Is the primary purpose of your company and its products and/or services to create demand or fulfill demand? Perhaps you have never been asked this question. Perhaps your answer is: “I’m not sure.” In either case, let’s fix this, shall we? To be successful, demand creators should have a different marketing and sales strategy than demand fulfillers and when you finally align your people, processes and technology with the needs of buyers, the effect can be transformative.
As a demand creator, you are usually dealing with prospects that are in the early stages of the buying process – or perhaps they are not even in the process. Here are some scenarios where you are likely to be a demand creator:
- Your product or service is disruptive or revolutionary.
- It takes a good deal of explanation to get your message across.
- Your sales cycle is long and/or complex.
- Prospects have a known problem but no understanding of how your type of product or service can help solve that problem.
- There may not be an established marketplace for your offerings.
Demand creation can be especially tough on the consumer side since according to a Harvard Business Review article, Why Most Product Launches Fail, U.S. consumers fill 85% of their needs by repeatedly purchasing the same 150 items. That is a tough circle to break into but hopefully, you become one of the repeat-purchase items.
Demand creators need to aim their messaging and their content earlier in the buying cycle, explaining “why” prospects need to pay attention to their problem – even if they really didn’t understand they had the problem in the first place. Demand creators are usually better off practicing push (outbound) marketing – figuring out who the likely prospects are and then using techniques like email, direct mail, online advertising and possibly even cold calling or in-person selling to reach them and convince them to engage with you.
Here are a few strategies to achieve success as a demand creator:
- Focus on problems. Determine the biggest problems your product and/or services can solve and align your attention and efforts accordingly.
- Find and leverage “early adopters.” The majority of buyers don’t want to be first to try something but they will follow the pioneers.
- Utilize partners who have a relationship with your target prospects. This can create an atmosphere of trust and shorten the buying process.
- Make it easy. Demand creators have to be extra careful to first remove all barriers to purchase, and, second, eliminate as much risk as possible through the use of testimonials, case studies and performance guarantees.
An example of demand creation is private aviation/charters. Companies that sell this service can’t rely on prospects who already think they need an alternative to commercial flights. They need to find, engage and convince potential buyers.
Companies who are demand fulfillers have these characteristics:
- There is an identified need for what you are selling.
- More than one solution exists to solve the customer’s problem – an established market exists.
- Customers often (but not always) seek out sellers.
- Sales cycles tend to be shorter and less complex.
Demand fulfillers have it both easier and harder. Easier, because there is already an established market for what they are selling. Harder, because the presence of such a market means there is competition. Perhaps a little, perhaps a lot, but competition nonetheless.
If you fit this category, most of your content should be created for the latter stages of the sales process – not so much explaining why the prospect needs your products or services, but rather, why you have a superior solution, and are the right choice among competitive options. Remember, one of the options the buyer has is to do nothing – therefore you need to create the sense of urgency that moves them out of the inertia phase.
As a demand fulfiller, you may practice some push marketing, but should concentrate most of your efforts on pull (inbound) marketing to make sure you are easily found when prospects are searching for a solution. Top-of-mind-awareness is crucial for demand fulfillers. While you can’t predict exactly when someone will have a need for your product or service, you want to be on the radar when they do have a need.
To be successful as a demand fulfiller you should:
- Differentiate your brand, messaging, delivery model, pricing or anything else that makes you stand out and drive higher pricing and profits.
- Do what is necessary to show up on the first page (preferably in positions 1-5) of Google search rankings. If you can’t do this for generic (broad) keywords, make sure you optimize for long-tail and more specific keywords that still provide good search traffic.
- Be the logical choice by making the buying path as easy and intuitive as possible.
Following the air travel analogy, most commercial airlines are primarily demand fulfillers. They offer their flights via a convenient lookup service and try to make them as affordable and convenient as necessary to gain a large share of the market on particular routes. But note that airlines also do some demand creation by enticing flyers with their new routes, vacation package bundles and frequent flyer programs.
Another way to look at the difference
Here’s the difference between demand creation and demand fulfillment from the buyer’s vantage point:
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Demand creators: I have a problem but am unaware of potential solutions >>>> I hear from a company that has a solution >>>> I evaluate that solution and research others >>>> I make my selection or decide to live with the problem.
Demand fulfillers: I have a problem >>>> I know the type of solution that will solve my problem >>>> I research potential options >>>> I evaluate products/services >>>> I make my selection or decide to live with the problem.
As for our own business, Fusion Marketing Partners, we do very little push marketing, but we create plenty of relevant content and keep up with our networks to keep our name in front of B2B companies that will have a need in the future. And while we are primarily demand fulfillers, there is no doubt that we create some demand. This is a formula that works for our business and perhaps yours as well. For more on examining your place in your market and for creating demand or even an entirely new offering in your product or service array, download our free, Business Value Hierarchy white paper.