If you’re a channel or partner marketer, one of your main goals is probably demand gen. But what is it exactly? And how do you do it? In channel marketing, demand was often created by call agency campaigns and in-person events. Problem is, these marketing channels have been showing diminishing returns.
Over the past few years, demand gen has been the talk of the town. Especially through social selling.
This series explores social selling, and how it will help you grow your business together with your partners. It’s time to grow that pipeline poolside.
How social selling became the #1 driver for demand gen
Whether you’re executing a social selling strategy better than Chris Walker himself, or have never heard of this term before one thing’s for sure: Social selling is the number 1 driver for demand gen.
In this article we will be discussing how it differs from lead generation, looking at pull vs. push in the channel, and how to start building momentum using demand gen tactics.
Demand gen vs. lead gen
The brands we discussed in the previous article have some great tactics when it comes to social selling as part of their wider marketing strategy. But many other brands – even successful ones – are still relying on old-fashioned lead gen.
Some have pretty old-school B2B marketing (product images, talking about ‘we’ instead of ‘you’).
Let’s have a quick look at the difference between demand gen vs. lead gen.
With lead gen campaigns, brands aim to solve problems that their prospects are actively looking for. Offering content that goes into these problems and solutions, and ultimately leads to a download, webinar, or another lead magnet that requires prospects to leave their contact information.
Once they have left their contact details, the lead becomes an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) and can be handed over to sales.
The problem is that there was always a struggle between Marketing and Sales. Is this a good lead or not. Does marketing have to nurture them, or do sales or the partner have to follow up immediately? After all those years we still haven’t figured out how to make lead-gen work.
Demand gen requires a more extensive approach. Did you know that on average only 3% of the end-users in the B2B market are ready to buy? So instead, you need to create demand.
How to do this? By creating awareness around a problem that prospects didn’t know they had.
Educate them and ultimately offer the solution through a product or service. So the end goal is not to generate a lead, but an actual revenue opportunity. This requires a new approach, demand generation with your partners.
LinkedIn organic vs LinkedIn ads
We saw in the previous blog post how companies such as Gong, Drift, Crossbeam, and Logitech use LinkedIn as a platform to reach their end-users. But if you don’t have a cult following like one of these companies, reaching people through organic social alone can be tough.
That’s not to say it shouldn’t be part of your demand-gen strategy.
You’ll need to work together with partners to amplify your organic reach.
Running LinkedIn ads on your partners’ pages is a great way to reach your prospects. Especially when you don’t yet have a big organic audience on your LinkedIn (and other social media channels).
MDF budgets are a great way to fund paid ads. And an excellent way to do demand gen. Instead of hosting a $100K event, invest this money into paid ads, review, iterate, improve.
Pull vs. Push in the channel
Ultimately as a brand you want to grow your revenue together with your partners. That means they need to be enabled and engaged. Unfortunately, so many vendors still rely on their partner portal to hook their partners.
The trouble is:
- Partners have 10-30 vendors
Each vendor has its own partner portal. Yikes! Keeping track of all these portals is a full-time job in itself. Did you know that less than 10% of partners regularly log in to a vendor’s partner portal?
- Partner portals are a mess
Deal registrations, marketing campaigns, and education. Everything is dumped into the partner portal. This makes finding information too difficult.
- Vendors rely on their partners’ marketing know-how
Limited resources and enormous time crunches mean that this is not possible. Even when partners do manage to run campaigns, there is hardly any data or feedback available after the fact.
In short. Most vendors rely on their partners to pull from their partners. To be proactive. Relying on the one thing partners don’t have: TIME.
So what could you do differently? Lots!
- Consolidate partner portals into a Partner Hub
Instead of each vendor requiring their partners to log in to each portal. Connect your portal to one central Partner Hub. One portal to rule them all. Imagine partners being able to find everything they need to run campaigns, register deals, and more, in one single place.
- Automate relevant campaigns through partner channels
We’ve established that partners have zero time to go looking for relevant marketing materials to promote their vendors. But surely they’d like to run top-tier marketing campaigns? Of course! Instead of making them do the action, ask them to opt-in for campaigns once. Then automatically push them through their media channels towards end-users.
- Get feedback from partners
When freeing time for partners to produce and promote campaigns you allow them to pause and actually give feedback. Are your campaigns helping them to hit their targets? Is the message developed for their end-users? What data can they share? How can this help to prove ROI?
How to build momentum using social selling within demand gen
A typical GTM campaign in the channel looks something like this:
results analyzed: herein lies a big problem: You don’t have access to your partners’ campaign data. It’s effectively a black box.
You don’t have access to their systems, their social stats, who participated and who didn’t, and on which platforms.
This makes it near impossible to iterate. Let alone while a campaign is active. It’s like throwing your fishing rod into an undiscovered lake and hoping some fish will bite.
Demand gen gives way to a whole new system. It’s no longer linear but a constantly optimizing loop. In traditional go-to-market campaigns partners weren’t involved at all. With demand gen partners are fully involved.
Demand generation is a much broader, comprehensive strategy.
Unlike the traditional Go-To-Market strategy – which ends after results are analyzed – the demand-gen strategy is one of constant iteration.
Partners are fully involved from the get-go, throughout the process, and during optimization.
In demand gen, we often see a combination of a long-term strategy that includes TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content.
This type of content focuses on alerting and educating prospects about pain points they didn’t know they had. Content (blogs, podcasts, webinars, videos) is often distributed organically through websites (landing pages) and on social media (snackable content, video snippets, carrousel posts, image posts, and text posts).
Often in combination with as a short-term strategy in the form of paid advertising (search ads, LinkedIn ads, Facebook ads).
Both lead to further-down-the-funnel content such as e-Books, webinars, and e-mail campaigns. With the end goal being a demo request, discovery call, or trial sign-up.
4 steps to a successful demand generation campaign
link the systems – If you want to be 100% sure your messaging, tone of voice, assets, and information are up-to-date, you’ll need to connect your partner portal to your partners’ channels using a partner hub.
A partner hub helps to automatically update landing pages with new content, push social posts through their channels, and run ad campaigns with the most engaged partners.
create & collaborate – before creating any campaign, you need to know what to talk about. Focus on presenting problems your end-users don’t even know they have, and how to solve these problems. Your partners will be able to provide you with end-user pain points, as will your own (product) marketing team.
consistency – develop quarterly content plans. Put these plans into a content calendar. Share the content calendar with your partners and give them the opportunity to customize the messaging to speak to their end-users. Make sure you focus on posting regularly and consistently.
review – There’s no point running organic social posts, let alone paid ads, if you don’t review what worked and what didn’t. Channel people are busy. Always. This is why talking to each individual partner is impossible. But there are other ways to get feedback from partners. Ask them for NPS scoring for instance.
Remember that partner hub we mentioned earlier? When systems are connected, you can expect detailed, real-time data about campaigns.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series. We’ll discuss the phenomenon of dark social and why it is even more prevalent in channel.