Demand gen from scratch with Adam Holmgren, Head of Demand Gen at GetAccept
Demand generation is a powerful function for B2B tech and SaaS companies looking to scale fast. Marketing-led growth, through demand generation and it's tactical approach, is becoming the norm, and is replacing traditional sales-led B2B models.
On this FINITE Podcast episode, one senior marketer describes how they lead demand generation functions, scale teams, works alongside sales and produces tangible ARR. Learn playbooks, foundational tactics and channels, and tips and tricks for demand gen with Adam Holmgren, Head of Demand Gen at GetAccept.
This episode covers:
- An overview of demand gen in a B2B SaaS company
- How to build a business case for demand gen
- How demand gen varies across regions
- The playbook for starting demand gen
- Foundational demand gen tactics for B2B tech companies
- How brand marketing functions alongside demand gen
- How demand gen team structure shifts as it scales
Listen to the full episode here:
And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!
Hey everyone. Glad to have you back for another FINITE podcast episode, where today we'll be talking all things demand generation in B2B tech and SaaS. Joining us for the discussion is Adam Holmgren, who is head of demand gen at GetAccept, a digital salesroom platform. Adam will talk us through all of his experience in demand gen, his best practices, frameworks, starting points, how he has scaled his demand gen team at GetAccept.
But first, if you haven't got your ticket to FINITE Fest yet, head to finite.community/finitefest2022, or click the link in the description. FINITE Fest is our one day virtual conference, which is up in just a few weeks. You can join other B2B tech marketers to cover industry trends and challenges. Hope you can join us.
The FINITE community is kindly supported by The Marketing Practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing, demand gen, channel, and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.
Hello, Adam, and welcome to the FINITE podcast. Thank you for joining me.
Hey Alex, great to be here.
Looking forward to talking. We're talking about all things demand gen, but before we do that, I'll let you tell us a bit about yourself, your background experience, and we'll go from there.
Yeah, sure. So Swedish by birth, been working in the SaaS space for the last seven or eight years or so, currently sitting as head of demand for GetAccept, a super fast growing SaaS company in the digital sales room space. And I also have a podcast and community for demand generation specifically called the demand generation movement. So it's a really big passion of mine that has grown throughout the years, maybe specifically the last three years or so. So yeah. Great to be here.
Cool. Let's talk a bit about your current role. Let's just talk about your team, because I know we're gonna be talking about demand gen teams and tactics and all those kinds of things, but maybe a good starting point is actually just, how are things right now? So tell us a bit about the demand gen team at GetAccept.
An overview of demand gen in a B2B SaaS company
Yeah, it's a cool story. GetAccept, I've been there for a year now or so. One of the biggest reasons why I joined, apart from it being an exciting product to sell, it has a huge focus on marketing and marketing had a huge influence on the business. So I think two or two and a half years ago, the marketing team consisted of three people. Then they brought on our CMO Frida and now we are almost 30.
So it had scaled rapidly and the demand team was created more or less when I joined a year ago and now we consist of five people. So we are one sub team of the greater marketing team. Of course everyone is responsible for creating demand of course in a marketing team. But we own the KPIs, activities to make that happen. So in the team we have performance marketers.
So we have one performance marketer focusing solely on paid socials, everything from LinkedIn to Facebook, to Twitter and all of those things. And then we have one performance marketer focused solely on paid search. So everything Google ads, Bing ads, and it's through them we run our whole paid machinery.
And apart from that, we have also regional marketers, some marketers focused solely on one region, we have France as an example, we have the Nordics. And those roles are very focused on creating the demand. So a lot of events, a lot of communities, a lot of content marketing, SEO, all of those, and this structure has worked really well for us. I believe both building up a paid structure that works in our demand gen motion, but also having more of an awareness part of it that correlates well with that. So yeah.
Cool. I should ask you actually, just to set the scene for everybody, maybe you can give us a sense of what the sales motion looks like at GetAccept, like whether you're at the smaller end or enterprise, just cause I think that's an important reference point for this understanding team structure.
Yeah, I would say our ideal customer is in the SMB segment for sure, sales leaders. So I think we aren't selling to enterprise, that's of course a much more complex motion. But SMB segment, I think we went from in the beginning being a very sales led company to becoming more marketing led and now a bit dabbling into the product led growth scene as well.
So I think we are around 190 people at GetAccept now, where marketing, as I said is approximately 30 and sales is maybe 50, 60 people. So more or less one marketing person per two salesperson, which I think is pretty cool in many of the organisations I've been in. In the past, it has been more or less 10 marketers to a hundred sales people. So I think this is a more natural balance for how we market and sell today.
How to build a business case for demand gen
Definitely. And what about building that case for a demand gen team? Cause I know different B2B tech scale up different phases of growth, they might look at demand gen as a function at different points in that journey, whether that's kind of series A, series B, they start to transition into more marketing-led growth from sales led growth from founder led growth. How do you start building that business case for a demand gen function?
I think that's always hard because I feel like it is executive buy-in and executive trust. And lead gen is of course always much easier to measure for direct conversions and direct attribution and demand gen is more around how do we build awareness and create a demand that might not be seen today.
So what we did in the beginning of this project was, because I think it's very easy to like look at your sales funnel, and then we broke it out into what we call the high intent funnel, and then what we call the more low intent funnel. And in our high intent funnel, we have more or less when people have asked to talk to our sales team, right?
So people have actually expressed some sort of buying intent. And then we have a more low intent funnel where we have more free trial, more events and so on, those kind of contacts. And when we did this exercise in the previous year, we saw that most of our inbound here is flowing through our low intent funnel with very low commercial rates throughout. So MQL to opportunity to pipeline was very low.
And when we looked at our high intent funnel, a minority of the inbound came in there, but a majority came out from there. So it was pretty easy to show like, we have some sort of misalignment here on where we are putting our focus and where it is coming out. So I thought that was a great exercise to do. And it was pretty easy to be honest, to get that buy-in, to get the focus. So I think this is a super easy exercise I think all companies can do to be honest.
Makes sense. And I'm jumping around slightly here, but is there a point where you think feels like the natural question? At what point does demand gen really become a function that B2B tech companies should start building out? Is there any key inflection? And I know the real answer is it depends, and it depends on the business and it's always gonna be different, but any, across your career, themes or key inflection points that you've spotted as being the point at which it seems to make sense?
I feel like in the beginning, when you are like series A, or even before that, you need to show some volume almost to prove that you are even a valuable business. So to start with a full fledged demand motion where we only focus on high intent buyers in the beginning, I think that's tough.
I think then you need some sort of mix between the two as you grow and get into maybe series B, as we are now gearing up for C, then it makes much more sense to go more fully. But I think it's very easy for bigger enterprise companies to talk about going full demand gen. And when they have a natural volume that comes in organically versus a newer company that needs to set the scene, I think there's a way to transition to demand by still doing certain lead gen activities, I think that's important. It's not a one size fit all as you said, it's more of a how can we get there in the long run?
How demand gen varies across regions
Makes sense. What about the landscape globally? Like the difference between demand gen in the US and Europe, that landscape of talent, but also is there regional differences in how people approach demand gen and quality?
Yeah, there are for sure. We at GetAccept sell on both the US and the European soil. And both the landscapes competitively are completely different, right? It's sometimes a pain to get into the US market because we have so many competitors and we need to really edge out the market.
But I think demand gen is very different in the US versus Europe. I think it's growing, where it has grown a lot faster in the US, now starting to pick up in Europe as well. I think you see this if you go to LinkedIn and you look for demand generation jobs, the amount of those in Europe are very small, but in the US it's actually starting to be a bit of a pretty big role. But I think it's not completed there in the US either to be honest, I think it needs a few years behind it to really go there.
But I think many companies are starting to get in the middle. So they are starting to do demand generation activities where we don't really need to measure everything, as long as we see the revenue growth going up overall, maybe it doesn't matter as much where it got attributed. And I think that's the important distinction here.
The playbook for starting demand gen
I probably got this question a lot more from investors and people that have maybe an overly simplistic view of marketing and growth and scaling, but a common question is what's the playbook? Is there a playbook for scaling a B2B SaaS company through demand gen?
I think I'm always wary of the word playbook. Because it makes it sound a bit too simple. And like, there's just like this easy, read this book, do these things and you will succeed. Do you think there is that type of playbook, or it's possible for there to be one?
I think there at least are frameworks that we can use and then build up playbooks by the company situation. But I like to view, at least from our side, our framework to have awareness channels that are more the events, the webinars, the communities that we sponsor, the podcasts.
I also view paid organic social as more of an awareness channel as an example. And those channels we, I would say, would put like say 50% of our effort in, and maybe 50% of our resources. And we measure it through direct traffic, branded traffic, recommendations that we can see from people typing that in our fields and things like that. But we don't really measure direct commercials from that. And then we have our intention channels. So our awareness channels are feeding into intent channels.
And the intent channels is of course more paid search, organic search, review sites, G2, Capterra, where we can actually see an intent before a conversion. And we see a pretty clear correlation between when we increase our awareness activities down the line, our brand of search terms, for example, on Google will increase.
So that is the framework we are using for how we build the playbooks. So around, I would say around 50% or so are going more into the awareness part and 50% are going more into the intent part. And I think what people usually, when people talk about demand, they usually talk about the awareness, the creation part.
But I think it's also really important to most companies in the Series B segment, you need to show results, right? So to not focus at all on the intent, say if we have a category that there are already volume for it, it would be almost stupid not to take advantage of it. And I feel like paid search, organic search and all of those channels get an unfortunate amount of hate these days. And I still think there is a lot of value to be captured from there, but in combination of course.
Foundational demand gen tactics for B2B tech companies
Yeah. And I guess related to that, is there a starting point? Are there foundational demand gen tactics where they make sense to just get going, even if you haven't got the full function yet? I always think if I was to start a B2B SaaS company, I would just start blog dot whatever the domain name is and just write loads.
I've got an SEO hat on a lot of the time, but I'm always like, to be building out content, it's so easy to do a few blog posts a week, just get it going in the background alongside. I always just think there's such a missed opportunity when you're early on, you're so focused on product and building stuff. Whereas, you could be laying some really strong foundations. But anyway, SEO is always my one, but what do you think, is there any starting point?
Yeah, for sure. And I think what we did at GetAccept when we were only three people in the marketing team, I wasn't there. Then it was like, we focused solely on the awareness and the brand part. So we hacked a lot of events, we just paid for tickets and then we went there, we made some kind of guerilla marketing style.
As you said, we also focused a lot on the content side of it because we didn't have a big budget right? So I think those are of course stuff you can easily start with, but when you start, actually having a budget, paid social is one that is a given. I feel like we can pay to be seen in front of the perfect audience, right?
So then it's more up to us. How do we deliver that message, but we can actually pay to make sure that we get seen by our audience, that is hard to do in organic and in all of those events and all of those things. So I feel like paid social is such an important part to create awareness. And then also being visible in paid search. I think paid search is great after, you need some data to evaluate what actually brings in revenue and where you should be at.
And I think you need to start there to gather that data. And when you have that, you can gather that more into these are my high intent keywords that actually bring a lot of ARR. And these are maybe more the low intent that brings a lot of volume, but not a lot of ARR. So you can make sure to spend on only the keywords that actually give something in the end. And then I also see a lot of correlation between paid search and organic search.
What is working in paid is probably something that would work pretty well in organic as well and vice versa. So I think that's also important, but I think paid social is one of the most important things to at least get started with, because that's also a way to test your messaging. Is this working towards our audience? If it's not, maybe we should reevaluate.
How brand marketing functions alongside demand gen
Yeah. And actually the question that came to mind is on that. I mean, you've made a few good references to messaging and brand, and I guess we often have this performance versus brand marketing debate. It's one or the other, which one comes first?
And sounds like you yourself have a very holistic view of the two being linked, but I always have the view that you can't really do demand gen, or it becomes a lot more effective when you've built a brand, when the brand is strong, executing on the demand stuff underneath is more effective, but equally you could argue that doing demand gen stuff, like paid social, also builds the brand. It is cyclical to some sense as well.
Yeah, exactly. And I know a lot of companies where brand actually sits in demand. As an example for us, we have a separate brand team, but we work extremely closely. So I think that's, as you said, it's really key. We see newer markets, for example, where our brand isn't as strong. Of course it's much harder to generate demand. So I think it's really key to build that brand.
And before I started, the brand team made a super big project around our personas. It went in like a hundred hours or something interviewing customer prospects just to really pinpoint what is our personas. We know our brand and all of that, but who is really buying our software and who is the champions and so on.
And that was also something that is so helpful for me as a demand gen marketer to have like, we can see clearly that this is what they care about. This is where they are, then it's more up to us. How can we then communicate effectively? And that's of course when you grow.
Yeah. So you're working closely with brand on messaging and creative and all of that kind of stuff for your campaigns.
Yeah, for sure. And we also have a content team that we also work on sales with. So we work in a trio when we create campaigns I would say. We have us, that is more the coordination and more the purpose of what we are doing. And then we have the content team that brings the messaging part. And then we have the brand team that brings more the design and the brand and visual part. So we have a very good structure if you like. We're starting to get that at least.
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How demand gen team structure shifts as it scales
And I'm interested in how you got to that team size overall, because I guess it comes with time as marketing teams scale. Maybe you go from slightly more generalist roles to more specialist roles and restructure things slightly. Have there been any key points in that journey for you?
It's always hard, right? In the beginning, I'm used to being in marketing teams where we are like 5 to 10 people, and then you have a hat that is a lot of hats. And when we grow, we have five, six sub teams within our marketing. So we have, as I said, a brand team, a content team, a demand team. We also have a partner team, a product marketing team and a web team.
So we have a lot of these different functions and naturally the roles within that become pretty specialized. And I think that's a must when we grow this much, but it also requires a lot more structures, processes right before, when we are more like five to 10 people.
It's more we can actually talk to each other on a daily basis, I'm doing this, you're doing that now. It's more, we need to have a process for how this team works with this team and how we work on campaigns. So I think that's very important. I think that's what's the first thing that our CMO did when he arrived. We have done so much with the brand, with the awareness part.
How can we build out our demand functions and product marketing and partner functions that actually drive revenue? So he has for sure been a big part in the marketing team being able to grow so much because we are also sharing our results. It's not like we are just building a marketing team that doesn't drive value. We also see that the value increases.
And I think that important, but I think now we will be pretty stacked for a while. And I think that's also hard, like when we scale so much in a couple of years, to find a way of working, find how we should work together. And I think that's cool now when we are a bit more stable.
How demand gen sits alongside sales
Yeah. We can't talk about all of this without talking a bit about relationship with sales. I think you've alluded to it already, but I think it's a natural question for any team like this. Maybe you can tell us a bit about how you structure things and how you work alongside sales colleagues?
Yeah. I would say we work extremely close with our SDR team. So me as a head of demand, I work extremely close with the head of SDRs, we set our strategies together and set our goals together because no one can live without the others. And then we have monthly meetings together in our group to just align on targets, align on activities that we're doing and so on.
And now it also helps when we're sitting together in the office a bunch of times. So it really helps the collaboration. It's harder remotely, for sure. But yeah, it has helped a lot and it also helps when they understand what our demand gen framework is. Why are we doing things? What are we putting out there? It's much easier for them to actually communicate within a sales call then.
And you said something interesting, which is that neither side can live without the other, but I guess the old school view and the reason that sometimes this doesn't work is that sales think they can live without demand gen, or they think they're just doing outreach and they're out looking for these opportunities.
Sometimes I hear our SDR team are not really interested in the leads that marketing passes and they want to source their own leads. They're hunters rather than gatherers and all these analogies. Why does it work for you? Is it just that your SDR counterparts have a different outlook? Or is it down to relationships on a basic level? You work side by side, it's never an easy answer. I guess it's usually lots of things, but I wondered what you think.
I think it's similar to getting the executive buy in. It was when we split out the funnels, it also made it pretty clear to the SDR team that okay, if marketing is focused on these high intent buyers and we get more of them coming in, that is great for us as well. I think we got that understanding.
And when we see that most of the high intent requests that we get in, most of them convert into an opportunity, then it's almost a celebration when an SD gets a high intent lead. I think it's about aligning expectations. If we continue to push leads that are never going to buy, of course there's going to be frustration.
So I think it's more like giving the SDR team a way to prioritise between the leads. These are the ones you should prioritise first. These are the buyers that are most likely to be interested in this, and then they can certainly look at everything else as well, similar to how they do outbound.
Yeah. I think sometimes it comes down to SDRs being incentivised in different ways or benefiting sometimes financially from different types of leads. There's so much nuance to all of this, but I guess one thing we hear sometimes is, SDRs are not comfortable with certain leads that we passed and they're only happy working with certain sectors or certain types of customer and anything you throw them outside of that they're last comfortable with, or they find more challenging, therefore they don't go after them.
And so we've had some companies exploring the MDR role, the marketing development rep rather than sales. So really sitting within the marketing team being a bit more versatile maybe in terms of like the types of leads that they talk to. What do you think about that? Is that anything that you've ever explored or do you feel like you get all of that from your SD team?
No, I think it's very interesting. Actually, we have had this conversation before, like if it would bring value or if it would just be like something else, but I never explored it on my own. But I think it would be a fun business case to really try out because I believe that the SDR team are so in the middle ground between sales and marketing.
So it would almost feel natural that some would focus more on the marketing side of it. And I see a lot of companies that are having success with that because it would give a completely different understanding of our marketing activities and why we do it. So yeah, I'm for sure interested in testing it out at some point.
Yeah. One to explore. Well, we're pretty much at time. So I think that's flown by, which is always the sign of a good conversation. So I appreciate you sharing everything. We've had a whistle stop tour of all things on demand gen, which has been super insightful. So I appreciate you giving up your time to join the podcast and to talk to our listeners. So thanks again, Adam.
No worries. Thanks for having me.
Thanks for listening. Before we go, just one final shout out to our FINITE partner, 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast growth, B2B tech and SaaS companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams to drive growth.
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