Ann Handley on Demand Generation in 2022

digital transformation course with tom goodwin

We were joined by industry legend, Ann Handley along with our expert panel for a live Q&A as we explore the ingredients to exceptional demand generation in 2022.

We thread together tips, tricks and hacks to provide you with the ultimate demand gen playbook to drive your marketing strategy.

ann-handleyIf you didn't get the chance to watch live, we've got a nice, neat round up of all the biggest and best points. You can't say we don't treat you right. 

What Are The Ingredients To Demand Generation Excellence?

According to Ann, demand generation comes down to five key attributes; storytelling, supporting the entire customer journey, focus on seamlessness, human connection, and content.

So, let's start with storytelling. Companies who tend to thrive in their demand generation are able to provide a good story. They know who they are, and they know why they matter to their customers. With this, they're able to make their customer the hero of the story, and they tell that story across all aspects of the business.

Next, these companies support the entire customer journey. 

Often in demand gen, we think only about top of funnel, but it's not just about top of funnel acquisition

Instead, I think for you to really excel at demand generation, you need to have systems and processes in place to nurture prospects before they become customers.

This also includes the time after the sale. These companies use this time to build loyalty, and referrals, long term. 

The third thing is the ability to focus on a seamless customer experience. Essentially, this means that the experience you have in one place is the same in any other place. This could be on the website, social channels, with sales, with marketing. This implies a lot of collaboration between teams, especially sales and marketing. 

It should be the same experience when someone picks up the phone, as when they get a support email. It all needs to be seamless through that customer experience lens.

The fourth attribute is the ability to create a human connection. "You forget how important that human connection is. So, do your executives show their faces?" Anne says. This can be as simple as turning the camera around and showing who they are.

"I think especially in a post pandemic world, it's so key to building that trust."

The final point is content. The companies who thrive in this space tend to have exceptionally valuable content.

This content is very customer centric; it meets the needs of your customers, it's valuable to them, personalised, and it's timely.

They'll also experiment with new content formats, and don't stick with the tried and true techniques.

"We think email is great. Don't get me wrong. But I think you know one of the fun things about marketing and one of the things that I truly love about it is that it's an opportunity to experiment"

But look for those moments where you can literally hear your customers' voices, you can pull them in, and as a result, make them like part of your story.

Which B2B Companies Are Running The Most Impressive ABM or ABX Programmes?

"One of the companies that I highlighted not too long ago is actually a sponsor of this session today, so I feel a little weird, it's almost like they slipped me a 20, like, you know, underneath the table," Ann says. 

"The company is Vidyard. Vidyard I think did a fantastic job but with one of their marketing initiatives recently last June."

Ann is referring to the launching of a mini documentary by Vidyard, called Reconnection, which focused on the importance of connection in a virtual world.

But the reason why I loved it so much was in part the story, but also how they rolled it out. How they told that story and how they launched that programme."

Vidyard started the campaign with a red carpet event, where they invited influencers to be seated with the audience. Then the people who were part of the documentary were interviewed. So, it's about looking for those moments of interactivity, and it's promoting the idea of FOMO - watch it live, or miss out. 

Vidyard also send out red carpet boxes to a number of influencers and key accounts, extending the experience for their most valuable clients. 

How Can You Personalise At Scale?

I think the more personalised you can make your content the more relevant it'll feel to your audience. So you should have some level of personalisation. I think in everything you're doing

Ann sees personalisation in two ways. First of all, it is a tech solution. This tech will allow you to help personalise your messages, your content, and your outreach. 

The holy grail of using personalisation is really to understand through your audience's behaviour and through their preferences and through your own account intelligence.

Ask: where are they? What stage are they ready to hear from you? At what stage, what messages will resonate the most? So, you need to go into your personalisation that it's not just about using their first name, or similar fields, but also personalise the messages that you're sending to the clients in your ecosystem. So, this is a technological solution. 

The second part is focusing on a human approach. Personalised content should feel like it comes from a person. So, can we create this sort of emotional connection with the audience? Can we be transparent? 

You know, one of the things that I always tell the people on my team is: stop sounding like a marketer.

Make your messages and your messaging more human, more accessible, more personalised,. Sometimes marketers can make it too much about the technology, and not enough about these manual, cool marketing skills. 

What Career Advice Would She Give 25-Year-Old Anne?

25 year old me was not even in marketing at the time. I was a journalist.

I was working for the Boston Globe. I was writing features, and basically telling stories, which in some ways was perfect training for my eventual move into marketing because you know it's the ability to engage an audience through storytelling.

But the biggest thing she would tell herself? Use your voice. 

I waited way too long. I waited until my first book was out in 2010. I published content rules with my good friends at Chapman, and I never really spoke publicly until then. I never really created content, publicly, which is outrageous to me when I think about it now.

I tell my daughter like don't you will never feel like you are ready, you just have to do it.

Only through doing it can you become a better communicator, and grow your confidence and the community around you, Ann says. 

It's only through using your voice that you get those three C's of competence and community and, ultimately, connection.