Demand generation and thought leadership are both terms you need to know if you’re a B2B marketer. But do you actually know what they mean and how they work, or are you using them in a “fake it till you make it” way? We’ve all been there, including me.
When I first got into the marketing game, I can honestly say I didn’t know the difference between the two. Both are buzzwords of sorts that I would throw around without truly knowing how different they are. I speak with dozens of CEOs and CMOs every week, many of whom will also admit they don’t have a full grasp on demand generation or thought leadership. Continuing to educate yourself is key, especially in the always-changing landscape of marketing. Let’s dive into these buzzwords a bit so you can go into your next executive meeting feeling like a marketing rockstar.
What Is Demand Generation?
Demand generation is just that: generating demand. It’s the process of driving inbound interest to your brand and/or services through various channels and methods.
For example, think of the content marketing funnel. First, you start with top-of-the-funnel content to increase awareness of your brand and build credibility. This oftentimes involves getting educational, bylined articles published in third-party publications and/or getting mentioned by other contributors.
From there, to hold the attention of your newly generated inbound traffic, you need on-site content. This could be a blog, case study, infographic, or video. Every piece of content serves a specific role in generating demand, so understanding how your audience members like to consume content and where they are in the customer journey is key.
The next transition piece is imperative: gated content. How do you expect to turn marketing-qualified leads into sales-qualified leads if you’re not capturing them to begin with? After you’ve captured new leads comes the nurture aspect, whether that’s via an email drip campaign or an e-newsletter. This is the last piece that allows you to stay top of mind with new prospects.
What Is Thought Leadership?
Thought leadership can be defined in different ways by different people, but my definition is “the process of positioning yourself or your brand as an expert in your given field while boosting your overall awareness and credibility.” Thought leadership can take the form of off-site articles (like this one), on-site blogs, videos, the list goes on.
The best way I’ve seen executives boost their thought leadership is by creating valuable, educational content. Whether you decide to outsource this activity or bring it in-house, having a dedicated team creating and distributing this type of content is crucial. You’ve spent your whole career gaining valuable insights, so now is the time to share those with the world.
Do I Need Both?
Yes! Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can do one without the other. Think of it this way: If you don’t have thought leadership to build credibility, there is no way you can boost demand. So many B2B marketers think of these two tactics as living in different silos, and oftentimes they have two separate departments working on these initiatives, but that’s a huge mistake. The biggest reason you need both is to ensure the different aspects of your marketing strategy are aligned with each other and your goals.
All right, Mo, that sounds great, but how do I align both demand generation and thought leadership? I’m glad you asked.
1. Write and Publish Guest-contributed Content
Whether you have a large dedicated team or limited resources, there is no excuse for not prioritizing thought leadership content. There are several options out there: Outsource it, create it in-house, or do it in your “spare time.” There’s no one right method of doing this; the bottom line is that it has to get done. Demand Gen Report found that 87% of B2B buyers give more credibility to industry influencer content like third-party published articles, so this thought leadership aspect is vital to driving traffic to your website.
2. Create Consistent On-site Content
On-site content can have a lot of different looks: an educational blog, a visually appealing infographic, or a captivating video. What’s critical is staying in front of your audience. Continual content creation can be taxing, but there are benefits. According to Content Marketing Institute, content marketing costs 60% less than outbound and generates three times as many leads. Now is not the time to disregard the hard work you put into driving traffic to your website—it’s time to continue walking your prospects through the buyer’s journey.
3. Create Gated Content to Capture Leads
If you’re creating consistent content but still not seeing an uptick in leads, you might be missing this crucial step in the marketing funnel. Research compiled by Intercom shows that 76% of buyers are willing to register and share personal information in exchange for whitepapers, and 63% will do the same for ebooks. This is the step where you turn inbound traffic into marketing leads. From here, using a CRM and marketing automation software will allow you and your sales team to align. Did I mention how important it is to align your marketing strategy and your goals? Well, the same goes for your different teams.
4. Nurture Your Leads
We’re almost there. The last step is to nurture and engage your leads. So many companies I talk with have an old list of emails they admit they’re doing nothing with. This is a common mistake that leaves money on the table. You’ve done the hard work of getting prospects to this point in the buyer’s journey—now it’s time to turn your traffic into actual sales leads. In fact, companies who use email drip campaigns saw an average ROI of 4,400%, according to Campaign Monitor.
Now that you have a better idea of how to align thought leadership and demand generation, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice. Look at your goals. What do you want to accomplish at the end of the day? What are you currently doing well? Where do you see gaps in the content marketing funnel? Once you can answer these questions, you’ll be headed into your next executive meeting like a boss.
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