Demand Gen

How to Craft a Winning Demand Generation Plan

Your eight-step guide to crafting a demand generation plan that helps your SaaS take flight.
How to Craft a Winning Demand Generation Plan
Cristina Rojas Colloridi
by Cristina Rojas Colloridi

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Just like a pilot won’t take off without a checklist, a marketer won’t take off without a demand generation plan. Although, in both cases, they know the basics of what they need to do in order to reach the sky, without planning they won’t have a smooth take-off—or last long in flight! ✈️

Metaphors out of the way, demand generation is a key aspect of today’s marketing efforts, especially with SaaS products. As its name indicates, it’s about generating demand–which means, attracting the high-quality leads of your target audience to the top of your sales funnel.

Demand generation vs lead generation: what’s the difference?

Lead generation–which is often used interchangeably with demand gen–is different from demand generation.

Demand gen is about turning strangers into high-quality leads.

Infographic showing the difference between demand gen vs lead gen

How to create a demand gen plan for SaaS

Getting the plan right will be your north star in your demand gen strategies. It’s what will guide each of your decisions in your demand gen campaigns. However, you’ll need to be aware of the goals you’re looking to hit with your marketing efforts if you want the plan to work towards them.

Since demand generation is the first step of turning completely unaware people into possible leads, and hopefully customers, you’ll need to know the sales journey you want them to have, and you’ll need to understand who your ideal target audience is. 

You’ll also need to know your company values and how you want your brand to be perceived, this will drastically affect the demand campaigns you choose to run. 

Let’s dive into the eight steps you need to make a winning demand generation plan that will generate a pull from the market that you’ve never felt before.

Demand Conf 2024 - create demand for your SaaS

Step 1- Market Research, Competitor Research & Understanding Buyer Personas

The first thing you need for a demand generation plan to be successful is to understand your customers and your competition, to do this you need to do three things:

➡️ Market Research

6 step checklist for the market research process

With market research, you’ll get knee-deep into customer behavior and economic trends to understand who is going to be buying your service. Remember, for B2B SaaS companies it’s said that only 5% of your potential customers are already in the market, according to Will Whitham, senior copywriter and content lead for The CMO Alliance.

It’s important that your sales and marketing teams answer the following questions using methods like surveys, focus groups, personal interviews, and observations:

  • Demand: Is there already a desire for your service?
  • Market size: How many people are interested in your service?
  • Economic stats: What is the budget and employment rate of your potential customers?
  • Location: Where are your customers and where can they find you?
  • Market saturation: How many similar options–competitors–are out there?
  • Pricing: What’s the price point of your competitors?

Tania Miranda, Head of SEO at Recruitee, says there are also some more valuable questions that your own sales team can help you answer:

  • What are some frequently asked questions about your product/our pricing/etc.?
  • What words are prospects using to describe your product?
  • Who are the influencers in organizations who play a part in the decision-making process?
  • What are your prospects’ top three biggest hesitations/objections to starting using or switching to your product?
  • What are some common goals that your customers are trying to solve?
  • What are the top support questions you get?

These answers will give you great insight into who is out there that could benefit from your product. 

However, remember that not all possible customers are aware of their pain points–that’s where demand generation becomes key—in educating and empowering the customer so they not only know their problems but that they see you as a possible solution–or even better, the best solution for them.

➡️ Competitor Research

Understanding who your indirect and direct competitors are is key when planning your demand generation strategies. This way you can see how the competition is attracting potential customers, which strategies seem to be working, and which do not.

Understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses will help you strengthen your strengths and reduce your weaknesses. Additionally, understanding your competition is a great way for offering a unique solution to your customers, you’ll find better product messaging language, identify some SEO bets, and can fine-tune your USPs. 

How can you draw people into your sales funnel, and not the competition’s?

➡️ Building Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are research-based profiles that depict the people in your target audience. It’s like market research but getting very specific–up close and personal. It highlights how your ideal customers behave, what challenges they face, and how they make decisions.

For B2B SaaS companies it’s commonplace to have a multitude of buyer personas. Why? Because when subscribing to a B2B SaaS service the approval of many heads is often needed, and each of these heads will potentially have a different buyer persona. After all, the decision-making process they go through will be entirely different, despite them all acquiring the same end product or service for the same business.

💡 Top Tip: Here’s a handy guide on how to create user personas.

Step 2- Introspection: consider your SaaS product

Understanding your product or service inside and out is key for your demand generation plan.

We don’t mean you need to know how to use it or superficially what it does, no. You’ll need to know what jobs-to-be-done your product is solving. After all, a product does not get purchased for what it does but for the pain points it’s solving–understanding this down to the nitty gritty will help you know how to attract the right potential customer.

Another thing you’ll need to know is your brand positioning. Are you seen as a thought leader in your industry? Do people come to you to better understand the pain points and challenges of their niche? Are you seen as a brand that can provide solutions beyond your product?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, you’ll need to start making some changes. For demand generation, your brand is half the equation. If your ICP doesn’t trust your brand, or they aren’t even aware of it, it will be hard for them to inch closer to your sales funnel.

Step 3- Map the customer journey

Customer journey map infographic

Source

Once you have all of this research, you’ll be able to start mapping your customer journey and the pain points along the way.

A customer journey map is a diagram–or collection of diagrams–in which you’ll show the whole experience a customer has with your brand. It shows their journey from the first time hearing about your service up to the point they make a purchase, and start their onboarding flow.

💡Top Tip: Beyond onboarding, you’re looking at your customer’s lifecycle, or user journey.

The customer journey map is of great value for your entire product marketing strategy because it’ll let you know–and see–the goals, and challenges that your ICP has, as well as understanding the channels that they use to try and resolve them.

Step 4- Consider different demand generation tactics and what content is best for your goals

Since your demand gen plan is the broader overview—the one that guides your every move—you’ll need to have specific tactics and methods that are actionable, these are your demand generation tactics and best practices.

To give you an idea of what they are and how they work here are some go-to tactics that people in the industry use:

  • A/B testing: is a really important step in the process. It helps determine which copy for your marketing channels and use cases is best for your business.
  • Content: Content is the backbone of demand generation. It’s important to try to cover everything your audience needs to know about a certain topic, everything from your line of work–this usually means producing large amounts of content, but doesn’t have to be. What’s important is that the content is fresh and relevant to your audience and that it covers everything they need to know.
  • Social media: Social media marketing is a great way to increase brand awareness and build a community.
  • Email marketing: Email is still one of the most efficient ways to reach your audience–for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.
  • Landing pages: Landing pages are great for lead generation–as they are the first thing your new user will see about you and can convert fast if you follow the landing page best practices.
  • Customer service: Customer service is a great way to build a relationship with your customers.

Although these are all key tactics to consider, there are also some others that do wonders for any B2B SaaS business. As Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls, explains: 

“Content marketing and thought leadership are great ways to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients. Activities like hosting podcasts/webinars, writing articles, and building your following on social media all contribute to increasing your awareness with potential customers and building your credibility with a larger community.”

However, there is one tactic to rule them all: SEO, (search engine optimization.) After all, as Paige Arnof-Fenn points out:

“You do not exist today if you cannot be found online. Being invisible online is a terrible strategy so make sure your site is keyword-rich, mobile-friendly, loads quickly, and produces meaningful content.”

If you’re looking for a team of SEO experts ready to help make your brand rank online, check out our team at Skale.

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Step 5- Consider how to build brand awareness

You can only generate demand for something that people can see, that’s why building brand awareness is step 0 for any demand gen plan. Additionally, building brand awareness is key since 59% of customers prefer to buy from brands they already know about.

Will Whitham, senior copywriter and content lead for The CMO Alliance, and host of CMO Convo and CMO Diaries podcasts, says:

“It’s important to make sure you’re balancing your demand gen with brand building strategies. After all, in the B2B world, only 5% of your potential customers are currently in-market. Building a strong, recognizable brand will allow you to make the awareness stage of your demand gen funnel much more efficient, and reduce indecision when the rest of your potential customers move in-market.”

There are many ways to build brand awareness but here are some places to get you started:

  • Give your brand personality: if a customer can identify with your brand personality, they’re more likely to buy from it
  • Influencer marketing: “41% of customers discover new products through influencers weekly, and 24% do so daily! This presents brands with plenty of opportunities to reach new customers via influencer campaigns,” according to Rakuten

If you think this doesn’t apply to SaaS companies you’ll be happy to know that even businesses as big as Canva has used–tremendously successful–influencer marketing in their brand awareness strategy.

  • Content marketing: is one of the best ways to increase your brand awareness. Produce quality content that offers value. In fact, “88% of marketers have successfully reached their goals of creating brand awareness and building credibility and trust through content marketing.”
    Another tip comes from Christiaan Huynen, founder and CEO at DesignBro, Christian says: “Content that gives free value to your audience by solving a problem they have, or does not yet know that they have, is always a great model to emulate.”
  • Offline campaigns: Although plenty of things for SaaS companies move in the online world, don’t forget about offline campaigns. You could offer free trials for those you encounter at networking events or live workshops, for example.
  • LinkedIn: social media it’s super important, but when it comes to SaaS B2B businesses, LinkedIn is way better than Instagram or other top social media accounts. According to LinkedIn, there are over 180 million senior-level influencers–that makes up nearly 25% of its total user base. In fact, 59% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn helps them attract new business!

Creating brand awareness in the right channels can help make or break your demand generation strategy. Take a look at this infographic for some more inspo.

Demand generation infographic showing digital, traditional, and other demand gen channels

Step 6- Consider how to attract high-value leads

Now that you understand who your target audience is, how you want to drive them through your sales funnel, and you’ve made your brand visible, you’ll need to think about attracting high-quality leads.

A high-quality lead is someone you know is likely to become lucrative for your business. Be that in contract length, value, or both—CLTV. 

In this part of your demand generation plan you’ll need to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are those individuals that are more likely to become a customer, without needing every tactic in your demand gen playbook?
  2. How can you create targeted campaigns that will reach high-value prospective customers?
  3. What steps can you take to streamline the demand generation process for valuable prospects?

By answering these questions, together with your customer journey map and demand gen tactics, you’ll be able to create the step-by-step guide for attracting the right customer to your funnel.

Step 7- Create your demand generation strategy

Just like a good pilot that’s done all the hours of flights and classes, you now know everything to put on your checklist to take off on that demand generation strategy and head towards blue-sky-product marketing success.

By now, you already know your product inside and out, you understand your ICP, and you’ve built a visible brand. This gives you everything you need to align your marketing, sales, and content teams to your brand goals. 🏈

Not only this, but you have a broad view of demand generation tactics and will be able to come up with a comprehensible plan that engages your customer to your brand and solutions by using the right demand gen tools and channels.

Step 8- Launch your demand generation strategy!

Once the plan and strategy are ready, all you need to do is to launch it. Depending on the tactics you’re using and how well you’ve done your research you can expect to see results in as little as a couple of months–check Maze’s success story that only took 6 months to see a jump of 283% in their signups.

Remember, demand gen is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’ll take some time to see the real impact of your campaign, especially in the B2B SaaS industry. Have patience, but don’t forget to measure how your progress is going by using demand gen metrics to help you keep your efforts on track.

Final thoughts for your demand gen plan

Infographic showing the relationship between demand gen, lead nurturing and sales

Your new demand generation plan is not set in stone.

With demand generation, and especially everything linked to a B2B SaaS company, things will change fast. One day LinkedIn is the marketplace to be in for B2B sales, the next day it’s been canceled and you’ll need to find a new approach. Keep track of your efforts, market trends, or new ideas in your industry and marketing teams, and adjust it all as you go. 

Your demand generation plan will constantly evolve, not only due to outside consequences but also due to the constant changes inside a company and brand. Maybe goals will change, maybe they’ll pivot into a new way of doing things, or provide new services altogether.

Demand generation is here to stay, or so think 70% of marketers that say their demand gen budgets will increase in the coming years. Get in the game and create a perfect demand generation plan with these eight steps–guaranteed to help you succeed.

Buckle up, put your seat in the upright position, and get ready for take-off! ✈️

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Demand generation FAQ

What is a demand generation plan?

A demand generation plan is the broader view of how you’ll create a demand for your product or service. It’s created by a joint effort of your product marketing, sales, and customer success teams.

How do you build a demand generation plan?

The best way to build an effective and robust demand generation plan is by following these eight steps:
1. Market research, competitor research & understanding buyer personas
2. Introspection: consider your product (or service)
3. Map the customer journey
4. Take into account different demand generation avenues and what content to create
5. Consider how to build brand awareness
6. Think about how you can attract high-value leads
7. Create your demand generation strategy
8. Launch your demand generation strategy

What are demand generation tactics?

Demand generation tactics are all the actionable ways that a demand generation plan can come to fruition, such as inbound marketing, content marketing, social media engagement, lead nurturing, lead scoring, search engine optimization, and many more.

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