Cold outbound is a staple in the B2B sales community.
But it comes with an inherent problem:
Nobody you’re speaking to knows a thing about you, your brand, your product, or what you can do for them. And you don’t even know—until you speak to them—whether there’s a real use case for what you’re selling.
There’s a better solution: B2B demand generation.
Demand generation flips the model on its head, so that when your sales reps do get to speaking with a customer, the demand is already.
They know who you are, trust what you’re saying, and have already determined (at least preliminarily) that they need what you sell.
This article serves as your ultimate guide to B2B demand generation.
We’ll begin by getting on the same page regarding what demand gen is (and isn’t), explore why it's a more valuable approach to revenue growth in the long term, and then dive into 6 steps to build your own B2B demand generation strategy.
What is B2B Demand Generation?
B2B demand generation is a revenue growth strategy (that is, it's across both sales and marketing).
Its principal goal is to build demand for your product or services. By demand, we mean that prospects:
- Know about your brand
- See you as an industry expert and trusted advisor
- Understand—to an extent—how your product can help them
- Show some interest in purchasing or at least learning more
When you adopt a B2B demand gen approach, you position your company as a media brand, producing and distributing high-quality content across various disciplines and channels.
Trust is core to demand generation.
The marketing efforts your company engages in are no longer exclusively promotional. You’re not just pitching ads and outbound email campaigns.
You’re creating educational content that provides prescriptive and actionable advice that your target audience finds valuable.
You cover top-of-funnel topics that capture the attention of customers who aren’t in the market, right down to bottom-of-funnel topics like choosing between you and your competitors.
Then, you capture that demand by being present on the channels where in-market buyers are active. For this reason, B2B demand generation is often divided into two components.
B2B Demand Creation
Demand creation encompasses all of the activities you engage in to expand your brand presence and get in front of new eyeballs.
This is mostly content creation, publishing, and distribution, meaning B2B demand creation overlaps quite significantly with the practice of content marketing.
The principle goal here is to educate the 95% of your total addressable market (TAM) who aren’t in the market to buy right now, but could have a use case for your product.
B2B Demand Capture
Demand capture is about capitalizing on the demand you’ve created and turning that into prospects in your sales funnel.
Some content approaches (such as targeting bottom-of-funnel keywords in your SEO strategy and content plan) fit within the demand capture paradigm, but you’ll also include advertising tactics such as PPC ads to target high-intent buyers.
The principle goal of demand capture is to convert the 5% of your TAM that is in the market into paying customers.
Lead Generation vs. Demand Generation
Lead generation is typically pitted against demand generation as the “traditional” alternative.
In a lead generation-focused approach, marketing’s goal is to create as many leads as possible, with little attention to how qualified or interested that lead actually is.
Sure, some brands separate leads into different categories (PQL/MQL/SQL is a common division) to designate different levels of buying intent. But the focus is always on the number of leads generated for a given category, and that’s what marketers are measured on.
Demand generation differs in that it's about quality over quantity (though more is still better). Quality, in this case, is used as a synonym for “high buying intent.”
The goal of demand gen isn’t to capture as many leads as possible. It's to ensure that the leads that are captured are as warm as possible. That is, they are warm to your brand, maybe even to the sales reps they’re talking to, and have demonstrated buying intent for your product.
This doesn’t mean that the idea of B2B lead generation efforts should be thrown out entirely, however. Sales reps still need new prospects at the top of the funnel to keep their pipeline moving.
But lead gen should happen within the context of demand generation and is better thought of as demand capture.
Inbound vs. Outbound Demand Generation
B2B demand generation marketing activities can fall into both inbound and outbound camps.
While some marketing teams may have a preference for one or the other (inbound marketing tactics tend to align nicely with the idea of building a media brand), your demand generation program can 100% include a combination of both.
Under the inbound umbrella, B2B marketers can use classic strategies like:
- A blog content strategy, including distribution and content syndication efforts
- Social media marketing tactics like regularly posting and engaging with posts from similar brands in your vertical
- Podcasts (your own or appearances on existing shows)
- Attending live events such as trade shows
On the other hand, traditional marketing campaigns that fit under the outbound umbrella can also be a valid part of a successful B2B demand gen strategy, such as:
- Cold calling
- Outbound email marketing campaigns
- The purchasing of intent data
- Direct mail
Why Invest In A B2B Demand Gen Strategy?
Investing in demand generation (and prioritizing it over other revenue strategies) delivers three important benefits:
- Greater positive brand affiliation: Your efforts are largely focused on educating the market and providing helpful advice, thereby positioning your brand as a trusted thought leader.
- Warmer leads: Because you’re active in the industry and communicating with the 95% of your TAM who aren’t in the market, you’re more likely to be top-of-mind when prospects enter the buying cycle, making your sales process faster and driving conversion rates up.
- Long-term organic customer acquisition: After a couple of years of investing in different demand generation strategies, you’ll essentially be able to turn off all paid B2B marketing activities, and you’ll still see solid revenue acquisition as a result of those up-front efforts.
How To Build A B2B Demand Generation Strategy
More important than deciding between different B2B demand generation tactics is getting your strategy aligned.
In the following six steps, we’ll walk you through how to design a successful demand generation strategy, as well as cover the most important channels and tactics for attracting B2B buyers.
1. Develop Positioning and Messaging
Your first critical step is to work on how you position your brand within the market and the messaging you’ll use to communicate your unique point of difference.
This messaging will flow through every aspect of your B2B demand generation campaign, which is why it needs to happen first.
Let’s use ourselves as an example.
But we’re unique in that we serve the SMB market, are AI-first, and offer a crawl-walk-run approach that allows customers to get set up and start seeing results within minutes.
This messaging is present across all channels, from our home page:
To blog posts about Demandbase competitors:
To webinars our GTM participates in and then shares on LinkedIn:
Wynter, a B2B message testing platform, shares some great advice on this in their article How positioning and messaging build your go-to-market (GTM) strategy.
It’s worth reading in full, but here’s the quick five-step checklist for making sure your messaging is on point:
- Clarity: Does your audience get it?
- Relevance: Does it help them solve [key issue]?
- Value: Does it make the [key issue] urgent?
- Differentiation: Does it give them a reason to choose you over competitors?
- Friction: Have you removed all possible objections and addressed potential doubts?
2. Design A Content Production Plan
This next step is the big one.
Alongside developing and marketing a product, you’re also going to be building a media brand.
What this means is that you’re going to be producing, publishing, and distributing a ton of content across a variety of content types, including
- Videos (such as how-tos and webinars)
- Podcasts (your own as well as appearances on others')_
- Case studies
The most effective demand-generation efforts are content-heavy. It’s so important to great demand gen that we developed a five-part series on building a content factory to help you produce and publish at scale.
Check out the first installment here: Building A Content Factory (Part 1 of 5).
From there comes distribution (aka content syndication).
3. Get Active On Social
Without a doubt, your best channel for content distribution is social media.
Obviously, the specific platform you choose to use will depend on where your audience is active, though, in the B2B context, this is most likely to be LinkedIn and X.
At Warmly, we’re all in on LinkedIn.
Our entire leadership team posts multiple times a day. We share each others’ posts, tag each other in our own, and leverage the audience of our brand partners to maximize reach.
Then, we repurpose the content we’re already creating, optimizing it to be appropriate for the channel.
Then, he edited the video down to a brief 9-minute walkthrough and shared it with his LinkedIn audience:
4. Build Out Relevant Email Campaigns
Email is a no-brainer channel used in everything from startup sales playbooks to enterprise marketing campaigns.
While email has a place in the context of B2B demand generation, you’ll want to avoid being overly promotional.
Instead, use email as a way to distribute thought leadership, promote helpful free tools, share best practices, and ultimately connect with ideal customers at target accounts.
Here’s a solid example from Clearbit (shared in their walkthrough on how they run targeted demand gen):
This email nails two things:
- Contextual content recommendation (you read that, how about this)
- Shows you how the product works rather than selling it (our tool told us this about you)
5. Create Meaningful Brand Partnerships
Building long-term partnerships with other relevant brands is a crucial component of a solid B2B demand generation program.
Here’s how it works:
These are all solutions that are broadly in the GTM industry, meaning they share similar kinds of customers to us but aren’t directly competing for the same share of wallet.
We can then collaborate on content, promote each other's thought leadership posts, and borrow from each other’s brand awareness, equity, and social capital to build demand for our own product.
We’ve already covered a couple of examples above where this happened.
In step one (Develop Positioning and Messaging), I called out a webinar I appeared on, collaborating with Bethany Stachenfeld of Sendspark.
In step three (Get Active On Social), the video that Keegan shared on LinkedIn included a brief snippet on how we actually use Sendspark in our own GTM motion.
We even have a case study on Sendspark’s website, which details how we use the platform as part of our account-based orchestration process.
Hockeystack provides another great example of how meaningful brand partnerships can be used as part of a B2B demand gen approach.
This video series called The Loop sees Hockeystack partner with experts from Cognism (a B2B data platform.
Here, Hockeystack benefits not only from the expert-level content published on their site, but borrows some of the positive brand affiliations Cognism has built and transfers it over to their own brand.
6. Optimize Your Site For Demand Capture
Don’t forget the second half of B2B demand gen: demand capture.
You’ve spent all this time, money, and effort on building a media brand to develop trust with customers and build demand for your product, now it's time to see some ROI from it.
- Deanonyomize site traffic with a tool like Warmly to understand who exactly is on your site and what pages they’re engaging with
- Integrate best-in-class third-party intent data to enable personalized sales outreach
- Use AI sales chatbots to engage with site visitors and notify sales reps via Slack to get involved when the prospect is hot
- Launch complex pricing plans that dynamically adjust to the visitor using tools like Wingback.
Want to dive deeper into how to engage with prospects to capture demand? Check out part three of our warm leads manifesto here.
Capture Demand With Warmly
The most successful B2B demand generation campaigns will be those built on a solid foundation of ICP-focused content.
Nailing your messaging and customer targeting, then going all in on content production and distribution will help position your brand as a thought leader and develop positive brand associations so that when a prospect is ready to buy, you’ll be top of mind.
Then its all about demand capture. That’s where Warmly, the account-based orchestration platform, comes in.
With Warmly, you can deanonymize site visitors, track engagement behavior, enrich account data with best-in-class firmographic and intent data, and engage visitors with an AI-led conversational chat solution.
Want to start seeing results in a matter of minutes?