B2B Demand Generation: Rethinking Strategies To Scale

Olin Hyde
April 2, 2019

Are Demand Generation Activities Still Important in B2B?

According to a recent IDG white paper on lead generation, 61% of B2B marketers say increasing demand is the top challenge they face today. Intuitively this makes sense, considering that B2B companies achieve growth when salespeople have access to larger, higher quality pipelines.

In theory, scaling a B2B business just requires boosting demand. So that’s simple, right? Just rev up those demand generation ideas, and you’re golden. In actuality, however, demand generation is becoming an increasingly difficult challenge for B2B marketers to meet. How do you generate high quality leads, consistently? How to create demand in a really noisy landscape? 

On one hand, B2B buyers are becoming much savvier. Forrester reports that 74% of B2B buyers conduct half their research independently online before making a purchasing decision. That means buyers are becoming more sophisticated, and are less willing to speak with salespeople. 

Instead, buyers want to educate themselves about their options using free resources provided by B2B companies. Only when they’re close to making a purchasing decision are buyers willing to speak with a salesperson. This is true whether you’re looking at B2B or B2C – buyers don’t want to talk with Sales or make a purchase until they’re very close to the bottom of the sales funnel already.

On the other hand, sales teams are becoming much more sophisticated and expect more from the teams implementing demand gen strategies – whether those are in-house marketing teams, or outside B2B demand generation companies. Understandably, Sales teams want highly qualified leads that will efficiently convert to closed-won revenue – they’re hesitant to invest time in less-qualified leads. (Well, in truth, they’re less than hesitant. Leads that aren’t ready, waste that one limited resource that no salesperson can replace – time.)

Today’s B2B demand gen campaigns have to generate demand from more educated, more discerning buyers. And they need to do this while also satisfying greater internal expectations from Sales and leadership. Information is everywhere, B2B targeting is pretty terrible, and it’s challenging to know exactly what activities are going to generate a real ROI.

For demand gen teams to be successful today, they need to consider new solutions and demand gen strategies that will better identify and deliver qualified prospects – and to do this at scale.

In short, they’ve got to deliver new demand generation ideas that are going to work better than any previous iterations.

Obsolete: Why Inbound & Outbound Demand Generation Isn’t Working

Today, most B2B demand gen teams employ a mix of inbound and outbound marketing strategies to generate demand. Inbound marketing can be effective, but it can also be time-consuming, costly, and slow to show a real return on investment. Inbound strategies also provide Sales teams with less control over the quality of leads that request more information.

B2B Marketing teams interested in a faster or more targeted strategy often opt for outbound demand gen campaigns. This approach often involves cold calling a list of contacts. Although one of the most common lead gen sources, contact lists are expensive, and frequently filled with incorrect or outdated contact information. Companies are paying a premium for information – but have to swallow the cost of those inaccuracies in the hope that the leads that do pan out as legitimate sales will be valuable.

Moreover, scaling outbound demand generation teams requires significant increases in hiring, which results in higher operating costs. Generating a good return on investment from this type of internal growth becomes that much more difficult.

How to Do B2B Lead Generation & Keep Sales Happy

It’s a common refrain among experienced demand gen managers: “Sales needs more leads, or we won’t hit our revenue goal.”

In theory, this might be correct. Assuming the demand gen team provides more leads and the conversion rate from prospect to customer stays the same, the Sales team will hit the company’s revenue goal. By now you’re wondering how to create demand and meet revenue goals without betting the farm on two pretty big assumptions.

The solution to better demand gen and a happier Sales team is shockingly simple: generate better, more qualified leads.

Pursuing a high-quality lead generation strategy is a win across the board. By cutting out low-quality leads, you reduce inefficiency and the time and resources wasted by sifting through unqualified prospects to find gold.

Jason Lemkin, co-founder of EchoSign and founder of SaaStr, says that the difference between the top 1% of salespeople and the top 10% is in how they spend their time. Top B2B performers consistently spend their time working the best leads, while second-tier performers divide their time more evenly over less-qualified leads.

By increasing the quality – not the quantity – of leads provided to Sales, demand gen teams elevate the performance of the entire Sales team, meet higher revenue targets, and boost return on investment. It’s a winning B2B demand gen strategy – and it’s easier than you’d think.

B2B Demand Generation + Artificial Intelligence

The best B2B demand generation strategies work backward from an ideal customer profile. Typically, companies build ideal customer profiles painstakingly by speaking with past customers or highly qualified prospects. This reverse-engineering approach to creating an ICP is, admittedly, less than scientific. With no hard data available to build out an accurate buyer persona, these need to be reviewed and updated frequently to ensure that the findings are in line with the reality of the current market.

But what if you didn’t have to base next quarter’s Sales goals on last quarter’s, or last year’s, ICP?

Now, with artificial intelligence tools like the LeadCrunch demand gen platform, it’s far easier – and far more accurate – to identify those ideal prospects who are ready to buy. AI tools streamline and speed up the ICP process, building lookalike audiences based on real B2B data, not intuition, and they do it cost-effectively.

In most cases, demand gen managers have access to basic prospect information – sometimes appended using a 3rd-party platform, but even so, the available data is limited and can be inaccurate.

With machine learning lead generation, B2B companies have access to AI that can analyze offline indicators associated with a company’s best-performing prospects and learns and improves with each campaign. These indicators include firmographic and demographic data, like company size, industry, and location, the tech stack the company is currently using, and the social signals a prospect is unknowingly transmitting online.

Today’s best demand gen utilize these advanced AI marketing tools to create an ideal customer profile that incorporates internal and external data. Using this highly-accurate ISP, LeadCrunch tools scour the web to identify leads who fit this advanced profile and deliver B2B lookalike audiences.

Consider the following example. Traditionally, an enterprise-level B2B company relying on inbound marketing will have a few pieces of data about a prospect and will append this data with tools like Datanyze or Data.com.

Using AI, this new workflow uses outbound demand generation strategies that target specific high-value prospects. These prospects have sent buying signals and already use software that indicates need and budget. Plus, they work in industries that companies have already penetrated.

This advanced method of generating demand using AI is more efficient, accurate and cost effective than yesterday’s traditional inbound and outbound demand generation programs.

Scaling Demand Gen Requires Disruption

If you’re searching for demand generation ideas to take your team to the next level, the answer lies in disrupting existing processes. If you’re simply doing more of the same old thing, you’ll never see a better result. A strategy that identifies verifiable buying patterns, and then provides high-quality leads with similar characteristics, is the future of demand gen best practices.

Using AI, you can scale your B2B demand generation efforts while providing your Sales team with higher quality leads that convert. This process reduces the time spent sorting through unqualified leads, makes it easier for B2B businesses to hit ambitious revenue goals, and boosts return on investment.

Further Reading

Lainey Mebust
July 9, 2020
Lainey Mebust
May 29, 2020