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When marketing a product or service to your audience, it all comes down to solving a problem. When your audience is aware that they have a certain problem you’re offering a solution to, there’s built-in demand for your product or service. On the other hand, when you’ve identified a problem that your audience doesn’t know they have, you need to develop demand generation tactics as part of your marketing strategy. Generating demand helps your audience understand what the pain points are, why they matter and ultimately why your solution is the best fit.
What is demand generation?
Demand generation is a multi-step process that brings in elements of education and brand storytelling. It shows your audience a potential challenge they face in their work, life or otherwise and positions your brand as the answer.
We see the terms demand generation, lead generation and inbound marketing used interchangeably, but these strategies actually have very different focuses.
Demand generation vs. lead generation vs. inbound marketing
Demand generation differs from lead generation in a few ways. Lead generation applies when your audience recognizes that they have a problem and are actively seeking out different services or products that could provide the solution. When they find your brand, they’re already aware of the problem you’re trying to solve and ready to assess if you’re the right solution. The main goal of a lead generation campaign is to obtain a prospect’s information. You’ll use that information to nurture the relationship through the rest of the marketing funnel, ultimately selling them your product or service.
If you are regularly creating content, then your lead generation most likely comes through inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is when your audience seeks out information for a problem that they are trying to solve and organically comes across your brand as a potential solution. Inbound marketing is less disruptive and more targeted than outbound strategies, and therefore can result in higher quality prospects when implemented effectively.
Inbound marketing and lead generation complement each other. When you create content that aims to solve a common problem, your brand will attract inbound leads. Your audience is already aware of the problem and is actively seeking out solutions. This stands in contrast to demand generation, where you’re trying to reach audiences that don’t yet know your product or service has benefits to offer them.
Demand generation requires much more education and tends to work in the inverse of lead gen and inbound marketing. To create demand, you need to educate your prospects by introducing them to a challenge that exists for them, and explaining why it’s significant enough to invest in a solution for.
With demand generation, the timeline from the start of the campaign, until you make a sale tends to be longer. You need to do a thorough job of convincing your audience that a problem exists before showing them why your solution is best. Demand generation takes a more proactive approach to get in front of your audience.
Elements of a successful demand generation campaign
Every brand’s demand generation campaign will look a little bit different. But there are certain steps that every campaign should incorporate to give you the best chance at generating interest in your product or service. The strategies that you use should be relevant to your business and to the stage of demand generation you’re in.
Generating a need for your product or service
In most demand generation campaigns, your audience will initially be unaware of the pain points that your product or service addresses. Before you can start generating demand, you need to explain why the challenges your customers are facing are worth investing money in solving. At a very high level, this could include demonstrating how your product can make an aspect of your prospects’ work or lives easier, more efficient or more successful.
Create informational content
Start by creating content whose sole purpose is to educate and introduce people to a problem they’re facing.
Before finding mainstream success, the founders of Squatty Potty invested their initial content efforts in educating people about how they’ve been using the toilet wrong their entire lives. In a video that’s since gone viral, they use humor and education to demonstrate the right and wrong ways to use the toilet.
This highly shared Youtube video went viral and garnered over 35 million views and 1.6 million shares on Facebook. If you don’t have enough organic reach to generate awareness at this level, you can run paid ads to your content on Facebook, Instagram or even Twitter and specifically target your ideal market.
Share a free report
When introducing your audience to the problem you want to solve, it helps to have concrete and quantitative data to back up your claims. Sharing free reports or statistics about your industry can help your audience understand the problem you’re trying to bring light to. The report won’t just create visibility for your brand. It will provide valuable information to your audience that they can use to make future purchasing decisions.
At Sprout Social, we share an annual Sprout Social Index that includes analysis of dozens of social media statistics and valuable takeaways that brands can use to shape their social media strategies. A report like this adds value as readers can refer to it over time and share it throughout their organization–in the case of our Index, for example, it can help social marketers educate others throughout their organization about top challenges a social team is facing. Even if a given prospect has a longer decision cycle, a free report that they return to as an authoritative source helps build brand awareness and trust.
Identifying a product-market fit
Once you’ve introduced prospective audiences to a problem, then it’s time to narrow down your ideal target market by creating resources that help you learn more about your audience. You want to be able to confirm that the content you’re creating will generate interest among the right people. Putting effort into targeting allows you to analyze who is interacting with your content the most, and how successful that content is in moving them towards conversion.
Create a free tool
Offering a free tool can help your audience understand your solution. It will also help you understand more about what your audience needs and is looking for in a solution. You can learn more about which segment of your audience is most interested and better define the pain point that your audience is using your tool to solve.
Ahrefs created a free backlink checker that gives users a taste of what its premium tool can do. Users will use this tool to check the number of backlinks they receive, and in the process they are exposed to additional valuable features and insights. This data includes information that users might not have known they could access, which generates more demand for the premium tool.
Use a lead magnet
If a free tool feels too complex, then creating a more simplified lead magnet can help you achieve a similar goal. A lead magnet can be anything from a free checklist, e-book, quiz or access to exclusive content. Anytime you create something that your audience needs to opt in to receive, it gives you valuable information about them. This information can help you better understand who they are. All of this information will solidify your product-market-fit and help you better tailor your solution to meet your audience’s needs.
Neil Patel uses a quiz lead magnet that helps capture information about his audience’s business and website. He uses this information to create targeted campaigns for each audience segment to increase demand for his online courses.
Increasing brand awareness
Once your audience is aware that the problem exists, they need to trust your brand enough to choose your product or service. By getting in front of a targeted, informed audience you increase the likelihood of someone remembering your product when they decide it’s time to purchase.
Develop a strategy for social media
Social media provides a huge opportunity to increase awareness of your brand among your target audience. Using a proper social media marketing strategy, you can build trust and increase exposure to your brand as a whole. Building a relationship with your audience on social media will increase awareness of your brand and create even more demand for your product or service.
GoPro sells cameras, but instead of targeting photographers, it’s targeting people who seek adventure and love telling stories. It uses social media to create demand for its product. But it doesn’t spend a lot of time on social media convincing people that the GoPro camera is superior in terms of technical features. Instead, it capitalizes on the emotions behind the stories its customers tell. By sharing user-generated content to social media, it shows new audiences just how easy it is to share their experience using a GoPro without ever doing a hard sell of the product. Its audience may not be in the market for a new camera, but the ads pique the interest of anyone craving an outlet for storytelling.
Invest in blogging and guest posts
Your blog should be one of the main channels you use to generate demand among your audience. Creating content that informs and adds value will build trust and establish you as an authority on the problem you’re aiming to solve. To increase traffic and engagement on your posts, you can partner with other brands in your industry. Partnering with brands to create guest posts or collaborative content can help you reach larger audiences.
Guest posting on industry websites can also raise awareness of a problem you’re trying to solve and increase the exposure of your brand. Positioning yourself as a thought leader within your industry creates opportunities to pitch your idea to more established publications. Having a presence in big industry publications will increase your reach and brand awareness even more.
How to measure the success of demand gen campaign
To know if your demand generation strategy is working, you need to be able to measure the amount of impact your strategies are making. Measuring demand can be tricky especially if you don’t know what to look for. There are a few ways to set expectations accurately and analyze the results of your demand generation campaigns.
Before you can accurately measure your efforts, you need to know what to look for. To track the success of your efforts, first you need to define your target key performance indicators. The KPIs you choose should always align with your overall business or marketing goals.
A few KPIs that may apply to your campaigns are:
- Website traffic
- Lead magnet downloads
- Cost per lead
- Free trial/tool signups
- Customer acquisition cost
This way, you can connect the dots between your demand gen efforts and actual business growth. Once you’ve determined which KPIs are relevant to your business goals, then you can map them across your customer journey. This will help you understand which areas are giving you the highest return on your investment.
Track data over time
Understanding what your leads respond to most will help you shift your demand strategy to attract higher quality leads from more reliable sources. Examine your conversion rates and how they relate to the strategies you’re using. Look for a correlation between those rates and who you are targeting. You can use testing best practices to isolate individual changes in your strategy and review the results.
If you’re using a social media management platform like Sprout to post on social media, you can use our analytics to see how your data changes over time. Use this information to identify patterns in the data you’re seeing. You can learn a lot from how your users interact with your brand and surmise what they want to see more of.
So much of demand generation depends on how well you create and distribute content to your target audience. The success of your demand generation campaign relies on how well you can engage your audience on various channels. As you move them through the stages of the funnel, they become warmer and more ready to buy. For a more in-depth look at how to set up a social media funnel that complements your demand gen strategy, check out our post on building a successful social media marketing funnel. With a funnel in place, you’ll see which demand generation marketing strategies you can incorporate into each phase.