Scaling the strategic capabilities of a demand center

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At its inception, the demand center needs to be selective in the strategic support it provides to the marketing organization.

In a previous article, we mused on the challenges facing established demand centers, and the need to develop more advanced strategic services. But some companies are only just setting out on their demand center journey.

For these newbies, time and resources are likely to be limited – perhaps just a couple of automation power users and a single strategic brain. Offer too many strategic services and there’s a risk the demand center is overwhelmed with requests it’s unable to fulfill. Like an overwhelmed kitchen, orders back up, diners get impatient and vow never to return. Alternatively, it may present a menu of services that are simply beyond the maturity of the broader marketing organization. Molecular gastronomy when all people want is a better burger and fries.

The demand center needs to lead the evolution of the business, without out-pacing it or stimulating an appetite that cannot be satisfied. This means phasing the introduction of strategic services, and with it, the sophistication of mid-funnel marketing. Get this right and the business will always maximize the use of the strategic resources and capability available.

Document before you seek to enhance

In order for a process to be improved, it first has to be understood. Marketing – or more specifically, demand generation and lead nurturing – is a process like any other. Everyone within the marketing organization intuitively know who’s responsible for what and how things get done, but few teams we come across can point to a documented workflow.

The demand center must first identify the marketing channels and level of capability it wants to support at the outset. For many of our clients, it’s the delivery and measurement of scheduled and triggered email programs and corresponding landing pages, delivered through a marketing automation platform. For others, it’s centralizing the process of telequalifying inbound and scored leads.

Next, it’s essential to design and document a process to support the effective, efficient delivery of that capability. Effectively, the demand center ‘operating model’. This needs to be done with the involvement of all stakeholders involved in the process. We’ve begun to use a SIPOC tool borrowed from Six Sigma process improvement methodology – identifying the Suppliers, Inputs, Processes, Outputs and Customers for each stage in the marketing supply chain.

Different types of demand center support

Demand Center Operations takes care of technology and data governance. Ensuring the right people have the appropriate level of access, the technology is correctly configured and applied, and data quality and privacy are maintained. They are also tasked with enhancing the capability of the platforms to support the evolving marketing and lead management process requirements of the business.

Demand Center Delivery is the fulfillment function whose goal is to quickly and efficiently produce high quality deliverables to order: emails, landing pages, forms, programs, calls, chats, reports. They follow the pre-determined process to support best practice delivery and optimal outcomes, but are not necessarily adding strategic value to the marketing process.

Demand Center Strategy & Analytics is tasked with raising the level of marketing sophistication, analyzing its effectiveness and striving for continual improvement. They provide guidance in how to get the right information to the right individual, at the right time, through the right channel. And design the process to ensure leads are quickly and efficiently passed to Sales. In doing so, they ensure the business is extracting maximum value from the technology, data and content currently at its disposal.

Phasing the introduction of strategic capability

Let’s take the adoption and use of a Marketing Automation Platform as an example to show how strategic support may be added over time.

Phase 1: keep the trains running
The goal of this phase is to build confidence in the capability of the demand center to efficiently meet existing marketing needs.

The priority for the Strategy & Analytics team is to support delivery and reporting on basic email campaigns, and the production of web pages with forms. In other words, enabling teams to continue doing anything that has historically produced results for them, or that customers have come to expect. For example sending newsletters, inviting people to events, or building landing pages to support paid search activity.

The team might advise on the creation of segments and lists using the data assets available (from broad batch-and-blast to smarter segment-and-schedule), train marketers on the application of conversion- and user-centered design and copy principles, and provide assistance with setting up tracking and designing and deriving learnings from A/B tests.

Phase 2: enable automation
The goal of this phase is for the demand center to establish its expertise in the planning and analysis of automated campaigns and programs.

Once ‘business-as-usual’ is taken care of, the Strategy & Analytics team can educate teams on the more advanced capabilities of automation, including lead scoring and routing, and introduce the concept of ‘always-on’ marketing.

This could include the creation of templatized programs, the development of playbooks and the design of basic co-dynamic lead scoring programs in the platform. Guidance can be provided on setting objectives, modeling success, identifying feeders and entry criteria, determining the number and frequency of touches, and prescribing rules for exit and progression. With programs in market for longer, assistance with optimization is also likely to be required.

Phase 3: become more customer-centric
The goal of this phase is to enable the creation and delivery of more personalized campaigns that demonstrably increase effectiveness.

As the demand center comes to be recognized for its strategic value add, headcount is likely to increase – including the addition of more specialist skills such as content strategists, lead management consultants and data analysts.

This expanded team can begin to offer further support: how to gather genuine buyer insight and assess the resonance of messaging, using dynamic content for enhanced personalization, the integration of remarketing campaigns, and the implementation of closed loop reporting. As well as responding to support requests, the demand center can also begin to think proactively: identifying segments that are under-served, or suggesting optimizations based on independent analysis.

In summary: what you need to do

There are many more platforms besides marketing automation that a demand center may support, however the principles for evolving strategic services remain the same. Decide on an appropriate level of strategic support given the maturity of the business and the resources of the demand center team. Document the process for delivering those services and educate people on what you can do for them, and how to get it done. Increase the level and type of support provided as the organization evolves and resources are added to the team.