Demand marketers are drowning in options, including an ever-increasing list of demand generation channels.
With all these options vying for a piece of your marketing budget in 2018, it's critical to remember that not all marketing tactics and channels perform equally. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Some channels are great at generating high-quality leads (the No. 1 priority among 77% of B2B marketers surveyed in Demand Gen Report's 2017 Benchmark Survey). Other channels may not be great at those initial touches to generate leads, but perform well when it comes to converting those leads down the funnel (a top priority for 75% of marketers surveyed). Still, some marketing teams are more concerned with database size and need to focus on channels that will pump out a high volume of new contacts (a priority for 58% of B2B marketers).
Your organization's unique circumstances will dictate the weight you ascribe to each individual channel and tactic. Here we'll go through five tried-and-true marketing channels that deliver great results depending on specific demand gen requirements.
2018's 5 Best Demand Marketing Channels
Even demand generation marketers operating in narrow verticals use a broad number of owned and paid channels for top-funnel lead generation. And this is just to get started – marketers still must employ a litany of tactics to convert these contacts into qualified leads and sales opportunities.
The range of sources, channels and tactics is so broad that most B2B marketers struggle to orchestrate and scale demand generation. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as "one channel to rule them all," but time and time again, these five channels, when mixed diligently according to specific organizational needs, provide the lead quality, volume and conversion rates every demand generation team seeks.
1. A Company Blog
A company blog should be the cornerstone of your demand strategy. While a blog is a great way to generate quality leads, the primary goal should be to build credibility among your target audience by providing helpful content.
A company blog can also be a valuable tool for marketing experiments around ideas. Here at Integrate, we use our blog as an incubator for our POVs, messaging ideas and concepts that are later used to drive bigger content projects.
To drive success with a blog, your results all rest on the credibility and helpfulness. If you approach this owned channel with a goal of delivering audience value and earning an industry reputation for thought leadership, this demand generation channel can offer many benefits to your overall B2B marketing efforts, including traffic to your landing pages and quality inbound lead generation. Conversely, if you treat your blog simply as a conduit for lead volume, it won't perform as expected.
In the 2017 Demand Gen Report survey, webinars were the second highest rated channel for generating qualified, top-funnel leads (62%). When webinars are co-created with industry influencers and promoted wisely, registrations can be a high-powered source of quality leads.
To drive success with webinars, first things first – have something useful to say. It helps if you can deliver unique value about a trending topic or concern. For example, tomorrow we're hosting a webinar outlining the steps B2B marketers should take to ensure they're prepared for GDPR before May 25th.
Further, brands with the industry connections and credibility needed to collaborate with influencers are also likely to win the most leads through registrations. Continuing on the example above, we're hosting the GDPR webinar with SiriusDecisions, which has greatly boosted registrations. But this probably wouldn't have been possible if we had already built industry credibility over the previous years via the Integrate blog.
How often have you put a business card in the fishbowl of a booth at an industry event just in hopes of winning a free Xbox, not because you actually needed the brand’s product?
We’re probably all guilty of this. Events can generate a lot of contacts, but quality can vary greatly depending on how you leverage them. In my experience, one of the most successful ways to target the right audiences and generate quality leads at events is through hosting case study sessions.
To drive success with live events, invest in the right ways to engage new contacts and convert existing prospects. Case study sessions are costlier than a booth in the business hall, but we've always benefited from outstanding ROI. Not only will you acquire a wealth of new contacts for your database, but you can be assured these new contacts are interested in your solution, having chosen to attend the session and already seen first-hand the positive results it has had for current customers.
Also, don’t neglect the value events hold for lead nurturing and moving prospects through the funnel. Event meetings and post-event dinners/cocktail parties are terrific ways to engage face-to-face with prospects and open sales opportunities.
Is email the most effective marketing channel across the board for everyone, especially B2B firms?
Well, it depends, but B2B marketers certainly won't leave email behind anytime soon. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report found that email is the third most influential source of information for B2B buyers – behind only recommendations from colleagues and industry thought leaders’ perspectives.
Email inboxes are crowded in 2018, to be sure, but brands who leverage email marketing wisely for appropriately timed messages are likely to reap the rewards.
To drive success with email, understand that this channel should be used for lead nurturing and prospect conversion, supporting the channels used for top-funnel lead gen. Buying contact lists and blasting them with emails is not only outdated, but will be increasingly risky as global data privacy regulations, including the new GDPR, come into effect.
Regarding email nurturing, let behavioral data from your qualified prospects dictate the shape of your email marketing campaigns at every stage of the funnel. The difference between an email that’s ignored as spam and an email that captures a prospect’s attention is relevance – including value and timing.
5. Third-Party Lead Generation
It's very common for B2B marketing teams to experience stagnant results with owned demand generation channels (i.e., your website, blog and social media pages).
That's why most organizations with hefty pipeline goals choose to expand their audience and gain more exposure in front of targeted personas and accounts by leveraging third-party media partnerships. Third-party lead gen sources can greatly expand the size of your database and pool of top-funnel leads, if you’re able to form the right partnerships and use smart targeting parameters.
To drive success with third-party led gen, you’ll need a well-structured lead nurturing process supported by the right demand generation technologies; demand orchestration software and marketing automation platforms (MAP) are the most important marketing technologies for successful third-party lead gen.
You’ll also need high-quality content to both entice new prospects via third-party channels and convert prospects through your marketing funnel. Otherwise, you’re just paying for lead data that’s unlikely to convert to opportunities.
Choosing the Right Demand Generation Channels in 2018
B2B marketers have some lofty demand generation goals. There’s pressure to adopt new tactics and experiment, contribute to a more profitable sales pipeline, and evolve to keep up with changing buyer behavior and increasingly sophisticated competitors – all while learning to comply with new data privacy regulations.
While it’s a lot of pressure, demand marketers are wise to make sure they’ve got the basics in place first before they look to more cutting-edge, experimental models of lead acquisition. The tried-and-true channels discussed above can contribute high-quality leads to your funnel in the quarters to come.
How do your current demand generation channels and tactics stack up against those of the most-effective B2B organizations? Objectively measure your strategy with the B2B Demand Marketing Assessment Guide & Orchestration Workbook, a comprehensive resource with 12 customizable worksheets to help B2B marketers measure their strategy against industry benchmarks.