Demand generation, which we commonly refer to as demand gen, is a fundamental capability of Marketing. It’s important to not shortcut the process if you want to consistently reap quality opportunities. This episode shares 5 steps we can borrow from gardeners to improve our conversation yield.
It’s been quite a year. Some companies have thrived. Others are struggling to survive. Many companies pivoted. They changed strategy which in turn impacted tactics, especially demand generation tactics. Regardless, one thing is certain, every organization that wants to create interest, engagement and consideration needs a demand gen plan and corresponding measurable tactics.
A plan that accounts for every stage in the customer buying journey – from anonymous visitor to first contact, to first conversation – all the way up to and through selection and purchase.
For companies where there is a complex, consultative, multi-participant aspect to the journey, the demand generation efforts to move customers from the starting point to the finishing line takes time. In challenging times, organizations may want, even need, to move customers through the process faster.
They want sales NOW! With few exceptions, this seldom occurs.
Whether the economy gains momentum or falters, it is important to approach demand generation like a gardener. With patience and skill.
What’s that mean?
5 Gardening Steps Improve Your Demand Gen Results
If you haven’t had much gardening experience, we want to inform you that there’s a considerable amount of effort that goes into growing healthy plants that continue to flourish. Just like there is a lot of effort that goes into creating and keeping customers. Let’s explore 5 things gardeners do that will help you improve your demand generation initiatives.
First, gardeners use data to make decisions about how to prepare the soil and what to plant. For example, how is your organization using data to understand the market trends and requirements, define the customer journey, evaluate channels and touch points, create content, monitor competitors, and so on? Success at demand gen requires marketers to be data literate. Make sure you have this capability on your team before you tackle the next steps. Otherwise you may end up with a lean harvest.
Second, gardeners prepare the soil; because it is key to plant health and a garden’s vitality. Soil is more than dirt. It is a mixture of minerals, dead and living organisms, air, and water. Maybe you already have a rich, crumbly loam, on which to build your garden. If not, you need to turn sand, clay, or barren ground into soil that will sustain your plants. For businesses, a rich soil is comprised of your strategy, messaging and positioning, your website, content, processes, technology and your implementation plan.
All of these need to be in place before you start planting seeds or seedlings. If you have specific plants you want to grow, then you need to make sure you have soil and a location suitable for that plant. Or in the world of business, an environment suitable for that target market and customer. If the soil or location is not right, the plant will struggle to grow, even with good tending.
Third, select the right plants. You know what you want to plant, now you need to decide which plants. This is one of the most important steps. The plants you choose depend on many factors, from the orientation of your garden, to its size and soil type, and what you want to harvest- flowers, fruits, vegetables. When it comes to Marketing and demand gen, it’s important to select the right markets and customers. The markets and customers you choose also depend on many factors, starting with whether your organization solves a relevant problem and how well you can solve it compared to current solutions or potential alternatives. Here we are on the on third step and we haven’t harvested one flower or vegetable! The same is true for demand gen. It’s too early to be expecting customers when the plants aren’t even in the ground!
Fourth, tenderly nurture conversations. Gardeners carefully place the seeds or seedlings in the prepared soil. Now comes the consistent tending of the baby plants. This entails watering, fertilizing, protecting young plants from herbivores, and keeping weeds at bay. With proper tending, plants will grow and eventually produce buds. This tending applies to demand gen. All of the potential conversations you hope to create and harvest need to be carefully tended. Content, touches, channels and the frequency of these are how we nurture demand.
Over fertilizing or watering damages plants. The same applies as you nurture potential customer conversations. How do gardeners get it “just right?” They use data and constantly monitor temperature, moisture, and wind. Demand gen efforts cannot be put on auto pilot. Use data, such as customer behavior, competitor moves, and market changes, to adjust as needed.
Lastly, cultivation. As with plants not all buds result in a flower, fruit or vegetable. As we nurture the plants, we must prune dead, diseased parts or unhealthy buds. Gardeners must be careful not to try and harvest too soon, thereby crippling the flowers or produce. This takes careful patient work. Demand gen takes the same skill. Not every effort will result in a conversation. Not all customers who express initial interest will turn into serious consideration and purchase. But with patience and skill, well-implemented demand gen programs will yield valuable customer conversations.