What is demand generation … and why should content marketers care?
Hang around enough marketers — especially B2B folks — long enough and the term “demand generation” (or “demand gen,” because, y’know, all those extra syllables are so exhausting) will almost certainly creep into the conversation. Is this just the latest buzzword to creep into our marketing vernacular, or is it something that deserves our attention as content marketers?
As one who took more than her share of economics courses in grad school, the term rings a bit odd. The classic economist teaches that demand is mostly a phenomenon that ebbs and flows on its own. In summer, demand for electricity goes up to keep those air conditioners running; in winter, demand for heating oil goes up to keep homes toasty warm. Just people making decisions based on their circumstances — no marketing voodoo involved.
But I digress. As marketers in general — and as content marketers specifically — we can’t simply wait for demand to come to us. If we do … well, let’s just say the demand for ramen noodles among our kind is likely to increase.
So, what is demand generation?
Do a quick Google search for “What is demand generation?” and you’ll get 28,400,000 results (ask me how I know).
You’ll find as many definitions for the term as you will people talking about it, but for most folks it boils down to this: Demand generation is a set of practices designed to create awareness of and excitement about your product, your company, and your industry.
But isn’t that really the goal of all marketing? What’s the big deal?
The way I see it, demand generation is the direct opposite of the old-school cold-calling approach. It’s the process of turning cold leads into warm leads, then guiding those warm leads down your funnel towards a sales conversation. And for those who fall out of the funnel, it’s the process of establishing regular touchpoints with them until they (a) become customers or (b) tell you to get lost.
What demand generation is not is a campaign. The goal of demand generation is to establish relationships, some of which can go on for months or even years before the prospect is ready to enter a sales conversation.
How does content marketing fit in?
While demand generation is wrapped in the jargon of sales— qualified leads, qualified prospects, TOFU (top-of-funnel), lead conversion, lead scoring, the list goes on — it won’t even get out of the gate without the insights, the talents, and the day-to-day efforts of the content marketing team.
Content marketing establishes awareness
Your ideal customer — the one who doesn’t yet know about you — has a problem. He or she may not even know that a solution to this problem exists. So how do you put your product or service on the radar of someone who desperately needs it but doesn’t even know to look for it?
By creating and publishing content that focuses on solving those problems. The potential client who’s going mad trying to keep track of all his clients via spreadsheets and sticky notes may have never heard the term “customer relationship management.” So what’s a CRM software vendor to do? Visit the Unify website and create content around the customer’s specific problem … that also makes him aware of the solution without launching into a sales pitch. Awareness, check.
Content marketing keeps you on radar
Maybe your ideal customer — again, the one who’s never heard of you — is facing a problem but isn’t quite ready to talk about a solution just yet. Or she’s found a solution but isn’t really happy with it … and the contract doesn’t expire for another three months. Or he’s used up his budget for the year and won’t have another dime until the third quarter.
Content marketing gives you the means of staying top-of-mind with these potential clients until they’re ready to enter a sales conversation. Your weekly email provides valuable tips to help them do their jobs better. Your LinkedIn page constantly shares links to articles that help them stay current on the latest developments in their industries. Your podcast gives them an informative yet engaging audio experience during the long commute to and from the office.
Then, when the penny drops and they’re finally ready to buy, guess whose name will be foremost in their minds? Top-of-mind, check.
Content marketing gives your sales team fodder for touchpoints
With a vibrant, active content marketing program, the marketing team can become your sales associates’ best friend.
Ask your sales team their least favorite part of the job and they’ll probably refer to those awkward follow-up phone calls: “Hey Steve, Bob here … just, ah … wanted to follow up and see if you have any questions about ABC Analytics …”
With content marketing, you’re not just knocking at their proverbial door — you’re showing up with flowers and candy. “Hey Steve, Bob here … you know, we just published a white paper on [topic], which you were just asking me about the other day. I’d love to send you a copy …” Sales touchpoint, check.
What else does demand generation involve?
Of course, content marketing isn’t the only trick in the demand-generation strategist’s bag. Targeted outbound marketing — emphasis on targeted — is also an important piece of the puzzle, especially when it comes to awareness.
Think trade show booths, industry publication ads, online ad retargeting, and other tactics to let your ideal clients know that (1) a solution does exist and (2) you’ve got it. While content marketing does the day-to-day heavy lifting, strategic outbound campaigns can deliver “zingers” to help move that ideal client one step closer to a sales conversation.
The more you know
As one deeply entrenched in the content creation side of things, I’m still on the upward slope of the learning curve when it comes to demand generation. You may be too, and that’s perfectly fine. But as content marketers in this day and age, we need to be constantly aware of how our efforts fit into the big picture — including demand generation and all it entails.
(Cue the NBC “The More You Know” Rainbow)
How do you and your team understand lead generation and how content marketing fits in? Tell us about it in the comments!
About the Author
A self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).
As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. To learn more, download our complimentary audio 5 Things You Must Know About Content Marketing.