I have an insatiable passion for three things: Learning, Technology, and Marketing. Peer into my life, and you’ll quickly see how obsessed I am with adopting new technology and applying it to everyday life at both home and work. I seek out and adopt new technology for both sheer enjoyment and to improve various aspects of my work life and my personal life, such as experiences, efficiency, and output (like customer acquisition). But even more than those three things, I truly love explaining and sharing what I have learned and achieved with others to help them do the same.
In short, I’m a self-proclaimed marketing and technology nerd, who believes his “superpower” is explaining complex technology and methods in simple terms to help others.
That’s my goal today: to provide a way to describe and talk about the discipline of marketing in 2020.
Please let me know what you think of my perspective.
Now, I’m not talking about just a simple, modern definition for Marketing, but if I offered one up, it would be something like this:
Marketing creates and delivers personalized engagement at scale for the purpose of generating awareness, interest, desire, and action by an audience.
When I coined the terms Demand Gen and Demand Funnel decades ago, I had no idea they’d both become essential terms for modern marketing. Maybe my updated definition of Marketing above will stick as well. In 2012, I wrote the #1 book on Lead Management called Manufacturing Demand. I wondered when I wrote the book if it would become outdated the moment it was printed due to the rapid pace of change. Yet, I’m pleased that it is still as relevant today as it was back then.
But — and it’s a big but — the book didn’t provide a holistic framework for talking about modern marketing, and I feel it’s critically needed in 2020. Why? Marketing is experiencing a bit of an identity crisis. What makes me say that? For the past 13 years I’ve led DemandGen (the marketing technology agency, not the department), and that experience of guiding hundreds of companies through their digital transformation journey has made something very clear. Most marketing teams and leaders are still struggling to explain what they are doing, why they are doing it, and what they have accomplished. No other department is so mysterious and misunderstood.
So, as a guy who likes to explain complex things and teach others about technology, I spent a month or so crafting and tinkering with this post for you. It’s still a bit long, but as the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”
Ready? Here’s how I think we should reposition and talk about Marketing’s role in 2020.
To start, let’s quickly look back to see how we ended up here in the first place.
Chapter One: That was then
If you grew up in the ’80s, you know those were some good times. Oh my gosh, the music — who could forget the launch of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which everyone ran home from school to watch when it debuted on MTV? The movies, like Back to the Future, War Games, Terminator, Top Gun, E.T., Aliens, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The clothes, the big hair, the War on Drugs. Sadly, I think we lost that war, but I digress.
Something else happened in the ’80s that not only changed my life, but also paved the way for the age we are now in: the digital economy. That “thing” was the personal computer. The home PC and Macintosh. In fact, it was on January 24th, 1984 that the first Mac rolled off the assembly line and into boxes on shelves. Yep, no Amazon back then. We shopped in stores or mail-order catalogs. People explained the specifications, showed you how the product worked, explained the benefits, and outlined the various costs. They were called salespeople. Although, even back then, Marketing was still largely responsible for driving awareness, interest, desire, and action, Marketing’s role with buyers was not very direct, immediate, and intimate. In addition, the systems for collaboration between Sales and Marketing, such as today’s cloud-based CRMs, didn’t yet exist.
So, if the personal computer was the catalyst for the current digital economy, how come it took another decade to accelerate the first wave of change for how we market and sell? Two words: the Internet.
I remember when I ran Marketing for Netopia in the ’90s and we put up our first website. Heck, I remember us making our first animated GIF and thinking how groundbreaking it was to see movement on a web page. But companies weren’t the only ones embracing “The World Wide Web,” as it was then called. The first personal “home pages” arrived on GeoCities in 1994 when Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was only 10 years old and only birds tweeted.
When the Internet arrived, my job as head of Marketing changed almost overnight. I was ready, having studied both marketing and computer science, and we pioneered how to do e-commerce on our website in the early ’90s. For lead generation, we collaborated with Product Marketing to create free trials of our software so prospects could download them. We ran highly effective email campaigns. Yes, highly effective email campaigns! And suddenly, we could generate and capture leads through these new channels, our website and email. But we didn’t stop there.
Within a year, we were selling $1,500 routers off our website, generating millions in revenue. Prospects were downloading thousands of free trials a month of our award-winning software, and we nurtured them to convert them from tryers to buyers. I discovered what felt like the Holy Grail for Marketing: driving revenue.
But change didn’t end there, of course. Two more things happened next: smartphones and high-speed Internet.
Since 2007, not only was there a personal computer on every desktop connected to the Internet, but consumers also started carrying little super computers in their hand. Mobile apps not only could be purchased, but the mobility of technology also paved the way for mobile commerce and anywhere, anytime interaction with businesses and fellow consumers. Practically anyone on the planet could discover, research, and buy products anywhere, anytime. Not to mention, this mobile technology created new companies like Uber and Lyft that couldn’t exist without it. Finally, all the pieces were in place and a wave of change came over the planet and the world changed forever. And you know what else did? Marketing.
All of these technological advances were as significant as the change agents that created the Industrial Revolution. They completely disrupted the way that people used to buy, sell, and even communicate. All of that innovation didn’t only change consumerism; it has also changed the responsibilities and relationship between Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service forever, and that is the focus of the rest of this post.
Chapter Two: This is now
In addition to everything I just mentioned, the advent of CRMs, marketing automation, and thousands of MarTech and SalesTech tools have played a key role in reshaping the discipline, duties, and expectations of Marketing. Marketing has been evolving from mainly a creative function of content and campaigns to become a revenue-driving engine operating at the center of the business with a seat at the C-Suite table.
It’s hardly a surprise that, based on my observations and conversations, Marketing is in the midst of an identity crisis — while at the same time feeling overwhelmed by their ever-expanding responsibilities for driving revenue and engagement.
- Right-brain marketers are constantly pushing themselves to come up with more engaging, more personalized, and more relevant content.
- Left-brain marketers are evaluating and optimizing the best marketing and sales technologies needed to support the business objectives.
- Marketing leadership is working on an ever-expanding go-to-market plan, while at the same time finding ways to be synergistic and collaborative with Sales and Customer Service.
- The CEO and CFO are expecting marketing leadership to show the impact of all these programs, investments, and systems.
So, there you have it. The modern marketer must be revenue-centric, customer-centric, creative, technical, analytical, data-driven, cross-functional, and more.
Yet, despite all these broadening duties and responsibilities, somehow Marketing’s focus is all too often relegated to top of funnel and lead generation initiatives. Probably because historically that is where Marketing has been focused and most comfortable. But that was then. Now, our responsibilities are far broader, as I’ve outlined. Most companies derive more than 65% of their revenue each year from their customer base. Therefore, Marketing must focus on driving growth from customer acquisition and from the installed base along with improving customer experience. Should Marketing care about how customer data is captured and kept up to date? You bet you should.
As the guy who first coined the term Demand Gen[eration], and even owns the domain and world-wide trademark, I never have considered or intended it to mean just top of funnel. As I mentioned above, demand generation spans the entire buyer’s journey. That includes both generating revenue from acquiring new customers (market share) and growing revenue within the installed base (wallet share). Closed Won does not mean Closed Done.
According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge):
Demand generation is the focus of targeted marketing programs
to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products and/or services.
The seismic shifts in technology over the past few decades (along with recurring revenue models) have made it paramount for marketers to drive awareness and interest in a “company’s products and/or services” not only during all stages of the buyer’s journey, but post-sale as well.
Chapter Three: Rebranding the Marketing function
With all the changes that have taken place in consumer engagement and acquisition from these seismic shifts, Marketing needs to reposition itself (rebrand, if you will) — again.
The first step in solving Marketing’s identity crisis is to change the narrative. Fortunately, that’s something Marketing is really good at.
For starters, I strongly believe, as a function, Marketing needs to move away from talking mainly about lead generation and lead management. These terms have become shorthand for net new leads only. Demand generation, on the other hand, encompasses demand at any stage of the buyer’s journey — including post-sale. To help create a new lexicon for Marketing, I am putting forth the following vernacular for us to use as a community.
Enter the Demand Generation Framework, a holistic model for driving revenue growth across Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. I like frameworks and have certainly published several. This new one for you serves to illustrate the three core functions of Marketing in 2020, and to encourage you to align your people, process, and technologies across them:
Really, it’s that simple in terms of describing the three essential functions of Marketing in 2020. Demand Creation, Demand Management, and Demand Expansion encompass all the technology and processes for driving and managing demand generation across Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service.
To use a metaphor, think of Sleep, Nutrition, and Exercise as the three core functions of an Optimal Health Framework. Just as food and hydration would go under Nutrition, things like lead management, lead scoring, nurturing, and the demand funnel all fall under Demand Management. ABM spans all three. Data and Reporting are ubiquitous across the entire framework.
To achieve the rebrand, you’ll need to learn, internalize, and evangelize this Demand Generation Framework and talk regularly about these three essential functions. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I encourage you to also share the above image, which visually represents how each of these three functions work together, in meetings.
If you don’t have a copy of The Demand Factory™ visuals that we created and published last year, here they are again for you. It was by far our most downloaded content in DemandGen’s Resources Hub for 2019:
If you’re not familiar with it, the Demand Factory is a visualization we created of the Demand Generation Framework in 2019. It’s intended to help you show and explain the vast set of processes and systems needed for successful demand generation. We nicknamed the Demand Factory “ACME” to help make it easy to remember the core areas of Acquire, Convert, Measure, and Expand. Given my desire to make the framework even easier to explain and adopt, I plan to work with my marketing team to update the Demand Factory visuals for 2020 to incorporate the terms Demand Creation, Demand Management, and Demand Expansion and drop the ACME naming. Sure, it’s clever to call it ACME (meep meep, anyone?), but I prefer the clarity of the three terms rather than burying them in an acronym. Where is “measurement” going? I think we can all agree that that Data and Reporting are important throughout the buyer’s journey and post-sale, so we won’t lose sight of the critical role they both play and we will be sure to highlight in our visuals.
If we all use the same lingo and visuals, we will as a marketing community help address the marketing identity crisis. Feel free to use these visuals and content in your presentations and meetings.
Before I move to one last thing you’ll need to do as part of the rebrand, I want you to consider organizing your team roles around these three areas in 2020. The time and expertise needed to master and excel at each is daunting for one team and should be distributed:
- Demand Creation focuses on net-new through inbound and outbound marketing programs.
- Demand Management, which is driven by Marketing Operations and Sales Operations, focuses on pipeline management and conversion.
- Demand Expansion, often neglected but essential for growth, should be a joint effort between Marketing and Customer Service.
Create ownership and accountability in these three areas and you’ll maximize revenue and have greater success. Even if you don’t reorganize, be sure your goals, initiatives, and focus encompass these three areas.
I’m not going to go any deeper into these thee areas in this first post of the new year, but rest assured, all of my content this year will be to help the B2B marketing community explain and become master practitioners across the Demand Generation Framework. Please share your feedback and questions regarding this 40,000-foot view, as none of us are smarter than all of us.
One more thing: No more baton metaphors
Ever since SiriusDecisions introduced the Demand Waterfall®, analysts and thought leaders have described the baton pass that occurs between Marketing and Sales. This needs to stop today.
It started because buyers were engaging with Sales much later in the buying process, and Marketing was owning more and more of the upper and middle funnel. While true, the baton metaphor suggests that one team’s responsibilities start here and then at a certain point pass on to the next team.
Sure, relay races are a team sport and the analogy of baton passing doesn’t mean it goes from one team to another, but player to player. But when it’s used for describing a process across departments, the analogy fails. My good friend Jon Miller and I discuss this in a recent podcast you’d probably enjoy, so give it a listen. We discuss how the mental visual of a baton passing suggests a handoff rather than ongoing collaboration.
To underscore the point, because of how nonlinear the buying process has become, there’s no baton pass between Marketing and Sales. Marketing and Sales have a shared responsibility when it comes to Demand Creation and Demand Management. Marketing and Customer Service have a shared responsibility when it comes to Demand Expansion. When orchestrated properly, each of the three Demand Generation Framework areas have shared team ownership. While a particular team may have a weighted percentage in a certain area, the teams share ownership, not hand it off.
In the podcast I mentioned above with Jon Miller, we talked about football as a wonderful metaphor for the relationship between Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. When a football team, for example, makes a play, they’ve carefully selected each member based on their unique skills and expertise, but they are all united in their goal of scoring a touchdown. A play at the 20-yard line will look very different than at the 50-yard line on the second or third down. When it’s the fourth down and you’re in the red zone looking to score a touchdown, a different set of motions and playmaking across the teams are required.
All of this is surprisingly analogous to getting a client. Sometimes the playmaker is Marketing, and sometimes it’s Sales. Sometimes we need to support each other as a running back, wide receiver, or even a team mascot. It depends on what the play is. But it’s always one team sharing ownership across the entire upper, middle, and lower funnel.
And if you’re thinking there’s no way that Sales and Marketing can set aside their differences and work together, even football players on the same team can have very different personalities. Defensive and offensive players, for example, tend to be very different. The key is to just respect each other’s differences and understand we’re all working toward the same goal.
If you’re not a football fan, other team sports like Lacrosse, Water Polo, Soccer will do. You get the point. Bottom line, and as I’ve said all along, it’s one team across different departments. If you don’t care for sports analogies, find one that works in your company and stick with it. The key is discussing the ongoing collaboration and orchestration that are needed to drive revenue, growth, and customer satisfaction. No more baton passing visuals or metaphors, and no more funnel images that say “Sales owns this” and “Marketing owns that.”
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
I’m glad you’re here with me in this longer than usual post. I hope you found it helpful and thought-provoking. Marketing has evolved to become one of the most challenging roles, but you got this. If you ever want to talk about your specific challenges and initiatives, reach out to me. As I’ve mentioned, mentoring and helping passionate, fearless marketers is my passion.
Together, we can rebrand the role of marketing. Start by using Demand Creation, Demand Management, and Demand Expansion in your vocabulary, slides, meetings, and initiative planning.
Before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that we’re launching something new in 2020 at DemandGen to help you all become even better marketers. Remember in the beginning when I said how much I love technology and teaching you about what I’ve learned and accomplished? Well, we’re going to be providing you with some new, regular content from us at DemandGen in addition to what we are already doing with our Resources Hub and our chart-topping podcast. It’s the most exciting content project I’ve ever worked on to date and I can’t wait to launch it for you.
Please let me know the thoughts and questions coming to your head about the Demand Generation Framework above along with your thoughts about Marketing’s role in 2020 so we can continue the dialogue together.
I hope you had a wonderful New Year! Make it your best career year yet.
Here to help,
For more than 20 years, David Lewis has been a pioneering innovator in digital marketing and has overseen marketing for some of Silicon Valley’s leading technology firms. He founded DemandGen in 2007 to build the worlds’ first marketing technology agency.
For the past decade, David and his team at DemandGen have been at the forefront of the transformation taking place in marketing by helping hundreds of the top sales and marketing teams around the world incorporate sales and marketing technology to drive growth. David is an accomplished industry speaker, thought leader, author, and host the of DemandGen Radio, a bi-weekly podcast devoted to educating marketing professionals on the best technologies and methods for driving growth. His ground-breaking work on the transformation of marketing and sales is at the heart of his #1 book on Lead Management, Manufacturing Demand: The Principles of Successful Lead Management.