What is Demand Generation Anyway?

The term demand generation is everywhere. It’s in job titles, book titles, seminars names, webinar descriptions and that’s before we even begin to contemplate the vast array of software options all purporting to offer the latest demand generation capability. Does the proliferation of this term have merit or merely reinforce marketings’ reputation for adoring shiny new concepts? Let’s evaluate this by looking at the different definitions of demand generation offered by the marketing experts.

The Hubspot blog describes demand generation as a way to ‘help your organisation reach new markets, promote new product features, build consumer buzz, generate PR and re-engage existing customers’. This definition leaves me confused. It lands as a broad, yet random, subset of marketing objectives and does not distinguish demand generation from all the approaches to marketing that came before it. It also misses any mention of data, measurability and financial outcomes such as revenue or profit.

Wikipedia offers a more rounded view ‘Demand generation is the focus of targeted marketing programs to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products and/or services.’ This definition offers the marketer a broader, more strategic view of demand generation. It references ‘programs’ rather than listing tactics, includes both interest and awareness and introduces the concept of targeting. However, this definition would benefit from adding a reference to the need for an analytical orientation. Martech blog takes us one step closer to a working and credible definition of demand generation in stating that ‘the goal is to drive closed business with minimal interaction with the consumer or business you’re attracting’. The concept of ‘minimal interaction’ may raise a few eyebrows. An organisation spending millions of dollars on software may not be willing to settle for ‘minimal interaction’. However, this definition does create the notion that marketing can move a prospect further down the sales funnel through digital interaction. The aim is not to reduce the role of the salesperson, but it is to help shorten the sales cycle be engaging and educating the prospective customers.

An element that is missing from all these perspectives is that of taking a data-informed approach. There are many reasons why analytics and measurement are a vital part of demand generation. To cover off just a few, utilising a data-driven path to targeting optimises the use of time and money. Careful analysis of the result of paid acquisition helps to ensure the best media partners are in place. In addition, analysing the movement of prospect data through the marketing tech stack reduces friction, backlog and delays. Data and measurement are essential to demand generation.

From what’s been covered so far it can be concluded that there are several aspects to demand generation:
1. Targeted marketing programmes
2. Driving prospects further down the pipeline
3. Taking a data-informed approach

As a profession, we may not have quite arrived at a spot on definition of demand generation. However, it’s safe to say the discipline of demand generation is helping to drive the maturation of the marketing discipline by offering a focused, data-informed approach to prospect management, with the intention of moving the prospect down the sales process.