6 Components of a Perpetual Demand Generation Program
What makes a Demand Generation Program perpetual?
I’ve been thinking about this while considering an update of my last post on this topic. One key component (other than a decreased reliance on tactical, campaign-based activities to drive demand) is its adaptability. A company needs to be able to anticipate a buyer’s needs, and then adapt as their needs change. Static “drip” nurtures can’t do that, as they do not allow for change in the engagement path they have built for their customers. The buyer’s journey is no longer linear, so your marketing programs need to be able to change with the customer’s needs.
Developing a “perpetual” demand generation program is no small undertaking. If your end-goal is to build an automated, perpetual engine that serves up relevant content based on a specific role or persona and their place in the buyer’s journey, you’ll need a well-designed strategy with inputs from stakeholders across your organization. Below are a few highlights around key areas for you and your team to consider during the planning and development of an “always-on” perpetual demand generation program that is fed by multiple channels, and engages with people across multiple personas and buying stages.
Lead Management Strategy
In tandem with content that serves the buyer at every step, lead management works behind the scenes to place leads in the proper “bucket” and dictates how leads are handed off to sales. A lead management strategy is the mechanism that maps out the stages a lead passes through from the point where it’s simply a name in your database to a closed/won customer. This “buyer dialogue logic” quantifies the end-goal of your demand generation program, provides a structure to which the content in your program should be mapped, and contains logic for handling leads at every stage of their journey. In Marketo, the platform I have the most experience in, this is your Revenue Cycle Modeler. Before you build, you’ll want to nail down your lead stage definitions – what attributes should a person have in order to move in (or out) of a particular stage? This is a critical conversation to have between both and sales and marketing to ensure that both teams’ needs are met.
Data impacts so many different components of a demand generation program. From lead scoring to attribution to segmentation on the one side, and sales effectiveness on the back end. What metrics will be leveraged to gauge success and what is the data needed to produce these KPI reports? When you are in the planning phase for your demand generation program, you and your team should be coming up with answers to questions such as: where is the data being stored – is it on the Person record itself, or are you leveraging Marketo program statuses or Salesforce campaign objects (or a combination of these)? Are you date-stamping when key activities take place to understand a buyer’s critical path? Are you collecting lead source information across all dimensions you’d like to report on? (i.e. channels, content offers, partners, etc. – ideally this information should be contained in separate fields). Is your data clean? Are members of your sales team trained on how to correctly associate contacts with opportunities, thus ensuring lead-to-revenue tracking? The data strategy must be an overarching, consistent approach that’s used across all engagement channels.
How your content is presented is almost as important as the content itself, as content consumption preferences vary from persona to persona, and even person to person. What many marketers don’t realize is that preferences are even impacted by where someone is in their Buyer’s Journey. Emails, landing pages, content, design, templates.
Conceptually, these components are the easiest for everyone on your team to realize the importance of because they are what everyone sees (as opposed to the operational infrastructure taking place behind the scenes) but they often stop short with a single template or layout thinking the job is done. However, there must be an overall strategy for how these assets tie together, and how they map to different personas and buying stages. Content should be developed to map to existing buyer personas and lead management stages, and not the other way around.
Outbound Nurture Program Architecture
Nurtures that are static, one-way roads through the funnel don’t match with how companies buy. How are your automated outbound nurturing efforts technically structured in Marketo? Before you begin building your nurture program, it’s a good idea to whiteboard out all the paths a lead could take. A good always-on, automated nurture program should have logic built in to allow leads to move to different parts of the program as they move to a different stage in the lead funnel, or as information on their buyer profile changes. Some key questions to keep in mind include: Are there different tracks for different buyer personas? If so, what are the qualifications for someone being placed in Track A verses Track B? What actions should automatically flag someone for advancement to a later stage in the nurture program? At what point does a person stop being nurtured? What happens to people who are non-responsive? Is there a mechanism in place for a lead to request immediate contact with sales?
Before you go live with any component of a demand generation program, you’ll want to make sure that all program architecture as well as user-facing assets have been fully tested. Test emails should be sent to designated members of your team, who double-check for any broken links, formatting issues, etc. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that everything functions correctly within the automation and programming, and that all possible paths a person could take have been fully tested. A great way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet that lists out all possible scenarios that could happen to a person, and the desired outcomes. Create some test records and go through this spreadsheet line by line, marking off the passes and fails. Testing is tedious, but the more complex your architecture is, the more important it becomes.
Program and nurture change requests from your team are often made without an understanding of the complexity of the programs you have built, and the impact that even seemingly small changes may have on multiple logic steps down the line. You should communicate with others on your team to gather requirements and set expectations, baselines, and timeframes. Because so much of the logic that gets built to support a demand generation program takes place “behind the scenes” within the Marketo and CRM platforms, it can be difficult for those on the team who do not live in those systems every day to conceptualize the technical intricacies that may be required. If you are the designated marketing technologist on your team, you’ll want to make sure that each person understands what information and sign-offs you need from them (and when you need it) to successfully implement the demand generation program. Additionally, an internal communication notifying appropriate parties (such as the sales or customer support teams) when various components will launch is a good practice. Once everything is live, as a team it will be important to look at the strategic and tactical inferences that can be made from the reporting and determine how pieces of the program may be optimized moving forward.