In today’s competitive business landscape, since everyone needs quick results, most marketers tend to (or in a way are forced to) focus on demand capture alone. While demand capture is a must-have, that can only take you so far. To build a sustainable growth engine that lasts for the long term, you HAVE TO invest in demand gen.
A common misconception is that this needs to be understood only by those in the demand gen or lead generation team. But this is rather a mindset every marketer should live by. And this is true for the content marketing function as well. So in this article, we will learn an 11-step framework for laying out a content marketing strategy that will set your business up for long-term success as you look at it through the lens of demand generation.
What is B2B demand generation?
Demand generation is nothing but the exercise of creating demand for a business’s products or solutions. While most marketers try to go after the 2 to 3% of prospects who are in the market to buy the solutions offered by the company, demand generation is about creating interest among the remaining 97-98% of your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) who could be your future customers.
As a B2B demand generation agency, we see this reality a lot on the ground where customers want to see quick results within a few weeks’ time. But just as good things take time, building a solid B2B demand generation engine also takes a dedicated effort. Hence, let us learn a detailed approach to crafting a content marketing strategy focused generating interest and demand for your business.
The 11-step Framework for a Demand gen-focused B2B Content Marketing Strategy
A framework is devised to create a structure for your approach. Whatever business you are in, the 11-step method should help get your content marketing efforts started in the direction of demand gen. Also, though this piece has been created with a focus on B2B businesses, the idea works for B2C or D2C businesses as well.
1. Start with your WHY – Simon Sinek’s golden circle
This thought is borrowed from the famous Golden Circle defined by Simon Sinek. Though the concept is widely used – in the marketing world – to find a brand’s overall purpose, it can be applied to content marketing as well – especially when we look at it from a demand gen standpoint.
Simon SInek’s golden circle
This is how you can apply this concept to content marketing:
- Start with why you want to use content marketing as a tool for demand gen. Is it to help those in need among your ICP? Is it about positioning yourself as a thought leader in your niche? Or does it involve changing traditional schools of thought in your industry? Whatever it is, clearly define your purpose and goals.
- Think about how you do it and how your content can make the lives of your prospects and customers better.
- Now come to what you do as a business – what you offer and what you sell.
To better understand the concept of the Golden Circle, please watch the below video:
2. Content marketing strategy for the long term
Content marketing for demand gen is not for those who are expecting quick wins. You could go with something like PPC ads for that. But if you are expecting:
- A couple of podcast appearances to get you 1000 leads, that’s unlikely to happen.
- Your leaders’ personal branding on social media would bring millions of dollars of revenue in a couple of weeks, that’s called ‘being impractical’.
- 1 or 2 speaking gigs in events to get you hundreds of customers, you are most likely wrong.
Instead, approach it with the mindset of an athlete. Practice your craft every day so that you see results in something like a year’s time. The actual time required will depend on the nature of the channels you use, the frequency of your content distribution, the quality of the content, etc. So give all your demand-gen content efforts the time they deserve. Be an ‘infinite player‘ and kill your finite mindset.
3. Define content types that help you create demand
That pushy email forcing your prospect to buy your products does not fall into demand gen. The landing page that you bring users to using a salesy social media post is not demand gen. A product spotlight webinar describing your product’s features is not demand gen.
Content inclined towards demand gen is about:
- Helping your ideal customers solve specific issues they face.
- Enabling prospects to find a better way to do something in their daily life.
- Making prospects want to work with you instead of you reaching out to them for work.
These require you to focus on content types such as:
- Podcasts (hosting your own as well as appearing on others’).
- Thought leadership-oriented webinars and other online events.
- Talks and speaking sessions at conferences and events.
- Organic social posts (focused on educating and helping your prospects).
- Books and journals.
- Whitepapers, ebooks, templates, playbooks, etc. (except those salesy ones of course).
Depending on your industry, niche, budget, availability of resources, etc., you can pick the ones you can go with.
4. Sell when it only makes sense to sell
Focusing on demand gen for many requires a significant shift in mindset. From thinking long-term to allocating resources for demand gen and training your people on it, the approach has to be different. You need to be in it with the intention to GIVE.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t sell. Subtle selling can always be done. But if you are able to establish trust and credibility with your content, sales should follow.
5. Setting the tone of your content for B2B demand generation
This involves making sure you follow a ‘demand gen language’. This relates back to your ‘WHY’, You need to communicate using your content:
- Why you exist – your vision, mission, purpose, core values, etc.
- How can you make a difference in others’ lives – solving problems, educating, training, upskilling, helping in career progress, or anything relevant to your target audience?
And your language, tone, and method of content delivery have to reflect this. Let us understand this through an example.
Imagine you are selling a tool that helps your prospect’s employees reshare content posted by the company using its official handle. A salesy messaging would look something like this:
“Our product is a user-friendly platform that helps to 10x your social reach by enabling your employees to easily share your company’s content. Try a one-month free trial now.”
Now let us approach this with a demand-gen mindset. Here is how I would change the messaging:
“Modern-day organizations are not tapping into the real potential of turning their employees into brand advocates. And we are here to change it. Using a platform that can enable your employees to easily share your social media content and track their performance can be a game-changer. This is exactly why we have built one for you.”
Demand gen doesn’t focus on direct sales most often. Hence, the last statement in the above message might not be the most appropriate. But you get the point here.
6. Choose content marketing channels that align with your purpose
This is quite simple. If you have traveled this far with the 11-step framework, by now you know:
- Your purpose.
- The goals of your demand gen efforts.
- What content types to create?
- The style and tone of your content.
Now it’s time to find those channels that meet these criteria. To learn how to find the right mix of marketing channels, please check out the article Content Distribution 101 – How To Find The Perfect Mix Of Marketing Channels. Make sure to adapt what you learn from this article to the 11-step framework discussed here.
7. Gated vs ungated content
Now we come to the never-ending debate – gating vs ungating content. This question arises only when it comes to content types that we usually gate (whitepapers, ebooks, playbooks, etc.)
There are multiple schools of thought around this. There are experts who say that if your content is so good, then the prospect would reach out to you anyway. So you shouldn’t be ‘masking’ your content. But I am not in favor of this way of thinking.
If prospects always took the right action, drip email campaigns and call follow-ups would not have produced any results. So you gotta have some mechanism to keep people who consume your content engaged. Gating an asset and collecting user information could be the first step of this.
Now, the million-dollar question is – how do we know whether we should gate or ungate a piece of content?
I feel there is no universal rule for this. But a few best practices and tactics are:
- Ungate top-of-the-funnel content that is purely meant to express your thoughts, opinions, and frameworks. A playbook is a good example of this.
- Keep experimenting. Maybe start with the 80/20 rule – 80% gated and 20% ungated. You can try different combinations and measure the impact consistently until you arrive at something that works for you.
- Make sure you give ears to your target audience. The concept of ‘dark social’ extends to other forms of content than just social media. Sometimes, people just don’t want to get identified or share their information. If a vast majority of your audience belongs to that segment, consider ungating more of your content.
But always remember, your focus is generating demand – creating interest among the 97% or 98% of your TAM (Total Addressable Market) that are not currently in the market to buy the type of products or services you sell. So don’t be rigid about your gating theories.
8. Fix a content creation and content distribution schedule
This is not specific to demand gen. Having a routine helps you organize your content marketing efforts. Here is a sample demand gen content calendar for your reference.
A calendar also encourages you to stay consistent. One of the things I have observed when it comes to demand generation is that the interest level tends to go down after a while. This is mostly because of the difficulty of proving ROI in the short term. But consistency and the right approach pay off in the long run. A calendar is one of the steps you can take to ensure you have time set aside for demand-gen-related content creation.
9. Content repurposing workflow
Again, this is not specific to demand gen alone. Content repurposing in general helps you reduce efforts and improve reach. Here are some of the things you need to consider while creating a content repurposing workflow for B2B demand generation:
- Adapt the content to the new format while still maintaining the ‘demand gen language’. For instance, if you are repurposing a webinar into multiple podcast episodes, they should be more conversational and engaging so that the listeners feel that they are a part of the discussion.
- Modify the content to fit the platform you are using for distribution. A good example of this would be converting your tweets/tweet storms into carousels on LinkedIn.
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, content repurposing also helps to register your message and what you stand for better. This is because the more you talk about something, the higher the chances of your target audience imbibing it.
10. Be consistent across all the channels
If you ask me, what are the two most important things when it comes to demand gen in addition to quality content, I would go with CLARITY and CONSISTENCY.
You need to know what you are talking about. Don’t let your content be disjoint from each other. If you have a unique POV (Point Of View), let that stay the same across all the channels and content types you use.
Let us take an example.
Imagine you are a strategy business offering various consulting services to large enterprises. And when it comes to the ‘build vs buy’ debate, if you believe that the BUY approach is a faster way of sustainable growth, you need to stand by it across the podcasts, social media posts, talks, webinars, and events you show up on. You can’t favor different approaches in different situations and channels.
11. Closely align demand gen and demand capture with each other
This is the best of all the 11. Many tend to see demand gen and demand capture as standalone tactics or entities. But this is far from the truth. Your demand capture channels like PPC ads, SEO, cold calling, etc., need to support the views you share using your demand gen channels.
You also need to make sure that your demand capture engine is designed in a way that it is ‘ready’ to capture those who convert from your demand gen efforts. This would mean the following:
- Your messaging has to be consistent across demand gen and demand capture channels. For instance, if you spoke about how having a product like yours can benefit your customers in your demand gen channels, your product landing page has to convey the same.
- Don’t attribute success to either demand gen or demand capture alone when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your content. You need to know that both work synchronously to produce the results you desire.
- Prepare both your demand gen and demand capture efforts for conversion. We all tend to assume that prospects travel perfectly through the marketing/sales funnel from the top to the bottom. But customer journeys are complex and entries and conversions happen at multiple levels. You could sometimes get customers purely based on a talk you delivered. On the other hand, it’s completely possible that you get a client only through organic search. So alignment would also mean making sure both your demand gen and demand capture content arms are ready for conversion.
Skalegrow – B2B demand generation agency focused on your growth
With marketing getting tougher and tougher, every wrong foot you make might hamper your growth. What you need is the right guidance and a helping hand. This is where Skalegrow can make a sea of difference.
Skalegrow helps IT, tech, SaaS, and embedded systems companies leverage new-age marketing tactics to grow their business. Check out the below intro video to learn more about what Skalegrow brings to the table:
About the author
Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account-based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.
Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.
You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.