3 Key Trends for Demand Gen Success in 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, I’ve been in a reflective mood, observing the maturation of the demand-gen market over the four-plus years since we launched Activate Marketing Services.

We originally created our company on the belief that customers like you would get more value from marketing campaigns that result in the clear identification of buyers out to solve their tech challenges with a sense of urgency. We also believed, and bet our business on this belief, that lead quality would overtake lead volume as the key indicator of a campaign’s success.

At this point, it’s no stretch to say the tenets on which we launched our business were correct (I know you agree based on the day-in, day-out conversations I have with demand marketers), although it took a little longer than we anticipated for the maturation process to play out.

So while it’s gratifying to reflect on what’s occurred over the last couple of years, I think what’s really important now is to think about what comes next, as well as how you can position yourselves for success in this quickly evolving market. So I’d like to posit a few demand-gen developments that we expect to play out next, also based on our unique visibility into a diverse set of demand-gen organizations and practices.

Direction #1: Lead quality: The target gets even smaller
While lead quality will continue to grow in priority for sales and marketing leadership (the days of lead quantity are officially dead), the threshold for meeting lead-quality expectations will go ever higher and include ALL of the following:
• Interaction across multiple channels (at least 2 among web, social, telephone)
• Engagement with various forms of content
• Clear visibility into BANT criteria, especially buying timeframe, as well as willingness to get on the phone with sales in the near term

Sales wants leads that want to speak now; I’d even go so far as to say BANT-qualified leads are now the starting point for sales. That’s a tall order to deliver on, but it’s a credit to all of you that sales leadership has raised its expectations based on the increasing quality you’ve delivered.

What this means for demand marketers:
Marketers will need to continue expanding their toolkits to build content and run campaigns optimized for multiple channels, influencers and buying timeframes, and you will need to apply all means at your disposal to achieve insight into buying timeframe so that when sales does pick up the phone, there’s a solid opportunity to reach a lead at the time they’re ready to speak to a salesperson. Remember, talking to leads by phone is one reliable way to predict whether they’ll be receptive when your salesperson reaches them by voice.

Direction #2: Lead quality includes insight into multiple players in one org
Sales needs marketing to connect the dots between buyers and influencers in a company. This will be a new twist on ABM, whereby the expectation is to deliver leads within a company and provide insights into how multiple people within one account influence a purchase, their unique contributions, and where their interests and points of influence diverge. Sales wants to be armed with as much intelligence as possible about how those organizational dynamics will play into the ability to convert customers on account lists. For each lead delivered, the requirement will go beyond individual data to include how that person plays in the larger organizational construct.

What this means for demand marketers:
The aggregation of account-level data will be critical to the success of marketers, who will need to rely on their own research and analysis along with that of third parties to build the most comprehensive picture of leads possible so that sales gains a new level of organizational insight. You’ll likely need to carve out funds for third-party data acquisition/augmentation.

Direction #3: Sales leaders keeping score
Sales will grow to expect more detailed, and original, scoring mechanisms that provide the greatest possible visibility on every lead: their buying influence, buying history, buying plans and signals (including timeframe). Sales leadership will also be looking for anything that will arm the salesperson for a more productive, and personalized, conversation from the outset that sends a clear message to the customer/prospect that the brand:
• has done its homework
• respects the time of the lead and
• has a sincere aim to help them solve a business problem in the near term

What this means for demand marketers:
Marketers will need to be ever more closely aligned with sales to understand what’s working and not working in the selling process, what scoring approaches deliver value and which can be cast aside. Lead scoring is a living, breathing function that must reflect current market and customer realities, so the specifics of lead scoring approaches must be evaluated and tweaked regularly to ensure they reflect:
• sales’ needs
• real-world sales outcomes
• marketwide trends on lead scoring that reflect the best outcomes from other marketing automation system users, their software suppliers and consultants who bring broader perspective

The data that sales needs can be largely captured from robust marketing systems, so it’s vital that marketers take full advantage of their departments’ investments in the latest and greatest tools.

These are the trends I see unfolding in 2018. We hope to work with you to manage your business for success in the year to come.

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Martha Schwartz

Martha Schwartz, Co-founder and President. Martha has led some of the most successful sales teams in the technology media industry. For the last 5 years Martha managed sales for the IT Enterprise brands at UBM. Most recently Martha was Chief Sales Officer for UBM Tech managing the sales and analyst organizations for all media brands inclusive of all communities, all digital business, marketing services, analyst, custom events and research. Martha also managed event operations for UBM Tech’s custom event business.