The future of demand generation

Demand generation (or demand gen) can only be understood by first defining the word demand. Harken back to your Economics 101 and recall that demand represents a person’s desire and ability to purchase something. But it doesn’t mean that just because someone seems interested in buying he or she has financial means to do so.

Demand generation therefore encompasses all activities that help attract, engage, and convert likely customers. Depending on your industry, ideal customer profile (ICP), and personas, this may include a combination of:

Outbound sales Content marketing and SEO Search engine marketing (SEM) Social media marketing Trade shows and virtual events Email marketing Direct mail Affiliate and referral programs Upselling or cross-selling to existing customers

Note that I bolded the phrase ‘likely customers’ in the previous paragraph. Why? Unlike traditional lead generation programs, which tend to focus on net-new emails or contacts, demand generation is focused on delivering net-new customers. Marketers, myself included, should pay special attention to this reality. Filling your CRM with 1,000 new email addresses that never convert is a waste of time and money. It pains me to say that, but it’s true.

So, what’s the best approach for implementing a scalable demand gen program that delivers results? Let’s take a closer look.

How to improve demand gen in 2021 & beyond

If demand generation is a multi-faceted endeavor that involves numerous disciplines, departments, and stakeholders, what can you do to maximize its impact for your company? Here are four steps to take in 2021.

1. Start with an objective view of your existing demand generation efforts

Whether you realize it or not, you already have programs in place that generate demand. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business!) To measure the impact of your existing demand gen efforts, jump into your CRM and pull a report of closed opportunities over the past year. Customize the report to include the originating source, such as outbound sales, existing customer upgrades, paid ads, social media, etc. Now analyze the data to understand where revenue is coming from. Visualizing your data as a pie chart can be a simple, yet effective way to understand what’s working—and what’s not. Here’s an example. 

In the example above, it’s clear that outbound sales is the largest demand generator. That being said, this chart tells us nothing about how effective sales is at generating demand. If the company’s sales team consists of 25 account executives and 10 sales development representatives (SDRs), then the fully loaded cost of closing one sales deal may be exponentially greater than a self-service deal from organic search. Spend time analyzing historical deal data from a variety of vantage points.

2. Develop a plan for collecting better data

As you analyze historical data, you’ll likely identify gaps that make it difficult to answer all of your demand gen questions. After all, customer data is not limited to basic contact information, such as job title, revenue size, and related opportunities. To truly understand demand gen’s impact on the customer journey, you may need to go deeper and begin collecting the following data.

Interaction data

Trade shows are great for generating lots of business cards but not for closing deals. One lead from a trade show may require dozens of sales and marketing interactions before he

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