Without a doubt the biggest challenges facing startup marketing teams are limited budgets and a lack of resources. For these reasons, startups must be hyper focused on developing smart strategies that maximize resources and return on investment (ROI).
But most marketing teams I work with are so furiously busy keeping up the pace of activity that they don’t often have the time to take a step back and think through how they can adjust their overall approach to demand generation enabling them to do more with less.
The result is a busy team churning out lots of activity - blog posts, tweets, webinars - but not producing a lot of results.
In short, the result is a marketing team spinning their wheels.
But there’s another way.
Introducing, what I call demand generation bundling. It’s a method of crafting marketing campaigns that check a lot of boxes - lead generation, buyer research, content that converts, pipleline development, and a whole lot more - while minimizing the amounts of time and budget allocated.
What is demand generation bundling?
Bundling typically refers to product purchasing - like when your cable company convinces you that it is way more cost effective to buy Cable, Internet, and Phone, than just one of them.
The thinking there is that if you’ve already agreed to buy one thing, adding a few more into the mix at reduced prices gets increasingly easy. People are always on the hunt for great bargains and once we’ve committed to purchasing one thing, we’re primed to say yes to loads more.
Car dealers do this.
Coaches selling ebooks and trainings do this.
Hell, even the drug store does this by having that row of silly little tchotchkes and gum and batteries and other last minute items in the line for the cashier.
The whole idea behind bundling is getting more bang for your buck. So why don’t we do this as marketers?
My take on marketing - especially for startups where money, time, and resources are tight - is that we should try to check as many boxes with each activity as we can. And these means finding ways to structure marketing campaigns so that we are producing a wide variety of re-usable content with each project.
For example, most companies will treat events, webinars, blog posts, social media, and every other marketing channel as separate from all the others. Sure, there may be some overlap here and there - social content promoting a webinar, a blog post summarizing a recent event, etc. - but still these channels tend to be strategized and executed as largely segmented efforts.
I understand when you’re working for a large enterprise and have a massive marketing department why this siloed approach to marketing would be so likely, but in a startup marketing environment, this kind of segmentation shouldn’t be the norm.
Instead, think about structuring a marketing campaign around a new content piece
Maybe you want to write an ebook…
What if you write the ebook in sections, publishing a small piece at a time as a blog post, eventually bundling it together into a full ebook?
Then devise a really clever and engaging social media campaign teasing out certain key quotes or statistics and host a webinar where you do a deep dive into the topic.
Afterward, you promote the video recording with the ebook download as the call-to-action for all related content.
You’ve generated new leads, boosted traffic on the site, and educated your audience through blog, video, and downloadable content.
Why demand generation bundling is so helpful for startups
Probably the most challenging part of working for a startup is that everyone on your team is likely to be spread thin. You’re all taking on a lot of different roles, filling in gaps as they open up, and doing what you can to hustle your way to that next level. This means that there is always more work to do and productivity and efficiency are immensely important.
The biggest mistake I see startup marketing (and leadership, and product, and every other department) teams make is that they are so focused on tactical execution that they don’t always take the time to develop a strategy that delivers the highest impact with the lowest effort. In fact, most of the time, I don’t see much of a strategy at all.
Lots of tactics, not a lot of strategy...but that’s a topic for a whole other blog post!
Demand generation bundling helps solve this problem. It provides a foundational framework for crafting a strategy that maximizes efficiency.
The real value to this approach comes from its ability to check a lot of tactical boxes all in one go. When done the right way, a demand generation campaign bundle can achieve all of the below:
Forming or strengthening strategic partnership
Pipeline generation (sales development)
Multi-media content generation - social videos, YouTube content, blog posts, etc.
Social media campaigns
Sounds too good to be true? It’s not.
How do you get started in demand generation bundling?
If you’ve never engaged in this style of demand generation, let me provide a few helpful tips to build this kind of approach in your own organization.
#1. Demand generation bundling starts with your buyer
This should be your first step in everything marketing related. Really think through whom you’re targeting, what they care about, and what pain points they experience.
Then choose an anchor piece of content. I love webinars for this because it’s much easier to produce a wide variety of supporting content, but you could do an ebook, an event, or even a blog series.
Pick a topic for either a tutorial or a discussion - or both. Make sure it’s relevant to their day-to-day experience. It should be related to your product or service, but not be exclusively about your product or service.
This could be highlight how a customer changed or improved their results, their team, their companies with your product or service as part of the story.
Maybe it’s a deep dive into the thought leadership of a particular trend in your industry.
It could even be a step-by-step tutorial on how to achieve a certain outcome.
With each of these, your product or service will be mentioned, but it shouldn’t be front and center.
#2. Find a strategic co-marketing partner
I am a big believer in the power of strategic partnerships when you’re growing. They’re always important, but I think they add fuel to your itty bitty fire. You can maximize resources by teaming up, get exposure to one another’s audience, and learn the lessons the other has learned. Triple Win.
For demand generation bundling, a strategic partner (or several) can be a huge value add.
If your anchor content piece is a webinar, have them join you on a panel discussion. If it’s an ebook, have them write a section and co-promote it all.
I’ll be putting together a whole blog post on how to find the right strategic partner, but for right now, let me just say you’re looking for companies that target the same audience, solve a complementary problem, but don’t compete with you, and whose marketing and demand generation strengths differ from yours.
Maybe they have a huge list, but you have the scrappy know-how to put together the campaign. Maybe they have a phenomenal content writer and you have an incredible designer.
But don’t worry. Those differences might not be obvious, so just make your list of dream marketing friends and start reaching out and having conversations.
#3. Align your sales and marketing teams to create an outbound strategy
Most marketers today are well-schooled in Hubspot’s inbound methodology. And it’s still a foundational principle in our discipline, but its effectiveness alone is waning for early stage startups. When you’ve got a huge brand and a ton of traffic, it’s still a winning strategy.
But for startups, you need to marry inbound and outbound.
So go make friends with your sales team - especially your sales development reps (SDRs, BDRs, ADRs, or whatever else you’re calling them) and hatch a plan - together.
Have them include your content piece in their outbound sequences. You can also use this content piece to nurture dormant leads or try to engage any cold lead that never responded to a meeting request.
#4. Use your demand generation content to conduct buyer research
When you’re a startup, you’re pretty much just operating off of buyer hypotheses. The more research you can conduct, the smarter and more effective your sales, marketing, and even product strategy will be.
And if you’re the one gathering all this critical information, let me tell you your team will freaking love you.
On the form for your anchor piece of demand generation content, include an extra question. Don’t just ask name and email. Also ask:
What’s your biggest challenge associated with this topic?
What’s your goal for the year on this?
If we could help you solve one problem, what would you choose?
Pick at least one. If you want to do all three, have it be a second form that appears after they’ve give you their email. Sure, you won’t get everyone to answer, but a little will go a LONG way.
Note: On the webinars I host, about 75% of registrants will answer at least one of those questions. And then I know exactly what to ask my guest.
#5. Create content that drives awareness and engagement
Once you’ve completed your anchor content - or perhaps in the lead up to it - you want to create a number of additional pieces of content that can be shared with anyone who engaged with the anchor and your broader audience. You want to take the information that was submitted in your newly configured form above and use this to guide your planning for any supporting content. Also, if you hosted a webinar, think about the questions or comments people had during the session.
Do a few key themes keep coming up?
Are most leads mentioning the same pain point?
Does everyone ask the same question?
Your creativity is the limit here, so I’m just going to rattle off some examples to get those creative juices flowing.
Take the webinar video, get it transcribed using Rev.com, and turn this into a blog post
Upload the video to Youtube with the transcription and add conversion links
Write a few follow up blog-posts going deeper into the topic or addressing repeated themes
Create a checklist of how to solve a particular problem that was mentioned in your webinar or in your ebook
Edit the webinar video down to a few short sound bites to be shared on social
Pull out key quotes from the anchor content, create beautiful social images with those quotes, and link them back to the original piece
Survey 10-15 thought leaders in your space (just one question will do) about a related topic and share that as “Advice from the experts”
Record a follow-up video with someone from your company going deeper into the topic or referencing the feedback you got from your audience
Host a second webinar that gives a more tactical breakdown
Take the audio from your webinar and turn it into a podcast
Note: if you make any of this follow-up content gated, you’ll want to apply the same form technique described above. Just ask for their email and one deeper question.
Spend an afternoon with your team to brainstorm every wild and crazy idea. I’m a big fan of leveraging design thinking for this process.
#6. Turn this demand generation campaign into content that converts
All of the above is great, really great, but if this doesn’t generate opportunities for your sales team, what’s the point?
Now take your list of leads, including all of the information they’ve submitted in these buyer research forms and follow-up to turn them into qualified sales opportunities. Every organization is different in terms of how this process works, sometimes marketing handles this, sometimes sales development reps.
Either way, you want to ensure these leads are getting customized follow-ups. If the list is under 100 leads, take the one-to-one route. If it’s over, segment into a few buckets based on the information submitted in the forms and create segmented sequences.
The idea here is to mention something like:
“Hey Joe, I noticed that when you signed up for last week’s webinar, you mentioned your biggest challenge is X. Turns out we solved that exact problem for Acme corp and I think we could help you too. Do you have 30 min for a call to talk through it and find out?”
This approach will immediately improve your ability to turn these leads into qualified sales opportunities.
Now you’ve got a solid understanding of how you can approach this time of demand generation bundling. Every company has different needs and their own unique take on this process, but the same standard framework can get you pretty far. Just think through what will deliver value to your target audience (it’s always about your buyer, folks), feel authentic to your brand, and help you meet your goals.
Then try a few new things, measure the outcomes, iterate, improve, repeat. Simple as that!
And if you try any of the above, please share your lessons learned, your challenges, and your outcomes with me. I love learning from all of you!