brand’s value and essence, so the marketer can weave the brand story into demand generation communications in a manner that builds trust and increases engagement.

Brand recognition and trust have a significant impact on demand generation success. Highly trusted and respected brands, such as American Express, GEICO, IBM and Microsoft, gain significantly more attention from their messages and content with prospects and customers. Since brand awareness and trust are built from a combination of message exposure and brand interactions created by millions of dollars of spend over time, it is important for demand generation marketers to understand how to capitalize on the essence of their brand.

They must seek not only to integrate with their brand’s graphic identity, but also to leverage its characteristics and communication tone to create more attention, consideration and preferences for the products being sold. This means program managers, copywriters, art directors and web designers all have to know how to best apply brand guidelines and standards, while delivering demand-generation-centric messages and content in a manner that maximizes readership and motivates action.

The final best practice within Pillar 1 is the organizational structure of a centralized demand center of excellence. A demand center allows a marketing organization to be more effective and efficient by having experts consistently apply best practices in all aspects of the operations. This ensures that resources are deployed with the highest quality and in the most efficient manner.

A demand center is a best practice requirement, given the rapidly changing technology landscape and the lack of in-depth training within organizations. SiriusDecisions reports 80% of B2B organizations spend less than $1,000 per year on marketing skill development. So it’s not a surprise that 85% of B2B marketers consider themselves self-taught. When you add in the fact that only 25% of the organization feel they are using marketing automation to the fullest, it’s no surprise as to the value a demand center of excellence, staffed by highly skilled professionals in their given disciplines, can bring to an enterprise.(1)

A demand center is made up of diversely skilled marketers who are able to integrate the various aspects of demand generation, from marketing technology and database operations to campaign creation and program analytics. These integrated skill sets are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the access, knowledge and insights from a technology infrastructure integrated with an organization’s marketing database. You will read more about the demand center technology stack when I cover Pillar 2.

SiriusDecisions suggests that there are six major management operations that comprise a demand center, based on the diagram below.

SiriusDecisions Demand Center Model

As you will see, within the infrastructure of the operations layer sits the skill sets of Campaign Management, Lead Management and Adaptive Marketing. Within the layer of Campaign Execution sits Program Assembly, Web Strategy, Data Services, Nurturing Plan, Play Alignment and Web Anthropology, which are all based around back-office operations. Thus, the back office serves as a gateway to leveraging technology for high-performance implementation. Finally, within the top layer (call center/sales ops) sits skills-focused Teleprospecting and Telemarketing and the Project Management Office, which would lead to qualification, contact discovery, and program and project management to coordinate all operations within the demand center.(2)

An excellent webinar on this topic is “B2B Demand Center—A Best Practice Framework,” which is available on demand and hosted by John Neeson, managing director of SiriusDecisions.(3)

One benefit of implementing a demand center operation is that silo-oriented product and program managers, who are used to running their own one-off programs, no longer need to create these programs. Instead, they will be able to rely on the expertise of an internal shared-services team to help with the facilitation, creation and deployment of campaigns.

Demand Center Operations Driving Changes in the Workflow
BestPracticeChart for R. Kern's blog

Another benefit of a demand center is the focus on finding ways to build content that can be used in many channels for different aspects of the buyer’s journey. This “build once, use many” business orientation is just one way a demand center helps the enterprise optimize their return on campaign start-up investments.

Thus, Pillar 1 comprises four best-practice areas:

  1. Program strategy and tactics built from product sales and marketing strategy
  2. Financial culture and campaign financial management
  3. Brand management and brand storytelling
  4. Demand center operations

These topics serve as the foundation for long-term, repeatable and scalable demand generation success. Of course, each best-practice area has additional points and management nuances that can’t be addressed in this blog post. However, we do recommend using these points as a basis for assessment of your current state.

In my next blog post, I will tackle the complex topic of the technology stack—ranging from marketing automation to big data.

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Read more: Determining Market Demand for New Products or Services: Four Questions Answered