Whether you’re a new entrepreneur, own a startup, or have a high growth B2B SaaS business, it’s likely that you’ve heard the term “lead generation” when it comes to marketing your brand online and creating demand.

After all, isn’t the point of marketing to generate more leads and, eventually, customers?

Well, not necessarily.

While many marketers herald the need for more “lead generation”, what most B2B brands need is, in fact, Growth Marketing, As a subset of growth marketing, demand generation, by contrast, focuses on creating real demand to facilitate tangible growth. 

Your demand generation engine will fuel the top of the funnel (Awareness and Acquisition) and, once dialed in, you’ll need to expand to Growth Marketing, which impacts the entire funnel from Awareness to Referral around a key north star metric.

In this guide, we are going to discuss the difference between lead generation and demand generation, as well as cover the 7 essentials you need in order to build tangible demand for your business. 

What is B2B Demand Generation?

B2B demand generation is marketing that serves the purpose of creating awareness and demand for your brand’s products or services. Demand generation works to get people buzzing about your offer, engaging with your content, and itching to buy from you.

What makes demand so effective is that it essentially aims to create a predictable sales pipeline full of ready-to-buy prospects. This makes it easier for your sales team to close the deal rather than spending so much time “nurturing” a lead until they are ready to buy.

Demand Generation vs Lead Generation – What’s the Difference?

Demand generation and lead generation are quite different from each other, though some people use these terms interchangeably. 

Lead generation is a short-term, seller-focused strategy to deliver contacts to your sales team to sell to. The problem with this approach is that lead volume can be high but the quality is very low, often with connect and close rates at the same rate or lower than cold outbound marketing. 

Demand generation, on the other hand, is a buyer-centric strategy that works to create awareness and educate your market so more people come to your sales team ready to buy. While the lead volume may be lower, the quality is usually super high, with significantly better win rates and shorter sales cycles than cold outbound.

Why Do Demand Generation Over Lead Generation?

A lot of people think they’re doing demand generation when they’re actually doing lead generation. They want hot, ready-to-buy leads, but they usually end up focusing on cold prospects who are just newly aware of their brand. 

Demand generation – where you’re creating genuine interest in your products or services – is the way to go. Marketing works way better at creating revenue when you stay disciplined in creating DEMAND, not leads.

How is Demand Generation Measured?

There are typically different ways to measure demand generation, but ultimately you want to measure your organization’s ability to actually create demand.

This requires a shift from MQL and lead-based metrics to a core set of new metrics that help you understand if your marketing team is truly creating new demand.

Marketing core metrics include: 

  • Inbound volume (demo, contact, and trial) – This will help you understand if your marketing team is actually creating new demand. As this number plateaus, your growth engine might be starting to sputter out. 
  • Marketing pipeline and revenue – These will help know how many dollars your demand generation engine is contributing to actual revenue.
  • Sales efficiency – If you’re creating real demand, not only should marketing be increasing pipeline and revenue, but true demand is shown through sales efficiency to help you understand if you’re driving higher quality leads. This includes tracking your win rate and sales cycle length with marketing sourced leads.

What’s Needed for a Successful Demand Generation Strategy?

So if lead generation is an outdated method for creating real demand in your business, how DO you establish a demand generation strategy that drives revenue and growth?

While many foundational marketing concepts still apply, demand generation goes beyond simple “awareness” tactics to actually generate interest, drive engagement, and convert passive users into passionate buyers. 

1. Adopt a Buyer-Centric Strategy

The key difference between lead gen and demand gen is that lead gen focuses on the seller’s goals whereas demand gen focuses on the buyer.

Rather than concern yourself with how to generate “high quality leads” for your sales team, instead think about what your audience’s interests, concerns, struggles, and desires are.

The goal here is to fully understand your buyers and their motivations for buying from or working with brands like yours. This will help you when it comes to creating marketing campaigns that speak to your audience’s unique needs instead of the qualifiers you are trying to check off for your sales reps. 

2. Targeting and Segmentation

How well do you know your target market? If you’re like most brands, not very well. This common yet simple mistake can lead to all kinds of marketing blunders, the main one being targeting the wrong audience with the wrong content at the wrong time.

Before launching any campaigns, you’ll need to conduct some degree of market research to understand your audience and what they’re looking for at this exact moment in their buyer’s journey.

Once you’ve uncovered these answers, you can use this information to inform your campaign targeting and segmentation strategy.

Segmentation is critical and includes also niching down. It can also include how you target audiences and campaigns. For example, while your target market might be a specific industry, you might realize that if you segment even further to a specific title, you gain additional traction at a lower cost.

As an example, a typical LinkedIn campaign is segmented down by the following:

  • Different company sizes – usually breaking up by SMB, mid-market, and enterprise level.
  • Testing member skills, groups, job functions, and job titles against each other with different combinations.
  • Segmenting different industries

At any time, we might be running 5-10 different audience segments across 2-4 different ad sets. You can see how complicated segmentation can really be.

As you segment, you’ll want to create unique campaigns that speak to the needs of each segment and are hyper-targeted to the exact audience you want to reach.

This will help your content hit a high note in terms of resonating with your audience and urging them toward buying from you.

3. Choose 2-3 Channels

We’re not a fan of the “throw spaghetti at the wall” marketing strategy here.

Instead, to generate real demand, you’ll want to choose 2-3 marketing channels that have the highest upside potential. 

This will vary depending on your industry, niche, and audience. For B2B, though, the most effective platforms tend to be LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Ads.

In any case, you’ll need to discover what makes the most sense for your brand and then run campaigns that reach users where they’re at. 

Over time, you’ll have more data to tell you which platforms have been effective, which ones have room for improvement, and which ones should be nixed altogether.

4. Create Content for Awareness

“The most powerful marketing isn’t marketing that waits for pain and serves up content; it’s marketing that shows the buyer their pain before they’re even aware of it.”

Lead generation and demand generation have content in common, but the strategy is quite different. While lead gen is all about “gated” content in order to collect users’ information, demand gen content is about creating content for awareness and then acquisition.

Branding alone does not create demand. You need the right content, and this is why we created Buyer-Led Growth

The goal of Buyer-Led Growth for demand generation is to create content that makes buyers “problem aware” so they’re in a position of actually considering that they need a solution.

Once you have content that creates real demand, you can then start mixing in more content into your typical mix. This content can include ungated content, pain point content, and case studies. Only then will you use other types of content (sometimes gated, sometimes not) to acquire prospects. These can include contact forms, demos, free trials, product marketing ads, and the like.

Overall, you need to understand your buyer from the inside out and create content that speaks to exactly where they are NOW in their buyer’s journey. 

At Elevate Demand, we’re big fans of creating an effective brand narrative that takes users from where they are now to the end goal: buying your product. We cover exactly how to do this in our guide, How to Create an Effective B2B Awareness Strategy.

5. Apply Macro Optimizations

Before fine-tuning ad copy and headlines, you’ll want to make macro adjustments to see whether your campaigns are moving the needle. Most marketing teams get stuck doing micro tests before ever identifying a growth lever, so they never find true up and to the right growth.

For macro-optimizations, consider big changes in value proposition, website messaging, user flow, and user experience

Micro-optimizations only give 1-2% improvements, so think of big adjustments to have a big impact. These big adjustments can apply to your content, ads, targeting, segmentation, and more.

6. Run Tests

Once you’ve created and published your content and have started to find growth winners from your macro-optimizations, it’s time to begin running tests in your selected channels. These traffic sources will help you determine whether your content is effective, needs some tweaks, or requires some time back at the drawing board.

We recommend making micro-adjustments and then A/B testing your campaigns to monitor success. Over time, your ads, content, and campaigns will improve so you’ll have a strong, consistent source of leads.. ahem, we mean DEMAND… for your business. 

7. Stack Your Growth 

As you find success, find ways to scale it. If it’s content on LinkedIn, add videos, audio, and images. If you’re finding success on YouTube, find ways to 5x your output. If you keep your eyes open, you’re likely to uncover loads of opportunities.

At Elevate Demand, we have a unique process for “stacking” growth through compound efforts. This includes:

  1. Removing friction across the buyer’s journey for an immediate impact on ROI and revenue.
  2. Creating a brand narrative to create new urgency and demand from cold audiences.
  3. Building out our content playbook and run paid acquisition.
  4. Layering on new growth opportunities (Organic LinkedIn, Video, Reddit, etc).
  5. Applying search engine optimization. 
  6. Executing across the funnel AARRR.

The aim here isn’t to reinvent the wheel over and over but to optimize what’s already working for maximum success. A strong brand narrative, buyer-focused content, and laser-focused targeting are key to the success of your demand generation strategy.

Get Started with Demand Generation

If you’ve hit a plateau with your lead generation, it’s time to try something new. Demand generation is a buyer-focused strategy that connects your ideal audience with what they really want so they’re already itching to buy from you before it’s time to sell, and this is a key component of our Buyer-Led Growth Strategy. This is far better than trying to convince cold or even warm leads that your brand is the bee’s knees.

At Elevate Demand, we’re all about Buyer-Led Growth and helping big brands approaching their marketing in the right way. Learn how we can help you make this happen so you can generate genuine interest in your brand and drive online revenue.