So you’ve been in the trenches developing an amazing, ground-breaking, innovative, pied-piper-esque product for the last year and then all of the sudden it happens—someone realizes it’s nearly ready to release upon the masses and you need to get the word out with a demand generation program.
But you’ve spent a massive amount of your seed money on developing the actual product. So the next question that generally arises is ‘how do we generate demand for this thing at the cheapest possible cost’? Well, luckily…we have the answers for you.
Without further ado, we present you with the top 3 demand generation channels for penny pinching startups:
There’s no question inbound is a very cheap option for startups. A couple hundred bucks on design and a few hair pulling writing sessions and you can produce a professional looking eBook. Then, write a handful of supporting keyword based articles that link to your free eBook and you’re in business right? Well, not so fast. While we definitely recommend developing evergreen content and free offers to capture leads, inbound can take time to develop the proper traffic and traction (months). And even when you do get traction, often times it’s not the highest converting channel. That being said, it’s an important channel to focus on initially, to help build traffic that will target your ideal customer profiles 6-12 months down the road. The quicker the jump you get on inbound, the faster it will pay off. We won’t go into every single channel as this would take weeks, but we’ll focus on a couple tried and true methods to generate demand initially:
- eBooks: An easy way to start capturing leads on your website is an eBook. You can write the majority of the copy yourself and hire out design on upwork or similar freelancing websites. Why are eBooks so effective? You’re offering tangible value with minimal risk and effort from the prospect (just fill in their email). This allows for a somewhat easy transfer of contact details for information. It’s always a great idea to create an eBook in the initial phase of your demand generation program as the content will also come in handy when you start to outbound (more on this later).
- Blogs: If you want to rank in Google search faster, blogging is the answer. Tackle your evergreen content first. If you’re a marketing strategy consultant, you should write evergreen content like “What is marketing strategy” and “what are the different types of effective marketing strategies.” You get the idea. Always hyperlink between your evergreen content and topic offshoots. As a result, when your evergreen content starts to rank highly, your other content will be bumped up as well due to the link. In general, be deliberate about your blog topics. Pick something that will help you rank for the keywords you’d like to register for and provide value.
- Reports: If you can, create a report for your space. This will position you as a thought leader and generate a massive amount of awareness in the market. One of our clients captured thousands of emails with a benchmarks report. It’s human nature to want to compare yourself with others, a benchmarks report allows you to do exactly that. Regardless, reports offer up a massive amount of value to your target audiences if done properly, so much so, you may even be able to charge for access to the report (depending on the industry).
A website promotes your brand 24/7. It never takes breaks and never closes up shop during the weekends. No employee will ever do this no matter how much they are engaged. It’s important for startups to have an amazing website. Easier said than done, but here are a few tips to nail your website:
- Lead with brand. One of the most effective levers a startup can pull is brand. Businesses want to buy from other successful businesses. The perceived risk is lower. If your website looks like it was created by a third grader, it’s going to set off alarm bells in your prospects mind and introduce doubt. Brand and tone of voice are your best friends in the battle against doubt— how your company presents matters. Craft a brand and tone for your website that can stand up against companies 20x as big and I guarantee you’ll close more deals.
- Design for conversion. Not something startups generally think about, but conversion matters—a lot. Understand what the goal of every page should be and drive the user to accomplish that goal with ruthless efficiency. A pretty website is just that, if it doesn’t convert. A major part of designing for conversion is testing and optimization. Invest in a split testing tool like optimizely to hone your message and page structure to maximize conversion…your sales team will thank you later.
- Play by Google’s rules. The 800-pound gorilla in search is clearly Google. In order to rank faster, you need to play by their rules. Use their search console and tag manager to set things up properly on the backend. Optimize for speed, security (https), and SEO. And yes this means the little details like meta descriptions, titles, etc. The extra attention to detail goes a long way.
It happens slowly at first, but as you commit to producing content in the channels above, your email list starts to grow. First, it’s 10 emails, then 100, then 1,000, etc. If your content is extremely high quality, you will see this list grow exponentially in the first couple of months. Great, now what?
As your list starts to grow, it’s important to have a strategy in place to capitalize on your new audience. We recommend a 2-stage nurture track detailed in our eBook “Demand Generation 101.” We like this setup because it keeps it simple but can segment out those prospects who take consideration-stage actions who are most likely your next paying customers.
Don’t sell every time in your emails. Again, provide as much value to your prospects upfront as possible. This will pay off when you (eventually) ask for the purchase—you’ll have established a solid foundation of trust which makes for an easier/higher converting sale.
Social selling is an effective method to generate interested leads immediately. Start by determining your target persona, create a list on Linkedin you’d like to target and start testing messaging. This will cost you a couple hundred dollars a year (for sales navigator), but most likely produce a couple thousand in business if the message is effective. The ROI is there if you have the right message. Our advice to crafting the ultimate pitch on Linkedin? Customize your message like crazy. Don’t take a single message and re-use it for every one of your targets…this will not be effective. Instead, do a massive amount of research on your prospect and find something interesting they did or said years ago (so they know you did some digging) and position your pitch around this. We’ve found this tactic to generate engaged responses more often than not.
Establishing a productive demand generation program at a B2B startup can be difficult at first. But, if you stick to the plan and focus your efforts on these low-cost channels initially, you will maximize your marketing spend and produce more leads at a lower cost than you ever thought possible. Just make sure you have a solid sales team to close the leads once they start coming in!