Is demand gen more than just a buzzword?

Demand gen is a term describing tactics that are aimed at driving increased awareness, interest, and sales of a product or service offering. These tactics begin in the awareness phase, but continue to affect the buyer’s journey all the way through to conversion and advocacy.

This week, we are joined by Vendasta‘s very own marketing mastermind, and VP of Demand Generation: Devon Hennig. Devon shares his insights on demand and sales alignment, the importance of quick wins, and the keys to building an ROI fueled marketing machine.


George: It is “The Conquer Local Podcast,” and we’re talking about how to get demand for your brand today. And that is for your customer’s brand. I am going to be joined by our Vice President of Demand Gen at Vendasta Technologies, Devon Hennig. I’ve had the privilege of working with Devon over the past six-and-a-half years. You know, it’s interesting, when we started working together, one of the things that I saw happen was sales and marketing became a team. And I laugh about that because I don’t actually see that in a lot of organizations that we work with today. When we go in and help sales teams launch on the platform, it’s one of the pieces is the marketing department needs to be at the table. Devon and I have had a great relationship over the years in having that combined discussion. And I wanted to bring him in because he’s working on some new tactics around developing demand for brand and it all ties back to that customer journey that we are lamenting over in this series of “The Conquer Local Podcast.” So, we’re going to find out what part, you know, it is a buzzword, demand gen. What part does that play when we’re discussing the customer journey? And what are some tactics that Devon saw that are effective in discussing this with a local business? We’ll go back to my hardware store example, which I always use as my default local business, the hardware store, the coffee shop. What are the things that we can do as a sales rep to communicate with that customer? And then we just kind of go upstream from there when we see where the customer is in their knowledge of marketing and how to create that demand. So, that’s all coming up in a moment when we have this week’s edition of “The Conquer Local Podcast.” And it happens next.

It is the latest edition of “The Conquer Local Podcast. It’s George Leith, along with Devon Hennig. Devon Hennig, the Vice President of Demand Gen for Vendasta Technologies. Devon, I was trying to figure out as we were prepping for the show, how long you and I worked together. It’s got to be getting on six years.

Devon: Well, when did you join Vendasta? I remember when you were bright-eyed and fresh-faced around the…

George: I was younger, is what you’re trying to say.

Devon: Well, you know, I was trying to come up with a nice way of saying it, but no, it must be like 2014, something like that.

George: Yeah. It was 2012 actually.

Devon: 2012.

George: And, you know, we worked together a long time because I really truly believed that, you know, if you’re going to win today, sales and marketing need to be very closely aligned. I don’t necessarily know that that is the case in a lot of organizations though. And it’s one of the things that we preach when we go into market and work with organizations, is you need that alignment in messaging from marketing to sales and there needs to be some give and take between, you know, the two groups. I’m not saying that Devon and I have always got along. That’s probably a good thing, where we’re having some healthy debate around solutions. But I think, that you know, by and large, when I go to conventions, I see sales and marketing need to be aligned. I think that, you know, you and I have pretty much been on the same page over the years.

Devon: What’s this, we haven’t always gotten along? George?

George: See, look, and I’m cleaning up some of the skeletons in the closet.

The Philosophy of Demand Gen

George: We have a theme this month for the month of December, where we’re talking about email. And I know that having that conversation with a local customer around the value of email marketing is somewhat of a challenge. And, we call it demand gen. And Devon, I’d like you…you know, you’re one of the foremost experts on this space on creating and generating that demand through marketing. Can you talk a little bit about your philosophy behind demand gen and where it might fall in that customer journey that we’re putting out there in front of businesses and trying to help them?

Devon: Sure. So, just philosophy on demand gen spends all of the marketing channels, not just email, although we can talk about that specifically today. But across the entire customer journey from awareness all the way through to advocacy, which is something you talk a lot about on the podcast. And, from our perspective here, we do a lot of email and we do a lot of social advertising. We do a lot of organic reach and blogging, but fundamentally, it’s back to your strategy. And when I think about demand gen and when I create demand gen content, I think about strategy, tactics, tools, and teams. So, do you have the right strategy and foundation in place? Can you execute it with the right tactics? Are you using the right tools, most affordable or cost-effective tools that you can find? And do you have the right team in place to execute it properly?

So, those are sort of the high-level pieces, but when you’re a new demand gen person stepping into a role or stepping into a new marketing team and feeling out a new sales dynamic, I think it’s important to establish a few things upfront. And, this comes from some companies I’ve worked with before and from some of my favorite strategies from the past, but I think you really want to work immediately at getting some quick wins on the board. You want to put a machine in place so that it’s predictable and it’s working on its own every month. And then you want to take big swings and leapfrog from your current position. So, I would bring it back to that, if I’m stepping into a new company or thinking about the strategy at the high level, it’s get quick wins, put a machine in place, and take big swings.

George: So, as a salesperson, I’m sitting out talking to the local hardware store owner, we’re basically just taking that concept that you just spoke about and laying that out as our strategy. Now, what would be a quick win for that local hardware store owner? And I like using that example because, you know, that’s a small business in its very essence, and they need to be deploying some of these tactics in order to win with their answers, run an ad in the local newspaper anymore and be successful.

Devon: Right. So, how I think about it, quick wins can be tough to nail down because every company is different. I think you have to start with the high-level view of your customer journey. Are there bottlenecks or blockers at any of the following stages that can be resolved or get immediate results? So, you know, those stages like awareness, findability, reputation, conversion. For example, you know, is there a bad review on Yelp that’s lying there, like a dead dog on your doorstep? You talked about that quite a bit. If you remove it by making things right with the reviewer, you could get an instance of a measurable lift in traffic. Or, you know, maybe your reviews are great, but your listings are wrong and people can’t find you. Or maybe there are broken links in your ads. Or maybe you don’t have good lead magnets on your blog. I think quick wins could be really anything. You just have to look at what is my business like right now, where are the biggest bottlenecks, and attack those.

Key Challenges in the Customer Journey

George: So, you know, what I like about what you’re saying, Devon, and to our audience, when we’re presenting the value that we bring to the customer, and I don’t care what the product is or the tactic is that you’re going to use in the in the back end, I think sometimes where sales reps are really struggling today to discuss digital with the client is they’re in there, showing them the tool, and they’re showing features and benefits of the tool, and the client really doesn’t care. They want the outcome. And what Devon just highlighted is we’re going to get demand for our product, which is really what demand generation is all about. We need to look at that whole customer journey. Where are you finding, Devon some of the…I know that you work with a number of SMBs in order to articulate the story to Vendasta customers. Where are you finding, you know, some of the biggest challenges around that customer journey, local businesses included?

Devon: Again, very, very specific to the SMB or the type of SMB, whether it’s restaurant or legal or dentist or vets or funeral homes. But back to your point, it’s what creates the result, usually the fastest and most affordably. So, can you double appointment bookings by just adding a scheduler to your website? Can you triple your blog traffic just by updating your blog’s URL structure? I mean, I like to go through each of these phases of the customer journey and find the quick wins right off the bat to build trust and political capital for later if you’re in a larger company or whatnot.


George: Yeah. And I think that you’re building that trust and political capital, even if it’s a one-person shop by, you know, coming in with an honest look at it. And, you know, keep in mind for our audience, you know, we found that businesses don’t really know as much about the structure of their website or how it needs to be structured to get that blog traffic. So, when you’re pointing out these items, make sure you explain it in a way that they can understand. And also make sure that you bring it up because that is the value that you bring to the discussion if you are the trusted expert that we’re shooting for.

Devon: I would say across the board, the reputation piece probably resonates the most off the hop, like as a news conversation, because it’s often the biggest pain point. It’s the ugly review that’s really nagging at them. It’s the ability to contact people who left those bad reviews and resolve the situation or turn good reviews into testimonials to publish and promote on social or to solicit new reviews from satisfied customers. So, that usually gains trust the fastest, but there are other quick win areas you can definitely go after.


George: So, in other areas of this customer journey, and I specifically brought up email marketing because it’s our theme for the month, but it also is the thing that Bill’s people say that business people have their hardest time putting their head around. And, you know, I know that you and I both know this, we couldn’t run our business without email marketing. It’s a way that we teach. It’s the way that we nurture. How would you, sitting across from a local businessperson, present the value proposition to marketing via email?

Devon: Well, email is still extraordinarily important because it’s a channel that you own. It’s not your audience on Facebook or on Medium or on LinkedIn or on Twitter or on a platform that owns “those customers and all their contact information.” It’s a personal relationship where you can get directly to their inbox and to their phone, which drives the economy right now. So, I mean, it’s old school, but it’s still a potent powerful part of your strategy. And that’s how a lot of people think about it. But unfortunately, a lot of people also think about it in terms of the shortest path to the customer. And that leads down dangerous paths like spamming and unsuccessful outbound strategies, one might say. And those aren’t part of a healthy marketing mix. So, I’m sure we’ll dig into maybe some of that right now, but overall, it’s still an extremely, extremely effective channel and should be part of your marketing mix.

George: You’re sitting across from a customer and they say to you, “Yeah, okay, I’m looking at this dashboard.” What are the things I should be looking at in this dashboard to see the effectiveness of my email marketing?

Devon: The effectiveness should always be judged on the ROI of any channel. So, can you tie it all the way to the end, all the way to revenue? I sent out this campaign and I made this many sales. There are going to be more vanity metrics along the way, whether that’s opens and click-through rates, and you should look at those to make sure that your numbers are healthy compared to your industry averages. But if you’re not able to tie it to the dollar at the end of the day, then it’s not really a measurable channel for you.

The Marketing Mix & Quick Wins

George: So, you talked about a healthy mix. What do you think is a healthy mix? And let’s not talk about a large business at this point. Let’s get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about for a small business, I have a small budget. What would be a healthy marketing mix that you would put in front of them?

Devon: In terms of products across the stack?

George: Not even products. Just, you know, when you look at that customer journey, here’s the areas where I would focus first. Here’s my quickest wins. I know you mentioned reputation. I think that that just makes sense. I think that if you’ve got a negative reputation online, it’s like a nonstarter.

Devon: Yeah. Yeah.

George: But, you know, what are other quick wins that you see?

Devon: So, the quick wins running through the customer journey, I mean, in awareness, it’s about getting campaigns up and running on social platforms. We’ve seen the biggest ROI at Vendasta. So, having Facebook Lead Ad campaigns are really good quick wins. You know, you could host a webinar or write up a case study from successful customers and promote that. Dennis Yu has this whole Dollar-a-Day thing that I know he’s talked about on your program before. So, there are affordable ways to do it. You don’t have to go drop $10,000 on a Facebook campaign. You can find your Unicorn Posts and your winners for pretty cheap. In the findability category, there are some quick SEO wins you could make. In our world, a lot of the time that’s listing. So, correcting wrong listings on directories like Google, Bing, Yelp, looking for missing or incorrect listings. You know, you could go after Google snippets. There’s a lot of SEO stuff you can do.

We talked about the reputation piece, of course. In the conversion aspect of the customer journey, there’s a lot right on your website, if your website is a main marketing channel for you, that you can do with tools within WordPress, like plugins, to add, you know, Welcome Mats and popups to your website. Vendasta uses this instant demo feature on a website, which has really improved conversions for us because we offer demos. And then the last piece, I mean, advocacy, if you do have customers that are raving about you, I mean, you should be asking those customers for referrals, implementing maybe an affiliate or referral program, maybe just surveying your customers to see if upsells or cross-sells are on their mind. So, all of that stuff is how I think about the quick wins in each area of the customer journey. But, in terms of the right marketing mix, your original question, I would lay those things out on a table and pick at least one from each category to say, “This is the most impactful thing I can do for awareness, for findability, for reputation, for conversion, and for advocacy.” And then just keep building on those.

Proof of Performance

George: So, you know, the interesting thing, you brought up a tactic, which is instant demos. That’s something that you added to the mix here recently. So, the thing about it is we need to constantly be measuring the effectiveness. And you mentioned earlier, I liked the fact that we tie it back to ROI. That creates an enormous challenge for us as salespeople to articulate that value in ROI. How important is it in the beginning when you were signing a new customer to lay out the foundation of how we’re gonna measure success?

Devon: That’s, one of the biggest tenets at Vendasta is to always have proof of performance or else, you know, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. So, it’s a day one type item where you have to sit down and establish that this is where you are right now and you can revisit that down the road when you’ve made some change to show how far you’ve come. It’s an incredible effect on lowering churn, and improving customer retention, and overall developing more satisfied customers.

George: So it’s something that we over communicate to the salesperson, account manager, business development rep, whatever we’re calling ourselves, to the advertising consultants?

Devon: Now, some things might not be as measurable, which I still think are very important. Here’s an example that specifically relates to email actually. So, what is email? It’s a channel to communicate a message. Right? Such as all our marketing channels are. And the message is the really important part and what people tend to gloss over a lot of the time. And that is something I would spend a decent amount of time upfront investing in, in getting your message right, which a lot of people don’t necessarily do because they don’t have a story building framework, or they don’t necessarily know how they’ll jump straight to selling or, you know, skip over the relationship building part, or the really key unique selling propositions of their business.


George: You know, it’s interesting you bring this up because this isn’t a new thing. I remember in my early days in my radio career, the person that controlled the creative for the client was the one that actually controlled the customer. What I loved is when I would have our ads that we created at our radio stations sent to other radio stations, where the client had spent some money because it showed that I was controlling the creative conversation. So, what you’re saying is, we need to really be on top of that. Now, for a lot of business people that you’re dealing with, that’s why they’re dealing with you, as the trusted local expert is to come up with that. So, inside Marketplace, in the platform, there are a number of different places that you can go to get assistance with that. But I think it’s also a really good skill as a marketing consultant to learn on how to…you don’t need to be the most creative person, you just need to know how to craft the overall strategy and what the messaging is as interpreted from the customers’ needs and what they’re trying to accomplish, through the various tactics that you’re using. So, you know, I’m glad that you brought that up. The creative is a really important piece.

Devon: Well, it’s the foundation starts with the message. That will bleed into every marketing initiative you do, and you want to make sure your story is dialed in. So, this is fascinating. The last VendastaCon that we did, which will now be Conquer Local, and we had an amazing speaker, Tim Riesterer, come on stage and laid out a framework for effective storytelling that is actually proven to improve ROI. So, he went through this model called “The Why Change Model” and I encourage everybody who’s listening right now to look it up. And, the research that they did with Stanford showed the ROI would be up to 300% higher if you follow the storytelling formula. And it’s amazing. It was the most engaging session that I’ve seen probably at our conference and other conferences that I’ve seen him speak at.

George: Yeah. You know, I really enjoyed this conversation. And I think that, that we should make a very good point here. The key to presenting a compelling story to the customer is just that, to use a story. So, when, you know, you’re talking to the client, you need to present it in a way that solves their need and presents a compelling reason for them to change, where there may be a place over here that’s improved, and then that you’re going to, you know, have that level of accountability. So, thanks for bringing that up. That was one of the better sessions at that convention. You know, you’ve got your finger on the pulse.

The Future of Demand Gen

George: Devon, you’re always looking ahead. Where do you see marketing going in the next 12 months?

Devon: I see marketing becoming much more value-based, and you can sense it in the air. Seth Godin just published a new book that really sums this up very well. A lot of the influencers and marketers I follow online who have really dug into this idea that marketing is about creating change and about helping people. And, the more that we do that, the more successful we’ll be as a whole in terms of demand generation and marketing at large. So, I really see a further movement away from mass blasting, and mass messaging, and spamming, and the lowest common denominator toward helping a greater, grander group of people.

George: Well, I really appreciate getting the mastermind of marketing at Vendasta on the podcast. It’s probably long overdue. I understand that you have some case studies in the works and we’re looking forward to seeing some of those results in the months to come. I get asked for case studies all the time. How important do you think a case study is today for a sales rep to be effective?

Devon: Well, case studies are important. We’re aiming to do one better even right now. So, we had a lot of our partners come to us and say they have problems with lead generation, which is understandable. A lot of people do. So, we are working on a framework for agencies, for enterprise clients, TVs, radios, newspapers, Yellow Pages, anybody who sells to local should be able to use a similar framework. So, that’s the piece that we’re putting together. And it ties into my last answer. We’re trying to be helpful in our marketing and give people not only research or a story that makes them feel good and makes sense, but the templates and tools to put into place and get going with it.

George: Well, thanks for joining us, Devon. And have yourself a great holiday season and we look forward to joining you in the New Year to get some more insights here on “The Conquer Local Podcast.” That’s Devon Hennig, Vice President of Demand Gen at Vendasta Technologies.

Devon: Take care. Thanks, George.


George: Probably could talk to Devon about marketing for ours. We actually do that from time to time. A few times a year, we get together and just talk about, you know, making sure that we’re aligned and making sure that we’re on the same page as to the message that we’re communicating to our teams and customers. You know, when you sit across the table from your clients, in a lot of cases you are sales and marketing, you are helping that business person with both of those components. You are selling them a solution that’s gonna solve their problem, but you are articulating how they’re going to master this marketing journey that they’re on. So, understanding that marketing piece to the equation is as important as understanding how to deal with objection, how to build a presentation, how to tell a compelling story. I think it all is very closely tied together.

You know, Devon talked about getting those quick wins. I’m a big believer in quick wins. I think that getting quick wins with your customer, things that you’ve agreed to in the original discussions to enter into a business relationship, you agree to some certain things. And if you get some of those quick wins in the first 30 days, the first 60 days, then we all know that there’s this point at 90 days, where there’s a chance that you could get some sort of churn in that monthly recurring revenue, and the data that we have and the research we have shows that. So, I always recommend being in front of the customer between 60 and 90 days to, you know, reset expectations, deal with any issues that have come up, and then to present some other ways that you can help the customer. And that’s, you know, where we talked about those quick wins.

He also talked about building a machine. And, this is the tactics that you’re going to use. These are the tools that you’re going to use. And each one of those should have a measurement against it. And sometimes, you’re going to turn off pieces of the machine that aren’t working and you’ll know that Devon pointed out during his discussion about the Vendasta funnel, which is the one he’s very much involved in our day-to-day basis, we just found a tool that we should be using. So, we always need to be evolving that because there’s new technology coming along all the time and it enables us to give an improved program for our customer. It also helps us block and tackle against competitors that are coming in, “Hey, you should deal with me. I have this next new thing,” if you have that at your fingertips. That’s why working with somebody that has some sort of a marketplace of ever-evolving products that have already been vetted, you can go in and you can just pull something out if you need it when you’re dealing with the client.

And then to have that ROI discussion and, you know, this is the piece, where you rip the thing apart and you go, “We were expecting X at the end of the month. We didn’t get it. What’s broken?” And this is also the piece that most people don’t do. Most businesses don’t do it. Most marketing consultants are reluctant to have that conversation because, you know, you never know what might be behind that door if I open it up. So, making sure that you are involved in the data that’s coming back from the various reports that you have, you know how to speak to those reports, you know how to go back to the product side of the organization and say, “Hey, this thing over here isn’t working. We expected this,” and make sure that that is all together so that when you sit across from your customer and they say, “Okay, what the hell happened over the last 90 days?” We call it a quarterly business review. When you have that quarterly business review, you’re able to demonstrate that ROI because it’s all the business cares about at the end of the day. “I gave you $500. How much did I get back in return?

We have more issues of “The Conquer Local Podcast” coming up in the coming weeks as we continue to investigate this customer journey. We’ve got some great guests lined up. We have experts in the website space, experts in the data space. We have experts around email marketing and we’re going to be speaking to all of those folks in the coming weeks. I also very much appreciate the comments that we’re getting on LinkedIn. We got a ton of comments here over the last couple of weeks from LinkedIn, from the Master Sales Series that we put up. And we’re very appreciative of those comments. It helps us to craft where we’re going to go in 2019. And also welcome to all of our subscribers in South Africa. I just completed a two-week journey through various cities in South Africa, working with hundreds of salespeople and helping them to figure out how to conquer local. And it’s always a pleasure to meet people in countries that I haven’t spent a lot of time in before. I just started going to South Africa this year. It’s a glorious place, some beautiful vistas, and some fantastic people. And some businesses that face the exact same challenges that we’ve seen in other markets.

“The Conquer Local Podcast” is here on iTunes, Google Play, and SoundCloud. And you can always check us out on our website at My name is George Leith, your host. I’ll see you when I see you.