In the age of inbound marketing (SEO, PPC, email) and direct-response pay-per-click advertising, demand generation has become a black box for many digital marketers. We’ve gotten very good at finding channels that fulfill demand for commodity products. We know that SEO, AdWords, email marketing and retargeting all deliver strong, measurable ROIs when the demand is there. How do you market online when there is no demand for your product or service?
Demand generation marketing begins with understanding your customers at a deeper level. If they’re not explicitly searching for your solution with search queries, then you will need to pull them into your funnel by other means. This means finding your ideal customer by analyzing your customer segments, developing rich personas and finding the channels and networks that potential customers frequent.
Digital Strategies To Avoid
Paid Search Ads. If no one is searching for your solution, then you won’t be able to target bottom-of-funnel, highly-transactional keywords with Google AdWords or Bing Ads. If you target terms higher in the sales funnel, you’ll spend your time attempting to snipe searchers away from more relevant search results. Expect to fight an uphill battle if you attempt this strategy. You’ll experience low clickthrough rates, low Quality Scores, high CPCs and low conversion rates. You know the people who say AdWords doesn’t work anymore? They’re almost always trying this strategy–usually inadvertently.
Spray-and-Pray Display. There’s no worse digital marketing strategy than setting up a massive, loosely-targeted display campaign and hoping to generate awareness “because the impressions are so cheap.” You’ll get clicks, but you’ll never find your audience. You’ll drive mobile app traffic from accidental thumb clicks. Your impressions will get buried amidst other marketing noise. You will waste money.
Blog Posts. If your website does not already have significant traffic, your blog posts won’t be seen or read. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t pursue an on-site content strategy – you absolutely should. You need to educate the market as to the problem and the need for your solution. Just don’t sit on your hands and wait for traffic to show up. Great content marketers put more time and resources into distribution and promotion than they do the writing!
Digital Strategies To Pursue
If you’re attempting to generate demand, trying to take prospects from awareness to sale in one ad click, one explainer video or one infographic is a strategy that is sure to fail. There are plenty of great online marketing channels for generating awareness and introducing highly-targeted prospects into your marketing funnel funnel, but you’ll need to do some nurturing to drive sales.
Facebook Ads is a great channel with myriad targeting options based off of a wealth of psychographic data. Use your persona data to find the right targets for your ads. Introduce these targets into your funnel and generate demand for your product or service by earning a Facebook Like, getting a new email subscriber or interacting with your website.
LinkedIn Ads offers similar targeting options to Facebook Ads and the same upside of introducing prospects into your marketing funnel. Here, again, don’t drive this traffic to your website. Drive it to your active LinkedIn page and find ways to drive “micro-conversions” out of these visitors.
Native Advertising is all the rage. While I fear for publishers who would potentially threaten their credibility and readership loyalty with its use, I believe digital marketers should be jumping all over the opportunity. Services like Taboola and Outbrain offer the ability to place your content on websites like CNN, Time, TMZ and many more.
Targeted Display Advertising offers you the ability get in front of potential customers on a larger scale. No, I’m not advocating for millions-of-impressions, I’m talking about finding the websites that your customers frequent and putting engaging images on them. Start with the Display Planner in AdWords.
Display Remarketing is a great tool assuming you have the traffic to retarget. As you experiment with social PPC networks and content promotion and start to generate thousands of visitors, try utilizing AdWords Display Remarketing to re-target top-of-funnel website visitors and drive them closer to sale.
Good ‘ol Outreach. Try some PR, find influencers in your industry and start the conversation. The only scale you can apply to this kind of outreach is via the technology you use. Start with identifying influencers using tools like FollowerWonk, Twtrland, and SocialMention. Use Google Alerts or Mention.com to track mentions of your brand name and participate in the conversation.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how you speak of/search for/think of your products, it’s about the perception that your potential customers hold. Know your market, know your platforms, know your targeting options, and know that generating demand takes time.