A lot has been written about inbound marketing vs. demand generation over the past few years. It almost seems like you have to be in one camp or the other.
It makes sense – Square 2 was solely in the inbound marketing camp back in 2016. It’s the platform the agency was started on. Advertising doesn’t work, and you need to be where people are looking.
Over the years, our perspective and approach have changed. While inbound marketing is one piece of the puzzle, it’s not the entire puzzle, and demand generation has a place at the table too.
Today, we recommend a blend of inbound and demand generation to earn the prospect’s attention but to also get a client’s message proactively in front of the right people at the right time to get them engaged and actively talking to our client’s sales team.
If you want to know the difference between these two types of campaigns, check out this article – Inbound Marketing vs. Demand Generation: Is There a Difference?
But how you blend these two campaign approaches has become a science, and the methodology we use at Square 2 is worth sharing with all of you.
The best results come when companies use both approaches as appropriate. In many cases, setting the balance comes down to aligning strategy with goals – specifically revenue goals. If you have aggressive revenue and lead gen goals, inbound might not be right for you.
In that case, demand generation or even account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns might be better. So, start by understanding how to use your goals to set the balance between inbound and demand generation campaigns.
Not only are your goals critical to selecting the right type of campaign, but understanding your prospects’ buyer journeys also should have an impact on what types of campaigns you run.
If you’re running early-stage buyer journey marketing, account-based marketing and demand generation are usually appropriate. If you’re looking to engage with prospects who are in the middle stage of their buyer journey, inbound marketing might be the perfect fit.
Again, most companies should be looking for a blend of these two types of campaigns to capture people at all stages of the buyer journey.
Both inbound marketing and demand generation campaigns are much more complex than ever before. There is more personalization, more segmentation, more customized content and more customer nurture for continuing the conversation.
The complexity of the ongoing nurture process, the personalization needed and the analytics required to make campaigns work can only be accomplished with technology.
One of the secrets to getting results from these campaigns is not setting them up and turning them on but optimizing them over time. Regardless of which type of campaign you decide to run, optimizing those campaigns over time based on data is the secret to success.
One of the best ways to ensure you get the right level of optimization is to consider an optimization framework. How often do you optimize a campaign? Who has the expertise inside your company to do the optimization? How good are you at uncovering insights buried in your data so you can create action plans based on the data?
Once you get this down – or bring in an agency partner that has an optimization framework – you’re going to see improved program performance, and you’ll see the differences between how inbound marketing is working and how demand generation is working.
If you’re running both inbound and demand generation campaigns, they both need to be highly personalized and segmented. While demand generation campaigns are more general, they can still be personalized or perhaps more targeted based on a set of segmentation criteria.
Inbound campaigns can create a highly personalized campaign from the content, the CTA, the landing page and the ongoing nurturing that takes place. The more personalized, the better these are going to perform and the more leads you’re going to generate.
Finally, understanding the expectations and key performance metrics associated with each type of campaign is going to help you go through your selection and blending process.
For example, if website visitors are important to you, both are going to contribute. If you have a tight budget, inbound might be better, because paid ads are not part of an inbound campaign. If you don’t want to gate your content, demand generation campaigns are going to work well, but you’ll be looking at page visits, downloads and clicks instead of actual marketing-qualified leads (MQLs).
If leads and sales opportunities are your goals, running both demand gen and inbound campaigns will produce the most leads. It will also require the biggest budget, the most comprehensive strategy and the most ongoing optimization support.
Thus, our title for this section – expectations around investment and outcomes are critically important. Everyone in the company, including leadership, should be aligned around what you’ll be investing, what you’ll get out of it and how long it’s going to take.
One extra tip here: How long it’s going to take is a trick question because you should be investing in marketing every month. Marketing isn’t always investing a dollar and making three dollars. That is a flawed way to think about marketing.
You invest in many aspects of your business because you have to, not because there’s a specific return on investment (ROI). Marketing is one of those areas, contrary to popular opinion. Don’t get me wrong – you have to get value for your money, but it’s not always a clear ROI.