In our most recent installment of Tips from the Top, we discussed marketing from a branding and public relations perspective, and while both are important endeavors, we know that there’s a B-side to the marketing soundtrack that you’re itching to learn more about: how to generate demand for your business.
To help you get started, we sat down with our very own Director of Demand Generation, John Hessinger, to explain more about product awareness, broad reach marketing, pay-per-click advertising and more.
Check out his insights to learn how you can attract an audience that’s eager to purchase your products online.
What’s the best way to devise a demand generation strategy?
When we say demand gen, we’re really talking about creating awareness for your products and services, and attracting potential buyers to your storefront. Here are several simple steps for small business owners with finite resources:
- Define your goals. With any good business plan, you’ll want to document your key measurable objectives based on your business model and revenue targets. First, identify your KPI’s, or Key Performance Indicators.To determine these, ask yourself: Is my goal to produce phone leads? Web leads? Online sales? Next, determine the volume you’ll want to achieve for various time periods. For example, you may set a goal of 50 online unit sales per week. That’s measurable, and you can build up to it.
- Identify your target market and messaging.You can’t be everything to everyone, so it’s important to attract the right prospects with the right messaging. (In other words, you’d be wasting your time and money if you tried to sell bacon roses to my vegetarian sister.) If you already have a customer database, that’s a great starting point to find look-a-likes by identifying your customers and determining how they found you in the first place.As marketers, we often develop “personas” (fictional characters and their attributes) to help bring the personalities and behaviors of our prospective customer segments to life. It’s helpful to reflect back on those personas as you develop each round of messaging. The style of your messaging will vary depending on the marketing channels you’re using. For example, with a billboard ad, you have a few seconds of someone’s attention to convey your message, whereas a search engine visitor is likely a more captive audience based on his/her proactive behavior.
- Choose your marketing mix. There are a number of factors to consider when planning your marketing outreach, including budget, product type, business objectives and so on. I’ve outlined some additional thinking in question #2 below to help with this. It’s always best to be seen where your prospects congregate, so be sure to target the communication mediums and places that prospects visit and form their decisions. This can include both online and offline sources, such as social media, blogs, sports stadiums, television or search engines.
- Define your budget. Budgeting is specific to each business situation, and the decisions about which channels to use and how much to spend are commonly interdependent. If you work backward from your goals, a simple Cost per Conversion model can help you identify how much traffic you’ll need to generate, and how much you’ll need to spend to drive enough traffic to achieve those goals. Remember that each marketing channel has its own cost and conversion ratios. To set expectations, a newer business will typically need to spend more until it becomes more established.
- Measure your success. It’s critical to track the efficacy of your marketing spend, at least weekly and monthly, in the form of “campaign metrics” by channel (i.e., spend, cost per visitor, cost per conversion, cost per revenue) and “internal site metrics” (i.e., site performance, bounce rates, conversion rates, close rates).How are you tracking against your established goals? Does one channel significantly outperform another in terms of ROI? The tools you utilize may vary, including web analytics, campaign management software, spreadsheets, etc., but it’s important to create benchmarks, monitor your progress and continuously test to optimize your marketing channels and messaging.
How do you determine the mix of programs that make up your demand generation plan?
Every business is different, so there’s no one-size approach. However, I’ll try to give a practical perspective for small business owners.
Different channels tend to better lend themselves to a particular business objective. For example, if your primary goal is to increase brand awareness, you might heavy up on “broad reach marketing” (TV, radio, billboards, events, print ads). These vehicles tend to be very effective in creating memorable visual and auditory awareness of branding and key messaging.
If your primary goal, on the other hand, is to drive traffic and increase leads and sales, you might prefer more online and offline “direct response” channels (PPC, online display ads, e-mail, direct mail, telesales). These vehicles tend to offer better audience segmentation and more clarity when tracking ROI attribution.
Olga did a great job of highlighting many of the marketing vehicles we often think of when approaching our prospects, in Marketing Your Website to Success.
In the case of a small business with finite resources, I typically suggest Pay-per-click (PPC) search marketing as a simple, cost-effective starting point for several key reasons:
- Broad exposure: There are tens of billions of searches each month, many of which are for products and services.
- Highly targeted: You can select specific keywords, specific websites, and even limit to only searches in your local area or for particular times of day.
- Real-time cost control: You have the power to set budgets daily or monthly, segment your budgets, control bid amounts and turn ads on and off instantly.
- Quick feedback: PPC allows you to understand which ads and landing pages are converting in real-time, versus having to wait days or weeks to see results across other marketing channels.
- Tracking and Testing: You can also easily change messaging and integrate conversion and ROI reporting into web analytics using simple tracking codes.
As a secondary benefit, PPC is a great testing tool to help define your longer-term SEO strategy. It’s easy to leverage performance data to determine which keywords are most popular, and then prioritize relevant content and landing pages to create and optimize.
Lastly, no matter what mix you utilize to drive traffic to your site, don’t forget how important your website and customer experience are. Word of mouth is the strongest marketing channel, and it can’t be bought. You’ve spent time, money and energy to build great products and bring people to your site; don’t forget to keep them, engage them and make it a positive experience that they’ll want to share with others!
Have questions about lead generation for John? Feel free to ask in the comments section below! Don’t forget to check out part two of John’s Q&A in the coming weeks, where he’ll discuss analytics tools, marketing technology and more!
John Hessinger, Director of Demand Generation, is responsible for developing strategic marketing programs that encompass all stages of the customer lifecycle. His workgroup leverages all aspects of marketing including SEO, SEM, e-mail, web development, and database / marketing analytics.
Prior to Volusion, John held senior level marketing and product management roles for global companies such as HomeAway Inc., Dun & Bradstreet, Hoover’s, Inc, R.S. Hughes, and Novell. In these roles, he had direct responsibility for developing the strategic marketing plans and for developing targeted customer communication strategies to drive new customer acquisition and improve retention rates of existing customer segments. In addition, he was responsible for driving the ongoing improvement of the web experience in order to increase engagement and online conversion.