Enterprise Tech Operator Masterclass: How to Launch a Demand Gen Campaign on a Seed Dime
We’re excited to introduce our new event series brought to you by our NY Enterprise Tech Meetup — the Enterprise Operator Masterclass! For our inaugural session, we hosted Andrew Racine, VP of Global Demand Gen at Fivetran. With 10+ years of experience in marketing and demand gen at companies including MongoDB, Conjur (acquired by CyberArk), HubSpot, and now at Fivetran (valued at $5.6B), Andrew got rave reviews from sharing his best tactics on How to Launch a Demand Gen Campaign on a Seed Dime:
When Andrew first joined Fivetran two years ago, it looked like many early stage enterprise startup demand gen programs — they had foundational marketing elements, including a website, a blog, and some email campaigns, but no structured approach to predict enough demand to hit sales quotas.
So, Andrew set sail to expand the demand gen program with the philosophy:
“A lot of time we look for quick wins and expect campaigns to set the world on fire and light up leads. But in my experience, it’s about a lot of little things that compound overtime.”
Investing in top of funnel (brand awareness and lead generation) may not translate into direct trial / demo sign ups or product purchases, but nurturing prospects through their journey from a net new to MQL (marketing qualified lead) to SQL (sales qualified lead), will dramatically speed up and increase their probability of converting into a fully paying customer. According to Andrew, this means any great Demand Gen leader needs to appropriately engage prospects in every stage of the funnel.
Top of the Funnel: Blogs, SEO & Paid Promotion
Assuming the Marketing and Sales teams have already done the legwork of defining the target audience(s), it’s time to start actually targeting them. When thinking of building out the top of the funnel, there are a TON of different directions to head in, so start simple in one or two places.
To this day, blogs are still a top source of demand gen. As an owned channel, they allow a space to control messaging, boost SEO, and differentiate your company / product from competitors.
While the team might already have a lot of messaging and content around the product itself, the most valuable blogs write directly to the target audience(s), providing information to help them learn and ultimately solve their toughest challenges. When Andrew looked at what blog posts were most successful at Fivetran, the top viewed posts didn’t deal with Fivetran at all. Instead they covered related industry trends and how tos:
While it’s important to optimize for SEO, Andrew admits many companies over rotate and rely on blog posts for SEO. Relying on organic search is a long game and can often take months, if not years, to see an impact. So, it’s important to promote blog posts across different channels beyond the company website. Learn where your target audience(s) live online, where they do their research, and what communities they talk to their colleagues in — spend money promoting your content there.
LinkedIn reigns as the most common paid content promotion channels for enterprise companies. It’s one of the rare channels where people supply their real information (name, email, company, title, geography, etc.) and update that information regularly in a timely manner. Having this information makes targeting and audience building really easy. And by being able to target a more relevant audience, in return you get more bang for your buck (aka no wasted spend on irrelevant leads).
Andrew partners with a company called Metadata.io, which plugs into Linkedin, enables you to build audiences and test out numerous different creative content at scale (this is especially useful if you don’t have a robust design team and are handling design yourself with programs like Canva), and automates the campaign. From there, it’s easy to set up Lead Gen forms directly in LinkedIn and pay per lead, making it a one-stop shop for content promotion.
A 🔑 reminder: All of this audience research, content creation, and promotion may not result in direct trail / demo sign ups, but it will get people onto your website and emails into your CM database. At the end of the day:
“If you’re not able to properly promote content, it’s like a billboard in the middle of the desert.”
Middle of the Funnel: Nurture Programs
Nurture programs are email programs that are linked to top of funnel conversions and the original challenge that drew the prospect to your marketing content. Done right, nurture programs target prospects with additional, helpful information, such as additional blog posts, webinars, and case studies (aka anything that builds upon that initial challenge they had, but that will intentionally lead them down the funnel to eventually sign up for a demo / trial).
Andrew suggests implementing a simple, behavior-based “lead scoring system” to better measure what’s working, faster. Points can be assigned for engagement over time (downloading content, attending a webinar, etc.) and tally up to be an MQL. At that point, becoming an MQL signals the prospect is ready for a sales conversation.
Notice that Fivetran made it relatively easy for prospects to become a MQL. This was strategic in creating a high quantity of leads to provide the Sales team. While quality is usually better than quantity, in the early days, a large sample size will provide a better amount of data to measure what’s working. From there, the Sales team can continue the qualification process and track the percentage of who is converting to revenue vs. unqualified.
Bottom of the Funnel: The Relay to Sales
Demand gen doesn’t stop when you get an MQL — you have to follow it all the way through the funnel. This requires a tricky (and often messy) handoff between the Marketing and Sales team. To mitigate this process, Fivetran’s Marketing team created a “Resource Center” that provided all the necessary information about MQLs to Sales reps. This Resource Center included the type of content and type of promotion as well as all the conversion details needed for the Sales team to utilize the context around why or when they converted. Having this information helped sales reps reach out to MQL with a completely personalized follow up and break through the sea of automated sales emails likely already in that MQLs inbox.
Additionally, during these follow ups, Sales reps will get a pretty good understanding of what content resonated the most with MQLs based on their conversations, but more importantly the percentage that convert to revenue vs. unqualified. Over time, it will be easy to spot what content resonates the most with MQLs — and similar to top of the funnel research — this is a data point to help define where to spend the most time and money. But be sure to only focus on a couple channels that are working so that you can ride that capability to scalability. Don’t try to create and promote everywhere!
Lastly, The Biggest Do’s for Creating Demand Gen:
- Set monthly goals: Even if just vanity metrics, creating monthly goals is an important first step to focus your team in the early days. Once you can predict those early metrics, you can move on to more complex revenue goals.
- Ship early & often: You need to try enough things to learn what resonates most with your target audience (Fivetran tries to ship something once a week or even daily!). Don’t take months and months to create a campaign with one big reveal becuase this won’t produce enough data to appropriately measure success.
- Invest in MOps: Invest early in Marketing Ops (if you can) because a lot of Demand Gen requires marketing automation, tools, and measurement. If you don’t have the budget, tools like Hubspot are a great alternative to hiring a MOps team.
- Have clear funnel stages: Have clear handoffs and measurable insights between funnel stages, so you can measure where prospects are getting stuck or dropping off.
- Understand that if your sales team isn’t excited, your prospects probably won’t be either
- Hire Marketing generalists early and specialists to scale: When you find what is working and want to invest in it, that’s when it’s time to bring in a specialist (email marketer, chatbot specialist, etc.).
- Paid Advertising is a tax for average content/marketing: Content marketing is a crowded and competitive space, but if you create the right content, you won’t have to spend a lot on advertising. But it’s a good idea to spend early to get initial traction.
- Co-marketing with partners is crucial: Co-host webinars, co-write a blog post, publish on others blogs, etc. If they are a good fit in your space, this helps tap a new, but relevant audience.
- Remember market perception of your product = reality: Marketers can oftentimes be too close to the product and lose touch with the real marketer perspective, so continuously ask for outsiders feedback.
And…the Biggest Don’ts:
- Assume the market cares about you: If you operate this way, you’ll have to work harder internally and externally because the idea “if you launch it, they will come” is not usually true.
- Over-index on industry ‘benchmarks’: Create benchmarks unique to your company, region, segment, etc. (as they will be different for everyone!) and make sure you’re improving along the way.
- Wait until a prospect ‘raises their hand’: People will likely not sign up for a trial / demo immediately. In fact, always assume people are not ready to take that action. You have to spend a lot of time and money educating them before the sales pitch, so that when they are looking for a product, they think of you.
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