How To Build B2B Demand Generation Marketing for Growth in HR Tech
Everything You Need To Know To Build A Demand Generation Engine
What’s the first thing you do when you need to make a substantial purchase? Research it on the internet, right? It’s no different for B2B buyers in the HR technology industry.
With a world of information at our fingertips and generational shifts happening every day, traditional buying behaviors are quickly being disrupted. Forrester reports that Millennials and Gen Z make up 64% of today’s business buyers. They’re digitally savvy information seekers who want self-service access to evaluate HR tech solutions. And your go-to-market strategies need to shift from traditional approaches to B2B demand generation marketing strategies, so you show up where buyers are looking—in a position to influence your audience.
Find out how the landscape is changing, what demand generation marketing is, and how to build a plan that positions your HR tech business for digital, and largely anonymous, prospects.
What is meant by demand generation?
Demand generation is a comprehensive approach to marketing and sales that focuses on creating interest and demand in the market for your products and services and then capturing it. Generally, the definition of demand generation is that it’s a marketing strategy designed to create digital engagement with your target audience by providing information and experiences for your audience to build brand awareness, credibility, trust – and ultimately an affinity for your technology products.
Demand generation marketing vs. lead generation marketing
Unlike traditional lead generation marketing approaches, the ultimate goal of demand generation is for buyers to invite you into their buying process when they’re ready. In contrast, lead generation marketing chases a high volume of leads captured from those interested in your content who may not actually be in market to buy right now.
B2B buying trends
By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will happen in digital channels. Gartner
84% of B2B buyers say they self-educate as much as they possibly can when evaluating software solutions. Tourial
B2B buyers considering a purchase spend only 17% of their total buying time interacting directly with supplier sales teams. Gartner
What you need to know about today’s HR tech buyers
Research from business consulting firms and other organizations offers insight into how B2B buyer behaviors are changing. Recent findings include the following:
- A buyer isn’t one person. It’s a group of 6 – 10 people. (Gartner)
- 75% prefer a rep-free sales experience. (Gartner)
- Most buyers are now Millennials. (Kompass)
- Only 5% of B2B buyers are in-market to buy right now. (The B2B Institute)
“To grow a brand, you need to advertise to people who aren’t in the market now, so that when they do enter the market, your brand is one they’re familiar with.”
– Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science
What are the three pillars of demand generation?
At GrowthMode Marketing, we believe there are three pillars of a demand generation engine. These are strategy, content and distribution. Let’s look at how to build an engine that creates demand in the market for your brand and solutions.
Pillar 1: Demand generation strategy
The blueprint for your demand generation engine
A demand generation strategy is a multi-pronged hyper-focused action plan that gives you the ability to target the right audience with the right story through the right channels. It provides direction for every decision you make about your demand generation program. It’s critical to invest time in planning and gaining strategy alignment with your stakeholders to create a program that has the potential to maximize impact and drive growth. The following are the key components of a demand generation strategy.
1. Ideal customer profile
An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a description of your best fit customer. It helps you define key characteristics of the best-fit companies for your solutions. What companies are most likely to buy and use your products and services? What types of companies and specific brands are important to your business growth?
Defining your specific audience helps you create a plan that’s laser focused on your demand generation strategy, which includes your unique point of view and your content marketing and demand generation plan. The full demand generation engine is meant to improve SEO traction and drive your ideal customers to your website.
What goes into an ideal customer profile?
An ideal customer profile typically has three key components:
- Firmographics—details about the ideal company you want to target, including size, revenue, industry, organizational structure, location and customer base.
- Technographics—details that focus on systems requirements and what integrates with the solutions you sell. Often, details are included about complementary technologies that can make your product work even better.
- Buying triggers—traits that are often time-bound or situational and indicate a readiness to convert. Some examples of buying triggers include a new round of funding, a merger or acquisition, a new C-level hire, company restructuring or expansion, to name just a few.
A common mistake and how an ideal customer profile solves for it
We often see HR tech companies make a common mistake and that’s trying to be everything to everyone instead of defining and zeroing in on their ideal customer. On the surface, we understand the rationale, “If we tell everyone in our addressable market why our products are great, then we’re maximizing our reach and our results, right?”
Unfortunately, no. What happens when you try to be relevant to everyone is that you dilute messages about your unique value. You create messaging that may not resonate as well with the buyers who are the best fit for your company and solutions. It’s a classic mistake that instead positions your business to your total addressable market, or the total market demand for the type of HR tech solution you sell. In reality, a more focused message to a narrower audience will resonate better – gaining more traction and revving the demand generation engine.
Ideal customer profile vs. buyer personas
It’s also important to know the difference between an ideal customer profile and a buyer persona. While both tools describe your prospective buyers, they’re used for very different purposes.
- A buyer persona describes an individual buyer within a company. It looks at how buyers think about a business problem and the buying process. Buyer personas are used to understand individual buyer roles.
- An ideal customer profile describes a type of company. It’s a foundational resource used at the beginning of the marketing and sales process to help your teams focus on the best-fit target audience of prospects. It defines things that include buying triggers, product use cases and key organizational characteristics.
2. Unique point of view framework
Defining your company’s unique point of view helps your HR tech company sound different than others in the market who try to be everything to everyone. It clearly articulates how your solutions address your ideal customer profile’s challenges. It also helps you create a message platform that you use to consistently tell your brand story across all your content that is fed into your demand generation engine. It shows you deeply understand your customers’ unique pain points and it’s meant to help you break through the clutter of a crowded market and stand out.
Creating a compelling unique point of view is a significant endeavor that requires in-depth work. You need to figure out how to sound different and own a conversation that’s central to HR tech. The unique point of view framework is a platform that informs all the content work to come and gives you the ability to convey consistently and clearly what you stand for—across your website and content in all its forms.
What goes into a unique point of view?
The goal is to create a compelling story that captures your buyers’ attention and resonates with their challenges. You want them to buy into your unique viewpoint and continue to follow the conversation. Here are the key elements of a unique point of view:
- Articulate a unique stance on an HR industry trend that stands out from your competitors’ views.
- Challenge current thinking and make a compelling case for change.
- Demonstrate that you understand the unique nuances and pain points of your ideal customer profile.
- Create interest, and ultimately trust, in your brand.
A unique point of view builds awareness and trust over time, creating affinity for your solutions with prospects who will be informed and ready to engage with your team when they’re in the market to buy an HR tech solution that addresses the challenges your technology solves for.
3. Content marketing + demand generation plan
The final component of your demand generation strategy is building a detailed content marketing + demand generation plan. This dual plan acts as the blueprint for creating compelling content across formats and distributing it via the right channels to engage your ideal customer profile.
Content marketing plan
Your content marketing plan identifies the themes, topics, formats and content types you’ll create to tell your unique unique point of view story in a way that breaks through the noisy HR tech space.
- Themes and topics – Define the content marketing themes and specific topics that will resonate most with your ideal customer profile based on their pain points and interests. These become the framework for creating content.
- Formats – Map out the formats such as long-form content like guides, eBooks, blog posts, videos, etc. that align to each stage of the buyer’s journey. Create varied formats of content to match how HR tech buyers want to consume information.
- Content types – Develop complementary cornerstone and cobblestone content that offers depth versus breadth on topics. Repurpose cornerstone content into multiple cobblestone pieces for greater exposure.
Demand generation plan
With a wealth of content marketing in hand, the demand generation plan is your distribution blueprint detailing exactly where and how you will promote content to your ideal customer profile.
- Tactics – Identify the outreach tactics you will use such as email, content syndication, social media, paid advertising, etc. to get content marketing to your HR technology buyer audience.
- Channels – Pinpoint the specific owned, paid, earned and third-party channels where you will place content marketing for optimal visibility by your prospects that fit your ideal customer profile.
In the fast-moving HR tech space, buyers’ information needs are constantly evolving. Having a nimble content marketing + demand generation plan positions you to adapt and provide prospects with the valuable insight they need to choose your solution. Revisit and update the plan on a quarterly or as-needed basis as you gain more buyer knowledge and content insights.
Pillar 2: Demand generation content
The heart of your demand generation engine
Once your strategy blueprint is defined, creating content that carries your unique point of view is the next step. A content marketing plan identifies the key themes, topics and formats you’ll use to create compelling, consumable content for your ideal customer profile.
The goal is to create high quality content that attracts, captures interest and engages your audience. It’s also the catalyst for getting your webpages to rank higher on search engines. You want your audience to come back again and again to engage with what you’re publishing, ultimately creating demand for your point of view and your HR technology solutions.
Content with a full-funnel digital footprint
Create content for each stage of the buyer journey, from the awareness stage through consideration and decision. Full funnel digital content means prospects can take a self-guided journey, finding the information they’re looking for no matter where they’re at with awareness of your brand and solutions.
Create and map content to all stages of the buyer journey
Effective B2B content mapping creates a roadmap of content that meets your buyers at the right place and time in their journey and positions you as a knowledgeable expert.
Create content to hook interest, build brand awareness and cover HR tech industry topics related to your capabilities. Content is informative, educational or thought leadership.
Create content that helps your audience learn about your brand, your unique point of view and what sets you apart from your competitors.
Create content that helps your audience evaluate your solutions and results. Benchmark competitor solutions.
Create demand generation content loops to meet buyers where they’re at
Awareness stage content loop example
- Content format – A blog post called, “The top 5 AI trends poised to transform HR”
- Goal – High level, compelling information to capture buyer interest early in their journey
- Call to action – Learn more about AI in HR with a link driving to more detailed information on your website.
- Content level – Basic
Consideration stage content loop example
- Content format – An e-book called, “AI for HR implementation: How to avoid pitfalls and embrace best practices”
- Goal – Provide educational content on how a specific solution addresses common pain points for buyers looking to compare solutions
- Call to action – Download e-book
- Content level – Intermediate
Decision stage content loop example
- Content format – An in-depth case study that covers how your customer used your AI HR technology to
reduce costs and streamline HR operations
- Goal – Offer real-world context and proof of how your HR tech solution solved challenges
- Call to action – Download case study or watch case study video
- Content level – Advanced
Create a variety of content types
Tell your story and share your unique point of view over and over, across all types of content. Weave your story into longer content with calls-to-action and boilerplates at the conclusion so there’s never a doubt about who you are or how your solutions tie to a topic. Take an iterative approach to test, measure and refine the messaging approach to uncover what resonates in the market. Consistently repeat your key messages to capture your audience’s attention and land important points that set you apart in the market, making it stick in your buyer’s minds.
Cornerstone and cobblestone content
Create content for the various readiness levels with cornerstone content and cobblestone content. Not all HR tech prospects consume content in the same way – so your content needs to come in different formats. Cornerstone content is meatier (e-books, guidebooks, reports), educational and in-depth – which can then be sliced and diced into cobblestone content that is bite-sized and attention-getting like listicles, checklists and infographics. By sweating the content, you can turn one cornerstone content piece into many cobblestone content pieces to get more mileage out of your content marketing efforts.
A content pillar is a key theme or topic that links to articles, blogs, videos, e-books, infographics and other related content pieces. It’s a navigation-friendly framework for your website that groups topics from your content plan and organizes media around that topic. This structure tells search engines that your website covers the topic broadly and in-depth. Google algorithms recognize this structure and will see your website as an authority on the topic and rank it accordingly, helping you rank higher in search results.
A central pillar page is an overarching topic that’s typically tied to a short-tailed keyword and provides complete information for your audience in 3,000+ words. A sub-pillar page is content that complements your pillar page topic and offers more detail in about 750-2,500 words. There is a whole marketing strategy around content pillars called pillar-based marketing to build a network of related content that optimizes SEO results.
Pillar 3: Distribution
The promotion stage of building your demand generation engine
After you create high-quality content structured to rank higher on search engines, you need to promote and distribute it to reach your HR technology prospects. You need to distribute content across multiple channels. Having omnichannel content means that your content is distributed across the variety of ways where buyers that fit your ideal customer profile get information now—it’s where they hang out so to speak. Content distribution channels include these categories:
Owned channels are the ones you control what content to publish, when and how often:
- Social media channels
- Email marketing
- Cobblestone content (e-books, guidebooks, reports)
Paid channels are the ones you pay to distribute your content including:
- Digital display ads
- Paid social media ads and posts
- Paid third-party content and content syndication
- Paid influencers
Earned channels results from word of mouth including:
- Shares, likes, mentions and reposts on social media platforms
- Backlinks—links on another website that point to your website
- Media coverage
3 Demand Generation Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Not building a demand generation engine because you’re stuck in a cycle of chasing leads
A lot of companies are so focused on chasing leads, they miss a pivotal question: How valuable are the leads you’re spending so much time pursuing?
Research shows that just 10-15% of leads will ever convert (Belkins). That means if your company is just chasing leads, you’re missing out on an opportunity to market to a much larger audience of potential HR technology buyers. They may not be ready to purchase your product right now, but you can’t afford to ignore them. When you build brand awareness, credibility and trust with these buyers, it’s more likely they’ll be aware of your company, and they’ll come to you when they’re looking to buy.
Shifting out of old habits doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice lead generation activity in favor of demand generation. It just means lead generation activities should become part of a broader demand generation strategy to build long-term growth. One that reaches prospects at all stages of the buying journey—not just those that are in-market to buy now.
Not giving demand generation programs enough time to gain traction
Creating demand in the HR technology market takes time, so moving away from a lead generation mindset takes patience. You can’t build a following and generate brand loyalty overnight. If your company has declining sales or stalled growth, it can be really tempting to go back to the lead chase short game. With demand generation, you’re investing in a long game that prioritizes lead quality over lead quantity.
Reluctance to invest in demand generation marketing programs that can’t be easily measured with traditional marketing automation metrics
HR tech companies need to re-think how they measure marketing success. Clicks and conversions are still important, but those metrics won’t reveal the lift you get from demand generation efforts. That’s because more traditional lead generation metrics are tied solely to MQLs.
When you pivot to demand generation, there’s much more activity driving engagement with potential HR tech buyers that won’t be represented in conversion data. Just one example is a podcast. It’s difficult to determine if it was the reason a prospect entered your sales pipeline. Someone can listen to a podcast without registering for it, so you can’t track who engaged with the content. But it’s possible it could have a major influence on why a prospect contacts your company for information about a product or service solution.
Here are some metrics that you can evaluate to look beyond MQLs and understand the real value that demand generation activities drive as part of a broader marketing strategy:
- Number of meetings or opportunities generated
- Sales pipeline value
- Cost per lead
- Average sales cycle length
- Average deal size
- Customer acquisition cost
- Customer lifetime value
You won’t see immediate changes, but over time, a successful demand generation strategy will absolutely drive results up. You’ll see lower customer acquisition costs, decreased sales cycle times and increased deal sizes and pipeline value.
So that’s a lot, right?
It really is. But it’s how you need to level up your marketing to align with today’s buyers. And GrowthMode Marketing is certainly here to help.
How GrowthMode Marketing partners with HR tech businesses for the expertise you need
Partnering with demand generation marketing experts can free your internal team to work on immediate marketing needs while GrowthMode Marketing builds components of your demand generation engine—or the entire program.
We can also help you build rationale for demand generation marketing and gain consensus with your stakeholders. We help facilitate meetings and conversations with sales, finance and other teams that are supported by data and expertise that explains how demand generation marketing drives more revenue and growth for your HR tech business.
We work in a variety of ways to fit your needs and budget:
- STRATEGY: We create your demand generation marketing strategy and provide a blueprint for your team to execute on and follow.
- CONTENT MARKETING: We create your demand generation content including your website content pillars and content loops, cornerstone and cobblestone content, your blog, podcast or any other format you need.
- DEMAND GENERATION ENGINE: We work hand-in-hand with your team to build your strategy, content marketing plan, content assets and manage content distribution for you. Essentially, we serve as your HR tech company’s marketing team.