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#118: Demand Generation Example: How We Went From Zero to Hero

Episode 118

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Kevin and I have always prided ourselves on being Demand Generation practitioners, not just theorists. So in the spirit of walking the walk (and not just talking the talk!), we’re sharing how we’ve applied our 5 BEs Framework for Demand Generation to our own business.

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It’s a strategy that has taken us from two unknown performance marketers that nobody had heard of, to a business entirely powered by Demand Generation. We are also now fortunate to be recognised as top thought leaders in the demand gen space, which has opened doors for us that we never thought possible. Our podcast, The B2B Playbook, is now a top B2B marketing show. Our 12 week demand gen program, The B2B Incubator, consistently sells out. And we’ve been invited to speak on more than 17 podcasts this year alone.

All of this not to brag – we are merely getting started – but to show that consistent execution of our 5 BEs Framework actually works.

The framework has helped create the trust in the B2B marketing community that was needed in order for us to build our business. Let’s take a look at how we did it.

Our Own Transition to Demand Generation

Kevin and I weren’t always holistic demand generation experts. We actually used to be performance marketers, helping clients spend up to $30 million per year – mostly across Google Ads and Meta. And let me tell you – we thought we were rockstars.

I remember thinking…

“The idea that you could put a dollar in, get a dollar 50 out just seemed so incredible. And I just thought that’s what marketing was”

George Coudounaris – The B2B Playbook – [00:04:27]

And this belief in a straightforward, input-output model of marketing guided our early strategies. We thought it was a repeatable system that we could just scale to the moon, and do forever.

But as we shifted our focus to B2B, Kevin and I both had our “oh sh*t!” moments that made us realise this same strategy just wasn’t going to work the same way. For me, it was the inability of paid advertising to help companies scale sustainably in the B2B world. It led to the anxiety and stress that goes along with CPLs and CPAs creeping up and up, and the feeling there was nothing I could do about it.

It was at that point we realized that we had so much to learn about B2B marketing. These moments helped us redefine our entire approach to marketing. In B2B, we couldn’t rely solely on the numbers and data-driven tactics that had previously dominated our strategy. The B2B landscape demanded a more nuanced approach, one that prioritized relationship-building, deep customer understanding, and strategic long-term thinking over immediate, quantifiable returns.

Creating vs Capturing Demand: Our Big Realization

Probably one of the biggest realizations we had was that we didn’t appreciate the distinction between capturing and creating demand. As performance marketers, all we were really doing was capturing the existing demand out there. That means trying to find people that are actively looking for your product or service, and convincing them to buy it from you. This worked well as an initial strategy, however it never scaled beyond a certain point because of this reality:

At any given point in time, only 3% of your market is in ‘buy’ mode.

That means you and the competition are going after that same 3% of companies in ‘buy mode’ right now. And guess what happens as you scale? You try and eat a bigger slice of the same sized pie. So do your competitors. The price for the pie goes up, you can’t afford it – and all of a sudden everyone points the finger at marketing.

And guess what happens as you scale? You try and eat a bigger slice of the same sized pie. So do your competitors. The price for the pie goes up, you can’t afford it – and all of a sudden everyone points the finger at marketing.

This is what we would refer to as ‘capturing demand’. We’re going after existing demand in the market, and trying to win them over as customers. Unless your market is rapidly growing and the number of competitors is staying the same (unlikely!), this will become unaffordable quite quickly.

Creating Demand: What It Means

We needed to go beyond the 3% in market, and instead look to create demand amongst the other 97% of the market. They’re the companies that could use your product or service one day, but aren’t actively looking to buy. Creating demand is about instilling an intense desire in that company to prioritise the problem you solve, and lead them to the logical conclusion that you’re the perfect business to do it.

It goes far beyond the transactional nature of performance marketing, and involves building relationships, deeply understanding your customers, and much more. It nurtures the 97% turning them into active buyers. And by turning them into active buyers, you have the opportunity to develop a relationship with them that means you are the OBVIOUS choice for them, and it would be silly to purchase from someone else. So it’s not about quick wins or immediate ROI; it’s about nurturing prospects, providing value, and establishing trust – essential elements in the B2B marketing landscape.

Crafting Our Demand Generation Framework

With this new knowledge, Kevin and I became obsessed with trying to turn this into a repeatable process. We read everything we could (Ogilvy, Brunson, Pulizzi, Dunford, Moore, Miller, Sinek, Cialdini, Godin and more), we worked with experts and mentors – and what we found was there was so much great advice, it just wasn’t clear as to what we should use and when.

“We read everything that we could get our hands on… Russell Brunson, Joe Pulizzi, Ogilvy, and many more. But again, we came down to that issue of we just didn’t know what strategy to use and when we should use it”

George Coudounaris – The B2B Playbook – [00:07:10]

So after a lot of testing, working both agency side and inhouse, we finally put together our own 5 BEs Framework for Demand Generation. It is a circular, repeatable process that any marketer can use to help their organisation scale sustainably. We decided to share the Framework for free on The B2B Playbook podcast, giving away the resource that we wish we had years ago. I’m very pleased to report that we have B2B marketers write into us most days, telling us how helpful they’ve found the framework is to follow. Some have even gone as far as writing on our ‘wall of love’.

How We Applied The Framework To Our Own Demand Gen Engine: The B2B Playbook

The B2B Playbook is our demand engine for our own business. So I’m going to take you through some of the process as to how we formulated it, and got it to the point where it consistently drove pipeline and revenue for us.

Conducting Research On Our Ideal Customers (ICP)

Kevin and I had our 5 BEs Framework. But with very few resources, we knew that we had to position ourselves as a big fish in a small pond. If we just put it out there and said “Hey! This is the B2B framework for all companies to generate demand”, it would have been very hard to get any attention.

So we knew that we had to start in the SME market, and position ourselves as a solution for small marketing teams. We figured it would be easier to get buy-in, there’s less decision makers involved, and they’re the ones who needed it the most. So before we started marketing our framework to these marketers in small teams, we needed to understand them as much as possible.

We did that by hanging out in communities of B2B marketers, connecting with and speaking to as many possible about their pains, anxieties, and job responsibilities. We spoke to at least 50 marketers before refining who our ICP was, and understanding exactly how to frame our Framework so it would make the greatest impact on them, and help them the most.

Defining Our Editorial Mission For Our Demand Gen Program

Once we had a clear understanding of our ICP, the next step was defining our editorial mission.

An editorial mission is a statement that defines the purpose and goals of your content. It acts as a guiding principle for creating and curating content, ensuring that every piece you produce is aligned with your overall objectives, and importantly, resonates with your target audience.

“Our editorial mission is a way of applying a bit of a filter as to who it is that you’re serving, what it is that you’re giving them, and how are you delivering it. It creates really positive constraints,”

George Coudounaris – The B2B Playbook – [00:13:34]

This mission helped us stay focused on our core audience and ensure that our content was always relevant and valuable to the audience we are serving.

For us, we were serving B2B marketers in small teams who were struggling to create demand. And we were going to help them by giving them our 5 BEs Framework which shows them step-by-step how to create demand, delivering it via our podcast, LinkedIn and on our blog.

Choosing Our Format For Our Demand Gen Engine: Why We Chose A Podcast

A key component of our 5 BEs Framework for demand gen is committing to creating a pillar piece of content at least once per month. This serves to fuel the rest of your demand engine, and can be repurposed into the channels where you Dream Customers hang out.

Originally, Kevin and I set out to make The B2B Playbook a YouTube channel. But after an incredibly cringeworthy first crack at episode 1, Kevin and I knew it wasn’t sustainable. We were terrible on camera. We were clearly reading from the script. We weren’t able to have any free flowing conversation or ideas with the camera pointing in our faces. It would take SO much editing just to make it half decent.

Crucially, we knew we wouldn’t stick to it.

So we pivoted to turning it into a podcast. If it was audio only, we could start and stop as we pleased. We could repeat lines. We didn’t have to worry about how we looked. We could rely more heavily on scripts.

And so we recorded all of Season 1 just as an audio only podcast. We were able to stick to a 1x per week cadence of recording, which gave us a huge volume of expert content to use very quickly. Eventually we added video, and a whole year later added our YouTube channel once we were comfortable with our existing processes.

That’s a crucial lesson for anyone building a demand gen engine: take a crawl, walk, run approach. The most important thing is to build habits and execution. Demand gen engines require consistency. Consistency won’t be achieved if you try and bite off more than you can chew.

Distributing The Podcast: Why LinkedIn Was The Right Platform For Us

One issue with choosing a podcast as our primary publishing channel was that it’s extremely hard for your podcast to get discovered through platforms like Spotify. So we needed to find a way to get our podcast and its key lessons in front of our Dream Customers.

Based on our Customer Interviews, we knew much of our audience ‘hung out’ on Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and some were transitioning to TikTok. We chose LinkedIn for a few reasons:

  • We could add our ICP into our own network and our podcast will come up in their feed
  • The quality of content was much poorer, so the bar was lower
  • There were far fewer creators to compete against
  • It’s where many of our ICP go to learn, not so much be entertained

In all, we knew it would give us the biggest return for our investment. There was no other platform where we could so easily search for and add our exact ICP into our network.

We had 0 network or followers to begin with. Two years later, I personally have over 16,000 followers on LinkedIn. Our secret weapon to kickstart this was Dripify. Dripify is a tool that automatically connected with our ICP every day on my behalf.

It wasn’t a method for me to ‘connect and sell’. Rather, just connect and let them be exposed to our overly helpful content.

(P.S. I recommend Dripify so often that I became an affiliate. If you’re going to check out the tool, click this link here. They’ll send me a few dollars for half a cup of coffee 😂).

Lessons Learned From Our Initial Demand Strategy

So with this initial demand strategy in action, we were gaining listeners and followers. We were starting to drive pipeline. But, we realised after speaking to our ICP that some didn’t quite understand our positioning in the market.

Initially, Kevin and I didn’t position our 5 BEs Framework as a ‘demand gen’ strategy. Rather, it was a strategy for ‘sustainable B2B marketing’.

Sustainable B2B marketing meant that it was a strategy that enabled a business to scale. It didn’t sacrifice the long term for the short term. However, we realised that some marketers didn’t know what ‘sustainable B2B marketing’ meant. On a few occasions, I had some reach out and tell us it’s fantastic we focus on sustainable marketing because everyone should care about the environment!

So we had made the mistake of trying to create a new category of marketing. And we did not have the budget, resources or time to take that on.

So we had made the mistake of trying to create a new category of marketing. And we did not have the budget, resources or time to take that on. Instead, based on our customer interviews, we realised that our Framework was also a terrific demand generation strategy. With the demand generation movement starting to rise, we realised we’d be better served positioning ourselves in that existing category.

Rather than trying to educate a whole market on what “sustainable b2b marketing” was, we could lean into the existing category of Demand Generation, and show off our take on it.

Creating and Scaling Our 12 Week Demand Gen Program, The B2B Incubator

With The B2B Playbook gaining traction and success stories coming in from those who listened to the podcast, we knew we had a framework that could be implemented inhouse by marketers. But for all the great feedback we were getting, we received a number of requests from our listeners for a program that would just give them our strategy, templates and tools to create their own demand gen engine. Many just didn’t have time for the ‘slow, free way’ to listen to all 100 episodes of the podcast which shows you what to do.

So, we took the took our 5 BEs Framework and distilled it into an actionable, 12 week program for inhouse B2B marketers. Over 12 weeks, they would implement our demand generation framework in their business along with a small cohort of other marketers. We’d been running a version of this program, but for larger organisations and on a 1:1 basis. So it wasn’t a big shift for us to turn it into a group program too.

How We Got Our First Batch Of Customers

The B2B Playbook podcast was a terrific way for us to reach out to inhouse B2B marketers in a non-threatening way, and get their thoughts and feedback on what The B2B Incubator would look like and do. We interviewed them to understand key problems they were facing, as well as information on what their budget typically was to participate in a program like this.

This is another key benefit of having a helpful demand engine. It makes it so much easier to speak to your ICP in a non-threatening way to refine your product and marketing.

Once the program was built, we went back to those original marketers that we had our conversations with, and were fortunate to get them to join the program. Every quarter we conduct customer interviews, and update our ICP, positioning and messaging, before starting to campaign for the following one.

This is the circular nature of our 5 BEs Framework for demand gen. You should continue to revisit each stage, and refine your approach every time you go to market.

Amplifying Our Demand Engine With Partnerships

Continuing to follow our own 5 BEs Framework, Kevin and I started to look for partners to help amplify our content. We formed our Dream 100 – our list of top places and people that our Dream Customers already hang out.

We knew that if we could expose our brand to their audience, that would help bring more inhouse B2B marketers into our 5 BEs Framework. So we came up with a creative idea, and collaborated with 4 of the biggest B2B influencers in our world on LinkedIn.

Together with Justin Rowe, Pasha Irshad, Jess Cook, and Ryan Gibson, we combined forces to try and create ‘The Perfect B2B Marketing Campaign’. Each had their own expertise that they brought to the table. We recorded sessions with each of them, and released them to the public. This created terrific content that made it easy for each of the influencers to post to their own audiences.

We created content on:

The result?

We ended up generating a 38×1 Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) from that campaign, with sales qualified pipeline and closed-won revenue.

(P.S. you can check out all the lessons and details of this campaign here!).

This was such a successful strategy that we now have collaborations planned every quarter.

The Effect Of A Demand Generation Strategy

The beauty of a demand generation strategy is it makes it much easier to speak with our ICP or potential partners in a non-threatening way. So many are already familiar with our brand, and know, like and trust us already.

Imagine how much easier the conversations for your sales team would be if you did the same?

Refining Our Demand Generation Strategy Moving Forward

So what’s next for our demand generation engine?

First of all, we just need to keep doing more of the same. We’ve started to use LinkedIn Ads as a way of amplifying the helpful content we’re creating to our ICP. We’re also using it to push awareness of The B2B Incubator to our existing network.

Second, we plan on sharing more customer success stories from The B2B Incubator. Social proof is crucial, which is why it plays a key role in our favourite demand gen content framework that we use. The more we can involve our ICP in everything we do, the closer we get to them.

Third, we’re starting to use The B2B Playbook podcast as a way of speaking with hard to reach members of the buying committee. If there’s a particular company we’d love to build a relationship with and work with one day, inviting them on the podcast is proving to be a terrific way to do that.

This is coming in handy as we move towards the mid-market and work 1:1 with more organisations. At this level, the buying process is a bit more complex and there’s a larger committee to win over. So securing an internal champion and having a way of communicating with the Decision Maker is vital.

It’s Time For You To Build Your Demand Engine

I know you’re so caught up in the day-to-day of B2B marketing, like so many of our listeners. But if you want to get off the activity hamster wheel, and start driving real pipeline from the business, you need to get a demand generation strategy together.

The great news? We’ll force you to put one together in 12 weeks in our Demand Gen program, The B2B Incubator.

Check out the full program outline here, and see why B2B marketers like you love it.

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