The Gist

  • Market limitations. Focusing solely on demand generation leaves businesses open to a smaller portion of the market, neglecting the importance of building brand awareness.
  • Gumball mentality. The dangerous mindset of expecting immediate leads from marketing campaigns overlooks the value of long-term brand building and awareness efforts.
  • Brand revival. To achieve a balance between brand and demand, marketers must invest in comprehensive branding strategies, appeal to buyers' emotions, and modernize content and measurement approaches.

Recently, most of the marketers I’ve spoken with feel like none of their tactics are working like they used to. There are multiple reasons for this, including the macroeconomy and buyer indifference to traditional tactics, but I believe one of the main reasons is that the demand gen model we’ve collectively built over the last 15 years has been prioritized at the expense of (more traditional) brand building

When you look at it from an aerial perspective, it’s clear how this happened. Marketers were told to drive revenue, then held accountable to their performance (or lack thereof). This was a good thing, but as a side effect the industry became hell-bent on leads measurement above all else and, as a result, lost the art of building the larger brand. 

This might not seem like a big deal, but I assure you it is. In fact, every aspect of your go-to-market, from pipeline creation to win rates to retention and more, will either be strengthened or weakened based on the caliber of your brand. So, how do you get back to the right balance of brand and demand? Here’s my take.

Realize That Demand-Only Limits Your Market 

A significant part of the problem with the demand-only approach is that it leaves you open to a very small portion of the market. When you’re not building brand awareness about the problem in your category, you’ll forever be stuck with the small pool of your market that happens to be actively in-market for your solution right now. But guess what? That’s the exact same pool of accounts that your competitors are also fighting over. 

Instead, think about expanding your market. By speaking to accounts that aren’t in-market at the moment, and then educating them about the problems you solve, you open up a much broader pool of prospects. This is especially important given the fact that today is the age of the anonymous self-service buyer. When potential customers aren’t downloading your e-books like they used to or flocking to other highly measurable tactics that were previously popular, you need to rely on more of the softer, less easy-to-measure brand activities to bolster your progress. 

Related Article: 3 Ways to Generate Millions of Free Brand Awareness Impressions

Get Rid of the Gumball Machine Mentality

Over time, executives from CEOs to CFOs and beyond have come to think of marketing like a gumball machine. You put a quarter in, you get a gumball. You put a campaign in, you get pipeline. This is a dangerous mindset to have since it prioritizes marketing that is measurable over marketing that is hard(er) to measure but more effective in the long-run.

Learning Opportunities

If your entire focus is on executing the campaigns that will result in immediate leads, you’re going to miss the ancillary factors that amplify the results of your lead-gen efforts, namely, brand building and awareness. In other words, without good brand support, even the greatest demand gen programs will struggle to hit their goals. For example, a study from Comscore showed US Internet users are 49% more likely to visit an advertiser’s site if they have previously been exposed to display ads, and research at University of California, San Diego by Hoban and Bucklin found that exposure to advertising increased visits to the firm’s website up to 74.7% for previous nonvisitors. Put simply, investing in your brand equals better demand gen ROI. 

Related Article: 3 Ways to Generate Millions of Free Brand Awareness Impressions

Bringing Brand Back

The next logical question is how to get back to building your brand and awareness while not losing ground with your demand activities. But first, what is a brand? There are many definitions but my favorite is the one that says, “brand is what people say about your company when you’re not in the room.” And brands are built by the sum of every interaction a consumer has with your company.

With this in mind, here are the steps I recommend for making brand once again a focal point:

  • Recognize the scope of “brand.” It’s more than your logos, messaging and position. It’s also not a “set and forget” activity. It’s an always-on, comprehensive strategy that requires intentional action and investment. 
  • Appeal to buyers’ reptilian brains. B2B buyers are people. People are emotional. And the fact that B2B buyers have emotions means that no matter how disciplined a buying process is, they will use emotionally driven heuristics to simplify complex decisions. In fact, whether the buyer realizes it or not, the decision is often made long before the buying process is completed. And when this happens, even subconsciously, much of the buying process ends up being an effort to justify the initial emotional decision. This is where branding comes in because brands inherently operate on an emotional level by stimulating the amygdala portion of the brain (part of the reptilian limbic system). 
  • Make the investments. 
    • You and your executive team must commit marketing program dollars to messaging and positioning in the marketplace, even though it’s harder to measure. If you’re struggling to get buy-in, learn about how to set and defend your marketing budget and ROI with this updated mindset. 
    • It’s also essential to invest in your customers and advocates. They’re the ones who can go out into the world (even into “dark,” private communities where users are anonymous) and evangelize on your brand’s behalf. 
  • Modernize your content strategy. Yes, you need content marketing but no, you can’t just gate e-books like we used to. Today, compelling thought leadership requires sharing insights that help your buyers perform better in their roles through accessible reports and guidance, not held behind gates. If you want to see masterful execution of this, take a look at Gong Labs
  • Change how you think about measurement. Branding works by creating patterns of associations that have emotional force and, therefore, influence purchasing behavior, often unconsciously. This means that a large part of the impact is unconscious, making it harder to explain and measure how and why it works. The goal is not about getting a person to click, or download your e-book, or any of the traditional calls to action. Success means dropping traditional B2B demand generation metrics such as cost-per-click and cost-per-lead. The goal is better engagement over time, which can be measured using "test and control" groups (accounts exposed to your ads versus accounts not exposed).

When you realize that brand is just as important as demand, you’re already on your way to improving your initiatives and bolstering your results. Getting this right is crucial to your success. It’s a balancing act, but it’ll be worth the time and effort it will take to get others on board.

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