When marketing a product or service to your audience, it all comes down to solving a problem.

If your product is a good fit to solve this problem, the battle is already halfway over. However, there are thousands of other products out there also trying to grab your audience’s attention and prove just the same.

A solid demand generation strategy helps your brand stand out from the crowd. This proactive marketing approach educates and engages your audience throughout their journey. It convinces them that your solution will solve their problems.

In this guide, we will show you how to create a demand generation strategy and example strategies that can help you engage the right people at the right time.

Table of contents:

What is demand generation?

Demand generation is a marketing strategy that uses education, content and brand storytelling to attract customers. It talks about a problem your target audience faces in their work or life and positions your product as the answer.

Callout card defining demand generation. It says "Demand generation is a marketing strategy that uses education, content and brand storytelling to attract customers. It talks about a problem your target audience faces in their work or life and positions your product as the answer."

While demand generation is all about building engagement and trust, it’s not just an early-funnel marketing strategy. Demand generation can apply to touchpoints throughout the entire sales and conversion cycle. The goal is to build and nurture crucial customer relationships over the long term.

The bottom line is demand generation differs from other types of marketing because it is proactive. It shows potential customers that you understand their challenges—and you have a product to fix them.

What is demand generation strategy?

A demand generation strategy builds awareness or need for a product through customer education. It uses tactics like social media marketing to target an audience throughout their customer journey.

A successful demand generation strategy aims to identify and attract qualified leads (a.k.a. the people who are interested/need your product) into your marketing funnel. From there, you can build trust and ultimately—turn them into paying customers.

Elements of a successful demand generation strategy

A successful demand generation strategy has several moving parts, which vary depending on what content resonates with your target audience and the specific platforms they use.

Here are five elements your demand generation strategy should include.

1. Buyer persona development

If you try to sell to everyone—you end up selling to no one.

A core part of a demand generation strategy is to develop buyer personas, or ideal customer profiles (ICPs), to help target the right people. ICPs are fictitious personas, but they build a description of a person who needs your product based on age, job, industry and budget.

These personas paint a clear picture of:

  • What problems/pain points your audience wants to solve
  • Any solutions they are already weighing up (i.e. your competitors)
  • What motivates this particular persona to buy a product
  • What stage of the buying journey they are at

Check out this B2B buyer persona from Semrush.

Buyer persona image that covers a (fictitious) customer's pain points, buying influences and industry knowledge. It shows the potential value they will get from the product.

It covers a (fictitious) customer’s pain points, buying influences and industry knowledge. It also shows the potential value they will get from the product. This can guide what to target in your next marketing campaign to help connect with potential customers who fit this buyer persona.

This strategy is easier with the right tools. Sprout’s Social Listening solutions add more context to your market research. For example, use the demographics report to track your target audience‘s age, gender and even what tech they are using to search for products.

Sprout's Listening tool even provides metrics on the technology used by different demographics.

This information enables you to craft more detailed content to match their persona.

2. Multi-channel approach

Multi-channel marketing is a must-have addition to your demand generation strategy. This strategy covers marketing channels like email, social media platforms and content distribution. It also works best when you show up in the places where your audience (actually) hangs out, and data can point you in the right direction.

Say you want to generate demand through your brand’s social media channels. With Sprout, run a Profile Performance Report to uncover what channels currently get the most traction and engagement.

Sprout's performance report uncovers what channels currently get the most traction and engagement. 

Also get insight into your most engaged followers such as age, interests, professional title or industry. This will make it easier to create content that connects with their specific pain points.

3. Content quality and relevance

The secret sauce to generate demand is to focus on what your audience really needs help with. Talking in your audience’s language and addressing their pain points is more impactful than a strategy that targets generic needs.

Where you create and distribute content also matters. In 2023, 60% of B2B content marketers surveyed said social media was the most effective channel for driving revenue. At Sprout, we use a multi-channel social media approach to generate demand and brand awareness:

  • Sprout’s YouTube channel has a library full of videos relevant to our target audience. Viewers can educate themselves about social media marketing by learning new tactics. They can also view annual predictions and learn new marketing hacks. Thanks to these tips, our audience starts to view Sprout as a trusted industry expert.
  • We regularly post content to TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Our presence on these platforms is crucial for brand awareness and telling our story to our core audience.
  • We also created the Social Creatures podcast to amplify the stories of our favorite social media accounts. Each episode digs into the success of leading social media marketers and uncovers the tactics they use to grow their accounts.
Sprout's podcasts include chatting with the social media managers behind some of our favourite social media accounts, to explore their success and share the secrets behind their social media strategy.

This targeted content taps into our audience’s problems to generate demand. It’s this connection that helps us build trust.

4. Lead scoring and qualification

Every lead that drops into your marketing funnel is different. Using a lead scoring strategy narrows down which ones are most likely to become paying customers.

Maximizing your resources at this early stage means your team can spend more time nurturing high-quality leads and reducing dead ends.

So, how do you build a foolproof lead scoring strategy?

Start by digging into your attribution data. Figure out which marketing efforts lead to conversions throughout your funnel.

Then, ask your sales and marketing teams to decide what a “good” quality lead looks like in terms of buying signals. Use their suggestions to create a lead scoring model. Weigh actions, like registering for a webinar, against real conversions in your marketing and sales funnels.

Here’s an example.

A lead scoring model helps you weigh actions like registering for a webinar or clicks on a blog against real conversions in your marketing and sales funnels.

When a lead reaches a certain score, it signals to your marketing or sales team that it’s worth pursuing.

5. Data-driven decision making

Data-driven marketing helps tailor your demand generation strategy to fit your target audience. For example, a marketing team running a new social media campaign can dig into the performance data throughout the campaign to see what’s working best.

By analyzing this data, the marketing team can make timely optimizations and improve outcomes. This is also a smart way to increase return on ad spend (ROAS) instead of waiting to study it postmortem.

Sprout Social enables you to track engagement, sentiment and impressions to show you what resonates with your audience. It also weighs each demand generation campaign against your competitors. This helps you see what content your target audience is engaging with to help you stay competitive and make better decisions.

Sprout's competitive analysis report helps you track engagement, sentiment and impressions to show you what resonates with your audience to help you stay competitive.

3 demand generation strategy examples

Demand generation is cemented in building trust with a target audience. It aims to educate prospects and promote your product as the best way to address a need. This proactive marketing approach is what makes demand generation so impactful.

Here are three strategies to use for demand generation:

1. Account-based marketing (ABM)

ABM is a demand generation strategy used to build relationships with high-value prospects. An ABM Leadership Alliance survey covering over 300 B2B marketers showed 93% used an ABM strategy to bring customers into their funnel.

For ABM to be effective, look at your data and build out a list of potential target accounts. If their attributes match one of your existing buyer personas—add them to your target list.

This is how DocuSign used an ABM-focused campaign to target 450 enterprise prospects. It targeted six internal buyer personas using unique advertisements and landing pages to speak specifically to that audience.

A breakdown of how DocuSign found key accounts to target in its ABM strategy. The image shows the criteria they used to create their ideal customer profile such as fit and intent.

The strategy was effective because:

  • Each ad contained personalized messages for target accounts based on their stage in their buying process.
  • DocuSign knew every ICP had different problems to solve. It created personalized content, case studies and testimonials to tap into their pain points.

DocuSign then used personalized ads to drive each key account to a customized landing page.

Just three months after launching the campaign, DocuSign improved engagement by 59%. Page views also increased by 300%, and 18% of the target account list had at least one secured opportunity.

DocuSign developed a strategy to create personalized ads to drive each key account to a customized landing page.

2. Target each stage of your content funnel differently

The best way to demonstrate the value of a solution is through content. Eighty-one percent of buyers surveyed in Demand Gen Report’s latest B2B Buyer Survey said content had a significant impact on their buying decisions.

For content to influence a potential customer, it must meet them where they are at in their buying journey. Let’s break down what a typical journey looks like:

  • Top of Funnel (TOFU): This is the awareness stage of the funnel. A potential customer is learning about what your brand does and broadly what problems your product solves.
  • Middle of Funnel (MOFU): This is the consideration stage. The potential customer knows what their problem is, and they are looking for a product to solve it. They’re aware of your product, but you need to earn their trust first.
  • Bottom of Funnel (BOFU): This is the decision stage. It’s your chance to win the potential customer over and convince them your product will be a good fit.

At each stage, the content a potential customer consumes must reflect where they are in the funnel and their awareness of you.

Let’s walk through a (very simple) example of how you can do this.

Imagine a potential customer who is just starting to research your marketing tools. They probably don’t want to read about why your brand is the best platform on the market. But, a guide on a topic like “how to use automation tools” can teach them how a product like yours can improve their marketing efforts.

Now, let’s look at how this works in more detail.

A TOFU piece of content in the marketing funnel will target general marketing topics to educate our audience. For example, we have detailed guides on how to build a social media marketing strategy or improve social media engagement. We wrote these posts to help our target audience become better social media marketers—nothing more.

Once they know who you are, they move to the middle of the marketing funnel. At this point, you may use more product-oriented guides to convince them that your marketing tool is a good investment. Then, if they make it further down the funnel, BOFU content is used. This content is for potential customers who know they need a solution but are weighing up their options.

At this stage, you’re looking to convince them to engage with you, or raise their hand to learn more about what you specifically offer.

Building out a successful content machine takes a lot of work. But, your strategy will get a lot more traction if each content piece targets your audience with what they need, where they need it and when.

3. Use social media for your B2B demand generation strategy

Our 2023 State of Social Media report found seven in 10 leaders agree that social media is underutilized within their organization. Ninety-seven percent of business leaders we talked to believe the use of social data to understand market trends will increase in the coming years.

Like the other strategies on our list, each social media platform requires a different approach. LinkedIn is the perfect place to write longer thought-leadership content. On the other hand, X (formerly known as Twitter) is great for engaging with other business influencers and customers.

One thing is for sure—B2B buyers don’t just hang out on LinkedIn. According to The Sprout Social Index, 68% of customers follow a brand on social to stay informed about new products or services. While 51% of consumers also said responding is the most memorable action a brand takes on social media.

Even brands built on the backs of traditional channels like SEO know the power social media can bring to demand generation.

Ahrefs Chief Marketing Officer, Tim Soulo, uses his social channels to chat with thousands of fellow marketers. He starts LinkedIn conversations around trends like AI to keep followers engaged.

Ahrefs Chief Marketing Officer Tim Soulo uses his social channels to chat with thousands of fellow marketers. In this LinkedIn conversation, he talks about trends like AI to keep followers engaged.

This thought leadership approach to social media shows the power of the platforms to increase brand awareness. It’s also a great reminder that platforms like LinkedIn can build an incredible amount of trust with your target audience.

Demand generation vs. lead generation vs. inbound marketing

Demand generation differs from lead generation in a few ways. Lead generation applies when your audience is actively seeking out different services or products to address a need. The main goal of a lead generation campaign therefore is to obtain a prospect’s information so you can nurture the relationship through the marketing funnel, ultimately selling them your product or service. This differs from demand generation, as its main goal is to increase brand awareness.

Inbound marketing is when your audience seeks out information for a problem that they are trying to solve and organically comes across your brand as a potential solution. If you are regularly creating content, then your lead generation most likely comes through this source. Inbound marketing is less disruptive than outbound strategies, and therefore often results in higher-quality prospects.

Inbound marketing and lead generation complement each other. When you create content that aims to solve a common problem, your brand attracts inbound leads. This is because your audience is already aware of the problem and is actively seeking out solutions. In contrast, demand generation is about you trying to reach audiences that don’t yet know your product or service has benefits to offer them.

Demand generation and data

Demand generation relies on your ability to understand consumer needs. And data is a vital tool for figuring that out. For example, use data to measure if your marketing content and efforts resonate with your audience, or understand how to best reach your audience. Continuous testing, analysis and data collection are crucial for your demand generation efforts to succeed.

There are several key parts of demand generation can you can track.

Metrics throughout the funnel

  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs): This metric represents someone who has taken a step like filling in a contact form or signing up for a free trial. These actions signal people are interested in your product. It’s important to track MQLs so you know what stage of the marketing funnel visitors are turning into potential customers.
  • Attribution: This tracks which touchpoints a visitor has hit to become a customer. It will track their engagement with your website or other channels, what pages they visit or if they fill out a form. Attribution tracks how someone turns from a visitor into a paying customer.
  • Engagement: Track what level of engagement each post is getting on your social channels. Engagement metrics like shares, comments, likes and impressions show what content resonates best with your target audience.

Account-based marketing metrics

  • Total addressable market (TAM): This calculates the total revenue opportunity available for a product or service within your market.
  • Conversions: This metric tracks how many accounts your ABM strategy successfully converted. Take the number of accounts your team was targeting and divide it by those who turned into paying customers.

Predictive data

  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): A prediction based on historical data of the total amount a customer will likely spend during their relationship with your brand. A high CLV is a good indication the customer has a solid product-market fit and loyalty to your brand.
  • Churn probability: This metric calculates the probability that a customer/user will stop using your product or service. Predicting churn probability can fuel a proactive approach and give your brand a chance to re-engage customers before they leave.

Using the right tool can give you an accurate picture of your demand generation strategy’s performance in real-time. Tools like Sprout Social gather customer insights to determine what they think about you and your competitors, their interests and pain points, what kind of content they appreciate most, which social channels you should connect with them on and more.

Use demand generation to turn strangers into customers

A demand generation strategy hinges on understanding your audience, their problems and how your solution can help. While it begins at your customer’s first touchpoint, social media now plays a huge part in any demand generation strategy. If marketers can engage their target audience on social and build trust early, more leads will flow into their marketing funnel.

Keep the strategy simple: show up on your customer’s preferred social channels, target your audience with engaging content and most importantly—pitch your product as a problem solver.

For a more in-depth look at how to set up a social media funnel that complements your demand generation strategy, check out our post on building a successful social media marketing funnel.

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