By creating a scalable and measurable process for generating demand, building a solid Demand Factory™ can yield significant results. What happens after you’ve put those core functions in place, however, is even more important for long-term effectiveness. And that depends entirely on how well your organization continues to tweak and refine your Demand Factory once you’ve built it.
Marketers are used to the concept of continuous improvement. The drive to get more (e.g., more attendees to an event, more clicks on an email CTA, more form conversions from a landing page) seems an inherent personality trait in a good marketer.
However, in working with a large variety of clients of different sizes and in different industries over the years, I’ve noticed that continuous improvement is rarely practiced in a systematic way across the entire revenue-generating process.
And it makes sense. Continuous improvement requires being able to measure the effectiveness of every single step of the revenue-generating process. As DemandGen’s CEO, David Lewis, points out in his recent trip down Marketing memory lane, Marketing wasn’t even able to start measuring the effects of its individual tactics on overall revenue until the late 1990s, when the Internet made it possible to track and measure some of the interactions that occur during the buyer’s journey. The ability to attribute revenue to specific marketing efforts and campaigns is actually a relatively recent development.
Contrast this with seemingly continuous process improvements in engineering and manufacturing, which have been measurable since the Industrial Revolution, and it is actually amazing how far we’ve come in only a few short decades.
Continuous improvement is more than just testing or optimizing individual campaigns
Digital marketers are used to testing individual tactics and campaigns. Website and email A/B testing tools and campaign results reviews are both common and useful as part of an overall continuous improvement process.
However, too often they overlook the whole forest for the trees.
Consider the complexity of a modern-day buyer’s journey. Not only are there multiple touches and paths that a buyer normally takes — consuming website content, clicking on email campaigns, attending in-person events and webinars, and interacting with multiple Sales outreach efforts — but there are hundreds of touches that the marketer doesn’t directly control (think content and materials from competitors, industry content providers, social media, and other third-party sources). All of these points in the individual buyer’s journey have a greater or lesser impact on the ultimate revenue you as a marketer realize. And, as much as we’d like it to be, it is simply not possible to optimize the ones that you don’t control.
That is why, when building in continuous improvement, it is vital to look at the entire revenue-generation process as a whole. Fortunately, there’s a framework for that.
The Demand Generation Framework encompasses the three core revenue-generating processes throughout the buyer’s journey: Demand Creation, Demand Management, and Demand Expansion. Not just within Marketing. Not just within Sales. Not just within Customer Service. That’s just not how the buyer’s journey works. For your business or your prospective buyer.
Continuous improvement starts with aligning all three areas to the same goals and objectives. Too often, the individual areas are siloed and only focus on optimizing their particular areas. While it’s still important to optimize processes within each area of responsibility, you must also optimize the areas between each area of responsibility (e.g., the processes between Sales and Marketing and between Sales and Customer Service) to ensure a consistent customer experience.
A marketer in charge of digital advertising may not understand the overall target customer and brand messaging and their impact on successful sales processes. So, when a marketer focuses only on optimizing landing page conversions, without an overall understanding of the other process impacts, it can throw a wrench into the improvement efforts across the entire process.
Continuous improvement is a culture that starts at the executive level and makes its way through each of the roles responsible for tactical execution. It requires bridging and unifying the natural gaps between groups and getting everyone to keep an eye on the forest and the trees.
Continuous improvement is, well, continuous
Too often I see a company undertake a major initiative, such as building massive amounts of content, rebranding the messaging, developing buyer personas, or putting in a large CRM or MarTech system … and then they don’t revisit the core processes or information for years afterwards.
While individual campaigns and tactics may undergo continuous review, the basic assumptions of the core process may not. And doing that — looking at the entire forest — is what can really drive huge improvements for all of the individual trees.
Often, this effort is lost in a flurry of urgent priorities or lack of available resources. Or my favorite (and what I see most often), a lack of updated and accurate documentation of the processes, systems, reports, and programs that are currently in place.
Seeing the forest and the trees requires building in review and optimization for every process that contributes to driving revenue at your organization. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing the process each month or quarter. It does mean understanding what is expected from each area and comparing that to the actual results so that you can tweak and refine your current processes as you go — instead of waiting for that ever-elusive huge block of time and available resources to reveal itself.
Companies that build continuous improvement into their revenue-generating processes can expect to get more actionable insights and meet their overall objectives more quickly.
Where to start?
While you can start driving improvement of the processes under your immediate control, full continuous process improvement really requires a team effort and ultimate leadership from the C-suite to align all of the different groups across the organization.
Often, it is a new person, such as a new CMO, who comes in and leads the change. We are often brought in by clients as an outside partner to help drive that change across the organization. And once that change has been made, the culture can be developed to include continuous improvement.
These days, we have the systems and data to measure the impact of all of our actions on overall revenue growth. Building a strong system to improve that process will help ensure that it will continue to serve your organization’s overall company revenue and growth goals — while helping Marketing demonstrate its valuable role in achieving them.
Ryan Johnson develops and implements marketing automation strategies for DemandGen clients. As a DemandGen Consultant, he has helped clients across a wide range of industries to streamline and optimize their marketing and sales processes to drive measurable success and ROI.