What is B2B demand generation and how is it different from demand capture?
Understanding the difference between demand generation and capture is fundamental to designing any GTM or marketing strategy.
Demand capture is the mechanism of making the discoverability of your business easy when someone is looking to buy your offering (or the category of products or services you offer).
For example, if a prospect heard about your product in an event that generated an interest in her to explore further, she is likely to search your company name or the name of the product on Google. When she does that, you need to make sure that your company’s page appears in SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) at the top. This is demand capture.
Demand generation, on the other hand, is the entry gate – the point where awareness about your business is created. It can be a single exercise or a combination of multiple activities that led to it. While demand capture focuses on capturing prospects who are in the market to buy what you offer (say 2% of your SAM or Serviceable Available Market), demand gen is about creating interest among the remaining 98% in evaluating your products or services.
Why is it required to invest in B2B demand generation?
Broadly speaking, following are the major reasons why you would want to build a demand generation program for your B2B business:
- In this era of dark social, most of the research B2B buyers do happens before they become a lead. According to Fronetics.com, buyers are 57% of the way down the sales path by the time they engage with a brand’s website. Hence if you focus on demand capture methods alone, you are likely to miss out on a huge chunk of your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile).
- Software-based attribution data is misleading. While these tools give most of the credit to channels that can be tracked, in reality. the demand gets created at a much earlier stage (this is discussed in detail in the article Why B2B Revenue Attribution Is Broken And How To Fix It).
- To improve conversions from SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) or SAL (Sales Accepted Lead) to opportunity or deal wins, prospects have to be educated enough about your company and offerings even before they talk to sales. Handling most of your prospects’ objections using demand gen efforts improves conversion and increases sales velocity.
- Many demand capture channels (with a few exceptions) are focused on the short term. At the same time, B2B demand generation techniques take time to establish but have a compounding and long-lasting impact.
Above all these, demand generation helps to establish trust and credibility. Instead of your website copy saying ‘we are #1’, you showcasing your expertise using demand gen channels is a much more trustworthy way of winning customers.
9-step framework for designing a B2B demand generation engine
Let’s get to the core of the topic.
According to me, here are the 9 steps involved in building a demand generation engine that consistently delivers revenue growth over the long term:
9 step framework for designing demand gen engine
- Defining goals and outcomes
- Getting management buy-in and ensuring alignment
- Understanding where your ICP hangs out
- Defining content pillars (or categories) for your ICP
- Devising a content marketing strategy
- Team building and work allocation
- Building the right tech stack
- Putting the demand gen program into action
- Measuring outcomes and finetuning the program
Let us break down each of these.
1. Defining goals and outcomes
This is the very first step. What do you want your demand gen program to achieve? To find out, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the primary goals of the demand gen function? Is it to increase the pipeline? Is it to improve brand awareness? Do you wish to increase sales velocity with it? How about metrics like burn multiple and cash runway?
- How long do you expect it to take to meet the goals and outcomes? Is it 6 months, 1 year, or even longer?
- How willing are you to invest the time and resources required to achieve the goals?
These questions will not only help to identify the goals of the demand gen engine, but they will also keep a check on whether you are ready to plan and implement a full-fledged B2B demand generation program.
Related article: 10 metrics to measure B2B brand awareness and reach
2. Getting management buy-in and ensuring alignment
This is probably the most important step. Implementing a successful demand gen program requires buy-in not just from your marketing leadership, but other stakeholders (especially sales and customer success) as well.
The fact is that a vast majority of leaders are not wired to think with a demand gen mindset. Even today, to many, scaling revenue means spending more money on paid ads and hiring more SDRs (Sales Development Representatives).
So, focusing on demand gen requires a significant shift in mindset by all the stakeholders involved. You can use the following anchors to convince everyone of the relevance of a demand gen program:
- Long-term impact on revenue
- The compounding effect and scalability
- Enhanced brand visibility
- The benefit of attracting better talent
- More value per dollar spent
You can easily add more to the above depending on the nature of your business and how you design your demand gen engine (goals, tactics, people, etc). But you definitely need to have your C-suite and leadership aligned with your idea of leveraging demand gen for the purposes of:
- Budget approvals
- Hiring the right people
- Implementing the right way of measuring outcomes
- Obtaining support from employees other than marketers and salespeople (especially key leaders like BU Heads, C-suite executives, HR professionals, etc)
Many a time, a demand gen program can be effectively implemented only when there is a top-down approach. This means that your CEO, founders, and department heads (and sometimes even investors and board members) have to believe in the benefits of the program, and then use their respective teams to execute it on the ground.
3. Understanding where your ICP hangs out – the core of a B2B demand generation program
Let us get more tactical now. To create demand, first, you need to know which channels to use. You need to know the following about your ideal customers:
- Where do they spend time the most (both online and offline) – social media platforms, industry events, networking groups?
- Which sources do they trust the most – communities, review websites, influencers?
Now, how do you find this info? Following are a few ways:
- Use a tool like SparkToro to find where topics related to your niche are discussed the most. It will give you a list of social accounts people discussing a particular topic (say robots) follow, websites they visit, podcasts they listen to, etc.
- Consider using a specialized influencer marketing tool like Upfluence to find the influencers in your space. You can also use the native search offered by platforms like LinkedIn to do this in case you don’t wish to go with a paid tool. If you already have a Sales Navigator subscription, make use of it.
- Use an intent intelligence tool like Demandbase to view the list of websites your target accounts visit (using an expensive tool like Demandbase or any other intent intelligence tool like Terminus or 6sense is not recommended for this purpose alone. If you already have access to any of them, leverage it to dig out the info). You can also consider using tools like Factors AI, LeadFeeder, or VisitorQueue for this.
- Look at popular communities your prospects are most active in. These can be usually found by using a Google Search. For instance, if you wish to target HR professionals, use a search term like ‘most popular HR communities online’ to curate a list of forums they are active on.
- Identify a social media platform where your prospects spend the most time. For B2B, this is usually LinkedIn. You could also experiment with TikTok, Quora, or Reddit depending on the nature of your offerings.
- List out leading industry events your prospects attend. These can be in-person as well as online events.
Once you follow these steps, you should have a well-curated list of channels and specific websites/platforms your prospects hang out on.
4. Defining content pillars (or categories) for your ICP
This in a way overlaps with the next step in the framework – designing the content marketing strategy. But I have called this out separately to list down all the possible ways in which you can define content pillars and topic clusters for your demand gen program.
But, why is it required to have content pillars in the first place?
Well, firstly, it helps to make your demand generation efforts more organized and in control. You would want all those who contribute to focus on topics and content that are relevant to your business. In addition, you need all the content and campaigns to reflect a consistent POV (Point Of View).
The following figure illustrates the different ways in which you could create content pillars for your demand gen program.
Essentially, any content you create would fall into either of the 5 pillar categories. Once you have these defined, it is much easier to implement a demand gen program at scale.
5. Devising a content marketing strategy for B2B demand generation
I discuss in detail the 11-step framework for defining a content marketing strategy for demand gen in the following article:
Though I have covered all the points in detail in it, let me discuss the most important one here again – channels and content types.
Here, we need to understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. But in general, following are the channels and content types you could leverage for demand generation:
- Podcasts (hosting your own as well as appearing on others’).
- Newsletters (on platforms like Substack, beehiiv, LinkedIn, or using your own email tool).
- Thought leadership-oriented webinars and other online events.
- Talks and speaking sessions at conferences and events.
- Organic social posts (focused on educating and helping your prospects).
- Books and journals.
- Video series (live or on-demand)
- Whitepapers, eBooks, templates, playbooks, etc. (except those salesy ones of course).
As I always say, there is a thin line between demand generation and demand capture many a time when it comes to channel and content types. For example, SEO is usually considered a demand capture channel. However, it can help create demand by helping to stay on top of the minds of those who are not ready to buy today (this is where educational content comes in).
With this in mind, you can even use a blog as a demand gen channel. At the same time, not all blog posts are aimed at (or suited for) demand gen.
6. Team building and work allocation
Though many people contribute, demand generation is a marketing function. The marketing team is responsible for strategizing, orchestrating, and executing the program.
However, there is no universal structure to a demand gen team. Different organizations build it in different ways. In fact, the idea of having demand generation as a separate team/initiative itself is new to 99% of marketers and leaders. Also, there are certain other practical challenges in terms of maintaining a dedicated team for demand gen.
Given these, a shared resource model can be adopted where a few resources (say email marketers) can work on demand generation as well as demand capture activities.
With that, let us look at a sample demand gen team structure that could work for small to mid-size organizations:
As mentioned before, there is no globally accepted structure for a demand gen function. You should only take the above as a reference to build yours. If you have any queries about this, please feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Building the right tech stack
We have spoken about the importance of having the right tech stack for your GTM efforts. It’s equally relevant for demand gen.
When it comes to demand generation, the structure of the tech stack would depend on the channels you use. Given below is a sample tech stack for some of the most common content and channel types used for demand gen:
Since B2B demand generation is a broad area, the complete tech stack might be much larger than this. For example, if you want to make internal content sharing easy, you could consider using a content management system like Seismic.
But the tech stack given above should help you get started.
8. Putting the demand gen program into action
Practically speaking, this could potentially be the most difficult of all the steps – implementing the demand gen program the right way.
The challenges with respect to executing a demand gen program stem from the following:
- Demand gen programs take time to show results.
- Not all demand gen efforts are easily measurable (for example, the revenue generated from podcasts might be difficult to estimate – unless you follow the Mixed Attribution Model I discuss in the B2B revenue attribution article).
- Demand gen programs are not easily scalable in the initial stages (unlike PPC advertising where you could increase your ad spend to get more leads).
Assuming we overcome the above roadblocks, given below are some of the best practices you could follow to get your demand gen engine moving smoothly:
- Don’t try to do everything at once – when you start your demand gen efforts, focus on 2-3 channels/initiatives and aim to make them a success. Once they start generating results, scale them and invest some time and effort in the new ones.
- Make sure your efforts are not disjoint or broken – two things come into play here – consistency of positioning & messaging, and consistency of executing your plans. Both are equally important (I have not covered positioning and messaging in this article since it has already been covered as a separate element of the GTM flywheel. Please refer the article for more details).
- Repurpose as much as you can – It’s not always about quality. Quantity also helps, no matter what we say. So repurpose your podcast episodes into audio/video snippets. Transcribe those episodes and convert them into blog posts/social media posts. There is a lot like this you could do to increase the volume of the content you create. It will help you do more with less (check out our article on content repurposing).
- Have a demand gen calendar in place – just like you have a content marketing calendar, have a plan and schedule for your demand gen efforts as well. This will help you keep up with the intended pace (especially in situations where demand gen could take a backseat when there are more business-critical events – say a product launch).
- Make sure your demand capture engine is ready – as you create demand, you need to have a strong demand capture engine to handle all the demand that comes in. Don’t have a crappy website that takes ages to load. And don’t have landing pages or a website copy that is not consistent with the views you shared on demand gen channels.
9. Measuring outcomes and finetuning the B2B demand generation program
This usually is the last step of the framework. This involves two steps – defining metrics and KPIs in line with the goals defined in step #1 and taking action based on the insights you observe from your measurement efforts.
Given below are some of the metrics you could use to measure the success of your B2B demand generation program:
- Pipeline or opportunity value created
- Revenue generated
- Sales velocity (SQL to opportunity, opportunity to closed won, etc)
- CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost)
- ACV (Average Contract Value).
You can measure these along dimensions such as lead source (channel), region, product/service, etc. to analyze which channels and initiatives are contributing to business growth the most.
When it comes to finetuning, it is about looking at the results of your demand gen activities and making changes to the engine to improve it further. You can do this along the following elements:
- Choice of channels and content types
- Measurement mechanisms
- Positioning and messaging
- Quality as well as the volume of the content you are creating
Finetuning your demand gen engine is a continuous process. You could even have periodic cadences to track and analyze progress.
Planning and implementing a demand gen strategy is not something that can be covered in a single article. It was not possible to get into every tiny bit of detail. But the 9-step framework will help you make the first leap and act as the foundation of your demand generation efforts. However, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us.
That wraps up what I wanted to cover in this article. Hope this was a useful read.
Skalegrow – B2B demand generation agency
With marketing getting tougher and tougher, every wrong foot you make might hamper your growth. What you need is the right guidance and a helping hand. This is where Skalegrow can make a sea of difference.
Skalegrow helps IT, tech, SaaS, and embedded systems companies leverage new-age marketing tactics to grow their business. Check out the below intro video to learn more about what Skalegrow brings to the table:
Demand generation is one of our focus areas. While most marketing agencies talk in terms of campaigns alone, we take a more strategic approach and first think about how we can solve the growth challenges of our customers.
We are already helping some of our clients generate leads and improve brand awareness using innovative demand generation techniques. Visit our services page to learn more about how we can help. You could also write to us at email@example.com.
About the author
Naseef KPO is the Founder and CEO of Skalegrow. He comes with rich experience across multiple areas of B2B marketing including content marketing, demand generation, SEO, account-based marketing, marketing analytics, revenue attribution, marketing technology, etc. He writes thought-provoking and relevant articles on The Skalegrow Blog and his weekly LinkedIn newsletter Elevate Your Marketing.
Prior to starting Skalegrow, Naseef led large marketing teams in multi-million dollar B2B organizations where he made significant contributions to the topline growth of the business. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts where he shared his thoughts on trending marketing topics such as the application of AI in marketing, startup marketing, ABM, and B2B content marketing, just to name a few. Being the founder of Skalegrow, he is currently focusing on helping its clients stay ahead of their competition by using innovative yet practical marketing tactics.
You can connect with Naseef KPO on LinkedIn.