On Tuesday, I joined a #CMworld chat covering off on how content marketing could be used for demand generation, which got me thinking: what other strategies could a small business implement to improve revenue growth?
Before we get into the specifics, I want to clear the air.
What is the difference between demand generation and lead generation?
Marketers often interchange these two terms. They're not the same.
If the conversion can be completed with almost zero interaction with the company, then demand generation is critical to brand awareness and building trust and authority. If the conversion requires sales interaction, negotiation or a longer sales cycle, then lead generation is critical to acquire qualified leads and nurture them to close.
What is demand generation?
the focus of targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company's products and/or services.
Ultimately, demand generation is an umbrella of marketing programs. It can potentially help your organization reach new markets, promote new product features, build customer buzz, generate PR and re-engage existing clients/customers.
To succeed with demand generation, your marketing team will need a clear personalization strategy. Data, quantitative analysis, and continuous testing will be important to this process. As trends begin to emerge from your marketing programs, you'll be able to connect marketing activities to key success metrics. You'll likely track the general reach of your marketing initiatives.
What is lead generation?
the initiation of consumer interest or inquiry into products or services of a business.
With lead generation activities, you must be more aggressive in capturing contact information. It's a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually buying. Lead generation is about building a relationship.
To succeed with lead generation, you'll be focused on the number of qualified leads that your marketing initiatives generated. From a marketing perspective, they're only responsible for filling the funnel--the sales team is responsible for closing.
As much as we all love the idea of being able to pass off various "responsibilities" to different departments, many of you are wearing the "owner", "marketing" and "sales" uniforms in your organization. The processes may be very similar, and tactics sometimes can be identical between the two.
The biggest thing to keep in mind: offer materials that your customers need so they can understand how you can solve their problems.
Demand Generation Strategies for Small Businesses
Now that we all better understand what demand generation is, how do you go about implementing it?
1. Give away your best stuff (for free!)
Seem counterintuitive? Trust me when I say that giving away some of your most valuable stuff has multiple benefits.
First, it generates trust between your brand and your target audience. This means they might also bookmark your website or subscribe to your email list for future updates.
Second, by offering something of value, your target user/customer will likely be more willing to part with personal information (be that an email, a phone number or insights into their biggest problem). Collecting this information will help you determine if they're a qualified lead and help you nail two initiatives with one tactic (demand gen AND lead gen).
Third, it reflects well on your brand. You might even generate a few of those elusive "brand ambassadors" that everyone is clamoring for.
Hubspot is well known for doing this. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that nearly each "giveaway" they produce has thousands of downloads, each!
If you don't think content is your best asset, consider creating a free tool or resource. Not only is it a stellar demand generation tool, but it can help thousands of your visitors. Wordstream does this with their AdWords Performance Grader. It has helped thousands of advertisers audit their PPC accounts and take action to improve the strength of their campaign--and it might save them $$$! It's solidified their position as a trusted go-to source for PPC advice, help and news.
2. SEO can help you dominate first phase research
Did you know that 72% of of product research for future business purchases start on Google? Yes, SEO plays a significant role in organic search volume and leads--especially if you're trying to play ball in the inbound marketing field. I would even argue that this strategy can gain even more traction when you take link building and social media into consideration.
Trying to carve out a new niche with keywords that don't have high search value? You'll need to choose semi-related keywords to get eyeballs on your site. Do a quick search and see what kind of companies are ranking for those search phrases. Could your business fit into a similar box as those? You still want to target keywords that your brand has a chance of ranking well for and is still applicable to your target audience.
Getting those visitors to your site is the first step in introducing them to your new keywords, building awareness and growing a demand.
In my opinion, a company blog is the second most valuable piece of online real estate a brand can have (second only to their website) and your company blog is where you are going to begin educating your target audience about your brand, products and new terminology. Much like your website, you need to include related keywords that people are searching for to draw visitors in, but your content should focus on educating them about your new niche.
3. Optimize your email marketing
You already know that email marketing is a powerful engine for demand generation, but A/B testing is where things can get interesting. Just remember this motto: "work smarter, not harder".
Nearly every component of your email can be tested to ensure that everything is performing as strongly as possible: headline length, subject line copy, linking strategies, component placement, etc. Each should be tested, results reviewed and informed decisions made--let's leave assumptions behind, eh?
To do email marketing well, you want the best email marketing automation tools.
Additionally, as was the case with strategy #1 above, only give away your best stuff. Don't blast your email list with fluff. You run the risk of appearing spammy and driving your subscribers crazy (which then leads to unsubscribes and potentially getting flagged by your email provider). Read this blog post to understand how you can grow an opt-in email list versus buying one.
4. Invest (more) in content creation and curation
Content creation is a long-term strategy--just like demand generation. Success in either strategy requires consistency--something that causes many small businesses to fail.
If you're already publishing blog posts regularly, are you integrating original count like surveys, research or original data? Are you posting timely responses to industry trends or news? Many people are just regurgitating what others have already said or show up too late to the party.
Success won't happen overnight--in fact, it can take years! Double-down and invest what you can in quality and original content. The effects will be well worth your efforts.
5. Heard of "Lookalike Audiences" on Facebook?
I'm going to assume that you're already advertising on Facebook. If not, I highly recommend it--here's a guide if you need a small push.
Lookalike audiences are the logical next step once you have a good custom audience in place. Lookalikes allow you to expand beyond your reach, but still target people with highly specific profiles, by creating audiences that look like your own targets. The base audience can be your own email list or the followers of your FB business page--essentially people that have already expressed an interest in your products, services or content.
The larger the custom audience you upload, the more widely you can cast your net using lookalikes. Given how much time people spend on Facebook, this targeting feature is one of your most powerful demand generation strategies, and one I recommend you start using right away!
6. Build a partnership with your industry rockstars
I realize thats easier said than done. The odds that you can email Rand Fishkin out of the blue and ask him to join you on your next webinar is low. So, while it might not be possible to snag the speakers you want right off the bat, you should continue to strive to feature the best, most well-respected and well-known members you can find.
Doing so will increase your standing in your industry, forge valuable connections with key influencers, and boost your brand awareness – all crucial elements of an ongoing demand generation strategy.
Demand generation is an important strategy for startups and small businesses. Now, you know exactly what you need to do to get people excited about your products and keep those (qualified) leads rolling in, so go get started!