My 25-year-old cousin has developed a new addiction. The other day I overheard my aunt complain “It all started with those videos and blogs that show you how to get the latest look and then bombard you with beauty tips. My daughter is convinced that they are the best and orders these cosmetics online almost every other day!” My aunt went on to reminisce about her younger days when full-page vibrant ads featuring Jennifer O’Neill were the only reason to buy lip gloss.

Some may see it as usual parental pangs, but as a marketer, I think this is a good example of how demand generation has evolved over the years. Changes in technology, consumer behavior and increasing popularity of social media platforms have led to remarkable changes in how to acquire customers.

Everyone’s an expert

Two decades ago, cold calling was one of the most popular methods of reaching out to your prospects and keeping them “informed” about your services. Today if you call a prospect, chances are that they may not even pick up your call. They are more likely to access your website or social media page first and then take a decision whether to entertain your call or not.

Consumers are adept in researching a product before making the final decision to buy. They no longer need to be persuaded about a particular product or service using in-your-face advertisements or pushy sales calls. More customized methods like social selling have steadily been gaining popularity as more emphasis is placed on engaging and interacting with the customer. It’s not a one-way conversation anymore.

In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a company without human interaction. We all like to feel like we are in control and technology has allowed us to do just that.

Content. Content. Content.

When I had just started my career in marketing, I was asked to analyze and compare different kinds of advertising copy that were popular in the market. It was one of the best ways to understand the competitive landscape in order to devise a better demand generation strategy.

Now, in a span of just 7 years, I see that almost all my peers in marketing are spending 70% of their time on content strategy, SEO and community building. It makes me sound like a relic, but I would have never thought back then that the word “viral” would actually become a marketing buzz word!

We are all coders now

Thirty years ago, brands could convince consumers through newspaper ads or TV campaigns. But today a marketer has to wade through Web Analytics, CRM, Marketing Automation and a host of digital platforms just to get that elusive click. Marketing automation technology is expected to increase by 50% by 2015 and spending on marketing analytics is expected to increase 60% by 2015.

Clearly it’s not enough to be a right-brainer. Effective marketers combine creativity with data-driven decisions.

No primetime slots

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, if one needed to sell a used vehicle or furniture, it was primarily done via word-of-mouth or an agent. At least I know my parents did it that way. But recently when my sister wanted to sell her old car, she took less than 24 hours to find a buyer! One Google search and the next thing she knew there were ads popping up on her Facebook timeline from vehicle dealers. She also received automated emails with details of prospective buyers along with contact details. “It was almost as if they could read my mind!” she told me excitedly very pleased about the sale.

Today’s demand generation campaigns must be executed across all channels depending on the target consumer’s usage pattern. It could be a social media portal, a website, a video channel or even a specific Android app. The messaging must be consistent and should cover all points of customer contact.

Too often in B2B demand gen we tend to focus on how companies sell to companies. But in the end it’s a person-to-person sale and what’s happened in the consumer space also applies to the enterprise sales. The next ten years will be probably very different from the previous ten, but marketers can be prepared if they have a background in engineering, enjoy creative pursuits, think of growth-hacks and are flexible to relearn!