Lead Generation is NOT Demand Generation

These are the Glengarry Leads… and they’re for Closers

A few weeks ago I wrote my thoughts about Demand Generation in detail (you can find the posting here).  In this post, I’m going to do the same for Lead Generation. 

As I feel that the two are often confused with each other, I’m hoping that you’ll read both posts together and you’ll then have a clear understanding of the differences between these two important marketing strategies.

Why Lead Generation?

It’s seems obvious to most people, but every business needs revenue to survive and meet their long-term vision and objectives.  In order to obtain these revenues, the business needs to find clients that are going to pay for their offerings.  What’s not so obvious is how you convert the general public into paying clients.  That’s the primary purpose of Lead Generation; to find potential customers (let’s call them leads) who have problems that can be fixed by your offerings and will pay you for the privilege of doing so.

Lead generation is more than just finding the names and contact details of leads.  Good lead generation programs increase the winning percentage of your sales team. Good lead generating marketers know how to communicate with your target market (medium) and know what to say (message) at the right time (timing).

Good lead generation programs increase the winning percentage of your sales team.

If done properly, lead generation activities guide the behavior of the lead through the marketing journey and increase or heighten awareness or pain of their problem.  So lead generation techniques have the ability to drive actual behavior towards the eventual sale.  Lead generation marketing activities can be directly tied towards revenue

Over the last decade, lead scoring is a process that has been used by marketers as the primary method to determine when the lead is “in the buying window” (thank you Jeb Blount).  Traditional lead scoring defines the value for each content piece consumed or viewed by the lead and the timing of each interaction (time between review of each content piece and types of content).  The lead is assigned weighted score according to each these parameters.  In theory, the higher the lead score, the more interest in the offering by the lead.  When a threshold is added to the process, marketing then knows when to hand off the lead to sales operations or sales development for contact and further qualification.

Well thought out lead generation systems create scores of qualified ready buyers for the sales team to grab and build the commitments to buy the solution.  And there is nothing that says product-market fit more than a customer who will actually pay for your offering.

Results of Lead Generation Activities

If done properly, your lead generation activities provide your marketing operations team the following outcomes:

  1. Direct link between marketing and revenues – This is the holy grail for CEOs and CMOs.  If set campaigns are set up properly then direct tracking of lead activity from initial acquisition to a closed won deal helps focus the marketing efforts on activities that are most effective and can provide marketers with additional ammunition to build increasingly effective campaigns.
  2. Accelerated path to revenues with a developing sales team– By providing sales operations with well qualified leads (sometimes called Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs) instead of just Marketing Qualified Leads (called MQLs), sales operations doesn’t need to have the best or most experienced players on its development or account team.  This is especially welcome for organizations that are just developing their market and sales operations systems or rebuilding a new group of team players.
  3. Evidence ofIdeal Client Profile – If you’re like most marketers, the ideal client for your solution is evolving alongside the market.  The best evidence that you’re marketing and selling to the right persona is when money is exchanged for an offering.  When lead generation is done well and delivers leads that convert to revenue, then your marketing operations are easily validated.
  4. Confirmation of medium and message – One of the hardest parts of building an effective lead generation program is to recognize those messages and communication mediums that resonate and convert to revenues.  Most marketing leaders start with either an omni-channel or bi-channel approach and iterate until they attain some level of acceptable results.  Because lead generation is directly linked to revenue, with proper tracking, marketing leaders will clearly understand which messages and media resonate with their leads over time.

Types of Lead Generation Activities

For most organizations, most marketing-led lead generation activities are content focused and, as such, can be closely aligned with content management activities similar to demand generation (hence the confusion between the two). 

However, the tone and tenor of your lead generation content will be materially different than that provided for demand generation purposes because it’s focus is not only on capturing your leads’ contact information but also to gauge the intensity and veracity of their interest.

Some of the tools and assets used for lead generation include:

  1. Landing pages – quasi web pages that are focused on capturing lead contact data usually with the promise to delivering some content or value (see Core Content below)
  2. Infographics– these are images that usually denote how an offering helps solve problems in simple visual graphic.
  3. Blog posts – Blog content allows you to position your organization as an industry thought leader or at least empathetic to your lead’s challenges.  Your content should be placed on your own website but is generally more powerful when it’s found on other sites.
  4. Paid Media – Cost per click advertising can help you zero in on keywords and phrases sought by your leads in a variety of media.  It can also be an effective way to circumvent your competition by bidding for search items relating to their offerings.
  5. Advertorials – using a news-style format that addresses specific challenges faced by like-minded prospects and clients can build credibility and trust if placed in the right media.
  6. Core Content – this includes all types of content that your lead might find of interest about your market, common market challenges and how your offering might help solve their problems.  These core content pieces could be in the form of e-books, case studies, third-party reports (think Gartner or IHS) or product reviews (think Capterra).
  7. Email – Email is still the main direct response marketing system that works.  A well crafted email marketing campaign with appropriate automation will not only test your message, it will also get leads to self-select their buying intent as they only have to hit “reply”.
  8. Events – Online or In-person events can generate both demand and leads for your offering and brand.  Organizations must be careful in using this medium as the events can themselves be very time and resource intensive, but when used properly in an organized and orchestrated campaign, are a great focal point for the marketing team’s efforts.
  9. Chatbots – there is an increasing use of real-time or delayed chatbots on sites that address specific questions or concerns from leads.  They create lead data through the use of tracking pixels, cookies and lead capture fields

Tradeshows and speaking engagements are great for demand generation, not lead generation

You’ll notice that I don’t have trade shows or speaking engagements on this list.  That’s because I don’t believe that either of these activities will generate actionable leads for sales operations.  I believe that both are great demand generation activities and if used properly can augment existing lead generation and qualification activities.  I’ll write more on speaking engagements and trade shows in another post in the future.

How to Start Your Lead Generation Campaign

Though I’m not trying to sound like a broken record, your lead generation campaign (much like your demand generation campaign) starts with an understanding of your Sales Story including:

  1. A heading or introduction which briefly describes what you do
  2. A description of your Ideal Client Profile that relates to your activities
  3. A description of the problems you solve and pain you make disappear
  4. A description of your offerings points of difference vs your competitors and market

The Medium is the Message

Once you’ve got the content for your messaging you then need to choose the medium through which you intend to communication.  I recommend allocating your content into two bucket: Core content and Tactical content.  Core content is focused on building long term engagement and can also act to build demand generation activities. Tactical content is focused on testing messaging and media to specific target personas.  This dual approach allows you to build a long term following and test personas to increase your following.

Use an Expert

You must assign someone on your team to complete these tasks and they need to have prior skills in their functional area.  We’ve all seen infographics that are just way too busy to drive the point home or with a clear call to action and marketing emails that are either too long, too unfocused or to much me, me, me.  If you’re really focused on lead generation then you should spend a few extra bucks and hire someone who’s been there and done that before, successfully.

Review and Realign

Have a plan to review each of your lead generation campaigns while the campaign is running and after it’s run its first course.  Focus on what has worked and what hasn’t and work with your team to create a best practices guideline so as to ensure that you can replicate or redact for the next campaign.  If you don’t embed these review periods during your campaign, you’ll likely never take the time do to this.  I generally run 8 week macrocycles with 2 3 week microcycles and a 1 week mid-campaign review and a 1-week post campaign review (perhaps I’ll save this for another post another time).

Build a Fan base

Your leads may not be in the buying window today, but will likely be at some point the in future.  So think of your lead generation activities as prospect journeys that will develop fans in your organization and offering according to your Ideal Client Personas.  This is a not a touchy-feely exercise, each part of the journey should be measured for engagement (as you define it) and used as part of your review.  By definition, your lead generation activities can be measured in actual sales (which is good) , those leads who don’t convert into short term revenue can be turned into fans that recommend you to their own networks (which is also good) so long as your messaging and media are geared towards building a fan base.

Define Engagement

Engagement with your leads is, initially, arbitrarily determined by some random bright line.  Over time, though, your engagement criteria will increase in precision as you can determine which lead behavior is most indicative of actual revenue results.  One of the keys to increase this precision is to have both a clear line of site to transactions and, more importantly, why and how those transactions were completed.

Concluding Thoughts

Lead generation is the oxygen of any organization.  As such, marketing operations plays a key role in building messages and using media that will connect with interested parties and generate leads that convert to revenues. 

In order for marketing to deliver the Glengarry leads, sales leaders need to be actively engaged in a dialogue with marketing leaders about the nature of the market and how to find the best leads.  When marketing and sales work together on lead generation, revenue is not far behind.

Demand Generation is NOT Lead Generation

Demand Generation is a key part of Market Strategy

The terms Demand Generation and Lead Generation are often used interchangeably by B2B marketers. The difference between these two can seem murky, but generally, it is actually as simple as the terms themselves.

As the name implies, Lead Generation is used to accumulate information regarding potential clients that can be converted to sales leads. Demand Generation, on the other hand, refers to a marketing operation that aims to create an interest in or demand for your products and organization using the law of attraction.

It’s likely that the confusion between the two terms resides in the fact that both use content assets as the core offering to achieve their objectives. This purpose of this post is to describe more of my thoughts on the nature of Demand Generation, a subsequent article on Lead Generation will follow.

Purpose: Start with Why

With respect to Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk, , Demand Generation concentrates on communicating your organization’s message to the market with the intention of then attracting those individuals that are beneficial to achieving your desired message.  Demand Generation is about building an audience that will follow you and your organization.  If you’ve got a successful Demand Generation program you’ll be able to achieve the following:

•    Create a market awareness of your presence and vision and values. You communicate to your target audience who you are and what you can do for them.

•    Create a position as a thought leader. By providing quality and valuable content to the audience, you will be seen as an expert in your prospect’s challenges and unique circumstances.

•    Attract investors, staff, and clients to you because you’ve shown the industry why they can trust and rely on you.

•   Educating and defining your value proposition. In new “blue oceans”, you may need to define and educate your market on the severity of the challenges or potentiality of the solutions. 

•    Position yourself as the leading brand in your market.  Using the techniques from Demand Generation you easily acquire the trust of your target audience ensuring that your brand and company are top of mind.

Use the Law of Attraction

Demand Generation activities and techniques build your audience of prospective customers, investors and team members.

A more prominent market presence will lead to greater possibilities for you and your organization through the law of attraction.  Not only will your prospects and clients get to know and understand your values, they’ll also appreciate how you differentiate yourself from your competition. 

Expected Outcomes From Demand Generation

Demand Generation is all about building organic growth that creates medium and long-term results.  Organic growth is the source for sustainable or recurring revenue and a loyal client base that not only provides for scalable product-market fit it creates product fans and opportunities for additional revenue channels with the same audience.

Great products can build great organic growth which can build brand awareness. Demand Generation is about building brand awareness through story-telling.  Thus Demand Generation and Product Design are two partners to achieve organic growth.  So in order to accelerate the organic growth, a great product needs a great story.  Content created for this purpose (ie. To support the product and organization) creates lasting impression and allows prospects to discover your product.

Demand Generation creates Organic Growth

By using Demand Generation activities, Investors and key hires will get to know your organization and as a result, when you’re ready for the next “acquisition”, the ease through which you’ll be able to grab their attention will be significantly easier.  Because of your Demand Generation efforts, building a team of “A” players or investors will take less time and efforts.

Typical Demand Generation Activities

The development and publication of content is one of the key activities related to Demand Generation.  The type of content that can be used for Demand Generation includes any and all of the following:

•    Podcasts – We’re all busy people, but with a microcomputer in our pocket, we can all take 15 or 20 minutes to listening to an inspiring idea or intriguing interview. Building a Podcast on your topic allow you to network and grow beyond your current network and adds value to you, your peers, customers and prospects.

•    Whitepapers – Lengthy papers that provide insight, data and practical instruction, knowledge, guidelines can position or reinforce you position as to go-to leader in your industry.  The key is to ensure that these documents are about the content and not yourself or your organization.

•    Blog posts – on and off-site – The blog post is one of the common ways to share knowledge with your target audience and in turn, establish a reputation as an expert in your industry. Aside from including blog posts on your website, you can increase your reach by submitting articles to other sites.

•    Press releases and media – Media Relations is all about getting your audience to know about you and your organization’s offerings in a broader context.  Issue formal press releases when you’ve got something big to talk about and make sure your media contacts know about this “news” in advance.

•    Advertorials – Find and publish content on publications where your target market visits. Don’t know where to start?  Ask your current clients and prospects using a simple survey or interview.

•    Video blogs – According to Wordstream, YouTube has billion of users. 82 percent of those that use twitter watches videos, 1/3 of online activity is generally spent on watching videos, you will not only widen your reach and boost business awareness. It can also help in yielding higher ROI and profit. 

•    Tradeshow talks – Make presentations on leading topics at tradeshows where your prospects attend.  As a result, you’ll increase your visibility and awareness of your brand offline and position yourself as an industry thought leader.

•    Academic papers – Offer to assist academics use your technology in their research and ensure that you publish the results in your media channels.

•    Case studies – People most likely want proof. Through case studies, you are providing them with proven content.

Note that the key to success somehow relies on the quality of the content. No matter how many Demand Generation activities you execute, if you do it half-heartedly, there’s a lesser chance of success.

Get Started on Your Demand Generation Program

Starting a Demand Generation program can be a bit daunting, so here’s some ideas on where to start:

  1. Identify your organization’s core values and how they’re transformed into market offerings
  2. Build a story as to how you want your audience to understand both these values and offerings
  3. Start telling your story using the various activities (For now, I personally choose written and video blogs posted to several sites).
  4. Increase the volume of activities and communication channels as you have time and resources.

Lastly, as Brian Tracy has famously said, Eat the Frog First.  If you start doing the hard things at the beginning of your day, then the rest of the day gets much easier. A Demand Generation program and strategy will help focus your organization on its core values and the translation of these values into offerings that will pay medium and long-term dividends to your Revenue outcomes.

While content management planning is a key element of the successful outcome from a Demand Generation strategy, execution is as equally important… it’s best to just start with one or two activities (described above) and then grow your outreach over time.  You can do it so just get to it!

It’s time to get serious about Revenue Operations

This is a 5 minute read.

Recently, I’ve seen a few articles, whitepapers and blog posts about the nature of Revenue Operations and the newly created executive role called the ‘Chief Revenue Officer’ or CRO.

I’m writing post to describe the framework from which I view the future of this emerging business unit. I intended to dig deep into my thoughts and research on the matter and will be sharing them with you over the next few months in the form of a weekly post.

While the role appears to be “new” it is in fact a mash-up of a bunch of functional responsibilities within organizations over the last two generations. That being said, the availability of sales, marketing, customer success and accounting data that, when combined, create an entire picture of an organization’s revenue cycle is completely new.

Revenue Operations. Really?

Despite what we read every day about successful capital raises, acquisitions or exits by start-up companies, Revenues are the life blood of the organization.  If companies cannot turn their ideas into revenues (that hit their bank account), then they’ll eventually die a slow, painful and ugly death.  The deal sheets and databases are littered with the carcasses of dead startups that were successful in achieve product market-fit, but failed to convert this to an ongoing business case.

In most corporations, traditional business functions (Marketing, Sales, HR, Accounting) are slotted into separate department Silos.  Inter-departmental communication only occurs between the most senior of the corporate leadership and it becomes the CEO’s role to align these functional teams around a common mission and purpose.

In reality, most CEOs spend most of their time fighting fires or attempting to mitigate internal and external matters and have little time to align their functional departments (which could be one or two people). So the coordinating job never really gets done.

In my view, any function that touches revenue is part of the Revenue Operations attack.

The Revenue Levers for any enterprise are found in Marketing, Sales, Customer Service/Success, and Accounting.  Each is, in some way or form, responsible for Revenue being converted into bank deposits.  To drive Revenue, your team needs to apply focus to the salient tasks, jobs and processes in each of these four levers.

This is a dramatically different thinking from the Sales-heavy method that has been predominant in the previous decades.  A company doesn’t need to just hire a “Rockstar” VP of Sales to drive revenue or a killer marketing campaign; they need a team of specialists with a highly skilled leader to focus on driving sustainable revenue.

Friction exists without a Revenue Operations Conductor

The existence of friction in any part of your business slows the ability to convert prospects and opportunities into deposits in your bank account.  I call the speed at which a prospective client converts into cash Revenue Velocity and the rate of change in speed Revenue Acceleration (I’ll discuss each in more detail in a future post).

In some cases, friction provides for checks and balance.  But from my experience, friction is created when you haven’t fully formulated what is required to make it easy for prospects to do business with you.

In today’s multi-channel, multi-media business environment, your prospects and customers are bombarded by messaging to entice them to allocate their budgets elsewhere, so if you make it hard to do business with your company (eg. friction), you can expect that someone who’s more been  frictionless  will be taking that customer’s budget from you (despite your hard work).

Processes, technology and people are the reason why friction continues to exist.  If you can’t convert new prospects into cash, you likely have misaligned processes, poor technology solutions or personnel challenges.

The purpose of a Revenue Operations team is to reduce the friction in your business and to increase Revenue Velocity and Acceleration.  So if you care about the amount and speed of which your bank account gets filled then you’ll care about Revenue Operations.

The Revenue Operations Business Levers

A lever is defined as “a rigid bar that pivots about one point and that is used to move an object at a second point by a force applied at a third” (dictionary.com).

For Revenue Operations, the levers that are used to influence and build Revenues are the following:

  1. Marketing Operations
  2. Sales Operations
  3. Customer Success and Service Operations

While these appear to be straightforward, I’ll spend much of the next few months developing each of these in later posts, but in order to introduce the topics, I’ll summarize each below.

Marketing Operations

These tools, processes and programs will accurately describe and position your market offering, attract prospective customers to inquire and complete a purchase.  In general, marketing operations include market strategy and business analysis, demand generation, and message/brand management.

In describing your go to market strategy as warfare, marketing operations does the work that takes place before going to the market (Strategic battle preparations) and then iterates while you’re in the firefight (Tactical battle preparations).

Functionally, you’ll find brand and market analysts, graphic and web designers, strategists, writers and product specialists that will support Sales Operations.

Sales Operations

These tools, process and programs are used by your frontline team that interface directly with prospective customers.  This includes playbooks, scripts, cadences, dashboards and methods that your sales team will use in order to find, educate and convert prospects into first time customers.

Functionally, you’ll have business analysts, researchers, sales development reps, account executives, key account executives and data scientists in your Sales Operations team.

Customer Success and Service Operations

These are the tools, processes and programs that are used by your team with your new and existing customers.  Customer Success and Service relates directly to creating sustainable revenue.  Moreover, as the majority of the Customer Acquisition Costs are borne by the initial acquisition, the Customer Success team has the ability to create the most profitable Revenues in your Revenue Mix.  As such, the functional focus of these operations are on customer enablement, satisfaction and retention.

Functionally, you’ll have inside Customer Service Reps, Technical leaders, Onboarding Trainers and Product Support team members in your Customer Success team.

Data Drives Revenue Operations

During my time as an active investor in companies, I often heard that from the founders that they intended to hire a “Rockstar” VP of Sales to kickstart their nw market sales efforts.  Often these statements were met with skepticism because our investment committee felt that the hiring of one individual would not be the catalyst to launch an entire enterprise forward.  Rather it was a series of hires and execution of a business plan that would likely move the mountain.

The primary difference between how sales, marketing and customer service were run a decade ago and today is the availability of data.

In the same way that the marketing leader can determine which marketing campaigns are the most impact in developing business, today’s sales leader can pull statistical data from their Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) or sales enablement system and easily understand the challenges that the sales team is having in their sales process.  Thus the prevalence of data creates a mosaic of insight that allows thoughtful and caring executives to move the business forward.

Unfortunately this abundance of data has left some leaders unclear of their focus.  It seems to me that the main challenge amongst today’s Sales, Marketing and Success leaders is that they are either measuring the wrong metrics or don’t know which measurements are meaningful to driving their revenues so they’re measuring everything.  Thus this ocean of data has created situation where leaders are drowning and they don’t even know how to catch the life preserver.

One way to ensure that data becomes a servant to the leader is to use a systematic approach.  For many, the scientific method of creating hypotheses, developing and executing tests for these hypotheses provides comfort to manage the reams of data that result from standard operations.  For others, the scientific approach seems cold and unkind and is inconsiderate of the human relations and reactions involved in a real person to person activity like sales.

Who will coordinate all of these efforts and manage this data?: the CRO

Today’s Chief Revenue Officer is more than just the Rockstar salesperson who closes big deals and inspires other to do the same.  Today’s CRO understands how to use data to advance the company’s interests via a coordinated attack from Sales, Marketing and Customer Success Operations.  The CRO is the master strategist who launches the campaigns and battle plans to drive the Revenue Attack.

In addition, the CRO is the internal leader who relentlessly reduces organization friction.  As a result, the CRO makes it easy for prospects to work with and buy from their organization at every step in the customer acquisition and success process.

In smaller companies (less than 30 employees), the CEO acts as the CRO, but as the business grows in either complexity or scope, someone must be tasked with the role of coordinating the go to market attack.

Today’s CRO

A quick search on LinkedIn Sales Navigator for the terms CRO or Chief Revenue Officer results in 17,996 names.  Drill down a bit by selecting for companies with more than 50 employees and seniority (Director, VP, CXO) and you find that throughout the globe there are 3,566 names.

What do most of these senior CROs have in common?  They’ve been in their role for less than 5 years (most less than 2 years) and that they’ve acquired experience in all forms of sales transactions and teams (SMB, Enterprise, Licensing, etc.) and they’ve got an analytical background (either Engineering, Economics or Finance).

Why is this?

As a CRO you need a combination of the social sciences of psychology and behavioural economics and the deep analytical framework to appreciate the power of data.  They are essentially a “people-person” who loves to spend time looking at puzzles in  numbers and figuring out what’s really going on.

In summary

There’s a lot to unpack here and I intend to do so over the ensuing few months.  I hope that you’ll join me on the journey through your comments, please follow me here and you’ll get all of my latest thoughts and ideas.

Blair Carey is passionate about using data to help companies meet their mission and purpose. He is the creator the new site insidecro.com where CROs can collaborate on anything they’re thinking about.  You can follow him here or find him on his LinkedIn profile here.