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Demand marketing is evolving past leads towards revenue. Are you adapting too?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher November 18, 2021
Marketing, meet revenue generation!


When we stop at leads or MQLs, we are shortchanging the impact marketing has to the company.

That's what Jason Widup, VP, Marketing said in the opening keynote of the firm's DEMAND event where he talked about the need for Marketing to re-evaluate how it demonstrates its value to the company.

That value comes in the form of revenue. Widup said that the best B2B marketers hold themselves accountable to revenue as a shared goal between Sales and Marketing, and the two need a plan to work together.

But we aren't there yet, he said. And the questions and concerns flood out because the answer on how to tie marketing to revenue is very much a work in progress for many companies. "What if leads don't convert?” "What if all opportunities are converting from outbound Sales?" (They aren't, Widup said.)

Many marketers don't know how to measure attribution to revenue, he continued. With long sales cycles in B2B, it's not easy, and marketers are constantly under pressure to prove value ASAP. What has to happen, he said, is for management to trust marketing and trade short-term needs for long-term value.

Widup and CEO Gil Allouche talked about how demand generation has changed in a pre-event conversation. Typically, demand generation has been run by hard science/performance type roles, focusing on creating a desire for the product. But if we step back and look at it from a higher level, it's part art, part science (revenue).

You have to look at what's driving demand today for B2B companies. When you do, you see so many more moving parts than performance marketing, including account-based marketing, content marketing, and brand marketing.

If you look at the demand generation platform and listen to how Allouche describes it - he said they don't want to be defined by ABM - you can understand where they are coming from and why they decided to create the DEMAND event. And it's true; demand generation has been evolving over the last couple of years to become a primary marketing strategy.

How marketing can deliver revenue

It's a significant change for many marketing organizations to switch from growing leads to growing revenue. It's a mindset first of all, but then it's a complete shift in how you build campaigns and programs. In his keynote, Widup offered four steps to shift to a focus on revenue:

  1. Commit to it. It will take work, so you have to be prepared to change.
  2. Cultivate leadership champions that understand where you are headed and how you will get there. Widup said it could take a complete sales cycle to see if the changes are working, so it is critical to have sales and Marketing leadership behind the efforts.
  3. Think critically about what you are doing and why. Then, think about the programs and experiences that will make you stand out.
  4. Prepare to experiment and expect failure. We can learn a lot from things that don't work the way we planned.

Widup also made an important point. He said the tactics you use for leads are not the same tactics you use for revenue. You will be developing a strategy that includes new channels, tactics, and audiences.

He also said you need to keep measurement simple. Start with a high-level approach and then narrow down to specific metrics as you learn and get better.

Building a brand-focused demand strategy

Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, is another staunch supporter of a better way to implement demand generation. He shares insights and tactics on LinkedIn and in his podcast that make a lot of sense. In a LinkedIn post (slightly edited), he said,

All I know is Sales is WAY easier when you do Marketing well. Companies think their sales cycles are long because of the industry dynamics or their buyer persona, but it's really the go-to-market. Because their go-to-market strategy revolves around Sales trying to do Sales to buyers who don't want to buy right now. And it's really that simple.

Start focusing on having buyers enter your pipeline when they're ready to buy & sales cycles will decrease dramatically. It's not "sales enablement". It's not another case study. It's not more sales training. The best way to decrease your sales cycle length is to execute proper Demand Marketing & optimize your pipeline so your Sales team is talking to buyers who want to buy right now.

So it's not about downloads and leads. The use cases where that works today are almost non-existent. Instead, it's about building demand by giving consumers information through thought leadership, product information, community-building, social engagement, and more. Then, when someone is ready to buy, your company is top of mind. Building demand today is about providing value without always expecting something in return (like an email).

Widup ended his DEMAND keynote with four steps to execute on a demand strategy:

  1. Get your brand positioning/story right.
  2. Use brand to drive your demand strategy.
  3. Execute the strategy.
  4. Grow.

My take

The entire one-day conference was packed with ideas and insights designed to make marketers think more about revenue and how they can do that. Widup also told me that's goal with the event is to build a community around demand marketing. Many marketers that aren’t what you would traditionally call demand marketers were speaking in sessions around brand, positioning, and content marketing. I'll share some of the insights from those sessions in an upcoming article.

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