Natalie is Founder & President of Magnetude Consulting, a full-service marketing agency working with small and midsized B2B tech firms.
In professional services, business is personal. Services marketers are quite literally selling people—their knowledge, their team, their track record. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.
Demand generation strategies that put relationship building at their core have proven to be most successful. In fact, 76% of today’s B2B buyers expect more personalized attention from solution providers based on their specific needs.
True demand comes from facilitating relationships between clients and a company’s thought leaders, sales leaders and executives. These five strategies can help build genuine relationships and take demand generation from lukewarm to red hot:
1. Patience is a virtue.
The pandemic fooled us into thinking that digital marketing can bear the full weight of a company’s demand generation efforts. Without in-person as an option, companies flocked to digital marketing in unprecedented numbers. As a result, digital channels today are flooded. Results have plummeted. Buyers have also gleefully turned away from their computers, eager to connect in person after the “famine” of contact.
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Digital marketing can pave the way for connections. Building authentic relationships without personal interaction is almost impossible, especially for services companies.
Relationship building cannot be rushed, no matter how hard sales teams push. Consistent, integrated sales and marketing efforts that encourage personal connection are key to demand generation success.
2. Close the loop.
Demand generation doesn’t stop when the deal is won, lost or goes nowhere. The internal dialog is a step many organizations miss or don’t make time for, although it’s arguably the most important one from a sales and marketing alignment perspective. How can we learn together if we don’t work together?
During “closing the loop” discussions, sales shares information about individual leads—aha moments, objections, pricing adjustments and more—that helps marketing with everything from persona refinement to content creation.
A whopping 85% of sales and marketing leaders say alignment is the largest opportunity for improving business performance today. Demand generation works best when marketing is embedded throughout the process, not just in the final discussion. Sales teams that share knowledge and even let marketing experience sales firsthand streamline, shorten and accelerate the sales cycle.
3. Invest in brand awareness, not just demand generation.
Few growing companies want to spend money on brand awareness with demand generation as an option. But what do they need for demand generation to work better? Brand awareness.
Companies are starting to catch on. More than 50% of LinkedIn’s advertisers say they want to run “brand” and “demand” campaigns together. Why? Brand and demand combined cover the entire buyer journey, from awareness and education to purchase.
4. Work with people you like (and reap the rewards).
There’s a reason why entrepreneurs get their first clients by leveraging personal networks. Relationships have already been built, fast-tracking the get-to-know-and-trust-you part of the sales cycle. People want to work with who they like. Not only does it make work easier and more fun, but it also creates demand. When all goes well, these invaluable friends/clients spread the word to people they like and want to support, and we all know that referrals make for amazing clients.
Here’s a radical idea: Ask for referrals!
Make “enjoyable to work with” required criteria for new clients. If the connection isn’t there with a prospective client, don’t force the sale. If there is no synergy between your team and your clients, change your team. Remember—the goal is red-hot demand, not lukewarm.
5. Deal didn’t close? Don’t sideline it.
If a deal doesn’t close for some reason, you might as well consider it dead to sales. Cue the baton pass to marketing to nurture. Surprisingly, this doesn’t always happen. Good leads are lost forever.
If a prospective client doesn’t have the budget, decides it’s not time to invest right now or (gasp!) chooses another vendor, don’t write them off—despite how tempting it might be. These people put time and effort into getting to know you; in other words, the relationship is there. Actively engage with them by personally inviting them to events, calling to check in or sharing curated resources that made you think of them. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and humility, and the relationship will continue to grow.
The Bottom Line
With these five strategies, I am not-so-subtly implying that red-hot demand generation requires trust. Deliberate sales and marketing alignment and investment in brand awareness help create momentum, but all good relationships are built on trust, and trust takes time. Throw out the notion that you can automate your way to more deals or digitize making human connections.
Want more deals? Make relationship building your sales and marketing priority and watch your pipeline catch on fire.
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Author: Natalie Nathanson, Forbes Councils Member