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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Apr 4, 2017 11 min read

If You're Doing Demand Generation, Can You Do Inbound Marketing Too?

You Should Do Both For Optimal Lead Generation And Revenue Acceleration

demand generation agencyIt seems that people are either in the demand generation camp or the inbound marketing camp, but not both. If you have the budget to go after pre-awareness prospects with demand generation tactics and awareness prospects with inbound marketing, why wouldn’t you do both?

When you break it all down, our demand generation agency practice focuses primarily on reaching people who are not aware of you, your company and your products/services, while our inbound marketing agency practice focuses on those people already looking for (and therefore aware of) products/services like yours and getting them to connect with your company.

This means you should have two complementary approaches to marketing. One is not better than the other. It just comes down to what’s right for your company, your budget and your prospects.

If you’re thinking you want to do both, here are some considerations as you plan your tactics.

Demand Generation Is One-To-Many, While Inbound Marketing Is One-To-One

Just so we’re all clear, when we talk about demand generation we’re talking about making people aware that you have a solution to their challenge. We’re talking about generating that awareness through media that interrupts them, gets their attention and then draws them into your company’s conversation. By definition, we’re talking about a one-to-many marketing program. Your company reaches out to as many well-profiled potential prospects as often as possible.

On the other hand, inbound marketing takes an approach that attempts to get you in places that your well-profiled potential prospects are already looking. So, while a demand generation campaign might include purchasing a list of email addresses and sending emails to 2,000 people, inbound marketing might focus its campaign energies on making sure that when people search for your 10 highly coveted search terms your company is on page one. Here, we’re talking about a one-to-one marketing program.

Account-Based Marketing Can Potentially Be A Bridge

It’s interesting to me how people tend to be in one camp or the other (demand generation or inbound marketing) when they can work nicely together, assuming you can afford to support both economically and from a resource perspective.

Account-based marketing has the potential to include both types in an interesting twist. ABM includes some unqualified outreach to people not in the awareness stage, but it quickly shifts to a more inbound approach once those people do connect. The nurture strategy, the content deployment approach, the attribution data and the use of that data to create better workflows all involve a lot of inbound marketing techniques in action.

I also think some of the segmentation strategies I’ve seen deployed for account-based marketing use inbound marketing tactics. Segmentation strategies for ABM have highly personal outreach at the top of the segmentation funnel and more automated outreach in the middle and bottom of the funnel. With account-based marketing, the funnel is reversed, as smaller segments are at the top and bigger segments are at the bottom.

The Experience Needs To Be Considered

As a marketer in 2017, I think you’d be crazy to not think about the prospect’s experience with your marketing. Again, regardless of demand generation or inbound, the prospect’s experience with your brand, website, company, content and people needs to be strategically mapped out.

How do you think your best prospects will react if you send them a piece of direct mail? What about an unsolicited email, advertising or a special promotion? If you think they’re going to view that as helpful, insightful and emotionally compelling, then it’s full speed ahead for me.

Experts in a variety of industries are all pointing to the experience as the new playing field for marketing and sales. The company that creates the best experience from pre-awareness to purchase wins the day. How does your marketing (and perhaps more dramatically, your sales process) work to create this remarkable experience for your prospects? If you’re not sure, some attention needs to be paid to working this through and making it a wow” experience.

Measurement, Metrics And Testing

Everything is trackable today. Again, this means that neither demand generation nor inbound are absolutes. It means that everything is in play until the data shows us that a tactic is either unusable or so effective that we need to do much more of it. Until you have that type of definitive data, you should be looking at all of your options from a marketing tactics perspective.

Some tactics may look ambiguous. These have to be proven to either work or not work. In these situations, the definition of working is going to be critical. For example, every year you may go to the big industry trade show and conference. Is it effective? The only way to know is to define effective. How many leads do you get? How many sales opportunities? How many new customers? What level of revenue? How does this compare to the costs to participate? What level of return on this investment is considered acceptable and optimal? Once you ask and answer these questions, you’ll have a much better mechanism to make marketing decisions based on data and results.

Consider A Sliding Scale Along The Spectrum

Demand GenerationI know why a lot of marketers are either pro-inbound or pro-demand gen but rarely both. It has a lot to do with what we’ve done historically, what we’re comfortable doing, what has produced results in the past and a belief system around today’s buyer behavior. But maybe the answer is more about flexibly sliding across a spectrum than taking a stand and sticking with it.

In some situations, going all-in on inbound marketing makes the most sense. In other situations, going all-in on demand generation is the best and only option. But in most cases, I think its going to come down to a series of requirements that dictate where on the spectrum you fall and perhaps how you move across that spectrum over time.

For example, if your budget is tight, inbound might provide a more efficient use of your marketing budget. Focusing your money on people who are already looking for you makes sense. As your budget opens up, you might want to try some tactics from the demand generation playbook as luxury items. If they work, you continue doing them, and if they don’t, you fall back on your previous approach.

Data-driven attributes represent one of the major advances in marketing these days. No matter what you do, it should be quantifiable, it should be measurable and you should be clear on if it’s working or not. This gives you the flexibility to be more open to a variety of potential marketing tactics that include demand generation and inbound marketing tactics.

As you’ve heard me say before, the answer might not be one or the other. The answer is probably “we should test that.” Mass emails to a purchased list? You should test that! Account-based marketing? You should test that! Optimizing your website assets to produce more visitors from search? You should test that! Everything you do should be tested. You invest in the tactics that produce results. Tactics that don’t either get adjusted until they do produce or they get scrapped.

In a matter of months, you’ll know exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it and what to expect from a results perspective. If a tactic doesn’t have any expectations around results and the energy (effort and budget) required to produce those results, I’d push it to the bottom of the list. This quickly produces a very efficient and focused results-oriented marketing effort. This should be your goal. Demand generation or inbound marketing? It doesn’t really matter if you produce business results.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.