The Growth Leader’s Guide to Embracing Strategic Demand Marketing

Effective growth leaders are focused on achieving aggressive revenue goals – but achieving these goals requires growth leaders to also focus on the underlying processes and infrastructure that allows them to do so in a scalable and repeatable way. A key component to success is demand marketing programs that repeatably contribute real, measurable pipeline lift.

But far too many demand marketing programs are stuck a tactical, activity-based status quo. Too many marketing teams are comfortably ‘hitting their number’ without tying their activity-based efforts to pipeline and revenue. Because of this legacy, the rest of the organization often thinks of marketing as a cost-center and a tenuous relationship exists.

The reality is that most marketers are struggling with the transition to outcome-based KPIs. When marketing can’t make that transition (or can’t make it fast enough), sales often takes steps to generate demand themselves – distracting from selling and leading to misalignment between the two organizations and confusion around who owns the final number.

An effective growth leader must bridge this gap by stepping in to lead the shift from a tactical demand marketing approach to a Strategic Demand Marketing state. Here are 11 things that growth leaders need to know in order to shift to a Strategic Demand Marketing state.

1. Deciding on Tactics is Not a Strategy

Many organizations fall into the trap of executing “random acts of marketing”. They loosely connect a continuous cycle of stop-and-start campaigns without tying the activity back to growth-oriented results. But here’s the reality: Campaigns are a tactic, not a strategy. This type of tactical approach makes it impossible to drive sustainable growth. Reading this, you’re either nodding along or you’re not quite sure if that’s what your team is doing. If you fall into the latter group, I strongly suggest reading one of our most popular blog posts to find out if you’re committing random acts of marketing. Deciding on tactics is not a strategy and will not help you achieve growth goals. Instead, a successful demand marketing strategy should be focused on driving outcomes that support business expansion and customer lifecycle.

2.  Increasing Budget Doesn’t Always Equal More Leads

Spending more money on a tactic does not necessarily mean that you’ll see an uptick in demand. Increasing the events budget won’t make an impact if you’re attending the wrong events and increasing PPC spend won’t generate more leads if you’re bidding on the wrong terms or have subpar landing pages.

Tactically-driven marketing is expensive and eventually runs out of room to grow. Knowing how to optimize investments against sales outcomes is part of the key to achieving sustainable growth, but it’s easier said than done. Most organizations lack the necessary end-to-end visibility. How do you know what’s working if you can’t track it? Measuring ROI and adjusting appropriately is one of the most important parts of a demand marketing strategy, and it ensures that when the time comes to increase budget, you know exactly where to spend it. If this is your immediate concern, read: Why Can’t Marketing Answer the ROI Question? and How to Optimize Your Marketing Engagement Channel Strategy to find out more.

3. Volume Is Not Always the Answer

When the sales team demands more leads, one of two things will usually happen. Either marketing will ask for more budget or sales will start trying to generate their own leads (which they absolutely should not be doing). In either scenario the goal becomes generating a large volume of leads, but don’t be surprised if increased volume doesn’t translate into more pipeline. The goal of a Strategic Demand Marketing strategy is to generate quality leads that translate into closed-won sales. Otherwise, you’re just wasting money and filling your pipeline with junk.

4. Technology Is Not a Strategy

Regardless of what you may hear from your marketing department or technology vendor partners, Strategic Demand Marketing is not just about marketing automation, chat, ABM, or CRM/CMS integrations. Yes, these things are a component, but technology is a tool – not a strategy. There is no magic product that will suddenly make all of your marketing and sales challenges solvable. Instead of buying more products, focus on how your tools can help you Engage, Nurture, and Convert your buyers to create an orchestrated buyer journey. Unfortunately, most organizations today are using their MarTech tools to blast outbound emails – not orchestrate engagement. When that’s the case, not only are you wasting money by not fully leveraging your tools, but you also risk doing serious damage to the customer experience.

5. Strategic Demand Marketing Must Be Perpetual

Successful Strategic Demand Marketing is focused on orchestrating customer engagement to provide lift to pipelines. This means perpetually responding to the needs of your prospects with relevant content across engagement channels while simultaneously qualifying each individual person by monitoring levels of engagement and response. It adapts to the prospect’s interests as those interests evolve. In fact, it should foster evolution of interest by nurturing them through each stage of their journey. Strategic Demand Marketing creates a dialogue with the prospect, it doesn’t spit out a monologue.

6. Investing in People is Key

There is a very good chance your marketing team will need additional training and skills development in order to implement a Strategic Demand Marketing approach. That may sound daunting, but it’s one of the best investments you can make. We think that special attention should be paid to marketing technology roles, and dig deeper into that topic in the post, The Secret Ingredients to the Perfect Demand Technologist, but everyone from marketing, sales, IT, and leadership has a role to play. Your org chart can make or break your success, so it’s important you’ve rationalized your organization against processes that provide stewardship and alignment throughout the entire customer journey. And don’t forget to plan for any change management along the way.

7. It Is Not Just About Marketing

Sales has to play a big role in this shift and there must be alignment between the two departments. Discrete steps in the customer journey should be identified and documented using both first and third-party research, and marketing and sales should come to a consensus on those steps. Steps that lead to qualification are especially important, as well as the process for the handling of leads once they are passed to sales. Once that’s in place, there’s no more debate between the two teams as to who is or isn’t delivering quality. Instead, everyone is on the same page and has agreed upon a process that supports efficient lead qualification. This is one of the most important parts of achieving a Strategic Demand Marketing state and it absolutely requires buy-in, leadership, and direction in order to succeed.

8. It Will Require Change

Change management is key to implementing and adopting a Strategic Demand Marketing mindset. You will most likely need to change the skillset of your personnel, the compensation structure, goals and performance metrics, and the organizational structure to align to the buyers purchase path…and you’ll be doing all of that while also combatting the traditional way of thinking of both marketing and sales. Not everyone will think the system is broken, and there may be some resistance to change. You will need to make sure everyone is aligned around the same goal. This can be a tricky task to manage, especially as expectations for success change, so we offer some helpful advice in this piece about stakeholder alignment for demand marketing initiatives.

9. Your Success Metrics Are Probably Wrong

Strategic Demand Marketing is an outcome-driven discipline. It’s much more than measuring opens, clicks, new followers, or levels of brand awareness. It’s about pipeline contribution, customer lifetime value, closed-won revenue, and increasing market share. If you’re not sure what metrics you should be measuring, we recommend reading the article, Demand Marketing KPIs and Metrics You Need to Monitor.

10. Change Does Not Happen Overnight

Moving your organization to a Strategic Demand Marketing state takes time and effort. Be patient but continue to drive for results. There are successes you will achieve along the way, but true demand process maturity does not happen overnight. Take a phased approach to transformation and chart discrete goals along the way so that you can celebrate every success.

11. It Takes Leadership and Support Across the Organization

Change is hard, and people will resist—your buyers, marketing personnel and sales team need your support and leadership in order to make Strategic Demand Marketing pay off.

Most organizations have trouble shifting from a tactical approach to a strategic one, but a clear, defined Demand Marketing Strategy is what changes marketing from a cost center to a growth driver.

For more reading, we recommend:

Making the Critical Shift from Tactical Demand Marketing to Strategic Demand Marketing

Demand Marketing Transformation: The Path to Strategic Demand


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