Demand marketers and SaaS demand generation teams, it’s time to have some tough conversations about our marketing processes.
We’re too focused on how we want to sell the product, not on how buyers actually want to buy the product.
In the last ten years, our buyers’ preferences and behaviors have changed dramatically as more companies are fighting for their attention. Buyers hold all the power—but we’re still twisting their arms to make them go through the process the way we want it.
While this is true across marketing, it hits hardest for B2B SaaS demand generation teams.
It’s not just about how we’re using eBooks or running sales cadences.
It’s the whole demand generation process that’s broken. It’s how we’re deciding what should be considered a “lead.”
It’s how we’re aligning marketing and sales efforts.
It’s how we’re measuring the success of demand gen teams.
SaaS demand generation teams are relying on outdated methods across the board, and it’s creating bloated, unbalanced revenue engines. I know this because
I’ve been a prospect in this process countless times, and I’ve audited SaaS companies and demand generation teams doing it.
What the Typical B2B SaaS Demand Generation Process Looks Like
The typical demand generation process in B2B SaaS is, first and foremost, optimized for ‘leads.’ Gated eBooks, white papers, and webinars, distributed across paid social channels and search channels, serve as primary touchpoints in the funnel.
Once a prospect fills out a form, they’re enrolled in a nurturing sequence; often, they’re considered an MQL at this point. At the very least, their download is usually labeled as a measure of intent, and they’re assigned a lead score.
Enough downloads and the marketing team hits their lead number, wins congratulations from leadership, and pats themselves on the back.
Sales starts reaching out—and that’s where the trouble with this process becomes clear.
What’s Wrong with This Process?
Every Friday, I used to run a campaign to leads within 10 points of an MQL. Conveniently, the piece of content I sent them would score them over the threshold.
We’d high five as we celebrated hitting MQL numbers week after week.But the MQLs were closing at less than 1%.
They weren’t qualified buyers and sales didn’t want them. And it killed our reputation in marketing.
This model, so common in SaaS demand generation, is full of problems.
1. It continually drives up CAC and CAC payback time.
The inefficiency of constantly driving sales to reach out to leads that haven’t signaled real buying intent wastes sales resources, causing leadership teams to pour even more resources into sales in the hopes of getting things done.
2. It kills your sales and marketing alignment.
Sending over leads that convert at .5% or less doesn’t come without a cost. Sending over thousands of leads that convert at <.5% shreds your credibility with sales.
3. It wastes your ad spend.
Optimizing for leads causes SaaS companies to waste their budget scraping for leads instead of generating demand. You run social ads pushing people to get a demo or start a free trial, ignoring the fact that no one browses Facebook hoping to get a demo of your product.
Meanwhile, you’re under invested in intent-based branded search traffic that drives revenue but blowing 80% of your ad budget on non-branded search because your agency is following a “best practice.”
4. It builds friction throughout your buying process.
Unsurprisingly, sales cycles take far longer than they need to because your gated forms are blocking people from seeing the content that they want.
How You’re Going to Fix Demand Generation
The problem in B2B SaaS demand generation is the metrics that demand teams are using to measure success.
Start by aligning your demand team around revenue, not leads and MQLs.
Leads can still exist—but the only “sales-ready” lead is one that has requested a sales interaction.
You’ll be sending a lower volume of leads but win rates will soar and CAC payback times will drop.
Most importantly, revenue will rise.
To drive enough requests for sales interaction, you’ll probably need to change the way you’re using content and improve the content itself. We’re used to creating content that promotes our agenda, but the content needs to deliver value and education without an agenda—people can sniff sales intent a mile away.
Here are some ways you can ramp your content as you optimize for revenue, not leads:
Ungate your content. Your purpose is served much more effectively by getting as many people as possible to read your content.
There’s so much fear of loss if you don’t gate content, but the real loss is how much you’re losing by having your best content behind a wall.
Utilize comparison channels. Create content targeted for keywords like “[competitor] + alternative” that reads as a third-party review of competing products. Right now I’m seeing inbound leads (demo / free trial) come directly from this content as well as 7 minutes time on page.
Rewrite product content in a press-release news style. This introduces your product to the market in a way that feels informative, not promotional.
The reader knows it’s you talking about your product and that you want them to buy it, but you’re writing about it in a way that puts their education first and your sales second.
Ironically, switching the priorities like this is the best thing you can do for sales.
Use case studies. So many parts of the SaaS demand generation playbook need to be thrown out; this is one we need to double down on.
The reality is that most of your competition has a hard time pulling these off in a way that’s compelling. They’re generic and lack specifics. They’re done too early in the process to call out a big brand name instead of a big meaningful result.
Here’s how I do them. This is your opportunity to do it right – and when done right they work.
Use awareness channels to maximize content distribution.
Social platforms, especially LinkedIn and Facebook, are great places for B2B SaaS companies to advertise—but you need to align with your buyers’ behavior on those platforms.
No one goes to social platforms to buy a Saas product—but they do go there to learn.
So, use ads to distribute quality, ungated content to them. You can read some of my specific tactical advice on running B2B LinkedIn ads here.
Meanwhile, you can double down on intent-based branded search terms in Google. These often drive 80% of the revenue, even as companies pour 80% of their ad spend into non-branded search terms. You can read my advanced paid search strategy for B2B SaaS companies here.
Optimize For Revenue, Not Leads
SaaS demand generation processes are broken, but they can be fixed.
Optimize for revenue, and give power to the buyer.
The key to all of this is that instead of optimizing the entire demand generation process around short-term, instant gratification metrics that benefit you, you’re optimizing the buying process around the way buyers actually want to buy.
You know how to get started.
Now go execute.And if you want help to do it faster and more effectively, let’s schedule a time to talk.