Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
Your company has invested an incredible amount of money—and time—in myriad tactics designed to boost lead generation.
You’ve launched ad campaigns, you have the best marketing automation software money can buy (that’s tuned up with a collection of targeted, personalized email campaigns); you’ve hired an entire team of inbound and outbound sales development reps to nurture the mountain of leads you’re expecting, and of course–there’s all the content. You’ve spared no expense, producing pricey demos, explainer videos, and long-form gated content where you’re giving away your expertise—all they have to do is surrender a measly email.
On paper, your lead gen engine is a finely-tuned machine. There’s just one problem: your pipeline is bone dry. You don’t understand. Didn’t you just invest all of this money and time so that this wouldn’t happen?
I see a lot of companies—especially those in the B2B space—prioritize lead generation over brand-building efforts. On one hand, this makes sense. Leads, and the sales they turn into, are the way organizations make money. Filling up that sales pipeline is essential.
However, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your lead generation efforts are if no one knows who you are. How do you strike that delicate balance between brand awareness and lead generation, when both are equally important to generating revenue for your organization, but may take completely different approaches? To that I say: Why divide to conquer when you can combine? More on that in a minute.
What Is Brand Awareness, Anyway?
There’s often a reticence to earmark marketing spend for brand awareness because its true definition can be fuzzy—frankly, anything can count as “brand awareness.” Brand awareness represents how familiar your target audience is with your brand and how well they recognize it. Some point to a company’s visual elements like its logos, colors, and typographic elements, but that’s just the start.
There’s just one problem: your pipeline is bone dry.
Your brand is your company’s heart and soul—it’s the personality you exude through every single transaction. It’s how your customer service department answers the phone, what your email signatures look like, how you show up at tradeshows and conferences, and even the way you recruit and retain your employees.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. Brand awareness is the catalyst for customer trust and loyalty. It helps them see you as credible, reliable, and an entity that can help them solve their challenges.
And, as much as it would certainly be easier this way, it most likely won’t happen that your target customer, having never heard of you, will get a cold email from you and diligently follow through on all of your steps:
- Thoroughly read your email
- Go to your website
- Spend at least 20 minutes there researching and taking notes
- And finally, book a call with a sales rep for a product demo or conversation about your service offering
That would be nice, of course—and we can certainly hold out hope that it will happen! However, it’s more likely you’ll need to create consistent exposure to your brand in the market. That’s what brand awareness can provide.
Brand Awareness + Lead Gen = Demand Gen
Back to my suggestion above: instead of concentrating on one or the other, let’s concentrate on both simultaneously. That’s the promise of demand generation.
In its most stripped-down definition, demand generation is the use of targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products or services, with the ultimate goal to create long-term prospect engagement. Demand generation is every touchpoint in the customer journey, from the interest of an initial prospect to cross-selling and up-selling current customers.
That’s the promise of demand generation.
Brand awareness is a vital part of demand generation. In a demand generation campaign, your target customer either may not be aware they have a problem, or they know they have one but aren’t sure of the solution.
So, here are the crossroads between brand and lead gen: in order to provide helpful, relevant, and educational content you'll give away, you also need to establish a reputation as a thought leader. You’re building trust with your leads by giving them the right information at the right time.
As they start to gain trust with you, your product or service becomes an easier sell. Because you’ve educated them on their challenge, they’re more likely to take note when you present the benefits of your solution, and why it’s the particular solution for their challenges.
Let’s watch this play out with an example: blogging efforts.
Blogging and other forms of content marketing are an important part of demand generation, and blogs in particular are great because they act as educational resources for your audience; ones they can return to again and again. At the end of one of your blog posts, perhaps you have a casual call to action that says if they want great content like this regularly emailed to them, they should sign up for your email newsletter. They do, and continuously see your helpful content for several months.
Why divide to conquer, when you can combine?
I’ve seen a site visitor fill out a contact form, and because good software is in place that has recorded this visit, I can see that the first visit was months before a form was filled out with a request for contact! I can see firsthand how past content has worked its magic on a website visitor, so she can finally raise her hand when she’s ready.
Prospects are more likely to choose your product or service because you’ve worked side-by-side to solve a specific challenge. You’re helping and selling–giving them, as marketer Jay Baer likes to call it, “Youtility.”
A Note: Demand Gen Isn’t On-Demand
The key word to remember about demand generation is “long-term.” Demand gen may sound insistent, but it is not a quick fix.
The marketing and sales cycle is longer because you’re often educating your target audience on a solution that connects with an ongoing and stubborn problem they’ve been trying to resolve. You’re then warming them up to why your product or service can help. In that way, it’s not unlike brand awareness, which also requires a long and ongoing commitment in order to truly do it well.
Demand generation is still the best of both worlds. You’re consistently building customer trust, engagement, and loyalty—all while you’re also convincing them to take the first step to become a paying customer. Before you start to think that lead generation is the marketing you need, stop and ask yourself: What brands have you trusted to fill the gaps in your own business? What brand-building elements have you absorbed that convinced you to take the first step toward an important purchase?