What’s demand generation?

Demand generation (or demand gen) is about giving people valuable content without expecting anything in return. You’re openly sharing knowledge and expertise so people feel good about your brand. It’s a long-term, wide-reaching activity that you can use at any stage of the marketing funnel.

Demand gen is for:

Creating awareness at the top of the funnel

Engaging leads in your database

Reactivating cold leads

Cross-selling and upselling

Retaining current customers

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Think of demand gen as the creative agency part of your output. As demand generation centers on value to your audience, be sure to learn as much as you can from yours.

You’ll stay top-of-mind by reacting to market conditions and trends and producing eye-catching, relevant content. When you deliver no-strings-attached demand-gen content, you build a foundation for a great brand relationship.

An eternal challenge for every brand is standing out across a marketplace. Demand gen draws on your brand’s USPs and differentiators to model your messaging.

This way, you’ll stay relevant, define your market position – and draw attention from the right audience. Use content marketing strategies that work from your value proposition, outlining why you’re different from competitors. Harvest audience insights from customers to bag your future customer base – in other words, your best quality leads.

Demand generation feeds neatly into lead gen activities, inviting leads to engage with your content, subscribe to your newsletters, or sign up for your webinar. Give it time, and your most valuable demand content will foster trust and credibility with your brand. Let’s take a closer look at these two techniques.

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To help your intended audience, make content that empowers job productivity and impact. What can you share or develop for them?

The most successful demand-generation strategies give value - without a single sales pitch involved.

Difference between demand generation and lead generation

Demand gen and lead gen are inbound marketing strategies that work in tandem to attract, grow, and convert your audience. You won’t be pushing your product or service in a salesy way, or calling people from lists and annoying them. Inbound techniques recognize that cold outreach can damage brand reputation – and nobody wants that.

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Demand can be generated through events like a glamorous product launch, a hackathon, or a panel discussion. Content like webinars, podcasts, and blogs are all great for demand gen.

Whatever you choose to make, your content should be useful and high quality - and sometimes it helps if it’s entertaining too.

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Lead generation centers on capturing the contact details (usually an email address) of people interested in your brand. It’s a short-term exercise that builds your database with a list of potential customers.

New leads are sent interesting content and their interactions are recorded so marketers can score engagement levels.

Once leads reach a threshold you set, they’re considered warm enough to speak to sales.

Nurturing leads attracted by demand generation marketing and captured by lead gen, has a far better success rate than old-fashioned cold sales outreach.

Demand generation strategy

To create a sense of need or desire for your brand over time

Establish a positive brand experience (BX)

Gain maximum market awareness

Reach a broad audience

Engage people at all stages of the buying journey

Lead generation strategy

To fill your database with ICP-fit prospects

Aims to convert leads on the page

To move leads down your lead magnet funnel

To keep your pipeline flowing with prospects

Demand generation content

How are you going to reach these goals? You’re going to need educational, informative, brand-building demand-gen content for a wide audience. Try these:

  • Blog posts that offer how-tos and useful takeaways
  • Pillar pages on your blog
  • Thought leadership that introduces or joins ideas
  • Case studies
  • Social media content with how-tos and success stories
  • Webinars that explore topics and open discussions
  • Podcasts that feature inspirational guests
  • Free toolkits, templates, and checklists that help people do better work
  • User-generated content (UGC)

UGC is a rising demand tool. If your customers post about you from their accounts and channels, you’re onto a very good thing: 85% of consumers trust UGC above brand videos and photos. It’s estimated that by 2033 78% of all online content will be user-generated.

Lead generation content

You need to make the right content to fill your pipeline with the best leads – by this, we mean leads that have a good chance of converting. Using engagement data from previously successful content journeys helps you plan lead magnets carefully.

We know a bit about lead generation content and lead generation software to help you convert higher-quality leads from the get-go. Use these content types for lead gen:

  • Gated ebooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Webinars
  • Templates
  • Checklists
  • Free trials
  • Consultations

If you combine demand generation goals with lead generation, you’ll fill and convert your funnel to keep it flowing for an efficient overall growth strategy.

Watch our webinar recording to see what we mean.

demand gen and lead gen together

What if I’m struggling to create demand?

Demand is tough to pull off. You’re up against large corporations with big budgets and enviable resources.

A lot of time goes into creating thought leadership content, and a lot of money goes into commissioning whitepapers. If you’re a smaller business without the time and budget to match, how are you going to get noticed?

Thought leadership content takes careful research and planning and is often delivered as an article, a video, a webinar, a podcast, or an ebook. The typical cost of a whitepaper is around $4,500-7,000. Then you’ll need a budget to promote your paper across paid channels like LinkedIn. Here’s the thing, long-form demand generation content is most often published as a PDF.

PDFs don’t offer analytics. You have no metrics to see how your leads are reacting to your content. You can see how many downloads have happened and who downloaded your content – but many people download something and then don’t read it.

You can’t use PDFs to inform lead management, scoring or nurturing. PDFs used with a lead gen form return a list of contacts, but frustratingly you won’t know how to prioritize the next steps. How do you segment these leads and organize them for follow-up? Your carefully planned demand activity has now created a pipeline bottleneck.

But there’s something that only online documents can do that PDFs can’t. Online documents give you engagement data.

Data-led demand generation

Engagement data returns unarguable insight into customer behavior, intent, preferences, and problems. First-party content data shows what individuals are reading, sharing, and clicking on – and which content converts.

Think of a report, case study, or whitepaper with analytics that showed exactly who read it, how many times, and which parts they found the most interesting. What if you could ask your audience questions directly from your content? What if you could ask people what they’d like to consume next?

Content workflows can be created in advance and triggered by personalization forms, directly from your demand content. This level of reader-led personalization suits the concept of demand perfectly, by putting the reader in control.

“Marketers presenting demand content as PDFs are missing out on intelligence that shortens sales cycles. We’ve reached a point where critical content can deliver deeply personalized experiences. Personalized lead gen and retention content, user-led content journeys, and individual reader data will help demand marketers reach segments at all stages of the funnel.

We’re living with personalized experiences whether shopping online or listening to music. Now really is the time to make sure all of your content delights with relevance.”

Headshot of Jane Robathan Content Marketing Manager Turtl

Jane Robathan

Content Marketing Manager, Turtl

Audience data from interactive content

Let’s not forget that online documents provide levels of interactivity that PDFs can’t.

Interactive content allows us to gather zero-party data from customers by surveying or polling them as part of a feedback strategy.

SaaS firms can use Turtl to gather feedback for product-led growth and customer-led marketing. Sales teams can ask questions in proposals or pitches, while customer success can send regular client surveys for retention. Teams get direct feedback – and see exactly who is checking out their content.

Our friends at BrightGen tease a little more content engagement data from readers in this great lead-gen guide about the value of data for customer-centric marketing.

Click to read MarTech Guide | BrightGen | Educational Guide

We have clients whose HR teams send employee satisfaction surveys or training manuals with question sets to improve and track learning. We’ve got event specialists who use polls as guest RSVPs and send post-event follow-ups so attendees can vote for what they’d like at the next event.

Perhaps you have customers who’ve been quiet recently? They’re not engaging with your content or using your product. Interactive content can reignite relationships while providing the intelligence you need to improve your service – and your content.

If you add interactive features to content, you could improve engagement by up to 10x compared to PDFs. This is a huge bonus for demand marketers, working hard to get noticed across exceptionally noisy channels. Slip a GIF into an online document, embed video and audio, or take a reader on a 3D tour of a space or product. The more engagement your content receives, the more data you collect on your audience –  a compelling data loop for any marketer.

Digital content can also surface previously invisible activity. That’s because it reaches audiences everywhere, quickly. Imagine tapping into new markets and customer segments because audience data identified new opportunities from your content.

One marketing leader we know spotted an emerging market from engagement data.

“We produced a record level of sales opportunities while also learning that we have incredibly engaged prospects in geographical regions we have yet to even focus on! Information like this is invaluable across our sales function.”

So, if data is so good for demand, then how should we best go about making and promoting demand-gen content?

Organic or paid media for demand gen?

Great question. Organic is the demand’s natural environment. While it takes longer for results to appear, nothing compares to the possibilities of organic growth.

Think of viral TikToks. Zaria Parvez gained almost 4 million TikTok views for every post when she joined Duolingo. How did she do it? By understanding her user base, staying on top of trends, and entertaining her audience. Zaria is now Global Head of Social when not talking at TEDx.

Content marketing is an ideal organic demand generator. A solid content marketing strategy works from your value proposition and customer base, just like Zaria’s social strategy. She knew how Duolingo helped her audience and knew how they liked best to consume content.

We know that entertaining videos and strong visuals are great distractors, hooking people mid-scroll – exactly like Duolingo’s posts. People land on things that move, on powerful headlines and imagery –  and they like being asked questions. But how effective can it be?

Real-life revenue from organic demand gen

Here’s how one ebook got £2 million ARR purely from organic demand. The product wasn’t mentioned, the research was spot on and the collaboration network included the most trustworthy brands you could wish for.

This is exactly the right approach, but imagine how much time CustomerGauge would have saved with an online ebook, and how much new data they could have uncovered. They could even incorporate their surveys for real-time insights. We’d argue they would have made more.

Demand-gen content feeds the right traffic to your website’s core pages – product pages, trials, demo pages, pricing, case studies, and testimonials. The only way to bag the right traffic is to know your audience – and how you serve them – so we say lean into data from every content touchpoint. But there are a few challenges.

Digital marketing data changes

Privacy laws are evolving towards more control over cookies and data tracking, making it harder for digital marketers to track user signals across websites to retarget them. Yet, marketers need some understanding of consumer behavior to reach the right people. If you’re going to build organic demand-gen content, deliver relevance, and collect user data, it might be time to look for cues in more places.

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Google will soon launch generative search, which will further expectations of highly personalized daily interactions - be it on Alexa, Netflix or SERPS. We’re becoming acclimatized to content experiences that suit us better and marketers need to keep up. Why deliver demand content that can’t compete? You simply can’t personalize a PDF but you can send deeply personalized online documents proven to capture and maximize reader engagement.

The best demand-gen strategies

Big names like Spotify create demand with their personalized end-of-year Wrapped for users. Wrapped has been enormously successful for Spotify and came about because, for the first time, Spotify used a new superpower – its data.

Thanks, 2016. It’s been weird.

Trump and Brexit reared their heads the same year music icons Prince and Bowie left the planet. Spotify’s reaction? Thanks, 2016. It’s been weird.

This was a pivotal first for the streaming platform, connecting with users in a new way. How? By using the data they held on their user base for exceptional marketing campaigns.

Spotify poster sating "to the 3749 people who played "It's the end of the world and we know it"

Spotify’s in-house creatives used user data to generate posters and display them at geo-specific spots. This means the person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day would’ve seen this poster near their home. They, and others who streamed popular songs that reflected Spotify’s campaign, also received open letters from the brand.

Spotify poster saying "Dear person who played 'Sorry' 42 times on Valentine's Day"

Wrapped has stuck as one of the most successful demand generators of recent times. But is demand worth all this effort? Can everyone be this successful?

Is demand generation important?

It sure is folks. It plays a pivotal role in brand success. For marketers, it holds immense importance for several reasons.

You build awareness of your brand across multiple channels and touchpoints to invite lead generation. By giving away free useful content, you gain trust so you’re perceived as an authority in your field.

Demand gen is entirely customer and audience-centric to support long-term brand loyalty. Demand reaches every part of the customer flywheel, and is about staying current, creative, and pivoting to meet customer needs and external trends, concerns, or shake-ups.

Demand gen is about long-term ROI

While demand gen takes time and resources, it maximizes marketing return on investment (ROI). Demand gen builds better relationships, repeat business, loyalty, and advocacy.

By building brand equity for the whole customer lifecycle, companies can realize higher conversion rates, reduce customer acquisition costs, and increase customer lifetime value.

Global reach possibilities

Online channels extend your market reach beyond geographical boundaries, tapping into new markets and customer segments. And, as we mentioned, audience data can surface emerging markets to explore.

Benefits of demand generation

For your brand

Creates market buzz

Expands your audience

Drives more traffic

Generates more leads

Cost effective

Great brand experience

Builds trust

Can dominate marketplace

For your audience

Free content

Solves problems

Educates

Entertains

Easy to find

No commitment

In control of discovery

How to improve your demand generation campaigns

Human-centric perspective

Think of the last time a brand you admire made an ad. How did it make you feel?

Nike is a demand gen master, using athlete influencers to inspire us, ads that look like everyday scenes, and user-generated content. Nike appears authentic, in touch, and ‘one of us.’

Demand and a value prop flywheel

Apple is another demand generation wizard. The tech giant’s approach has consistently captivated consumers. Their core message is clearly understood across the tech market by focusing exclusively on innovation.

Things take creative turns when innovation messaging meets customer storytelling delivered with a UGC vibe.

Creativity across touchpoints is where Apple excels. Product launches are delivered as thought leadership reveals, while strategic partnerships with influencers get millions of YouTube views.

Loyalty programs and upsells include AppleCare, iCloud, and the App Store. Customers choose to become locked into an ecosystem that produces long-term, recurring, and multiple revenue streams. Customer care at uniquely-branded Genius Bars is delivered by specially trained technical staff employed as Genius Admins or Genius Leads.

Every part of the flywheel is catered for using demand-gen strategies, and all aspects of the business and how Apple presents itself reflect its value proposition.

13 ways to 10x your demand campaigns

  1. Stay close to your value proposition
  2. Use audience intent data
  3. Know exactly who your best-fit customers are
  4. Learn by improving lead scoring
  5. Meet your audience where they are
  6. Entertain and delight people
  7. Collaborate with influential people
  8. Use digital thought leadership that readers want to read
  9. Create better lead magnets
  10. Use interactive content
  11. Send personalized newsletters and content
  12. Use quizzes, polls and surveys to invite conversations
  13. Get noticed across social with the right visuals and hooks

Demand generation KPIs to measure

We list demand generation key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to start using. You can also learn which demand gen metrics matter.

Lead conversion rate

Cost per lead (CPL)

Website traffic

Click-through rate (CTR)

Conversion rate

Email open rate

Engagement rate

Lead quality

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)

Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

Churn rate 

Time-to-conversion

Return on Investment (ROI)

Lead source effectiveness

Marketing attribution

Social media metrics

Customer retention rate

Sales cycle length

Lead funnel conversion rates: lead-to-MQL and MQL-to-SQL

Best practices for demand generation success

Can you successfully generate demand on a smaller marketing budget?

We get it, you’re not Spotify, Nike, or Apple (yet). But that’s not to say you can’t generate demand with fewer bucks.

Try these tips and get creative with demand to make an impact.

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Demand gen on a budget

1. Stay consistent by keeping branding and messaging cohesive and clear across all channels.

2. Prioritize customers, gather feedback, and work collaboratively across teams.

3. Everyone should be saying the same things across the business.

4. Plan demand gen campaigns using behavioral data to reach the right people, with the right content, in the right places.

5. Focus on engagement data to plan long-form demand generation content.

6. Publish organic content across social media, email marketing, web pages and blogs.

7. Forget formats like PDFs and use online documents designed for demand gen activity.

Try Turtl for demand gen

Start making data-led demand content

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