Demand Generation: An A-Z Guide for B2B Marketers (with Strategies & Examples)

September 20, 2017 | Robbie Richards

You’re in the malt shop one day before class when in walks Biff and his crew of goons.

“Where’s my homework, McFly?” he demands.

Back to the future gif

Rather than eat a knuckle sandwich, you promise to bring the bully’s homework to his house later so he can take full credit for your work. Little do you know, your future son is watching all this happen.

Marty McFly is on a mission to help you get the girl of your dreams. But to succeed, you have to prove what you’re made of and finally stand up for yourself.

So what does the movie Back to the Future have to do with demand generation?

Demand generation strategies and teen dramas both want the same thing; to help you to stand out from the crowd and be noticed for who you are and the value you provide.

Brands must raise brand awareness in order to recognize greater revenue growth, just as young adults must grow into their future selves. Savvy marketers use demand gen to skip the growing pains.

Demand generation strategies allow you to drive awareness and initiate customer relationships across all channels in the buyer journey.

Before you can turn prospects into leads and leads into sales, you’ve got to get their attention.

But where do you start?

Demand generation is such a broad topic. The strategies, tactics, channels and ways to measure success are endless. Many marketers get overwhelmed, and end up deferring to an unstructured spray-and-pray approach.

Not anymore.

Because we’ve put together arguably the most comprehensive demand generation guide you’ll find anywhere on the internet. It’s an A-Z roadmap that will give you the tools and framework needed to approach your demand gen efforts with clarity, confidence and focus.

You’ll learn how to plan, build, execute and measure successful demand generation on autopilot.


Here’s a taste of what is to come (feel free to click the link to jump to a section of interest):
What is demand generation? 

Demand gen vs. lead gen

Metrics and KPIs  

Demand gen challenges (and how to overcome them)

Building a killer demand generation strategy

How lead nurturing and lead scoring fits into your model

Nine demand generation tactics used by leading brands

Ramping up with interactive content

9 experts share demand gen success stories


To the Delorean!

What is Demand Generation?

What is demand generation?


At it’s simplest form:

Demand generation is creating awareness for your product or service in order to drive revenue.

Before potential customers can want what you’re offering, they need to know you exist and can provide the value they seek.

It is a multi-step process targeting a pre-defined audience to introduce your brand as the right solution for their problems.

Not to be confused with lead generation, demand generation initiates the first step in the customer relationship – wherever in the funnel the prospective customer may be.

Demand generation then coaxes prospects down the funnel.

Note: While each function serves a different purpose, they often overlap. For example, sponsored research will create demand and leads. Therefore, it’s a part of both strategies.

Let’s take a closer look…


Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation

Demand gen vs. lead gen funnel


Marketing teams have gotten more complicated in recent years. With new technologies hitting the market, new roles are emerging. The line between who does what is getting more blurred, and a lot of us might even say we don’t understand exactly what our marketing teammates do.

If there is a role in marketing that baffles people the most, it’s most likely the delineation between demand generation and lead generation. Not only are the terms broad, you could be forgiven for referring to them as the same thing.

But, while these roles are often overseen by the same person, and sometimes overlap, they are fundamentally different.

Demand generation is what a brand does to drive awareness and capture attention. It’s what makes consumers engage with a brand without yet having tried a product or service.

Primarily a top of the funnel approach, demand gen is the initial touch point and education that positions your brand for future engagements with prospects. It lets people know who you are and what you can do to help them.

Demand gen typically gives away content freely in order to drive awareness. There might be a CTA, but it will come at the end of the piece (Think: “Contact Us or Learn More”).

Demand gen vs. lead gen


Lead generation is how a brand turns this awareness into conversions and sales.

Lead generation focuses on driving interest and inquiry into specific products or services. These mid to lower funnel nurturing strategies prioritize collecting customer data and building trust over time.

Picking up where demand gen leaves off, lead gen delivers consistently relevant messaging to identified prospects. Your aim here is to develop the customer relationship and continue to qualify leads for a sale throughout the later stages of the customer journey.

Lead gen typically places content behind a “gate” to motivate form submissions (Think: “Want this awesome asset? Foll out the form to get it”).

We’ll discuss how to qualify leads soon, but let’s first look at key metrics in demand generation.


Demand Generation Metrics

Demand generation metrics


To build a successful demand generation program, we first have to know what success looks like. Here are six demand generation metrics essential to guiding a winning strategy:

A prospect is a contact who fits one of your buyer personas but has yet to express interest. Determining if a contact is a prospect is the first step in the sales process. Do they have pain and budget? Are they are a decision maker?
A lead is an unqualified prospect beginning to show buying behavior. To determine what constitutes buying behavior, open a dialogue between marketing and sales.
An MQL is a marketing qualified lead; someone who’s expressed interest in buying your product or service. What “qualifies” a lead for further marketing will vary, but look for levels of engagement as well as market fit to determine if a lead deserves more nurturing.
An SQL is a sales qualified lead; someone who’s displayed strong buying behavior and been vetted by the marketing and sales team for the next sales phase. Sales reps should only take calls with SQLs—those who have pain, budget and ability to make a purchase decision.
An opportunity has been qualified, entered the sales cycle, and is committed to working with you. These individuals have been contacted, show high levels of interest, and your product/service can actually solve their problem/need.
Closed Sales
A closed sale is an individual who has paid for your product or service. Once you’ve closed a sales opportunity, continue to nurture your post-sale customers to encourage upsells, cross-sells, referrals, and garner valuable feedback.


What are the Biggest Challenges for Modern Demand Gen Marketers?

Now we’ve got the terms and definitions out of the way, it’s time to get into real-world applications.

What challenges do marketers face when implementing demand generation strategies? There are four primary considerations: empowered buyers, higher expectations, handing off the right leads, and getting full committee buy-in.

Empowered Buyers

Both Forrester and Gartner predict that by 2020, 80% of the buying process will occur without any human contact. Consumers are now in the driver’s seat in their buyer journey.

The challenge: brands need to find a way to position themselves as a trusted resource to buyers at every stage in the buyer journey. Nurture, nurture, nurture!

Higher Expectations

With 81% of consumers conducting online research before purchasing, expectations around the pre-purchase experience are at an all time high.

Consumers are impatient. If they don’t find the information they need to move further down the funnel, they won’t hesitate to go elsewhere. Marketbridge tells us that 76% of B2B buyers now prefer to receive content unique to their buying stage.

As personalization becomes more and more important, content will need to become more interactive and engaging, while marketers will need to learn to anticipate consumer wants.

Handing Off the Right Leads

According to Marketing Sherpa, only 27% of leads are sales ready when first captured. Several touches are needed for prospects to gather information, and more are needed for marketing to determine sales readiness.

According to research by the Online Marketing Institute, it can take between 6-8 touches to generate a sales-ready lead because of the sheer amount of information required to deem a lead sales-ready.

Marketing Sherpa also found that higher converting marketing teams only passed 12% of leads to sales, compared to the average of 17%. Of that 12%, 40% converted from prospects to leads and 20% converted to sales, versus the respective averages of 34% and 16%.

The challenge is investing additional resources to create interactions that help determine if the budget, authority, need and timeframe of a prospect are aligned for a buying decision.

The best companies score and nurture leads extensively to boost quality and close rate.

Answering the Needs of the Committee

Smaller companies between 100-500 employees involve an average of 6.8 persons in a decision. At larger organizations, this number reaches up to 21, says a Marketing Sherpa survey.

Such a large set of stakeholders (with different needs/wants) necessitates a clearly defined content strategy to address each question/concern along the sales cycle.

77% of survey respondents confirm that content targeted to their role would be more valuable. The challenge to marketers is creating and orchestrating a full-service content strategy to suit the decision making needs of the entire audience.


The Core Building Blocks of a Demand Generation Program


The Core Building Blocks of a Demand Generation Program


You’re keen to reach out to prospects and let them know you can solve their problem. So how should you structure the strategy?

You’ll need a proven framework for demand generation, and have to understand the different stages at which to initiate your campaigns.

Let’s start by looking at the four pillars of an effective demand generation program:


#1 Spread Product Awareness

Interactive assessment example

First, promote your business without expecting sales. Focus on educating your market on a problem and how your product or service solves that problem. Start slowly and define the challenge facing the market and clearly articulate the solution you provide.

Above, Runzheimer uses an interactive assessment to raise awareness for the specific problems they solve. With dollars on the line, most savvy businesses will take the quiz to pursue savings. The engaging orange color promotes a sense of urgency while leading users towards a deeper brand relationship.

#2 Create Interest Among Your Target Audience

Zillow affordability calculator

At this stage, bring the benefits of your product to consumers and position it as a potential solution.

If you’re house hunting, why not shop with the company who provides a free, invaluable calculator to solve your problems?

Zillow creates immediate interest and authority with users of their housing affordability calculator. Once on-site and having crunched the numbers, visitors are ideally situated to pursue the next step, whether that’s further resources or getting qualified for a down payment.

#3 Position Your Product in the Market

Interactive infographic

After outlining the challenge, the next step is to position your brand as the clear solution.

Content such as interactive infographics, interactive videos and long-form content work well to differentiate your brand while increasing authority in the industry.

iLevel Solutions provides investment portfolio software solutions to private capital firms. This interactive infographic positions the software while making a data-driven case for its need.

Bottom line: Use content to show you are best solution for your target audience.

#4 Persuade the Customer to Evaluate Your Product

Demand gen doesn’t end at the sale. Continue to nurture customers for cross-sells, upsells and valuable information about your brand interactions. Soliciting feedback will reaffirm purchase value, drive customer loyalty and retention.

Five9 uses an interactive assessment to garner useful feedback and data from their audience, offering a benchmark report based on industry survey results.

Continue learning from your existing customers to ensure you are always delivering more value than the competition.


How to Craft Demand Generation Campaigns

Now we’ve seen how to structure marketing messages, let’s examine the three key stages of a successful demand generation program.

Demand generation campaigns are comprehensive and require that you begin with the end in mind.

Define what success means by first aligning sales and marketing across the key metrics outlined at the start of this post. Look to accomplish three objectives before launching campaigns:

  1. Determine your target audience. Look at current customers and create rich buyer personas that account for where prospects spend time online, the challenges they face, and other demographic data. Once you know your target prospects, mold your strategies to them.
  2. Deliver valuable content. Use customer profiles to draft a demand generation strategy that delivers valuable content across the most relevant channels and devices. For example, Regalix found 83% of B2B marketers in the awareness stage think social media is the most relevant topic, closely followed by blog posts and infographics. Find your audience where they want to be found, and offer value.
  3. Set specific goals. Base objectives on industry benchmarks and past performances while mapping back to KPIs. Focus on the number of site visits, MQLs, SQLs, Opportunities, Sales and conversion rates by channel.


Lead Scoring

Lead scoring model


Unite sales and marketing to outline a lead scoring model. This will standardize lead quality and prioritize leads in the funnel, helping you target only those folks ready, willing able to buy.

Assign points based upon positive demographic features that align with your product or service, such as industry and company position. Score based upon behavioral metrics like site visits, repeat visits, email opens, shares, and other engagement metrics.

What makes an MQL warrants discussion with your team.But, ask yourself, what demographics are more likely to buy than others? What types of behaviors best indicate intent to purchase?

For example, time on product pages and demo downloads are prime buying signals. The amount of activity is also significant, as a lead who’s consistently read emails and blog posts is aligned with your content and perhaps ready for sales qualification.

Buyer stage and engagement velocity should also be tallied as this provides rich detail on lead readiness and willingness.

This stage is critical for increasing the ROI of your marketing efforts.


Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing graph


According to Hubspot, leads nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.

Demand generation helps you find and engage the right leads, as well as deliver a stream of relevant content based on buyer personas.

Lead nurturing is predictive of future sales because it develops trust in the mid to late stages of the funnel.

Monitor lead behavior to gauge how effective messaging is, and determine lead proximity to a buying decision. Open rates, site visits, shares and other engagement metrics will help guide messaging.

Use lead nurturing data to assess leads who aren’t yet ready to buy, but show interest. Use list segmentation and personalization to ensure you are not over or under selling leads throughout the sales cycle.


9 Effective Demand Generation Strategies

Provide a Free Tool

Hubspot site grader


Increase the demand for your core offering by creating a free tool to complement and draw attention to it.

Address your prospect’s’ problem, then deliver a premium asset positioning your product or service as a possible solution.

A perfect example is Hubspot’s website grader since users interested in assessing site quality will likely want automation. Prospects assess site SEO, design, performance, and security for free.

Meanwhile, the company stays top-of-mind. Hubspot knows free users are more likely to try other products and eventually purchase their core product.

Takeaway: Catching flies with honey works. Help your audience see their problems. And make sure your honey’s sweeter than the competition’s.


User Generated Content

People trust the advice and buy from people they like.

If a brand tells you they’re #1, you turn away. If a customer says the brand is #1, you listen.

Leverage customer reviews, testimonials and user-generated content to generate social proof around your product or service. Turn your customers into your sales engine.

For example:

Starbucks gives a shout out to a customer, grabs a quarter million likes, and cements brand loyalty.

Frame landing pages with testimonies. Place reviews on product pages. Circulate a case study showcasing happy customers enjoying your product or service.

Takeaway: Solicit and utilize the goodwill you’ve already generated to attract future customers.


Partner Webinars

Partner webinars

Partner webinars are a high impact demand generation strategy because they allow you to tap into the audiences of everyone you collaborate with.

Work with companies that share an overlapping audience to maximize your returns. If you partner with an industry leader, you’ll gain authority by association.

For example:

SnapApp boosts its messaging by pairing with DemandGen Report to discuss interactive content campaigns.

Viewers enjoy webinars because they’re an interactive channel that humanizes your brand and creates trust. It is also a versatile medium. You can boost brand awareness with top-funnel leads, engage mid-funnel leads, and differentiate yourself for bottom-funnel leads.

Takeaway: Partner webinars allow you add new leads to the sales pipeline by tapping into the audiences of influencers and thought leaders. Authority by association!


Interactive Video

Interactive video example

CISCO predicts that by 2020, 80% of all web traffic will be video.

The challenge with video has long been how to hook viewers and retain their attention until the final CTA. Interactive video allows marketers to garner feedback from viewers and capture lead data in-stream.As video viewership continues to boom, savvy marketers will look to maximize not only views and shares, but total engagement.

We can see marketing giant Oracle jump give an example of interactive video that engages viewers with in-stream content and captures leads.

Takeaway: Interactive video offers brands the opportunity to boost engagement and capture leads directly within the most popular channels.





Retargeting is like that lost puppy that follows you around the park. Eventually, it gets a pat on the head and a treat. This same principle applies to ads that follow you around the internet.

Wordstream research confirms that conversion rates increase the more an ad is served. Facebook custom audiences and Google remarketing are great ways for demand generation marketers to increase their awareness and nurture leads.

This J.Crew sponsored post shows us how timeliness drives the FOMO (fear of missing out) response in consumers. Retargeting allows marketers to stay top of mind with their audience, increasing the number of touchpoints and chance of conversion.

Takeaway: Retargeting allows brands to stay top of mind after the first touch and nurture leads across external channels, at every stage of the buyer journey. It not only increases conversions, but also acts as insanely powerful branding tool:



90% of B2B buyers use organic search specifically to research business purchases. There’s simply no better place to raise your awareness than Google’s front page.

The challenge with SEO is always making sure you’re ranking as 94.4% of organic clicks happen on the first page.

And over 2/3 of the SERP clicks go to the top 5 search results:


If you can’t nab a high spot at the moment, pay-per click ads get you that comparable top-of-SERP attention.

Bidding on keywords can get expensive depending upon your industry.

Takeaway: Build out an SEO and content strategy targeting user intent across each stage of the customer journey. Make sure you show up when people are searching for the solutions you provide.


Social Media

What’s a great way to raise awareness about a topic? Start a conversation in a crowded area.

According to Forrester, 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Above, we see how social media app Buffer earns followers with low-pressure, positive posts with stunning visuals from around the world. Who doesn’t want to see that?

Staying current and relevant on social media increases the odds of being selected as a vendor, plus opens up a great channel to deliver awareness-raising content. Less a vehicle for sales, social media users are keen to learn, share, and be entertained. These functions perfectly align with introductory level demand generation efforts.

Focus on developing authority in your market. To level up, try paid ads to boost awareness, and nurture your most qualified leads.

Takeaway: High trust, low-cost platforms with huge user bases make social media a massive demand gen opportunity. Use the platform to build awareness, engage and retarget your ideal customer profile.


Email Segmentation

Email is critical to every stage of demand generation. Segmented your lists allow you to reach prospects with targeted content. This enables your brand to build strong relationships, nurture leads and move people from one stage of the funnel to the next.

64% of executives interviewed by Demand Gen said content had a significant impact on their buying decision. Use triggered emails to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Maximize content by delivering assets that address specific pain points for your prospects.

For example, this Skillshare email came “new” to the inbox after sampling a free design tutorial.

Catering content to specific buyer journeys is a surefire way to spark and sustain demand in your audience.


Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing demand generation strategy

Think: user reviews on steroids. What famous people use immediately becomes desirable.

A recent Linqia survey found 94% of marketers found influencer marketing effective, specifically in creating authentic content around their brand.

Gain exposure and increase demand for your product or service by partnering with influencers.

For best results, join with influencers who shares your attitudes, a complimentary market, and similar values.

Here we see luxury brand Gilt announcing a new collection by bringing Father’s Day goodwill together with actor Matthew Morrison. With both heart and star power, the e-commerce retailer garners fresh eyes and social proof for their new products.

Takeaway: Boost your visibility and credibility with the help of influencers— piggyback on their popularity and penetrate untapped audiences.


Level Up Your Demand Generation wtih Interactive Content

2013 was a big year.

Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term. Pope Benedict XVI resigned. Oscar Pistorius was jailed under suspicion for murder. Yet the biggest story from the New York Times online was an interactive quiz about the way we talk.

Yes, online behavior is trending towards interactive content. But why?

Because people want more personal and engaging experiences. They want a two-way dialgue, not a one-way monologue.

In a digital world saturated with long form blog posts and static infographics, interactivity is the new vehicle demand gen marketers can use to break through the noise, capture mind share, better qualify leads and deliver a truly personalized content experience.

Interactive content can be used across every stage of the buyer journey:

It is 33% more effective at educating your buyers, and generates 2x more conversions than it’s static counterpart.

But, don’t just take our word for it.

We recently reach out to 9 digital marketing executives to see how they were using interactive content to generate product/ service demand for their business or clients:



Andy Crestodina

Orbit Media | Co-Founder / Strategic Director


A high-quality sewer jetter lets you do the big jobs, but they’re not cheap. To help visitors calculate the payback on the investment, we built a Profit & Payback Calculator right into the product detail pages for Spartan Tool. The call to action lets the visitor know that “it only takes a few seconds to run the numbers.”
The tool itself displays in a lightbox and lets the visitor calculate ROI for financing or cash purchasing options and various cost models. But it’s simple. And the output is in plain English: “Number of jobs before machine pays for itself…” It’s a little bit of interactivity that addresses the top concern at the most important moment.



Mostafa El-Bermawy

Work zone | VP of Marketing


In the project management space, we used an online calculator to help prospects see how much they could save by choosing Workzone for their project management. It helps them gauge how much they could save in time, efficiency and productivity.
The interactive capability gave them a real-time assessment of how we could immediately help with their projects. Most importantly the calculator helped increase time spent on page everywhere it was featured which was a big SEO boost!



David Hoos

The Good | Growth Hacker, Writer, Designer, Strategist


We engage our visitors with interactive content using our Stuck Score™ assessment. It’s a survey which shows our visitors which areas their website is creating roadblocks to conversions. Visitors are then able to schedule time with one of our team members to review the results.

The beauty of interactive content is that it encourages your visitors to become more active than passive on your website, which can make them more likely to convert elsewhere.



Chiara Belluomo

Brandalism | Content Strategist


We were involved in a campaign in which fan engagement was a key objective. We were tasked with creating content that would generate hype and excitement for an upcoming K-Pop concert and the client wanted to see increased levels of fan engagement with the content on their social pages. Interactive content was therefore key in helping us achieve this objective.
We wanted fans to discover which famous K-Pop lyric best described them, so we created flashing GIF of lyrics from famous K-Pop songs and asked fans to screenshot the GIF, then post the screenshot in the comments below with the lyric that they screenshot. We saw high levels of engagement with the post because fans could get something out of their interaction with the post. We also saw fans tagging their friends in the comments, thus increasing the reach of the post in addition to increasing engagement with on-page content.



Blaine Bertsch

Dryrun | CEO


We’ve used a white paper and checklist to called ’21 Tactics for Getting Paid Faster’ to introduce potential customers to Dryrun through offering interactive content. If the business struggles from late payments, they are likely a perfect fit for Dryrun as one of our core features involves tracking due dates, late & partial payments, in an overall cash flow & sales forecast.
Aligning the content directly with a ‘perfect-fit’ prospect is critical for making the most of the opportunity. We’ve had campaigns in the past that were just off-target and they resulted in poor leads and low qualification.



Matthew Perkins

Build Create Studios | Directorof Marketing


We have a client who has a very legacy marketing strategy. They’re a great company, but they’ve been living with the old adage, “we’ve always done it this way.” Their management was really wanting to shake things up, but ownership was against the idea. They’d always invested heavily in a particular marketing channel that I, nor the client’s management felt was really returning results. So to prove to ownership that it wasn’t a profitable venture, we took their preconceived notions and incentivized a poll.
We gave people $5 off their next purchase for completing a survey that asked a few questions. The answers were as we had expected, that this channel was not relevant. No one was purchasing their product at the time and place where the ownership had perceived them to do it.
There were a good number of people who completed the survey. While it cost them several hundred dollars in discounts, the savings on a dead marketing channel will probably save that company close to $300k over the next year.



Lisa Manyon

Write On Creative | President


To engage prime prospects I am currenting using a quiz platform to help women entrepreneurs discover “What Type of Messenger Are YOU?”. Participants take the quiz here  and have the option of opting in to get a detailed report of their results.
This engagement is increasing list size with an average of 50% opt in rate, 54% open rate and 53% click through rate. By narrowing the CTA to women entrepreneurs we’re getting pre-qualified interest which eventually leads to scheduling a Get Connected Call to convert to other offers.



Michelle Delgado

Clutch | Content Developer


Clutch recently published an article that outlined new survey data that revealed some alarming gaps in website security. We suggested steps businesses should take to upgrade their website security–but we also took it a step farther by including a downloadable worksheet with all the key takeaways from the article.
Confronting the possibility of a major security breach can be intimidating. Instead of simply offering the information, we provided a concise, interactive resource that companies could use as a jumping off point for internal conversations about their security strategies. This way, readers could finish the article feeling confident instead of overwhelmed.



Kent Lewis

Anvil Media | President


We created a Twitter event involving animated gifs, created by social media platforms, agencies and brands to increase awareness and engagement.
The result was over 40 million impressions on the two event hashtags #gifdanceoff and #danceoff and over 1,600 interactions with our agency’s Twitter profile in 2 days. Details are outlined in this blog post.

Interactive content doesn’t end with demand generation. It can also improve the lead qualification process.

You can find out how 42 VPs, CMOs and demand gen marketers are using interactive content to generate more awareness and better qualify leads here.

Back to the Future of Demand Generation

If you build it, they likely will not come. If you generate demand, and position your product/service as the best possible solution to a problem, you will keep the sales team very busy.

Create content that aligns with every stage of the buyer journey, score and nurture leads, and make sure your sales team is only talking to SQLs.

Remember: what resonates is what drives demand. Don’t be sheep. Step away from the herd and leverage interactive content types to break through the noise and create more engaging experiences with your customers across every stage of the funnel.

Finally, watch your metrics like a hawk. Which channels have the highest conversion rates? Which mediums drive the highest quality leads? Use the numbers to drive every aspect of of your demand gen funnel.

Back to the Delorean!

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