Every founder, early-stage investor and growth executive focuses on the size and growth of their business. Often, these same people are looking for experts who can “fix” the demand gen problem which is usually 25% demand gen and 75% deeper problems. I call this the demand gen iceberg .

True demand generation problems are overwhelmingly execution challenges. They are often relatively easy to fix but unless these common items are the true source of the issues, they won’t fix your pipeline.  The demand gen “quick fix” list is:

  1. Targeting – is your demand gen strategy too broad – generating a lot of junk, or too narrow and not generating enough demand?
  2. Compelling offer – are you offering the prospect something they need and want? Is it a free trial or other promotion to lower acquisition costs? Is it an invitation to download and read something? If it is an eBook – does it have unique data or innovative thinking? And is it short?  If it is something else – why would a reasonably busy prospect value what you offer for your demand gen?
  3. Form optimization – are you asking for the least amount of information in exchange for the value you are delivering? Solutions like Chili Piper reduce form fill overhead and other solutions such as ZoomInfo can enrich data you collect with other available information.
  4. Media mix – are you spending your time and money in the media where your ideal customer dwells? Don’t get caught up in vanity visibility – if your customer doesn’t engage on Snapchat, for example, you don’t need to be spending there.
  5. Bidding strategy – there are extensive analytics available to help determine your bid, your distribution, your timing (best time of day, day of week). There are countless agencies happy to help you with this and the other four “quick fix” problems.

But what of the rest of the iceberg?  According to Gartner, 70% or more of the buying process occurs before a buyer will speak with a seller and then they only spend 17% of their total effort talking with vendors. The buying process is often difficult for the buyers irrespective of the sellers. To really drive pipeline and sustain it, leaders need to explore the issues below the surface.

    1. No clear customer profile. Countless companies target broadly and the result is that the variety of interested buyers who explore their digital presence often cannot find solutions to their specific problem.

      If you cannot choose how to describe yourself and the problem you solve, don’t expect a prospect to waste their time figuring it out.


      Focus on your most valuable customer profile and build an intuitive buyer journey for that customer.

    2. No clear urgency driver. The world is full of excellent products that are nice to have. Because the buying process is difficult, products that aren’t desperately needed have a hard time maintaining sales momentum. Existing customers often hold the key to understanding urgency because they experienced it and made a purchase. A combination of detective work and excellent pattern recognition can determine what combination of context and attributes leads to urgency for your product, enabling you to identify ideal target customers who can make a purchasing decision very quickly.
    3. Confusing buying journey – demand generation is not a “one and done” experience in the enterprise. Rain Group reports that 8 touches are needed before a sales conversion, and I’ve seen upwards of 12. Any one of those touches that is irrelevant is the equivalent the Monopoly “Go Directly to Jail. Do not pass Go”
      Monopoly Jail card - Hasbro TM

      Trademark Hasbro

      card. It is imperative to map out and then to execute against multiple buying journeys, which is another reason to focus on a single IDEAL profile and the URGENCY driver y to be relevant for every touch with that valuable prospect.

    4. Too many messages – when you have multiple buyers and you are trying to communicate a value proposition to each of them, you often wind up with competing and confusing statements. It’s relatively easy for a salesperson to read the room (or Zoom) and adjust their message to the precise audience – but this is not easily done on a website or other marketing collateral.  There are technologies like Bloomreach DXP (my former employer) that can personalize websites based on visitor data and preferences, but this works best with retail/CPG products, and are less applicable to B2B companies.
    5. Undifferentiated. This often cuts to the hearts of founders and early investors because they rightfully love their product. Differentiation starts before the product is built, based on a belief about the problem and what would be a 10x better way to solve that challenge. Differentiation must be:
      1. Self-evident
      2. Valuable to the ideal buyer in their urgency moment of need
      3. Assume competitors are smart and competent…they will copy anything valuable if possible – it should be difficult.
    6. Too much content – marketers and sellers often bury the prospect in an overwhelming flow of high quality, potentially useful content.

      It’s helpful to remember that buying your solution is NOT your buyer’s full-time job.

      They simply cannot and will not spend excessive time sorting through lots of content and links. Instead of being helpful, you are driving them towards their own confirmation biases, or worse – you are convincing them that your solution is even harder to buy.  Buyers want you to organize information for them and ensure they have what they need and no more. Gartner’s CEB team has excellent guidance on this point and the real economic impact it will have on your revenues and sales productivity.

    7. Inconsistency between what the buyer discovers digitally and what they hear from you live. If your sellers say or present information inconsistent with your digital assets, they will undermine trust in themselves and the company – making the buying journey more difficult. Get aligned first and stay there. When you need to change the message (and you will), do it deliberately and bring EVERYONE along – marketing, sales, solution consulting, customer success and product.
    8. The product isn’t delighting the customers. Like differentiation, this is tough love to founders and early investors who must have an almost irrational belief in their offering. Data will tell the tale of how often and how extensively customers are using the product. While there is often a learning curve to develop a habit, if this habit of regular usage doesn’t evolve, it’s time to revisit the ideal customer profile, urgency and differentiators because you simply cannot put lipstick on a pig (or – as is more likely – hire a customer success team to attempt that endeavor). Time to refocus the farm. 
    9. Losing momentum because there’s too much time delay. The moment an ideal prospect is on your landing pages or website AND asks to engage (through a sign up, a form, engaging with a chat bot like Drift) – that is the moment when they have made time in their day to THINK about you. You need to ensure your systems can rapidly identify ideal prospect versus not and quickly trigger the best available person to assist the prospect on their journey. Too often, SDR/BDRs are trained to push for scheduling the meeting (because that’s usually how they are paid) but don’t understand when to push to schedule the meeting as soon as possible.
    10. Losing momentum because you aren’t sharing what you’ve learned across your go-to-market organization.  There’s a vendor I work with and have bought at multiple companies. Their sales cycle is quite involved and they have excellent content available as part of their demand gen and nurturing campaigns. Inevitably, several people from their company will contact me as if it is the FIRST time anyone there has spoken to me.  I’ve taken to answering their calls by asking if they’ve looked me up in their CRM and telling them to call back after they do.

      You cannot WASTE your buyer’s time by asking them to re-educate you on what you should already know.

      Information your company learned in prior engagements – through forms or conversations – and information you can easily learn through research online is not information you need from your buyer. Treasure their time and spend your time ensuring you are current.  If your systems don’t make this easy for everyone in your company, then fix them because this is mandatory.

Demand generation, building pipeline, and closing deals is a continuous dance between insight, ambition and problem solving. Openness to exploring the source of each opportunity to improve will lead to a continuously growing pipeline and less expensive demand generation, freeing resources for investment and growth.