New business meetings are exciting—they’re an opportunity for us to understand a prospective client’s pain points, think quickly and tell related stories of how we’ve helped clients in similar industries or with similar problems improve their marketing and grow.
Often, our clients’ goals boil down to getting more leads, and they want to build a content marketing engine to do that. Driving growth is the ultimate goal of marketing, of course. But content marketing is a long game, and lead generation does not take place in the first inning (or even the third or fourth, if we’re being honest). There are some important steps B2B organizations need to take first before they can embark on lead gen.
When you have a complex buying cycle, you can’t just write a couple of blog posts and the leads will come pouring in. What most of our clients need first is actually demand generation.
What is demand generation?
The goal of demand generation is to create awareness about your company, products and services. Through demand generation, you’re educating your audience that you and your product or service offering exist, and bridging the gap between your audience’s pain point and your solution. Demand generation creates interest and awareness through a strong brand presence and thought leadership that begins to build trust with potential customers. It’s about creating a need for your solution over time.
Demand generation starts with a marketing strategy backed by audience research and includes thought leadership, social posts and (depending on your product, service and audience) SEO and targeted paid promotion. Demand generation supports efforts to move people into the top of your sales funnel.
Your thought leadership content that drives demand should focus on problems your solution or service can solve. Talk to your sales team to help you generate content ideas—what questions does sales answer over and over again, and how can you create content to begin educating that audience?
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is about identifying potential customers and gathering their contact information for the sales team. B2B buying cycles can be months or even years along—it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll capture a lead as soon as a buyer learns about you. Prospects who do become leads have likely known about you and your products or service offerings for some time, and have considered your company along with others in your industry.
Given that buying cycles are long and B2B purchases are typically in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands or even millions, lead generation is something that takes place when buyers are further down the sales funnel. They’ve likely read content on your blog or resource page, perhaps read through your product offering, and they may be ready to download a white paper or attend a product demo webinar. Once you capture a prospect’s attention (and their contact information), you can work with the sales team to continue educating the lead and close the deal.
How demand generation and lead generation work together
While B2B lead generation and demand generation are both critical components of B2B marketing, they serve different purposes and require different strategies and tactics. Both are essential for the success of your marketing program, but you can’t skip demand generation in favor of lead generation.
Once you have built a library of thought leadership blogs and other top-of-funnel content that drives traffic across your site, you can begin to develop content that’s further down the funnel and includes lead generation forms—that might be a series of case studies, an ebook or whitepaper, a webinar or an email course. After that first contact, it’s up to marketing and sales to nurture the lead through the buyer’s journey.
If you think you’re ready to be what we’d consider a lead, contact us.
If you’re not there yet but have some interest in following us discreetly without being sold to, you can sign up for our emails.