During the eight years we’ve been publishing Demand Gen Report, I’ve encountered a lot of companies that mistakenly view the discipline of demand generation as a switch that they can simply turn on when sales fall short of projections.
That is why I was excited to read an advance copy of Carlos Hidalgo’s new book, Driving Demand, which does a great job of covering the transformation B2B companies must make to successfully generate demand and engage today’s buyer.
Driving Demand is a helpful blend of theory, thought leadership and actionable examples for B2B marketers. The book provides a framework for fixing broken demand generation practices, as well as a solid mix of case studies showing the payoffs various companies have realized by investing in people, process and technology.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Hidalgo at the recent MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum in Boston, where he shared an inside look into the book and his perspective on the evolving B2B landscape.
Demand Gen Report: One of the aspects I enjoyed about the book was that it provided some great real-world examples of B2B organizations that have changed their approach to demand generation. Why was that important for you to add to Driving Demand?
Carlos Hidalgo: I wanted readers to say, “Hey, this is something that’s attainable.” In the book, we talked about PR Newswire, which most people only view as a wire service.
But PR Newswire was in a really unique situation. They said, “We have a bunch of other services that we can bring to our buyers … How do we engage with them without just blasting out an email and saying, ‘Hey, it’s all about us.’” Instead, they focused on their buyer and what they needed [and then recommended relevant services].
Both of those examples really showcase that fact that whether it is a more progressive kind of marketing-slanted industry like PRNewswire, or even a more traditional brand in the industrial sector, people are buying and transforming the way they engage. The process works no matter what the industry. In both cases, it’s really about how they understand their buyers and align to have their buyers engage and become loyal customers.
DGR: We’ve been doing our B2B Buyer Behavior study for five years now, so I was glad to see that you highlighted the ongoing struggle for marketers to understand their buyers and engage them around their challenges and pain points. Why do you think that’s been such a hard transition?
Hidalgo: First and foremost, marketers have never been trained to do this stuff. I remember when I was early in my career at McAfee, and then later on at BMC Software, we were never asked to understand who our buyers were. That was sales’ job or product management’s job. Marketing was just there to create nice collateral and branding stuff. Today, we’re still not seeing these new disciplines taught.
I was speaking at a university in Colorado recently and afterward a marketing [student] came up to me and said, “Hey, you kept using the term B2B. What does that mean?” This kid was a junior in his marketing major and had no idea what the acronym B2B meant. We’re facing a huge issue in that marketers have never had to do it before, and we’re not being taught to do it.
If you look at the Forrester study, which I cite in the book, 96% of CMOs are saying, “Marketers are being asked to do things we’ve never done before.” So while the buyer is changing your life, we’ve been talking about this challenge for years. In a lot of instances, it caught us by surprise — not only on the marketing side, but B2B salespeople need to adapt and change as well because they’re no longer leading the buyer journey. It’s really the buyer who’s driving this and leading this process.
I think it’s a “perfect storm,” combining a skills gap, a rapid change in the buying process and people not coming out of school ready to do this stuff.
DGR: One of the other things I really liked about the book was the fact that you talked about the CMO’s role in this transformation. I feel like there is some perception that demand generation is a lower-level activity. Are you seeing that change among leading B2B brands?
Hidalgo: The CMO can be the biggest catalyst in this transformation, or the biggest obstacle. I mention in the book the article by Adam Needles, my business partner. He talks about the CMO as the problem. When you look at where CMOs were 20 years ago, they were senior managers; they were managers in marketing departments that worked their way up. So, as the buyers changed, the CMO kind of missed this disruption that the buying process has caused.
CMOs that get this really understand that this is about change more than anything. It’s about changing what we do, how we think, how we operate, how we view the buyer, how we work with sales and [how we] truly want to be more strategic versus shying away from it.
The most progressive CMOs are the ones who say, “We’re going to set a vision. We’re going to cast a vision of where we’re going to go, how we’re going to be strategic and how we’re going to move forward to align to our buyer and make sales more successful.” Those are the CMOs that I see that are really succeeding. The ones who are obstacles are fighting and constantly saying, “I want a seat at the table.” You’ve got to earn that seat. The CMO plays a really pivotal role, and it [can be] a positive or a negative.
DGR: Even when companies realize they need to change, the process of where and how to start is a challenge. Talk a little bit about the framework you provide in the book.
Hidalgo: Having a demand process framework gives us a blueprint for designing the demand funnel — how are we going to align to our buyer at a people, process, content, technology, KPI and data level? Then how do we engage, nurture and convert? When you start to think in that mindset and … you start to take that approach, it radically changes everything and it gives you the blueprint. You can say, “This is how we implement demand gen,” versus putting a finger in the air and saying, “Which way is the wind blowing?” and “How are we going to design that?”
DGR: Congrats on the book. I think it’s one of the most actionable pieces that I’ve read. It feels really accessible and tangible for B2B marketers, so I encourage our readers to go out and grab a copy.
Hidalgo: Well, thanks. I appreciate the opportunity.