According to Demand Gen Report’s 2022 Content Preferences Survey Report, 55% of buyers now rely more on content to research and make purchasing decisions than a year ago.
Content diversity FTW
You’re missing the point if you hyperfocus on searching for the single best demand generation marketing deliverable. Today, the best demand generation strategies follow the natural laws of diversity; just like a biosphere or a stock portfolio, where a broad variety of inputs ensures the overall health of the whole. Since the majority (67%) of B2B buyers engage in 3-7 pieces of content before reaching out to sales, (with an additional 11% consuming over 7 resources), your marketing efforts should be on variety.
As a marketer, accept the fact that there’s no clear best way. There’s no single marketing strategy, lead gen hack, or one perfect form of content is freeing. Yes, it means your demand generation efforts need different forms of content, but it also means that you’ve begun to accept that the customer journey is more of a playground than a pathway. The prospective customer is in charge. Give your potential buyers the ability to choose the path for themselves. Guide them along the way. And welcome your new qualified leads when they arrive.
Best Practices for gated vs. ungated content
To gate or not to gate. That is the question facing companies shifting from lead generation to demand generation. A common inbound marketing strategy mistake many organizations make is to gate too much content; unless the content is compelling, the prospect won’t give up their info.
Yet, you have goals and KPIs to hit. Of course, you can’t capture new leads unless you have a mechanism in the marketing funnel that asks for a name and email. The answer again is diversity. Post helpful, ungated content to build awareness of your product. Then, offer gated content of higher value in exchange for contact information. Because you’re building trust, ensure your content lives up to its billing. Deliver the value you promised. Don’t make your webinar a sales event. Instead, close with the natural next step. Be helpful. According to B2B buyers, they want you to share more stats and be less “salesy”.
The offer as the guide
Imagine your audience consuming their first piece of content. Your ToFu content marketing piece (hopefully) just delivered value. Now it’s time for the ask. To guide the prospect forward, deliver a call-to-action offer that aligns with your target audience’s mindset at that specific point in their customer journey.
To create the optimum demand generation marketing offer, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. What kind of content are they looking for next? Ask what do I need to do or know now that I’ve consumed that content. Sometimes at the top of the funnel, the answer is to answer more of their burning questions.
4 early-stage content consumed by the most B2B buyers
While every buyer’s journey is different, these four kinds of content top the list as must-haves at the awareness stage of the customer journey.
Infographics are highly shareable and can help you communicate complex information in a visually engaging way. According to a study by HubSpot, infographics are shared and liked on social media 3 times more than any other type of content. It’s the most popular content for early-stage research (62%) because high-quality captivating infographics tell a compelling story and make it easy to share stats and insights with the all-important buying committee.
For starters, a study by Demand Metric, companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that do not. That’s compelling. In the Demand Gen report, over 54% of survey respondents consumed blog content before engaging with a vendor. It helps prospects get to know, like, and trust you. Further, a study by Content Marketing Institute noted that 80% of decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus ads. These stats alone suggest that blog posts can be effectively used to help acquire new customers and drive revenue.
76% of B2B buyers (Demand Gen Report) have used podcasts to research and evaluate business purchases, indicating that podcasts can be an effective lead-generation tactic. B2B marketers are taking note, as 64% are using podcasts to establish thought leadership and authority, according to Content Marketing Institute.
Influential white papers feature relevant, stat-backed, educational information your target audience cares about while establishing you as a thought leader. Whitepapers are a great way to establish your brand as a thought leader and educate your audience about your products or services. According to a study by Demand Gen Report, 76% of buyers are willing to share their contact information in exchange for a whitepaper. The caveat is that you must bear down and make it compelling and backed by meaningful stats.
What other kind of demand generation marketing content resonates?
As noted, a thriving demand gen ecosystem relies on diversity. Use different strategies in your demand generation programs. Other kinds of content that pique the interest of B2B buyers include:
- Research/Survey reports
- Case studies
- Industry newsletters
- 3rd Party Analyst Reports
Naturally, content like this can be relevant at multiple points in the customer journey, including both awareness and consideration. In general, content gets more specific the further down the funnel you move.
Which one of these kinds of demand generation marketing content are you missing? Now’s the time to get new content created to fill the gaps. Don’t forget to address prospect pain points, cross-promote your great new content, and make it mobile-friendly to help guide your demand gen prospects toward the content research they need to move forward.
One under-the-radar demand generation campaign technique built for ToFu engagement
Gamification tactics (sweepstakes, games, and contests) are an under-utilized secret weapon in the arsenal of demand gen marketers. Companies like IBM, HubSpot, Hootsuite, and Salesforce have all used sweepstakes recently at the ToFu stage. Each company drove roughly 5000 leads, with conversion rates ranging from 26%-54% (according to available reports).
Sweepstakes efforts like these can effectively work as a stand-alone demand generation marketing campaign across social and paid media or as a bolt-on component to other ToFu marketing campaigns—as the next-step “offer” for prospects who have consumed other content.
Strategic keys to making sweepstakes work
- Prizes must attract the right people. Make them relevant specifically to the target audience (such as HubSpot and Salesforce, for example, offered trips to their own conferences).
- The entry requirements must be frictionless for the prospective customer (don’t ask for more information than you need).
- The game must be built to support and align with your existing marketing initiatives. For instance, we recently finished a sweepstakes that enticed customers to visit a specific website. We chose compelling prizes that aligned with the benefits of the content at the target site and made it easy for customers to participate. The results? We doubled the open rate and CTR and exceeded the website visits target by 115%.
- Having a follow-up nurture campaign in place is critical for funnel success. So many marketers drop the ball at this stage by being impatient with their prospects. Acquiring the name and email address of a viable prospect is the most expensive part of the demand gen process. You can then separate prospects from uninterested people through subsequent email sequences.
Personalized Lead Generation: ABM
You can think of account-based marketing campaigns as personalized lead gen campaigns. The same strategies apply. However, in these new business efforts, marketing teams, and sales teams collaborate to build lists of ideal accounts. The lead generation strategy is to create relevant content specific to the prospective buyers’ commonalities and pain points. Oftentimes that content is a repurposed version of the more general content, such as a white paper customized for a specific industry. ABM uses multiple touch points like email marketing, direct mail, phone calls, and retargeted display ads to drive better conversions.
Demand Gen beyond digital marketing
Demand generation marketing tactics don’t start and end with digital marketing. We’ve successfully driven awareness and filled the funnel with prospects at trade shows, through sponsorships, and at retail. To promote a new product launch for one client, we used trending technology to create a Tweet and Win machine to generate buzz at a trade show. It drew a crowd, gained attention, and allowed the team to introduce the new product. To drive awareness in the competitive power tool space, we negotiated a sponsorship that’s lasted decades because it spoke to the ideal customer persona. And as a result, we drove results at every step of the customer journey, from awareness to advocacy.
Sage Mobile Magic Tweet and Win machine drew a crowd and drove event engagement and awareness.
Demand gen takes multiple forms
Over the years, we’ve created a vast array of demand generation marketing campaigns that drove awareness and, ultimately, sales for our clients in very different ways. And that’s the takeaway. There is no single correct answer in filling the funnel. Your results come when you consistently provide helpful information to your ideal customer persona. And when you give them a reason to engage. AND when you create offers that guide them to the next step in the customer journey.