Every tech startup knows the importance of generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to build a healthy sales pipeline. Yet excelling at demand generation takes more than just churning out content and waiting for people to flock to your website – you need the right strategies and data to optimize your efforts and ensure success.
In this post, we’ll explore proven demand generation tactics that can help boost your results. We will also discuss how to track the metrics that matter and continuously improve your campaigns. By focusing on optimization, you can generate more high-quality leads while spending less.
What Is Demand Generation?
Demand generation refers to the activities and strategies used by B2B companies, especially prominent in startups, to generate interest and demand for their products and services. The overall goal is to drive qualified leads into the sales pipeline in a cost-effective manner.
At its core, demand generation is about understanding buyer personas, identifying their pain points, and creating relevant content to engage potential customers at different stages of the buying journey. It involves both digital and offline tactics to build awareness, educate prospects, and move them further down the funnel towards becoming paying customers.
Data Is King: Research and Targeting
The first step is conducting comprehensive research to deeply understand your target accounts and buyer personas. Sources such as LinkedIn, Crunchbase, and Dun & Bradstreet are used to build ideal customer profiles (ICPs) detailing key attributes like company size, pain points, budget, and decision process.
In-depth buyer interviews provide invaluable insights into what motivates their purchase decisions and how they consume information. Persona development synthesizes these learnings to craft archetypes that represent your most common and valuable customer types.
With ICPs and personas in hand, you can then identify the specific titles, departments, and companies most likely to be interested in your solution based on their profiles. This allows for highly targeted outreach, where you can leverage tools like 6sense, Demandbase, or LinkedIn Sales Navigator to streamline account-based marketing (ABM).
Another important element in today’s data-driven marketing landscape is analytics. Tech startups must collect robust data on website visitors, social media followers, event attendees, and other relevant touch points. This data provides insights into who the target audience is, what content resonates, and how to optimize campaigns.
Tools like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Amplitude, and Heap help companies track key metrics like traffic sources, conversion rates, funnel stages, and ROI. Data is then used to test different messaging, creative assets, landing pages, and more through A/B testing. Optimization is a continuous process of refining campaigns based on what the numbers show works best.
Once potential customers are identified, the goal shifts to nurturing leads through a strategic content marketing approach. This involves delivering tailored, relevant information to prospects via email, social media, webinars, eBooks, case studies, infographics and more.
The content educates buyers and positions the startup as a thought leader while gradually selling the value proposition. It’s also used to score leads based on engagement indicators like downloads, page views, and email clicks. Higher scoring leads are prioritized for sales outreach and follow up.
Automation is key to scaling lead nurturing programs. Tools like Marketo, HubSpot, and Pardot allow companies to create automated email journeys, drip campaigns, and personalized touch points based on lead behavior and attributes. This streamlines the process and improves response rates.
Leverage retargeting ad campaigns on channels such as LinkedIn and Google will keep your brand top-of-mind for prospects who express interest but aren’t yet ready to buy. Retargeting is particularly effective for high-intent leads who visited your site but didn’t convert.
Some startups take a more unconventional “growth hacking” approach to demand generation. This involves testing low-cost, non-traditional channels and tactics very quickly to uncover high-ROI growth opportunities.
Examples include launching content with viral potential, optimizing landing pages, leveraging influencer marketing, running Instagram experiments, participating in TikTok challenges, among others. The goal is to identify hacks that supercharge growth in areas like website traffic, social followers, email list size, and ultimately pipeline.
While riskier, growth hacking mindsets have helped many startups scale rapidly on tight budgets, which requires a test-and-learn philosophy with a bias towards action and willingness to fail fast.
As startups mature, their focus shifts from broad awareness campaigns to more targeted Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategies. ABM prioritizes large, high-value accounts with the potential to become big customers.
It involves creating custom, account-specific experiences through personalized messaging, events, sales outreach, and digital advertising. Data sources like LinkedIn or ZoomInfo are used to deeply research target accounts and build ideal customer profiles (ICPs). Platforms such as 6sense and Demandbase will allow to build tailored programs that can put personalized messages in front of the right audiences.
The goal is to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of each account’s unique needs and pain points in order to build trust and position the company as a strategic partner over time. ABM aims to shorten sales cycles and increase deal sizes with key accounts.
Optimization Is Key: Measuring Success
To optimize demand generation programs, startups must track the right metrics at each stage of the funnel. Vanity metrics like followers are less important than engagement (e.g. content downloads, webinar registrations, email clicks). Funnel metrics will be crucial to understand the performance of your demand generation strategy: leads, MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, pipeline, revenue, and customer lifetime value (LTV).
Key performance indicators (KPIs) include cost per lead (CPL), marketing qualified lead (MQL) volume, conversion rate (MQLs to SQLs), win rate, average contract value (ACV), and customer acquisition cost (CAC). Comparing these numbers to your targets will help you measure the success of your efforts and make strategic decisions.
Tracking performance and ensuring data hygiene is always easier to accomplish using CRM tools such as Salesforce to track and understand what’s truly working at each stage. This will allow for marketing automation to ensure a smooth handling of leads from marketing to sales and further tracking down-funnel as leads become opportunities and customers.
Demand generation encompasses the strategies and tactics tech companies use to generate awareness, educate prospects, and drive qualified leads into the sales pipeline. With the right efforts and data, demand generation is how you build a robust sales pipeline for long-term growth.
By leveraging proven tactics like targeted account research, content marketing, lead nurturing, growth hacking and ongoing optimization – B2B startups can generate predictable demand in a cost-effective manner and grow their bottom line.