Demand generation is a relatively new term in the marketing lexicon. At times, it can be difficult to parse out the differences between demand generation, lead generation and inbound marketing. In many ways, these three pillars of marketing flow in and out of one another and share some of the same foundational principles.
So, what is demand generation and why does it deserve its own identity apart from lead generation and inbound? Let's explore this together.
Let's Try to Establish a Universal Demand Generation Definition
Ask a host of marketing experts to define demand generation and differentiate it from inbound marketing and you'll get a variety of responses. The line between the two is simply not very clear. Let's look at a sampling of definitions from some well-regarded marketing agencies that deploy the inbound methodology.
- Mark Lieberman of Pennsylvania's Square2 Marketing tries to delineate the two in this way: “In my mind, demand generation is the process by which leads are generated. Inbound marketing helps deploy the tactics required to create demand, generate leads, nurture those leads and turn those leads into new customers. This simpler, more practical approach positions demand generation as an outcome of inbound marketing, just like lead and revenue generation.”
- Amanda Farmer of Marketeer attempts to parse out the nuanced differences between lead generation and demand generation in this way: “Demand gen typically gives away content freely in order to build awareness. There might be a CTA, but it will come at the end of the piece (“Want to know more? Contact us/click here!”). Lead gen typically places content behind a “gate” to motivate form submissions (“Want to access this valuable content? Fill out this form, and we’ll send it to you!”). Those contacts then go into a queue where the sales team can reach out and engage with the ones who seem most qualified. (For good measure, lead gen content will usually have a CTA at the end as well.)”
- Inbound giant HubSpot looks at the issue in this way: “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.”
So, uh, is it clear yet? Clear as mud, right?
So, What Are the Differences Between Demand Generation, Lead Generation and Inbound?
Square2 and HubSpot seem at odds, but are really in agreement. They’re just saying the same thing in different ways: demand generation is a strategic outcome whereas inbound is a type or tactic of demand generation.
Marketeer, on the other hand, drills down a bit further, separating out different aspects of inbound tactics within a demand generation approach. Demand generation is creating general awareness of your company, product or industry by giving away content for free. Lead generation on the other hand is an approach that “gates” content and requires the furnishing of information via a form, thus creating what we call a lead.
If we look at demand generation as the umbrella marketing concept, inbound as a method of creating demand and lead generation as the conversion of demand into an actual lead, the picture becomes a bit clearer.
One other important aspect of demand generation is the long-view nature of the process. Your demand generation strategy by nature must be a long term strategy that not only creates demand, but also facilitates the relationship among marketing, sales, leads and existing customers; it’s a truly holistic, staged approach defined by value and trust.
Okay, Now that We Have Some Clarity, What Makes A Strong Demand Generation Strategy?
Patience. Remember, all things in good time. Trying to get personal data too soon, or jumping the gun in a desire to close a sale quickly, is anathema to a strong demand generation strategy. Demand generation is a long term strategy for your revenue pipeline; it requires Yoda-like calm and mindfulness to work.
Relatability. To generate and maintain demand for your services or product, inbound content must be relatable to where an individual is in their buyer’s journey and their persona narrative. Being relatable and being patient are closely linked; the content you provide must be relatable to where this individual sits within their buying process and your funnel.
Value and Timeliness. Your content needs to resonate with your audience and deliver value through outstanding content delivered at the appropriate time. Relatability, timeliness and value (remarkable content) have to work together to generate and sustain demand. Trying to deliver the best product demo in the universe to a person who just read a free blog won’t be effective because despite your great, value-added content your timing and relatability is misplaced for where this person likely is in their buyer’s journey.
Playing Robinhood...for a Time. You need to attract interest, deliver value and build trust to start filling the top of your funnel. To do this you need to give away some of your best content for free, no questions asked. Play Robinhood for a while and give your treasures away. Building gates around all of your content and requiring form fills for access is a demand generation killer. Again, there is a proper time for gated content; a strong demand generation strategy understands this and uses this conversion strategy at the appropriate time through data tracking and marketing automation processes.
Mine Your CRM. In order to create demand, nurture leads, convert them along the pipeline and win customers you have to intimately understand your audience and monitor their behavior through your CRM and reporting tools. This is how you determine what content is relatable, valuable and timely and how and when to deliver it. Data mining and analyzing metrics enables your demand generation strategy to evolve over time and remain agile to changing customer behavior and market conditions.
Marketing terms come and go with the latest fads and retread philosophies.
However, at the end of the day-no matter what label you slap on it-the best and most effective marketing and demand generation programs deliver value and build trust in a deliberate, patient and audience-focused manner that blossoms over time.