January 25, 2024

Demand generation: Friction as a catalyst for growth

Friction in the customer’s buying journey, often seen as an impediment, possesses untapped potential.

Embracing this seemingly counterintuitive notion might just be the key to driving attention, engagement, and alignment within a comprehensive demand generation program.

The idea that the frictionless experience the perfect fried egg gets in a new Teflon pan should be replicated for a human experience is overwrought and often just too idealistic. This notion also ignores that friction is, quite literally, a force that creates energy, and energy is something you can use to do more and get more. Accepting that both good and bad friction exist and using it to your advantage can offer a unique approach in augmenting demand generation strategies—effectively and efficiently. 

Good Friction: An essential ingredient in marketing effectiveness

Target audiences—you’ve got to grab them, keep them and convince them to give you something—either their dollars in B2C or their contact info, time, and then dollars in B2B.

To grab them, ask yourself, “Is my brand’s advertising attention-grabbing?” Check into some basic metrics around increases in search traffic, direct site visits and GA4’s new metric, engaged sessions. If those are going up, you have a good indication that the advertising you have in the market is effective at this level.  It is grabbing attention by creating some kind of friction in your target audience’s day—a pause in the mobile doom scroll or an actual view on a video screen of any size.  

These metrics are also a basic indication that your target audience is not only watching and remembering your advertising, it’s also linking those ads to your brand. I worked at a company where we weren’t seeing the increase in these three basic metrics that we knew we should be, considering our level of spend on video advertising, including TV. So, we looked at the creative, did some testing, and found that though 90 percent of people remembered our ads, only 49 percent of those linked our ads to our brand. So, literally more than half of our advertising wasn’t working. Talk about finding the answer to the age-old question, “Half of my advertising works, but which half?”

Ok, so you’ve effectively grabbed them—great! What about keeping them? How is that going? At this level, again look at basic metrics such as: time spent on site; average site pages viewed; and amount of content shared—whether from your site or your social properties. For all these metrics to be strong, you need to be influencing your target audience with great content. Ask yourself, “When they click it, where will they go, and will they want to consume, and moreover, share the content they are consuming?”  

“All in all, if your marketing is effective, it’s heavily due to the good friction your advertising creates.”

So many marketing metrics reports focus on quantity over quality. It’s great that you got billions of impressions. Oh, can you also prove the impressions were the right sets of eyeballs? Amazing! Did the owners of those eyeballs do anything substantial after they saw your brand out there in the world? Did they do anything to indicate that they are considering spending money on your brand? Good luck talking to your CFO without some kind of indication of quality.

And the best indication you can bring those finance folks? It’s sales or at least leads.  Suddenly the basic metrics you need are much easier to define—you’ve got to get either dollars or personal information of qualified buyers for the sales team to follow up on.

All in all, if your marketing is effective, it’s heavily due to the good friction your advertising creates and your brand’s meaningful content keeps alive. In terms of marketing’s contribution to the sale, as much at 47 percent comes down to attention-grabbing-and -keeping creative and content.

Bad Friction: An essential indicator in marketing efficiency

Let’s focus on B2B when considering efficiency and talk about two areas that are very likely full of friction: alignment between the marketing and sales teams, and validation that marketing activities and spend are producing results.  

On alignment: Step back and ask yourself, “Is my team really working with the sales team?” If you have any doubt that you’d wholeheartedly answer “yes” to this, it’s time to look for friction, which will indicate where problems are that can be solved. You’ve got to get this right because the sales team needs marketing to be a partner in demand generation and has even started saying that out loud; nearly two out of three sales leaders surveyed said that qualified leads from marketing often result in a sales appointment and/or sale.

Moreover, B2B buyers are spending only 17 percent of their time with sales teams versus spending 27 percent of their time researching your brand independently online, underscoring the importance of meaningful content to increase target audiences’ consideration of your brand and its products. 

Even if you have highly effective content, as discussed above, we often see issues in lead generation programs that are producing leads that are not fully qualified. They are engaged (i.e., have interacted with several pieces of marketing collateral/events) but aren’t qualified to buy. Passing those leads onto sales is going to increase friction in the process by gumming up the funnel with the wrong people. Additionally, it will increase friction between marketing and sales as sales starts to discount the value of the “engaged” leads they are getting. Look for an indicator of this friction in the simple metric of the percent of leads passed from marketing to sales that sales says are qualified. Your sales team isn’t going to ignore a lead that they believe can close—that they believe is qualified.   

Ask yourself, “How can I increase the number of leads I pass to sales that they are excited to follow up on?” If you don’t have lead grading as part of your lead gen program, you need to add one. Scoring indicates only the level of engagement—the “warmth” of the lead. You must add a grade for qualifying attributes, such as, is a part of the buying team, is from a relevant target company, or has a high level of seniority at the company [see Figure 1]. This will help your marketing team not pass low-grade leads, such as highly engaged PhD students—or worse, competitors or members of your own company—to the sales team.

Lead scoring and grading framework

In terms of validating whether the leads that are coming in are not just leads the sales team wants but also leads that close and generate revenue, you can look to different indicators of inefficiency—bad friction. Look further down into how the lead flows through the buying process with your brand.  

It is important not to view your marketing team as a lead drop off service or for your peers in other functions to view your team this way. Instead, work to smooth out bad friction in partnership with sales to show the value of the go-to-market teams to the rest of the organization. As an example, one brand I worked on had great lead pass through rates from marketing to sales, and then everything fell apart when sales was working to open opportunities with those leads—only 4 percent were moving from the handover to sales to opportunity. But once sales was able to open an opportunity, the close rate was north of industry benchmarks. 

Doing that simple funnel analysis created a rallying cry internally to fix “the 4 percent problem.” Marketing was able to help with talking points, battlecards and renewed trainings on key topics like the unique value proposition. With focus, the go-to-market teams were able to raise the 4 percent to 13 percent together and saw no deterioration in the conversion rate from opportunity to close. That 9 percentage point increase immediately increased the ROI of leads marketing was bringing in. Everyone was happy, including the CFO—and you know that’s a tough audience for marketing to please! 

Friction: Essential whether it’s good or bad

You want to create the kind of friction that stops the scroll on social media or the get-up-off-the-couch motion when commercials come on while watching live sports. This kind of friction is good friction and is an essential ingredient in your marketing effectiveness.  

For marketing efficiency, look to uncover existing friction standing between a customer and a sale and move to minimize it. This kind of friction, though bad, is a gift in that it indicates areas that should be working better—areas that often include misalignment among go-to-market teams or proving return-on-investment stemming from marketing plans, spend and activities. Disregarding this friction inadvertently neglects the areas that require attention and improvement—the areas that when addressed will make them generate more demand, more efficiently.   

Friction is part of the human experience and can be used as a force for good: to effectively grab target audiences’ attention and keep it, and to efficiently welcome them as customers for the first, second, twentieth or one-hundredth time.