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October 17, 2017

Lessons Learned Building Demand for B2B Services

Thought by Erik Wagner, Director, Global Demand Generation
Line art of a man working a spreadsheet on an FFW laptop

Successful demand generation for a B2B service company is almost unheard of. The sophistication and data-driven culture that exists at high-performing product companies is rarely replicated at service companies. Instead, most service companies rely on their network to build their client base. While this is one way of going about growing your business, it certainly is a longer and tougher haul unless you’re incredibly lucky to have a giant Rolodex.

Just because marketing services is a bigger challenge does not mean that it does not work. Far from it - demand generation marketing can be highly effective when marketing a service.

One of the largest challenges that service providers encounter when building demand generation is that services are intangible. Thus, differentiation between companies becomes more difficult than what you see with a typical product marketing play. We can’t use the differentiation ploys of “faster,” “smaller,” or “more secure,” because it’s just not a thing with service marketing. Instead, we rely on claims of “higher-quality," "more experienced/smarter staff," "amazing past outcomes,” "better processes," etc.

Additionally, since service companies tend to have far less data than product companies, it’s rare to see a service company with a large marketing budget that is driving thousands of leads per week. Because of this, many companies do not invest in demand generation, study their customer journey, consider attribution modeling, or spend much time on content marketing.

Five companies, one demand generation pipeline

In late 2015, after merging five agencies into a single entity, FFW was formed. Overnight we became a 400+ person-strong global company but we did not have a coherent brand, dedicated marketing staff, or marketing leads. What we did have was a mess of CRMs, marketing automation platforms, and various other tools, but no one to manage them. Each company merging into FFW had its own sales department, pipeline, processes, tools, and relationships, which made integration difficult.

We had a vision of what we wanted FFW to look like after the merge: a more predictable flow of leads, opportunities, and new sales. This is the first of several blog posts that will focus on how we developed a digital strategy to streamline our marketing tool stack, unify our team, and build a successful demand generation program.

Lesson 1: Start With A Vision

Each company has unique issues, and understanding them is key to building a successful strategy. Our team spent time identifying our unique challenges, as well as our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Next, the marketing team partnered with FFW’s executives to develop a vision for how the sales and marketing teams would work and grow together. Then, we determined how the marketing department would be built, as well as what our key milestones were and when they would be reached (i.e., leads, opportunities, sales, projects, and hires). We also wanted to paint a picture of how the sales and marketing teams would work and grow together.

The marketing department was then responsible for selling that vision to the key stakeholders in each of our markets.

Lesson 2: Build Strong Relationships

The marketing team needed to build relationships with our sales department and executives.  Many of the marketing team were newcomers to FFW, while our sales leaders had incredible knowledge and experience of each of their individual markets. We worked as a group to understand the intricacies of each market that we are in (to name a few: US, Canada, UK, France, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark). Then, we started mapping out the basics:

  • Who we were selling to in each market
  • What their service offerings are
  • How they have approached the market
  • The value proposition
  • Target market
  • Their sales process
  • What has worked in the past
  • ...And any quick-wins that the marketing team could implement

Armed with this information, we were prepared to start building a global strategy that would help the unify our sales teams and drive demand. My next post will discuss how we plotted out our path to success, and will share lessons that you can apply to your own B2B demand generation efforts.

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