shutterstock_289153913“Silo” has become the dirtiest of dirty words in business and leadership these days. “To Build Your Business Smash Your Silos,” urges Fast Company Magazine. “Destroy Silos Before They Destroy You,” pleads

This demolishing fervor has taken out two of the most venerable silos of the 20th-century business world — the sales silo and the marketing silo. In its place, these silo slayers have created a new revenue beast — the demand generation department.

This new revenue-first department is part sales and part marketing. Treating leads like gold, it moves them from marketing to sales without any of the traditional barriers of a silo, nurturing these leads into long-term business.

Demand generation is revolutionizing how some of the world’s largest companies ramp up their revenue. According to the Mx Group, 88% of the highest-performing companies have integrated their sales and marketing departments to some degree.

Demand generation works (and is necessary) because today’s consumers wait longer and longer to connect with a company. They do their own research, read articles, watch videos, and browse rating and reviews long before contacting a salesperson. These early stages of the buying cycle fall squarely into the marketing department’s territories of content marketing, SEO, and social media.

Connecting with consumers earlier in the buying cycle through marketing efforts, and then passing along these sales-quality leads to the sales team, is an effective way to make sure a consumer has not decided to buy from a competitor before they’re even contacted by sales. But demand generation is complicated. It requires connecting existing departments, optimizing website performance, and creating new content initiatives.

Here are five steps your company can take to integrate your sales and marketing departments into a demand generation engine that attracts, qualifies, nurtures, and closes leads.shutterstock_270706154

1.Read Digital Body Language with Website Analytics

When a customer walks into a brick-and-mortar storefront, a good sales person immediately notices all the non-verbal signals – the mood, personality type, and body language of the customer.

The best sales people can tell between a glorified window shopper and a big spender in a matter of seconds. But when these sales happen through digital and mobile transactions, many businesses are left with a huge blind spot. They can’t track their customers through the digital labyrinth to see when customers consider a purchase – but back out at the last moment; and they’re in the dark when a prospect considers buying a product, but then chooses a competitor’s instead.

This blind spot doesn’t exist for companies with sophisticated demand generation departments. New analytics tools now allow marketers to decipher digital body language and turn a web visitor into a bona fide lead. You can use prospecting and analytics tools to understand your web visitors’ interests and categorize them, identifying and separating potential leads from existing customers.

And you can use landing pages and forms to collect contact information, initiating a relationship with potential leads that will allow for follow-up and lead nurturing.

Finally, make sure your website is optimized for SEO and loaded with engaging content so that you continue to attract new high-quality web traffic.

2. Create Content that Fills the Sales Funnel

Content is the fuel that drives the demand generation engine. It draws visitors to your website, powers email marketing campaigns, and convinces leads to convert.

According to the 2014 Demand Gen Report B2B Buyer Survey, 75% of executives say they rely more on content to research purchases than they did a year ago, and 64% say a vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decisions.

Content is so powerful because it can pull leads through the buy cycle (as opposed to the marketer pushing advertising at them). But the quality of content is all-important in a world where consumers are swamped with digital content. Targeted content that solves real needs or pain points will be the foundation for a truly effective demand generation.

3. Score and Qualify Leads

Not every lead that comes through your marketing department is a sales-ready prospect. Determining which leads are ready to buy and which leads need additional nurturing before they go to sales is critical to high-performance demand generation.

Attributes such as industry, company size, and title can be scored. Actions such as downloading content can be another basis for lead scoring and qualifying. By tracking which content is consumed at what point, marketers can often identify the quality of the lead and the position of the prospect in the buying cycle. According to MarketingSherpa, organizations that use lead scoring see a 77% lift in their lead generation ROI.

Marketing automation software is the key to scoring these leads without descending into a complex world of spreadsheets and a time-consuming welter of reports. This software can collect insights from web activity and content consumption, and then apply rules that determine how, when, and why to contact prospects. When leads are automatically scored, they can then be categorized into different marketing actions, all in one system that integrates with reporting tools and an existing CRM system. What would be quite complicated to do by hand becomes rather easy to run hands-off, once it’s set up.

4. Nurture Leads

Leads that are not ready to purchase but may become customers in the future should be nurtured so that they don’t end up defecting to a more persistent competitor.

Nurture leads with high-quality content, reconnecting with these potential customers from time to time with educational or instructional information that targets their unique needs. These repeated communications will keep your company top-of-mind and continue to build a relationship that has a higher likelihood of ending in a sale the longer it continues. (And possibly a bigger sale, too,)

5. Measure Lead-to-Revenue

Measuring your demand generation performance is the first step towards both optimizing your efforts and showcasing your success. You need to know whether your marketing and sales teams are communicating effectively and passing off leads without complications. You need to track how your content campaigns are performing and which pieces of content produce the most high-quality leads.

Perhaps most importantly, marketers must measure the entire lead lifecycle to show how marketing-sourced leads turn into revenue.

Reporting software can speed the measurement process, allowing for near real-time feedback on marketing and sales performance. This instant feedback loop is a great way to experiment and test new tactics.

Building a demand generation operation from the ground up is a tall task, but marketing automation can make the task much more manageable, effective, and measurable. This technology can facilitate and automate your process, but it’s not a process by itself. You need to align your sales and marketing teams around discussed and agreed-on demand generation goals. Making sure these departments communicate effectively, agree on strategies and process – and work together to close deals – is one of the most important parts of any demand generation effort.

Get the free eBook, Demand Generation 101, and learn:

  • The 3 traits that define a demand generation program
  • 3 reasons why demand generation matters to marketers
  • 7 key activities every demand generation strategy should incorporate