Making a Demand Center Work for Your Organization
Putting a cross-functional team to work in a highly matrixed environment
Silos. Every large enterprise knows the term too well. Engaging naturally siloed functional areas in closely coordinated and collaborative Demand Generation activity is one of the most significant challenges that come with setting up a Demand Center.
While silos are undesirable, they exist for a reason: It is difficult for highly matrixed organizations to address the challenge of balancing complex and often competing interests. For these reasons cross-functional teams solve some but not all of the problems associated with prioritizing any new shared undertakings and assigning accountability for their delivery. The first step to building a functional, productive Demand Center is to agree on its focus.
This means sitting down to articulate a shared vision for end-to-end demand generation strategy, processes, and governance that reorients stakeholders around a clear strategic objective. This establishes from the outset a framework to guide the group’s efforts and hold all involved accountable for their contributions to the Demand Generation motion.
Standing up a Demand Center and measuring its impact
Before you can operationalize and mature a Demand Center, you need to agree on the metrics that will tell you whether you are hitting your goals. But what makes sense to measure? What questions should you be asking to gauge the maturity and sustainability of a Demand Center and its outputs? As a rule, the Demand Center team should seek out quantifiable metrics that paint a picture of the following elements of your Demand Generation motion:
- Performance alignment between Marketing and Sales
- Always-on demand creation activities, and how well aligned they are with sales objectives
- Marketing effectiveness with callouts for both overall performance and identification of specific optimization opportunities
- Prospect and customer intelligence for more informed and effective lead qualification
Once the relevant metrics are identified, establish a performance reporting framework that lays out a hierarchy of KPIs. At the top of the hierarchy, place a clear strategic objective like revenue generation or pipeline contribution. KPIs immediately subsidiary to that clear strategic objective help to identify trends.
Those metrics immediately subsidiary to the strategic objective reflect trends that drive decision making at the strategic level. Finally, real-time performance can be monitored through operational KPIs including email content measures like delivery, open rate, CTOR, or lead score distribution. These final metrics reflect changes the organization can make today and that in time will affect the naturally lagging indicators of demand generation success.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
To avoid the most common mistakes made when operationalizing a demand center, consider two questions: First, what do the designated stakeholders bring with them to the “table”? Effective demand generation leaders & contributors must demonstrate:
- Technical competencies and experience in their respective functional areas
- Interpersonal and communication skills essential to effective collaboration
- Proven ability to leverage data and insights in order to align demand generation with revenue objectives
Second, how are those same leaders and contributors expected to operate within this new cross-functional team?
Stakeholders who operate under these three principles will be able to strike a healthy balance between the strategic and tactical demands of a demand center – they must be:
- “Owners” committed to an agile working model with bias for action
- Eager to incorporate new and varied perspectives when seeking out the “why” behind performance metrics
- Rigorous in both planning and execution
Effective demand generation motions should be set up to enable continuous improvement. Depending upon the maturity of the Demand Center and resources available (particularly stakeholder bandwidth), the group will engage with different levels of frequency and intensity. So just as marketing and sales programs are expected to adopt an ongoing “test & iterate” cycle, so too must the Demand Center.
Effective Leadership Makes All the Difference
It’s important to remember that a Demand Center doesn’t function on its own: Establishing a leader is key to ensuring that the moving parts are aligned behind the original objectives, and fulfilling their respective roles. The Demand Center Leader does not sit atop the Demand Center team, but instead right at the heart of this ad hoc group. The Leader should prioritize their time in at least the following ways:
- Balancing the pursuit of quick wins and foundational investments
- Guiding efficient and effective resource allocation
- Focusing on shared goals
- Communicating Demand Center priorities in other forums
- Anticipating and actively mitigating potential conflicts
Demand Center Governance
With the right leader, mission, and participants, the Demand Center can be set in motion. In order to keep it functioning optimally, make sure to set and enforce some ground rules. In order to foster effective governance of demand generation through the Demand Center, consider the following suggestions:
- Establish Demand Center KPIs including attendance, participation, and of course impact
- Conduct regular 1:1s with the aim of soliciting their general feedback but also encouraging their participation
- Study best practices related to demand generation and specifically Demand Center operations
- Reassess team composition and generally strive for a small but engaged group of stakeholders
- Give homework and facilitate training within the Demand Center session itself, as a pre-read, or elsewhere
- Elevate the purview of the Demand Center out of strictly operational concerns and ensure that it addresses key analytical and strategic matters
Last but not least, remember that a Demand Center is meant to be agile and adaptable. As your objectives change, the structure of this group can always be adjusted, fine-tuned, or re-organized to meet your organization’s needs. With a strong foundation rooted in shared objectives and a commitment to continuous improvement, your marketing team should be well-positioned to optimize its Demand Generation efforts.