How to Build a Rock Solid Demand Generation Engine – Part 1


In my anaytics and marketing career, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some really amazing individuals. I have learned a lot from and shared my ideas with them successfully.

I have also had the opportunity to lead several demand gen teams of marketing and analytics professionals, and this has allowed me to understand the key concepts of building a successful demand engine.

You might think demand generation is only marketing, right? Well, that’s partially accurate. Marketing is one aspect of demand generation.

In this post, I want to discuss all the critical pieces of demand generation and how it all comes together. This post is very detailed and designed for those who are truly interested in becoming demand generation leaders. I have divided the post into two parts for the ease of reading, and this is the part 1.

Here are the key fundamentals (steps) of building a solid demand generation engine covered in this series:

Fundamental #1. Customer centricity

Fundamental #2. Phases of demand generation

Fundamental #3. Building the right team (link to part 2)

Fundamental #4. Infrastructure and tools (link to part 2)

Fundamental #5. Analytics and data integration (link to part 2)

So let’s get started..

Fundamental #1. Customer centricity

So you want to build a powerful demand gen engine and transform your organization but where do you start? How do you put together the pieces of the puzzle? What are the macro and micro segments of the demand engine?

Let’s take a step back and think about the big picture. Creating and generating demand is not just about driving revenue. It is also about understanding the needs/wants of customers and delivering the experience they expect and those they don’t expect.

Simply put, the first strategic component of building a sustainable demand engine is putting the customer ahead of everything. I say this because the world has changed and with live in hyper connected world where customers rapidly moves from one device to other and one channel to the other.

The customer’s journey is more complex than ever, and your ideal customer may already be interacting with your organization in some form right now. With these new developments, the practice of demand generation has now become demand identification, curation and conversion.

In fact, according to Mckinsey research, 56% of customer interactions happen during a multi-event, multi-channel journey. Just think for a moment…more than half of all interactions, including purchase occurs across devices and channels. How crazy is that?


Source: Customer Journey Analytics by McKinsey on Slideshare

For example, the above image shows the journey of a banking customer from the first event (setup a new account) to the last event (churn). This customer interact with various physical and digital assets of the bank and at the end leaves feedback on social media before closing their account. If you notice, the most interesting part of the journey is the connection of the digital and physical world.The customer starts with setting up a new bank account at the banks offline location, and the rest of the customer lifecycle is spent on digital assets.

I would challenge demand gen professionals to think with the customer lens and tweak their strategy. How can you do that? In my “Digital Marketing Strategy for 2014 and Beyond ” post I discussed the specifics of becoming customer centric by using persona, audience, messaging and market opportunity (PAMM).

a. Persona: A persona is created for a specific group of customer segment that shows similar behavior or personality traits, i.e. marketing manager, campaign manager or director of marketing are different types of audience, but they could fall under one persona.

Each persona can have a different use of your product so it is important for you to understand the likes and wants of your target audience. For example, marketing manager would like to have access to analytics software so he or she can drill down the evaluate the performance of a campaign whereas the director of marketing may want to use the software only for quick snapshot of KPIs.



Sample mobile developer persona

b. Audience: I did touch on the audience types earlier, and you can have different audience grouped in one persona, as long as they have needs overlap. Your target audience could be different depending on the organization you are in.

Some organizations have gone through deep segmentation and analysis of their audience and have developed marketing cohorts while some have high level customer segments based on revenue metrics. I don’t think either approach is right or wrong as long as you have your audience and personas well defined.

c. Messaging: We will discuss messaging in the marketing automation section of this blog post, but once you have figured out the right audience it becomes easier to develop the message. I would rely heavily on the product marketing team to develop the core product message so your demand gen team can use this to further drill down for targeting. The message should be personalized to the customers experience and delivered when they need it.

d. Market Opportunity plan: Does your organization already have a good understanding of your target market? Is there a centralized document that lists the size of the market and what are the target market segments, i.e. vertical, company size or geo location?

Typically, the product marketing team along with the strategy group would have a market opportunity and competitive analysis document. I would highly encourage you to sit with these groups to get a download of the market opportunity.

Then you need to create your version of the market opportunity plan based on the demand generation needs. Your version of the snapshot will take key markets and divide it based on whether it will be heavy marketing or heavy sales focus or a combination of marketing and sales. I created a sample view of how this would look like so feel free to tweak it to your needs.


Sample Demand generation view of Market opportunity

Fundamental #2. Phases of Demand generation: For those new to the concept, the phases of demand generations are the different levels of interactions your prospects will have with you before becoming a paid customer. I touched on some of the specifics of the changes in the customer buying cycle as we know how complex the customer journey has become.

This calls for a more detailed view of the traditional awareness, consideration and purchase phases of the demand generation. I still see several demand teams are still tied to the three-part demand generation funnel and struggling to get advancements in the customer acquisition strategy.

Here are the key phases of demand generation every marketer should build to run an efficient demand team. The resources you put in each of these phases will depend on how heavy one or the other phase is for you. For example, if your demand engine is digital heavy, then you will put more resources on the thought leadership and trust phase whereas larger enterprise would want to invest more on consideration as there is already some level of trust.


Phases of demand generation

Thought leadership: It’s quiz time: If I ask you were asked to choose between a company with a great product or a successful content engine which one will you choose? I would personally go with the latter because thought leadership has the power to bypass some of the traditional phases of demand generation.

Once a customer is convinced that I am the authority in my industry, I will automatically have built a level of trust in the customer’s mind. I am not saying you should not focus on awareness or consideration phases as these can bring in other sets of customers. My intention here is to highlight the value of thought leadership to demand generation.

Let’s look at one of the best examples on the market today for thought leadership: Hubspot. Their content engine is unmatched, and they have established an unprecedented level of trust with their buyers. As someone who has to see both enterprise and small business marketing, I would argue they don’t have a true “marketing cloud” but they are being positioned against the marketing cloud giants such as Adobe, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce of the worlds.

How could they do that? How can a small startup achieve this level of success? The answer is by building a content enterprise where every element of content marketing from design, curation, creation and syndication is being done with great care.


Landing page for Hubspot Social media marketing ebook called “Social Superheroes

Above is an example of an interesting content marketing piece from Hubspot. This is an ebook focused on social media marketing audience on how to become a top social marketer. First Hubspot content team did some research to come up with a unique concept, i.e. Social Superhero.

Then they created the ebook content followed by creating content and design for the landing page. There is also an existing marketing automation funnel linked to this landing page for lead nurture and conversion.

If you review the list of resources from Hubspot on their resource library page, you will find every piece of content is connected to either their core offer or an email list.

I would like to stress this enough as building a thought leadership base is one of the most important phases of demand generation.

Awareness: So now that we have captured the attention of your target customers using thought leadership let’s move on to some of the traditional layers. I consider awareness as a traditional phase of demand gen as even though the channels may have changed the fundamentals still remains the same – drive awareness for a brand or product.

This is the phase where you would use the advertising dollars to drive traffic to your digital and physical asset using search marketing, media buys, social media or event marketing. Remember, your only goal in this phase is to drive traffic and nothing else.

Consideration: The next phase is where you would like to convert the attention and traffic to engagement. Most marketers take this phase for granted and directly move to building trust with their prospects. The consideration phase is also a content heavy phase, although the types of content assets may be different. So what are some of the types of content or tactics you can use in this phase? Here are some ideas:

  • white papers
  • ebooks
  • detailed blog posts
  • webinars
  • interactive widgets or free tools (,
  • remarketing/retargeting

I totally believe that getting your customer’s attention is much easier, but you have to be highly creative to keep your customers engaged.

Trust: If you follow the steps/phases listed so far then you will have a highly engaged customer who is looking for that final assurance before they can make a purchase or become a lead. Trust is earned over time using content assets such as:

  • customer case studies
  • customer testimonial videos
  • customer reference blog posts
  • analyst reviews (Gartner, Forrester)
  • third party validation (Econsultancy study)

Conversion: The last step of the demand generation phase is converting the prospects to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) or a paid customer. If your offer is complex and requires a larger team of decision makers, then you are better off delivering a high quality lead to the sales teams instead of trying to convert digitally.

There are two key areas of focus in the conversion phase:

  • Conversion optimization: Conversion optimization (CRO) is a process of identifying conversion struggles by using tools such as Tealeaf and running AB or Multivariate tests to improve returns. In simple terms, conversion optimization allows businesses to get more from what they already have.

You can use conversion optimization to increase overall sales by improving conversion, improve average order value, accelerate the purchase cycle by removing unnecessary steps, improve user experience or reduce bounce rate. I have also used optimization to improve customer engagement and increase the app usage so possibilities are endless.


Example of Testing A vs B testing of the Simcity landing page (source: Optimizely)

Above is an example of the conversion optimization results from Simcity by courtesy of Optimizely. Simcity is using two variations of a landing page to improve conversion of the Simcity standard and deluxe game editions. The original version of the landing page has a banner on top (a.k.a hero shot) and the variation does not include the banner.

By removing he top banner sim city was able to move the “key features” up so it is visible without scrolling and this version improved conversion by 43%. If I do a quick math for 10,000 unique visitors, the results are astonishing. Simcity is able to increase the revenue by $30,795 without driving additional traffic or spending more on advertising. This is the power of conversion optimization.


  • Marketing Automation: Marketing automation unlike CRO is a much bigger segment, and it will require a full blog post to explain the practice in detail. In this post, I do want to touch on some of the benefits of marketing automation and how it can impact the pre and post buying cycle.

So what is marketing automation? Quite honestly marketing automation is a broad term, and it could mean a lot of different things. In general, marketing automation has become a standard term for using software and tools to automate marketing management, lead scoring, nurture and follow up.

If you are going to invest in marketing automation tools such as IBM Silverpop, Marketo or Hubspot then here are few things to consider:

  • What are your key business objectives?

Marketing automation can be done quite differently for customer acquisition as compared to customer retention. The data sources, tools and integration points can all look different. You also have to set the right expectations internally so key stake holders know the types of results they can expect.

  • What are some of the biggest gaps in your marketing organization?

Do you have a conversion gap? Do you have a traffic generation gap? Is there a sales or service gap? Is there an opportunity to improve customer experience? These are some of the areas you can investigate before making a decision to invest in marketing automation. The questions will allow you to efficiently use your marketing optimization budget and focus on the low-hanging fruits.

  • How much time are you planning to invest in marketing automation?

Let’s make this clear, marketing automation is a massive undertaking, and no vendor can promise an overnight flip switch no matter how sophisticated they claim their solution to be. In addition to smartly investing your marketing dollars you have to also take into consideration the time and people resources. I remember our first marketing automation project took almost two years before we saw fruits from it.

  • Do you have the funding to hire the subject matter experts?

 As with any marketing domain, marketing automation requires experts who know how to manage the marketing automation projects. This person has to be a technical marketer with leadership capabilities to manage cross-functional projects and teams.

Continue reading the part 2 of this post…


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