Demand Generation Services
SAAS companies selling to B2B enterprises often face unpredictable sales funnels. They deal with challenges like longer buying cycles, multiple decision makers, frequent changes in requirements & tough negotiations amongst others. These are realities of B2B saas sales that one can’t wish away. Successful B2B enterprises tackle this by having a wider top of the funnel. This ensures a steady flow of orders in spite of the unpredictability in the sales funnel mentioned above. This is easier said than done though. Enterprises need a well thought out demand generation strategy, water tight execution and continuous monitoring to create a reliable demand generation engine. In this blog, we look at two things that are important for saas marketing. In the first part we list the prerequisites to set up a b2b marketing engine. In the second part we touch upon the common challenges faced during execution.
Demand Generation for saas based products
Demand Generation simply refers to the process of creating a need or interest in your offering. B2B enterprises need to answer four basic questions before they setup a demand generation process:
Q1: What Industries do I target?
The first step is to identify your target market. In this step, B2B demand generation companies identify the industries that their solution caters to or is most suitable for. Even in cases where the solution is industry agnostic, the company must choose a few industries where they have seen better traction or have good case studies to showcase. Generic product messages sent to a industry wide audience usually don’t work as well.
Q2: What companies within the industry should I reach out to?
The second step involves identifying companies within the industry that they would like to target. This can be based on various parameters like the size of the company, revenue, headcount or geographies that the B2B enterprise has presence in. This shortlisting is aimed at identifying prospects who are most likely to purchase your product or services. It’s best to look at your past client data to identify such companies.
Q3: Who should I talk to within these organisations?
Once companies are identified you need to identify the key decision makers within these companies who are likely to be involved in purchasing the product. In B2B purchases especially when it concerns saas demand generation, decision making is a complex process with multiple people involved. These include the users of the product, an internal champion, technical & commercial approvers etc. each performing a different function. Usually it’s best to reach out to the person likely to be the internal champion of the process. Again, your previous deals are a good indicator of who could push your case internally.
Q4: How should I approach them?
The fourth step includes choosing the right platform or approach to reach out to these decision makers. The usual options available for B2B demand gen initiatives include website optimization, online advertisements on platforms like google, cold calls & emails, industry aggregators like indiamart, alibaba for product companies and offline or online events like conferences. You need to evaluate which of these are productive and cost effective for your business before you commit to one or two of them.
Challenges in B2B demand generation
The answers in the previous sections should give you a good base to start your B2B demand generation process. Most companies have clear answers for question one and two. These are usually the industries & companies that you have as existing clients. You might be tempted to add Industries & companies that you wish to target. It’s best to avoid this temptation in the early stages. The key challenges in B2B demand generation lie in question three & four and the execution beyond it:
Demand generation initiatives often struggle to identify the right decision makers in the organization. While it is a good strategy to reach out to the senior most person possible, it is also important that the problem you are solving or the solution is one of the key priorities for the person. We often see people wanting to reach out to CEOs, CXOs hoping that if it comes from the top, the conversation is likely to move ahead faster. In our experience, we’ve found that reaching out to the head of the department (VP, Director etc.) and one level below that delivers the most qualified or interested prospects.
B2B buyers are known to be unusually difficult to reach. People in senior positions usually have a multitude of ‘gatekeepers’ to filter out what goes through the decision maker. B2B demand generation agencies need to be aware of this fact and should know how to navigate the conversation through these ‘gatekeepers’ to reach the decision maker. This takes a combination of providing them the right information & support ( they need to look good in front of their bosses) and a careful reading of the buying signals they may inadvertently provide.
Also, decision makers have grown increasingly averse to cold calls and emails. This is reflected in the poor answer rates & response rates for emails. SAAS Marketing professionals cannot solely rely on these traditional approaches for lead generation.
While doing demand generation, we see several companies unable to spark curiosity amongst their buyers. And this rarely has anything to do with the product/offering. The most common reason for this being companies are more likely to talk about their product and its features. While this might be important to an extent, clients are usually more interested in their own state of business, the problems they are facing and how this solution could help in the process. We’ve seen companies who have been able to focus on the problem to be solved, provide case studies & references and show a deeper understanding and experience of solving such problems before do better in demand generation.
Most companies look to outsource this task to a b2b demand generation agency. While an agency definitely helps in completing demand generation activities in an efficient & cost effective way, it is important to have a b2b demand generation strategy in place before you get an agency involved.
Agencies which provide b2b demand generation services are good at running specified activities in a consistent manner. However, they cannot be expected to think through and design your outreach process. It’s best to run initial pilots internally to understand what’s working in terms of lead sources, messaging, frequency buyer personas etc. before outsourcing the activity. You may want to consult them on what has worked for other similar companies.
At SDI, we generate B2B leads globally exclusively using social selling on platforms like Linkedin. If you are at a stage where you’d like to explore saas demand generation, you can reach out to us here.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is b2b demand generation?
B2B demand generation is the process of reaching out and engaging with your prospective clients to create curiosity for your product. The expected outcome of a b2b demand generation exercise is to have a set of prospects which match your predetermined criteria and have shown interest in your product or solution.
2. What is SaaS Demand Generation?
SAAS companies rely primarily on online sources to generate inbound interest. These interested prospects are nurtured through the funnel using demos, free trials, tracking usage and converting them into paid clients. SAAS demand generation is the process of inducing interest amongst organizations which fit their criteria for such demos & trials.
3. Why do SaaS Companies need Demand Generation?
Saas companies usually do not operate with a large field sales team. Unlike legacy software companies who have a high upfront setup cost, SAAS companies provide an easy, seamless & cost effective way for customers to use their product. Given this cost structure, it is important for SAAS companies to have a large & consistent top of the funnel which they can nurture to convert them to paid clients primarily through an inside sales team.
4. How do you Build Demand Generation for B2B SaaS Companies?
Building a demand generation process for B2B Saas Companies requires considerable planning and iteration. It is important to first clearly identify the objective of saas demand generation. While the eventual goal might be to get people to subscribe to your offering, you might want to focus your demand generation on either setting up demos, inducing trials or getting people registered on your platform. You’ll have to build a process to respond to initial interest with engaging content that will nudge the client towards purchasing the product. You will also have to design measurements & interventions at critical points in the funnel either through the product or through channels like emails, calls etc. to track the progress of your leads. Learnings from the funnel should then be fed back to the demand generation engine to optimize it further.
5. What are the demand generation activities?
Traditional demand generation activities include online search optimization, online advertising, cold calling, email marketing as well as offline activities like conferences, webinars etc. However for B2B products, most of the traditional demand generation activities are proving to be ineffective. We rely on engaging with buyers on professional networks like LinkedIn for demand generation.
6. What are the key trends in b2b demand generation?
Unlike in the past, B2B buyers in today’s online world have access to a lot of information about all available products in the market. B2B demand generation hence needs to go beyond just providing ‘product information’ to generate curiosity from buyers. Buyers are looking for established case studies of organizations facing similar problems that have benefited from your product or solution. B2B buyers are also being ‘sold to’ a lot. This has made them wary of any vanilla approach through traditional mediums like email, cold calling. Finally, B2B decision makers are constrained for time and would only give you a ‘meeting’ once they are convinced that the conversation will add value. Your demand generation engine has to ‘earn’ this meeting rather than hope that they would meet you to ‘explore opportunities’.