Demand Generation Defined & Explained + FAQs

Gaetano Nino DiNardi

The demand generation marketer is one of the most highly desired roles in B2B marketing — and for good reason. 

But here’s the problem — ask any B2B marketer for their definition of demand generation and you’ll get a revolving door of different answers. 

In this guide, you’ll get an updated definition of demand generation, along with a breakdown of what goes into a successful demand generation strategy.

What is Demand Generation?

Demand generation is the continuous process of educating out-of-market buyers (non-solution seeking people) about your products and services without trying to explicitly sell to them. 

Read that again. You are NOT trying to sell them anything. This is not about lead gen.

Recapping the Definition of Demand Gen:

  • Demand generation is a long-term marketing strategy that prioritizes reaching, educating and engaging your future buyers.
  • Demand generation programs can help with competitor targeting, building brand awareness, and creating new demand e.g. sharing a new way to solve an old problem.  
  • The main goal of B2B demand generation is to be remembered — that means staying top of mind while your potential customers are not in a buying cycle. 
  • The benefit is that whenever the need arises for your product or service — buyers will immediately think of you ahead of the competition. 

Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation: Key Differences

Unfortunately, these terms are often used interchangeably — but there is a massive difference between demand generation and lead generation

Demand generation marketing is about educating your audience with no expectation in return. 

Lead generation is about collecting contact information — but this is totally outdated since now you can just use a tool like Cognism to buy leads.  

The real problem with lead gen is that it prematurely pushes uninterested buyers into sales automation workflows — Refine Labs calls it “begging” prospects to meet with you.

Lead Generation vs Demand Generation

Ditching the MQL: Why it’s Necessary

  • MQLs actually died a long time ago — but some companies still track them.
  • MQLs are too far away from a real business opportunity. 
  • MQLs create funnel bloating and unrealistic views of marketing effectiveness.
  • MQLs come from inefficient sources like lead list uploads — where most have not meaningfully interacted with your brand. 
  • MQLs are not a realistic indicator of downstream funnel performance. 
  • MQLs are responsible for wasted Marketing Ops utilization, since someone has to manually deal with these in the CRM. 
  • MQL “nurturing” requires human effort to create all the flows, write all the email copy, segment data, manage and report on the system performance — this is poor use of resources dedicated to the extreme top of the funnel. 
  • Same goes for webinars, gated content and other types of online events that generate very few hand raisers — it’s mostly “I’m just checking this out” type of people. 
  • Automated email nurturing was born from marketing automation — and emailing high volumes of uninterested, out of market buyers is an outdated B2B marketing tactic preached since the early 2000s by Oracle Eloqua. 
  • We know this is not the way buyers buy — stretching and reaching based on implied intent actions doesn’t align with modern B2B marketing best practices. 

Lead Generation Strategies Are Harmful

  • Misaligned to the buyer’s journey. B2B buyers only spend 17% of their time talking to sales — yet most lead generation efforts prioritize ushering prospects into a premature sales conversation. 
  • Hurts sales teams. MQLs by definition are not in a buying cycle, therefore you are destroying SDR morale by subjecting them to mass volumes of uninterested prospects. 
  • Creates problems for sales & marketing. Sparks conversations like “marketing is sending us garbage leads” and sales can’t close deals resulting in negative team culture. 
  • Gated content drives top of the funnel leads. Common types of content like white papers, webinars, case studies and free tools capture the contact information of uninterested buyers.
  • Over-reliance on lead scoring and lead nurturing. There’s too much reliance on implied intent — marketing teams are placing a bet on their ability to use behavioral data and intent signals to predict sales triggers. 

Demand Gen Strategy Essentials

1. Drive massive brand awareness

  • Immerse yourself in the world of your buyer personas — a great framework to check out is Easy Mode by Obaid Durrani and Todd Clouser. 
  • Pursue thought leadership on offsite channels — the reality is that most people don’t educate themselves on corporate websites anymore — no diss to Salesforce but when was the last time you read a blog on 
  • Leverage social media platforms — B2B buyers are on LinkedIn asking their peers about how to solve challenges. Being in the mix is part of driving word of mouth. 
  • Pursue a branded search strategy — this is really about branded SEO. You know you’re doing a good job when people are searching for your brand + product name.
  • Optimize B2B advertising programs for awareness and use CTAs like “Learn More” instead of “Get a Demo.”

2. Optimize your inbound marketing funnel

Here are the inbound marketing elements you’ll need to include in your demand gen strategy.  

  • SEO: Avoid broad reaching topics like What is CRM? Instead create long-tail, pain-point focused topics like what can happen if someone gets your social security number?
  • Paid Advertising: You should be capturing demand with paid search and affiliate marketing, while creating demand with social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and beyond. 
  • Sponsorship Marketing: One of the best ways to reach potential buyers is through sponsorships. Most people don’t subscribe to corporate newsletters and podcasts — they subscribe to their favorite content creators. 
  • Email marketing: This is not about nurturing leads. Instead, here are some best practices to follow when building an email marketing strategy for B2B workflows.
Role of Email in B2B Marketing

3. Enable your sales teams

  • Testimonials — Chili Piper’s wall of love is a phenomenal example. 
  • Case Studies — Problem, use case, solution, outcome. Why Refine Labs Chose Chili Piper is an awesome example. 
  • Content Systems — Ideally there is some type of LMS for sales to manage all the important collateral. 
  • Battle Cards — Arm sales teams with valuable insights about competitors. 
  • Sales Training — Leadership needs to help sellers level up their game. But the problem is they don’t have time — that’s why virtual sales coaching might be a good option here. 

The Role of Inbound Marketing in B2B Demand Generation

The traditional SaaS marketing funnel is obsolete. 

Today, you are either capturing demand or creating demand

Let's explore what that means.

Demand Capturing: Intent Channels and Content Examples

Demand Creation: Education Channels and Content Types

  • Social Media Platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok.
  • Influencer Marketing: Brand awareness or demand generation campaigns with relevant influencers in your niche. 
  • Email Marketing: Newsletters, content promo, nurture sequences and event invites. 
  • Online Communities: Exit Five, Sales Hacker, etc. 
  • Offline Media: Direct mail, NYC subway ads, etc.
  • Offsite Channels: Guest posts, press and thought leadership.
  • Audio Channels: Podcasts, interviews, radio advertising.
  • Video: YouTube, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Wistia, Loom, etc.
  • Events: Webinars, live hangouts, virtual conferences. 
  • Conferences: In-person meetups and industry trade shows. 
  • Forums: Reddit, Quora, Slack, Discord.

The Role of Sales in B2B Demand Generation

Go back seven years ago and most people would say that demand gen was really just a bunch of marketers disguised as salespeople running lead generation tactics.

And that’s because marketing used to be a service organization to sales, until B2B executives realized that marketing should be a strategic partner — not an order-taker. 

Today, outbound-focused demand generation is not about high-volume cold outreach with automated follow-up sequences. 

Instead, it's about ABM (account-based marketing), the inverted marketing funnel. 

Role of Sales in Traditional Demand Generation

Instead of a top-down inbound marketing approach, ABM is a bottom-up marketing strategy that collaborates with sales to engage with high-quality leads and target accounts during complex B2B sales cycles. 

Revenue teams have learned that full-funnel marketing with a hybrid mix of inbound, outbound, and lifecycle automation is the right balance for a high-performing demand generation program.

Metrics & KPIs for Measuring Success

Your demand generation marketing efforts should be guided by a north star: lead quality

In addition to understanding key SaaS metrics, these are important questions to ask:

  • Which channels are driving highly qualified leads? 
  • What percentage of our opportunities convert into paying customers?
  • What percentage of our paying customers stick around long enough to become profitable?
  • Which marketing channels are driving opportunities with the best LTV? 
  • How do we optimize speed to lead

Leading indicators: example metrics

  • Brand search volume
  • Your brand vs. competitor brand search volume
  • Organic traffic to high intent website pages
  • Direct traffic (people type your website URL into the browser)
  • Entrances and engagement on your feature / solutions pages
  • Referral traffic from other relevant websites and social platforms

Lagging indicators: example metrics

  • Assisted conversions: pages consumed “on the path” to becoming a conversion.
  • Website traffic to conversion rate (declared intent)
  • Qualified demo to sales opportunity rate
  • Proposal sent to closed/won rate
  • Average deal size by source
  • Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)

Declared Intent vs. Assumed Intent – The Bottom Line

Digital marketing has transitioned away from direct response, lead generation focused marketing campaigns to a demand generation approach that covers brand awareness, demand creation, and demand capturing across the entire sales funnel. 

B2B marketers should consider the CTA buttons on the website — and what constitutes declared intent vs. assumed intent. 

Run a “declared intent audit” to check if assumed intent leads are being treated as declared intent. If yes, that’s a clear misalignment of sales experience and buyer expectations.. 

This is the decisive test which confirms if your marketing team truly understands the customer journey — a critical component of any demand generation program.

Chili Piper Concierge: Your Assistant for Optimizing Demand Gen Programs

Chili Piper’s customers use Concierge as part of an effective demand generation strategy.

This is crucial since it enables declared intent “hand raisers” to book meetings and schedule time with sales teams immediately. 

Here’s how Chili Piper supports demand generation marketers:

  • Eliminates the waiting period that may cause a prospect to “go cold”
  • Intelligent lead routing to sales reps in real-time with Chili Piper’s proprietary qualification technology. 
  • Proactively engages with target prospects with smart booking links to nurture and upsell.
  • Updates your CRM automatically when prospects book meetings to provide better insight into pipeline health.
About the author
Gaetano Nino DiNardi

Gaetano Nino DiNardi is a growth advisor with a track record of success working with brands like Gong, Pipedrive, Sales Hacker, Outreach, Cognism, Nextiva, Aura, countless more. Outside of marketing, Gaetano is an accomplished music producer and loves making music to stay turbocharged. You can learn more about him at

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