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Creating Demand Gen Campaigns — A Step-by-Step Guide

Madhukar Kumar


How to build a pipeline for PLG and PLS go-to-market strategies

To the readers — This week we are back to regularly scheduled programming :) . If you have been following me on LinkedIn and Twitter, you already know that I have been writing a book on PLG in public at https://madhukarkumar.substack.com. The content below is the latest chapter — Step by step guide to building demand generation campaigns for startups. Please sign up for the substack if you are specifically interested in PLG and tech marketing.

Unless your company is purely B2C and you are selling directly to consumers in a zero-touch manner, all other marketing and sales motions should include PLG and PLS. PLG is primarily aimed at product users, while PLS is for buyers. When these two motions are executed effectively, they can synergize, with some PLG users seamlessly transitioning into leads for PLS, offering a promising avenue for growth.

In this chapter, we will look at building demand generation campaigns for two Calls to Action (CTAs) — one for trial sign-ups (PLG) and the other one to sign up for a demo/meeting (for PLS).

Keep in mind that there is more than one way to run demand generation campaigns. The one listed below assumes that your company is an early startup with a small or no marketing team and few existing customers. The strategy changes when the existing customer base grows, even though the foundation remains the same.

At a very high level, demand generation is about reaching out to your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) and offering them a chance to either try out your product or have a discussion with your team where you can try and match your product features to their needs and requirements.

Step 1 — Defining persona

The first crucial step in building any demand generation strategy is to create the profile of your ideal company that would buy your product, along with the persona of the user who would use the product and the buyer who would make the decision to purchase it. This process is not just about demographics, but about truly understanding your customers’ unique needs and challenges, making them feel valued and catered to.

  1. Company profile — To build this, we need to understand what your ideal customer looks like. This becomes more precise once you have a few existing customers and can build lookalike segments. Initially, you can ask questions that define the company’s size in terms of employees or revenue, the industry it is in, the geographic region, and any existing technology or use case that connects back to your product.
  2. User persona — This consists of building the persona of the ideal user for your product. What does this person’s title look like? What are some pain points for this persona, and how does your product help with the challenges or elevate what this person does on a day-to-day basis with your product? These help define your persona. Over time, as the product evolves, this persona may evolve too, so it is essential to keep iterating on this throughout your demand gen efforts.

Buyer persona — This is the persona of the person who makes the buying decision for your product. Understanding this persona is crucial as it helps in tailoring the content and messaging to their needs, thereby increasing the chances of conversion. In some cases, your users and the decision maker could be the one and the same (for example, the founder of an early-stage startup), but for most B2B use cases, the buyers and decision-makers are team leaders who may have a budget to purchase solutions based on their team goals and charter. When engaging with this persona, the content and the messaging have to be different compared to the user persona. The questions that need to be addressed to build this persona include: what is the title, how big are their teams, and what do their main goals and team goals look like?

Step 2 — Building content and call to actions

Just like preparing a dish, where all the ingredients and the process need to come together to make something delicious, the campaigns should be treated as a cohesive user journey that takes into account the messaging as carefully as the tactic of distributing it to the right persona. There are several frameworks out there to build the content for the right persona, and I lean towards a more product-centric approach.

Although this may differ from company to company, I usually lean into the framework below to build three-stage content.

Given that we are talking about a multi-touch campaign, i.e., engaging with only prospects who have interacted with us at least three different times, I would consider the following gradation of how the ideal customer should view the content -

Stage 1 — Short content (video or infographic) that encourages users to learn more about either on a landing page or join a free webinar. Ideally, this should be a free and helpful tool for the targeted persona, and the topic could be SEO-friendly so that people searching for that topic around the pain point can discover the content.

Stage 2 — This has to be around the product and its benefits. The icing on the cake comes when the product and the pain point also have some trending and relevant topics, such as generative AI. Again, the content could be a video or a social post that points the user to a product landing page.

Stage 3 — Given that this is usually targeted to users who have already engaged with some sort of stage 1 and stage 2 content, my recommendation is to focus on some deeper-dive content here. This could be either a webinar, a white paper, or a case study that clearly shows how some personas benefitted from your product/solution.

I should also add that if you have two distinctive user and buyer personas, you need two different sets of stage 1–3 content.

In terms of CTAs, you should definitely have two separate landing pages for your personas so you can measure them separately and also run A/B experiments when you scale on these pages differently.

Step 3 — Building a database of prospects

The next step involves some market research and building a very high-quality database of prospects. In traditional B2B marketing campaigns, I have seen the marketing team responsible for building a very large quantity of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), and only a small portion (about one-fifth) converts to customers. This is the reason why the overall process has been called the marketing funnel. However, I believe this is an inefficient way of running demand generation. The strategy should focus on building a high-quality pipe vs a funnel similar to the diagram below. This approach leads to more efficient demand generation and higher conversion rates.

Secondly, it’s crucial to keep your database, aka the list of prospects, separate from those who have already engaged with you and may already be in the sales pipeline. This prevents confusion and ensures that you don’t accidentally send communication or show ads or posts to people who have either already purchased your product or are in discussions with your team. We will see a sample implementation of this with a different tool later in this chapter, but the idea is to think of a data architecture that is clean and organized, to begin with, or it tends to get messy as you scale.

Step 4 — Creating a multi-touch campaign

In a typical organization, most marketing companies end up buying a list of prospects and then do mass email campaigns to try and get them to take a meeting. I strongly advise against this for two main reasons. First, with GDPR and some regulations in specific states, it is illegal to send emails or communications to anyone who has not opted in voluntarily to your mass emails (there are exceptions, of course). Second, the efficiency of cold emails is almost negligible, so why dilute your brand by batch and blast methodology?

A better way to run campaigns is to first target personas who have shown an interest or intent in buying your product or your competitor’s product. Second, instead of contacting them cold and asking for a meeting, see if they want to engage with you first. We are going to look at this strategy in the implementation steps below.

Step 5 — Research and reach for a meeting

Once you have seen your prospects engage with at least three different interactions, you can now reach out to see if your prospects are either willing to meet with you to see a demo or if they would instead go and try out the product on their own first. It is essential to know that when you are in this step, you have done adequate research about your prospect and their company to have a meaningful exchange; otherwise, the conversion rate is significantly negatively affected if this comes across as a mass email with no personalization.

Step 6 — Measure and Iterate

After the campaign is up and running, it is important to build reporting and dashboards for every step of the campaign and the cost if you are using paid campaigns to understand the effectiveness. This will help develop hypotheses, experiment, and iterate to improve the process.

Now that we have the high-level strategy let us go ahead and build the pipeline. At a high level, each one of the steps above should match the process diagram below.

If this looks complicated to you, don’t sweat. We will break it down to simple steps. Initially, consider doing this manually once and after you feel comfortable you can automate all of this using either Make.com or Zapier.

Here are the tools we will be using for this example. Understand that there are hundreds of other tools that do the exact same things as the ones below so it is totally up to you on which ones you choose. The reason I have given the examples below is I found these tools to be cost-effective from a startup perspective and fairly easy to use.

Step 1 — Personas

In our very first step, let’s go to Apollo and create some personas. In my example below, I have created a persona for AI startups and AI tech companies.

Next, we are going to use the persona to create a list and more importantly we will also add buying intent. This goes back to my earlier point of quality vs quantity. Don’t worry if your list becomes smaller. It is far better to reach out to prospects looking for a solution vs spamming a much larger base that could have a negative impact on your brand.

Next, we are going to export this list and pull it into the next tool called clay.com.

Wait, why didn’t we just use the sequence inside of Apollo to start an email campaign?

Two reasons — One, it is not legal to send emails to people in certain areas like the EU and California unless the users opted in to receive emails. Second, it is just spammy and bad for the brand to send mass emails to customers trying to sell them your product in the first go.

Step 2 and 3 — Building a database of prospects

Now that we have identified the first set of prospects with intent import this into a new table in Clay. We will now enrich this with additional personas from LinkedIn and also generate some custom blurbs about the company and people using ChatGPT. If you are looking to see the exact steps of how to do this, I will point you to the onboarding videos from Clay after you sign up that walk through the steps. Once you have built this out, export this enriched list as a CSV and go to the next step.

Step 4 — Multi-touch campaign

Now that we have a fairly stringent process of choosing a list of companies and people, instead of reaching out to them by email, I would import the list into another tool called Dripify. In this tool, you can now create a Sequence that will use your personal LinkedIn account first to send a connection request and then engage with the users in a 1:1 way at scale. This is what an example sequence looks like once you have set this up (again, follow the tutorials and videos to set this up in Dripify).

Steps 5 and 6 — Research, outreach, and measurement

After the campaign starts running that generates traffic to your landing pages (one for requesting a demo/meeting and another for a free trial) and webinars, etc., you now have users who have opted in and shown intent to purchase your product. At this point, I would use a tool like factors.ai to understand who is viewing your website and what content they are consuming. Only if you see that they have engaged with two or more content or touches you have initiated can you bring them into your CRM, for example, Hubspot, and then start reaching out to them with highly personalized messages. For others, if you have the budget, I would retarget the users with paid content on LinkedIn directly from factors.ai.

To recap, we defined the personas, created a segmented and enriched list of prospects, and contacted them via LinkedIn with a call to action to visit the website, join a webinar, or sign up for a trial. Once they have shown ample intent, we then start to engage with them in a highly personalized fashion. In terms of instrumentation, luckily for us, Dripify has a good set of features built into the product. Once you scale, I recommend using webhooks to export the data into a database or a warehouse where you can run real-time reports.



Madhukar Kumar

CMO @SingleStore, tech buff, ind developer, hacker, distance runner ex @redislabs ex @zuora ex @oracle. My views are my own