If I told you marketing departments were projected to spend loads of money in 2019, you wouldn’t be surprised. It’s true: Spending is what marketing departments do; it’s what marketing departments have always done. But this year, the allocation looks a lot different than what most of us are used to — and for humble demand gen professionals like me, it’s a very exciting time.
According to the 2019 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report, marketing spend is going to shift to demand gen initiatives in a big way. Close to three-quarters (71%) of the B2B marketers surveyed said their demand gen budget will increase in 2019, and of that 71%, close to half (46%) said that their demand gen budget will increase by 20% or more, which is up from last year’s 32%.
It makes sense. Businesses are made up of consumers, and as consumer behaviors and preferences change, so too will the entities they comprise. For B2B, that means a much larger focus on the elements of business that I’m responsible for. In an effort to make sure that demand gen’s new money doesn’t go to waste, I’m sharing a couple of the lessons I’ve learned while working at Prezi, and the importance of rethinking your demand gen strategies as you implement them.
Make Your Funnel Visual
There’s a common belief in B2B companies that good technology will sell itself. And while that’s certainly true to a degree, to ignore aesthetics in a world where attention spans are so fickle and so demanding is detrimental to success.
The thing is, humans are visual creatures. So when you’re trying to create demand for a product, you have to keep in mind things like how 90% of the information we take in comes to us through our eyes. Or that it only takes about 1/4 of a second for the human brain to process and attach meaning to a symbol. By comparison, it takes us an average of 6 seconds to read 20-25 words.
The cherry on top: The current largest generation in the workforce has grown up with technology and communications that focus on visual elements, and we saw how big of an impact that had on content preferences when we did the 2018 State of Attention survey last year. Packaged up, this means that aesthetics simply can’t be an afterthought, or a nice to have. Demand gen teams will need to reserve a chunk of their budget for more visual content if they want to attract and engage new leads.
That means that visuals — from icons to photographs to charts, gifs, and animations — have to infiltrate most areas of business, and they have to do it quickly and smoothly. And while it’s true that visualizing data isn’t a brand new concept to anyone, it’s typically limited to monochrome pie charts and unclear graphs that you can only find on rogue landing pages or the occasional blog post. That’s simply not going to cut it in a market ripe with up-to-the-minute updates, so it’s down to demand gen teams everywhere to take inventory of their communications, review campaigns, and examine email content for raw data or information that can be communicated more effectively with visuals. Your CTRs will thank you.
Make Your Funnel Interactive
Data visualization and visual content, in general, create a great foundation and grab attention quickly, but the job doesn’t end there. Content and distribution strategies need some extra oomph to maintain engagement. That’s where interactivity comes in.
Once you hook a prospect, you’ve got to prove that you’re worth their time. And there’s no better way to do that than to jump straight to the point of the conversation they care about most. Building and optimizing a subscription funnel now means equipping lead gen teams with tools and content that can open a dialogue and invite prospects to be a part of the process.
My team has achieved this by using a combination of vetted platforms and strategically picked marketing and sales enablement content that supports our internal teams and users alike. We use tools such as Drift and Intercom to connect with customers in real time, delivering valuable info to them wherever they happen to be in the Prezi universe. We capture as much data as we can in order to tailor people’s experience as they enter our funnel and move through it, making every interaction an opportunity to engage, inspire, educate, and ultimately, demonstrate how what we do can help them be better at what they do.
This approach is a direct reflection of one of our core presentation strategies at Prezi, where we’re always encouraging people to think differently about presenting. For us, simply delivering information isn’t enough. We want presenters to create shared experiences that are relevant and useful to everyone in the room, and know they can do that by inviting the audience to ask questions, provide input, and have a hand in shaping the path of the presentation as it unfolds. We call this method conversational presenting (or conversational storytelling), and it plays a vital role in our internal operations, too. If you’re giving a presentation to a team or client, that means being prepared enough to be flexible and agile while still staying on message. When it comes to demand gen, it means treating customer and prospect touch points at every stage of the funnel as a chance to learn more about people, whether we’re gleaning data from their in-product behavior or telling one of our helpful chatbots what they need and how they need it.
Let the Story Take the Driver’s Seat
You’ve likely heard this dozens of times, but it’s the truth: Even if your company’s offerings are leading the pack, and your visuals are knocking metaphorical socks off, you still need a compelling story match that matches your mission. Stories drive emotion. They always have. And If you want to be successful at demand generation, you need to be able to trigger emotions by diving deeply into the minds of buyers and creating a narrative around their thoughts and feelings.
Before you jump in and start creating new content or new user flows, you’ve got to know the story you’re telling up and down, inside and out. Know how each part of it interacts with the others, and how they all fit together to make a whole. That includes your customer’s story, the story of their industry, and the story of their offerings. While demand gen and sales are typically thought of as the dream team, working closely with customer success is crucial to this process. That’s why my team collaborates so frequently with our customer-facing trainers, product pros, and marketing folks, who can provide on-the-ground insights into what real customers and prospects are experiencing, discovering, asking for, and struggling with every single day. We want that feedback and we want it constantly; customer data is gold. It drives major decisions, and this direct finger on the pulse allows us to iterate on our strategic processes, content distribution, and program structures intelligently, so we can help our users be more successful at every interaction.
As we march into 2019, it’s ultimately the organizations have done the work to both onboard new trends, including the tools and processes that support them, as well as upcycling the old, like storytelling, that will see success.