March 20, 2023

The Power of Demand Creation: 6 Steps to Measure Your Success in Creating a New Product Category for B2B SaaS

Hannah Peritore

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There’s a big difference between capturing demand that already exists and creating demand.

When prospects already know they have a need, they know what kind of product category can meet their need. They’re at the bottom of the funnel, otherwise known as the “conversion”or “The What” category.

They’re ready to buy and put an end to their pain points with a product they already know can solve their problem.

Source: duo Strategy

Every company is fighting over that demand, and capturing it often comes down to how much you’re willing to devote to ad spend.

The trouble is, bigger companies completely dominate capturing demand just by virtue of having more money to throw at winning keywords.

Startups and scaleups are often priced out of capturing existing demand because their competitors are playing a fixed game, and new companies are simply unable to keep up.

So how can smaller companies ever win market share?

The answer is stop playing their game, and make your own by building a new category and creating demand.

To clarify, building a new category doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. It can be as simple as iterating on an existing category. 

For example, there were CRMs before Salesforce, but Salesforce was the first to distinguish itself as a cloud-based CRM.

Instead of trying to capture demand from established CRMs, Salesforce built their own category. But to gain any traction in the market, they had to go out and educate people on why a cloud-based platform is actually better than an on-prem one. 

This is what Christopher Lochhead refers to as damning the demand. By distinguishing your product category and educating the market, you can ‘dam the demand for the old category and redirect it toward your own.’

By building a category, you’ll start out with zero demand. But, once you create demand, you can capture 100% of it because your product will be the only product in that category.

How do you create demand?

The whole demand creation strategy revolves around educating prospects about your product to create interest and demand for your product—which you can then turn around and capture.

Source: TrafficSoda

So what exactly does it mean to create demand? 

According to Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, demand creation is the process of educating and influencing your target market to want to buy a solution to a problem that they may not even know they have yet. You are creating the demand for your product by helping them see a better future with it than without it.

The most powerful way to create demand is through content creation.

But not just any content creation—highly valuable, helpful, interesting, and engaging content. Educational, but not stodgy.

You probably already have some blog articles on your website for SEO, and that’s great. You’re likely getting some traffic on those just from search.

But if you’re relying strictly on search for your distribution strategy, you’re completely missing out on a huge distribution opportunity.

Because B2B buyers aren’t hanging out on super specific SERPs all day… but they are hanging out somewhere. Any guesses?

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the single best place for B2B marketers to focus their demand creation strategy. This includes ads and posts.

LinkedIn ads allow you to target audiences based on title, function, industry, company, education, and even interests. Meaning you can literally target your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for every ad you run.

Not sure who your ICP is? Here’s a 5-Step process for creating an ICP for your B2B SaaS product and how to educate them on your product category.

And LinkedIn posts allow you to organically build a community around your new product category. You know those blog posts you have? It’s time to cut them up and repurpose them into LinkedIn posts.

Then turn them into videos, podcasts, infographics, and anything else you can think of that might engage your ICP.

As your community grows and you gain a better understanding of what’s resonating, host events on the topics that have the most engagement.

Bear in mind, this is a long-play strategy. You need to commit to a demand generation strategy for nine to twelve months before you truly start to see the results.

Why is demand creation such a powerful marketing strategy for B2B SaaS companies in particular?

B2B SaaS products are complex and require a lot of time and resources to implement. 

The buying cycles are loooooooooooong.

No software buyers are seeing a single ad and adding to cart, they are spending weeks or months trying to find the best possible solution for their use case.

And not just on Google. They’re watching YouTube reviews, asking colleagues in Slack communities, scrolling Reddit, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts—all dark social activities that can’t be tracked.

This is why demand creation is so powerful for B2B SaaS brands in particular—because you can educate your dream prospects on the value of your product and why they need it in the place they’re the most likely to see it.

Just by committing to LinkedIn, you can stand out from the sea of B2B products, build a community around your product, and become top of mind for your prospects.

The best part? We can almost guarantee none of your biggest competitors  are using this strategy.

As we said earlier, this is not their game—so they’re severely disadvantaged.

Shifting focus and creating a new category is something only newer, more scrappy companies can implement rapidly. Big companies simply can’t act as quickly.

You now have the advantage. 

How do you know if your demand creation strategy is working?

First of all, not through a typical attribution model. Software-based attribution favors last-touch searches and simply can’t trace the buying journey back to the organic post or ad that created the demand.

You cannot measure demand creation against traditional ad-channel-centric metrics like CPC, CTR, CVR, "Conversions", and CPL because it’s like comparing apples to clown fish.

And, if you really want to, we’ll save you the time:

LinkedIn ads don’t produce a high CVR, low CPL, and a low CPC. They're expensive, and typically don’t generate a lot of conversions. And LinkedIn posts can’t really be tracked in this way at all.

This doesn’t even take into account dark social—which accounts for the vast majority of content sharing today. 

Not to bum you out or anything, but most of your traffic is being misattributed and the most popular Top of Funnel strategies for B2B are deeply flawed anyway—so you might as well try something new.

So how can you measure demand creation if traditional metrics don’t work?

Here are 6 ways to measure demand creation success:

1. People like your content

Are people engaging with your ad or post? Liking, commenting, clicking through carousel slides? The more engagement, the more reach your content will get.

2. Your ICP likes your content

Check to see the demographic profile of your impressions and if they align with your Ideal Customer Profile. The more people who like it, the more visibility you’ll get, but ultimately you want to attract your dream prospects to your content.

3. Your direct or organic website traffic increases

As you familiarize more and more people with your solution, it should lead to an increase in website traffic from buyers looking you up again after completing their research.

4. You ask your customers how they heard about you

Add “How did you hear about us?” to your lead submission form or sign up process. Make it an open text field, and make it required. Don’t worry about the conversion rate on your form tanking—anyone who doesn’t want to take the time to type up a response wasn’t going to be a good lead anyway.


5. Your cost per sales qualified lead improves

Over time, check whether or not your blended CPSQL from paid, organic, and direct traffic has improved since running LinkedIn Ads and regularly posting content on LinkedIn.

6. You track post interactions with your CRM

By natively integrating your CRM with your social channels, you’ll be able to see the social interactions each contact has with your company. You can use these records to build lists and segments of qualified prospects, allowing your sales team to prioritize high-intent prospects.

Analyzing these key metrics will help you understand whether or not your demand creation efforts are positively impacting your sales.

The big takeaway?

This strategy takes time. It’s unrealistic to think you can create demand overnight or even over the course of a few months. 

If quick pipeline is the way you measure success, this strategy will fail you.

It’s expensive. You can’t use any of the metrics you’re used to to measure KPIs. And by those standards it looks like it’s failing.

But if you’re patient and have the time and resources to devote to this strategy, you can create and capture all the demand for the category you build.

And if you find yourself in need of a marketing partner to help you create demand for your B2B SaaS product, shoot us an email. We’d love to help!

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