As a B2B lead generation and demand generation agency, we're here to tell you: demand generation is not just a trendy new term for lead generation. There is quite a big difference between the two.
Demand generation vs. lead generation is the difference between a prospect being aware of your products and services and a prospect handing over their contact details with the expectation of hearing from you.
Put another way: demand generation is all about raising brand awareness, to gently draw prospects into your marketing funnel; resulting in a future sale.
What Is B2B Demand Generation?
Gartner defines B2B demand generation as a marketing strategy focused on driving awareness and interest in your business' products and services. However, demand generation goes further than simply brand-building.
In fact, we'd go even further than that and say a strong demand generation strategy in B2B can turn your business into a thought leader – an elite, expert brand that stands out among your competitors.
We define demand generation as a long-term marketing approach, designed to attract potential leads to your brand over time.
Also, it's worth pointing out that demand generation and lead generation are separate stages of the same B2B journey. So it's worth knowing what demand generation is, and how to deploy B2B demand generation tactics.
Letting Your Customers Come to You
The focus of demand generation is on letting new customers come to you.
Obviously, that doesn't mean sitting back and waiting to see what happens. There's an art to actively attracting new leads in an organic way, and that's what B2B demand generation is all about.
The idea is to let prospects know you're there, with consistent messaging. For example, you may choose to deliver free solutions and share educational resources to support their business needs, to the point where they come to you when they're ready to buy.
By using social media and creating content in-house, such as blogs, case studies, webinars, and educational videos, you can create a very effective B2B demand generation campaign that attracts future customers.
It's about creating demand for your products and services, and if you get it right, it's an awesome way to:
- Attract inbound leads
- Grow your business
- Position yourself as a thought leader in your industry – which will attract even more leads.
What Is the Difference Between Demand Generation and Lead Generation?
The easiest way to differentiate between demand gen and lead gen is this: demand gen is inbound marketing, and lead gen is typically outbound marketing.
With lead generation, you're actively looking for new leads and pulling them in. With B2B demand generation marketing, the leads come to you, attracted in a more organic way over a longer period of time.
Another difference between demand generation and lead generation is the timescale. Demand generation B2B marketing is a long-term approach, while lead gen is normally a short to medium-term series of campaigns.
In our view, demand gen and lead gen go hand in hand. Think about it: a long-term demand generation strategy can be bolstered by a short-term lead generation campaign, while your nurturing campaigns act as a form of demand generation for your new leads.
Not only that, your demand generation can act as a filter for your lead generation, ensuring you're not wasting time on leads that are uninterested in your products and services.
Or, put another way: demand gen takes place higher up in the marketing funnel; lead gen comes later on.
How to Create a Demand Generation Strategy In 5 Steps
Demand generation is all about building authority in a market. Here's how: a step-by-step guide featuring our favorite B2B demand generation best practices.
1. Optimize Your Social Media Presence
Social media is currently the best source for high-quality leads, according to HubSpot, followed by SEO and events. So the best place to start is with organic social media marketing, via LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.
Chances are you won't use all of them: some of them will be more suited to your business than others. LinkedIn is a great fit for B2B marketers, while we'd suggest some B2B technology businesses won't find much use for TikTok.
Having said that, TikTok lends itself to creative demand generation ideas. Short-form video is one of the biggest marketing trends of 2023, and TikTok and Instagram Reels are the fastest-growing social media platforms. HubSpot reports TikTok works for B2B brands as well as B2C, with 58% of B2B marketers planning on upping their investment in TikTok. So if you have funny, interactive content to put out, there's never been a better time.
Whichever social media platforms you’re using, post regularly, keep content topical and educational-led (rather than posting constantly about your products and services), and engage with people: answer all comments on your posts, and engage with their posts too.
2. Give Away Content for Free
Ungated content, i.e., content you give away for 'free' to your audience without requiring any contact details in return, is one of the great B2B demand generation strategies.
Start with blogs: blogs can be about your product and solutions but you should also aim to include something that's generally educational or useful in each post. Is there a big bit of news in your industry, or in the market you're wanting to target? One of the great B2B demand generation tactics is to write a blog about the latest industry trends or stats, including your business's professional take on it. People will be looking for industry developments and they'll appreciate any professional comment or advice attached.
It's a way for you to keep your content relevant and topical, and if it's done well, readers will start to see you as a thought leader, follow you on social media, and begin to trust your brand.
3. Combine Your Lead Generation & Demand Generation
In the current age, it's trickier to build a following online if you don't advertise: social media companies prioritize the businesses that spend money, while ranking on the first page of Google is much easier if you advertise.
Take Facebook, for example: its complex algorithm means it's difficult for businesses to attract new followers through organic reach alone, or even get their posts to show up on users' feeds. But its advertising is scalable and flexible, allowing you to target lookalike audiences and making it more likely your posts will be seen.
Happily, the ROI of digital advertising is unbeatably high these days. Google, for example, reports that for every $1 spent on Google Ads, $2 is generated. The fact that you can accurately measure where traffic comes from means ad spend is worth even more.
As well as getting your name out there and building brand awareness, you can spend money to retarget existing leads and generate new ones. A B2B lead generation campaign can stimulate demand generation among a much larger audience than the leads generated and serves to nurture your leads as well.
Content syndication, for example, allows you to publish valuable content to an entirely new audience, increasing your brand awareness at the same time generating useful leads. Your content is hosted by a demand generation specialist on their own content library, marketed precisely at decision-makers and high-level professionals in the sector you want to target. More about that in the next section.
4. Let Your Employees Do the Talking
Demand generation may be something of a culture change for your marketing department. However, if you have business leaders and team members who are on top of industry news and have plenty of opinions to share, you'll have an edge to grow your business with a B2B demand generation strategy.
Social media advocacy, i.e. using your own employees, and your social network, as influencers, is a great (and free!) demand generation strategy to try. And LinkedIn is a great place to try it out for your B2B audience.
It's essentially word-of-mouth recommendations, which has always been one of the most effective, valuable marketing tools, and works fantastically for B2B demand generation campaigns.
Social media advocacy is using employees, industry partners, and fans of your brand to spread your messages.
Using your employees for this works really well: they'll have their own networks of B2B contacts, fellow professionals on LinkedIn who like them personally and want to see them (and by extension your business!) do well.
The key is to ensure your employees buy into your brand, meaning they'll be engaged and happy to share communications on their pages. It's not the sort of thing you can force on your team, and it doesn't have to be too frequent (once a week is enough).
But by feeding them messages to share, linking to valuable blogs, and inviting them to put their own spin on your news, they'll become mini-thought leaders and good advocates for your brand – and drive up your demand generation.
5. Invite Followers to Webinars and Events
This is the natural follow-up to giving away content. Webinars and events – featuring education-led content over sales-led content – are great opportunities to generate leads and begin to nurture them, as well as generating demand.
Events can be trade shows that you're visiting, industry conferences and dinners. Tell your followers you're going and invite them to book time with you. Don't forget this works both ways: you don't have to sit and wait for them to come to you. Chase up potential leads beforehand and see if you can book some face time.
Having a webinar program is a great way to attract B2B leads and they're probably easier to set up than you think. Since their boom in the pandemic, webinars have not gone away: thanks to ease of attendance and their interactive format, they remain massively popular, especially among technology businesses.
If you've got a good network of other businesses you work with, that network will come into its own when you do webinars – inviting pros from other businesses to your webinar, or getting them to host you on theirs, is fantastic for reciprocal lead generation and demand generation in B2B.
You could also try hosting your own in-person events, for example focus groups and round tables for product research within the market you want to target. These often work best with a mixture of existing clients and new-to-brand prospects, so they're great for B2B demand generation, as well as practically improving your business.
B2B Demand Generation Services
The beauty of demand generation for B2B is that it gives a name and structure to a lot of the marketing functions you're probably already carrying out.
It allows you to see the way your brand awareness activity links up to your lead generation activity, and plan campaigns to enhance them both.
One of the most effective B2B demand generation services, and a way to drive lead generation at the same time, is content syndication.
This method sees a B2B demand generation agency host your content – whether it's an eBook, whitepaper, case study or research report – on their own content library, used by professionals in the sector you're targeting.
Headley Media's Demand Generation Services
As a demand generation firm, Headley Media own content hubs for professionals in six technology sectors – IT, Cybersecurity, HR, marketing, finance, and electronics.
Decision-makers in each of these markets use our content hubs to find resources. They are used regularly by a huge audience, who become familiar with the brands whose content is featured. Each piece of hosted content includes the brand's name and logo, so even if our reader doesn't download a piece of content, they will see the headline and the business that put it out, which gives more brand recognition.
We run content syndication campaigns, so each piece of content is gated. When a reader does download a piece of content, they have to fill out a content download form with their business card details. We then authenticate their details and deliver them to the client in a list of leads – explore our full lead generation process for more information. We can also nurture leads, by exposing them to more of your content, or by sharing more information about their buying intent.
Not every reader that sees your content will consent to become a lead, but they'll still have heightened awareness of your brand. Plus, you can combine your lead generation activity with B2B display advertising campaigns via Headley Display. Display ads are a great example of demand generation.
Through our content hubs, and targeting audiences via our email promotions, landing pages, and post-download messaging, our clients build their brand awareness while generating leads – which makes content syndication a highly effective B2B demand generation strategy.
The trick is to find a reputable B2B demand generation company that can nail content syndication for lead generation and generate demand at the same time.
Don't be taken in by any phony B2B demand generation agencies: ask about their reader journey, check they're hosting your content on their own platform, and make sure they authenticate their leads.
And remember, any B2B lead generation supplier you choose to work with should be able to answer every question in our Quality Lead Generation Checklist.