Customers are the heart of our business. In their efforts to please customers, content strategists, growth hackers, product owners, analytics masterminds, and communication specialists share one goal: amplify brand-to-consumer relationships.
Marketers spend their livelihoods building complex user acquisition and engagement engines to do just this. We’ve built systems to automate processes, reach consumers across digital touch points, and personalize brand messaging at scale.
As you can imagine, marketing has evolved into a specialty-driven field. PPC managers find new users through online ads. Conversion optimization specialists ensure that web traffic streams are converting into paying customers. Marketers can spend their entire careers focusing on just one part of the sales funnel.
There’s one marketing concept, however, that sets the tone for all of this marketing activity -- and it’s called demand generation. What exactly does demand generation mean, and how is it different from concepts like inbound marketing?
Read on to find out.
What is demand generation?
Ultimately, demand generation captures the umbrella of marketing programs that get customers excited about your company’s product and services. Demand generation programs can help your organization reach new markets, promote new product features, build consumer buzz, generate PR, and re-engage existing customers.
Demand generation, however, is more than just a branding concept or early funnel marketing tactic. Demand generation programs are touch points throughout the conversion optimization and sales cycles.
The goal of demand generation is to build and nurture key prospect and customer relationships for the long term. To do this effectively, marketers need to do things like respond to customer questions on Twitter, promote blog posts through Facebook, host webinars, and run email marketing campaigns.
Demand generation is an ebook campaign, a weekly newsletter for blog subscribers, a meet-up event, or a company-sponsored webinar. It's not a quick fix, a banner ad, an email blast, or a call center phone-a-thon.
What makes demand generation a distinct concept from other customer acquisition tactics are a commitment to long-term customer relationships and a strategic mindset.
What is inbound marketing's role in demand generation?
This distinction between demand generation and inbound marketing can be tough to readily see. We promise you, though: There is a difference (and it won’t make your brain do somersaults).
Simply put, inbound marketing is one type of demand generation activity. Common demand gen tactics that are inbound include blogs, social media, videos, podcasts, newsletters, and ebooks -- content-driven resources that establish your company as a thought leader, influencer, and information hub in your industry.
Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people towards your company. By aligning your content and messaging with your customers’ interests, you naturally attract audiences, connect with stakeholders, and build a culture around your brand.
Demand generation is the marketing system and engine that bridges the gap with your company’s sales and revenue operations. It may include multiple touch points, from blogging, to email list creation, to social media promotion -- all inbound marketing tactics that are part of a company’s overall demand generation strategy.
What's clear is that these two concepts of demand gen and inbound marketing certainly go hand-in-hand. Inbound is a pivotal facet of demand gen that is needed to secure not only a high quantity of leads, but also high-quality leads.
How is sales involved in demand generation?
Smart marketers are able to transform their PPC, content, and email marketing spends into a revenue-generating engine in which every dollar spent translates into much more earned. That’s why marketing and sales activities go hand-in-hand.
Marketers guide prospects through the conversion funnel. When prospects are ready to become customers, sales teams can take over to navigate logistics, build the business relationship, and get a deal signed.
Sometimes, there is a very thin line between a company’s sales and marketing operations. Other times, these two groups are at odds -- for instance, account executives want marketers to be more aggressive, and marketers want their sales counterparts to turn it down.
No matter the case, there needs to be a strong bridge between these two business functions -- that’s demand generation. It’s a marketers' core responsibility to pass high-value leads to the sales team. Demand generation programs ensure that companies effectively reach their strongest-fit customers.
What data should inform a demand generation strategy?
As you can see, demand generation is definitely a data-driven strategy. In addition to choosing themes and marketing channels that your leads and customers will love, you need to make sure that you’re targeting the right people with the most appealing offers possible.
To succeed with demand generation, your marketing team will need a clear personalization strategy. Data, quantitative analysis, and continuous testing will be important to this process. As trends begin to emerge from your marketing programs, you'll be able to connect marketing activities to key success metrics.
Once you’re acquainted with your buyers' needs and can anticipate marketing trends, you can fuel your marketing programs with enhanced levels of personalization.
Marketing automation software will help you run A/B tests, choose the right content, and customize timing for each of your marketing campaigns and customer segments.
To begin with your demand gen strategy, get to know your customers and conduct qualitative research through user feedback and conversations. If you’re struggling to understand your prospects' needs, pick up the phone and ask.
The success of demand generation stems from your ability to connect with target customers. All you need to get started is a point of reference.
Are you effectively utilizing inbound marketing tactics as part of your demand generation strategy?
Originally published Jan 21, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017