Build the Room, Then Fill It: Using Demand Creation and Lead Generation In Concert to Grow Your Business

By Jim Perdue, Director, Client Strategy

Marketers at manufacturing companies are responsible for building brand awareness, creating demand for products and services and converting that demand into qualified leads. A holistic marketing program works to achieve each of those goals in concert. Too often, however, marketers focus their energies almost exclusively on short-term campaigns that seek to convert existing demand into sales. Lead generation campaigns are an important piece of the marketing puzzle, to be sure. But if they represent the majority of your marketing activities, you’ll eventually see diminishing returns.

Lead generation marketing campaigns only work to the extent that there is already an existing demand for your products and services. In order to build and maintain a healthy sales pipeline, you must also do the long, slow work of creating awareness and building demand via demand creation campaigns. Lead generation without demand creation is putting the cart before the horse.

Think of it this way: Demand creation is how you build the room, and lead generation is how you fill it. A truly comprehensive marketing program uses these two complementary techniques in tandem to achieve the most impactful and sustainable results.

Demand Creation: Building the Room

Demand creation campaigns service the very top of the sales funnel — that is, they build awareness to convert your target market into potential customers. Some demand creation campaigns are simply about generating big-picture brand awareness; others may be designed to spark awareness about a new product or category shift. Regardless, demand creation campaigns establish new awareness and nurture that awareness into demand.

As you might expect, demand creation is the essential first step toward expanding your market share. And, like most things worth working for, it doesn’t happen overnight. The typical demand creation campaign lasts a year or more. As a result, these campaigns require a major commitment of time, funding, and resources. The kicker: you may not see meaningful results for months or even quarters. Many marketers, especially those that are accustomed to quick-turnaround lead generation campaigns, may find it challenging to stick with demand creation campaigns for the long haul — especially if the benefits aren’t immediately apparent.

Content marketing is a good example of a demand creation campaign work. Over the course of months and even years, companies that commit to content marketing regularly produce and publish expert, indexable content to their websites. That content is strategically formulated to mine topics found in the overlap between a company’s expertise and their customer’s needs. Over time, this content draws in new site visitors via organic searches. With the right technologies and processes in place, those new site visitors can slowly be nurtured into viable leads.

The Demand Creation Process

Demand creation campaigns typically follow a structured process. This process includes:

  1. Research and planning. The success of any demand creation campaign begins with a strong understanding of your prospective customers. All the marketing in the world can’t make up for a value proposition that doesn’t actually meet the clearly defined needs of your target market. Before beginning a demand creation campaign, you must clearly define your goals and map them to the voice of your customer (VOC).
  2. Image-building. The next step in most any demand creation campaign has to do with image-building. This may take the form of traditional PR, digital advertising, or it may be achieved via other techniques (such as content marketing). The goal? To build brand awareness, familiarity, and brand trust.
  3. Engagement: In the next phase, you must find ways to engage with your prospective customers about your business and the solutions it provides. Depending on the target audience and other factors, this could take different forms, like telephone outreach by your inside sales team, through social media, or interactive live events like webinars, technical seminars, conferences, and trade shows.
  4. Sales engagement. Your sales team and distributors must be fully aligned and engaged with your demand creation campaign in order for it to be consistently and effectively delivered. Marketing must equip the sales team to deliver the right messaging at the right time. In addition, the campaign must be embraced by your entire team, or it will not come across as authentic.
  5. Business intelligence. One benefit of a longer campaign cycle is that it gives your team more time to measure impact and tweak the campaign according to what works and what doesn’t. To do this well, it’s crucial that you develop thoughtful benchmarks and measure your progress against them. Success is measured in the long-term improvement of those metrics.

Lead Generation: Filling the Room

Where demand creation replenishes the top of the sales funnel, lead generation engages the very bottom of the sales funnel — the trigger point in the sales cycle. As previously established, lead generation campaigns service existing demand within your targeted market — whether or not you created that demand yourself.

Lead generation campaigns are short (usually 30-90 days), and they are all about making conversions. As such, they are much more narrowly targeted and may vary from one sales region to the next. The campaign should be structured to produce qualified leads that can then be passed to the sales team for closing.

It’s important to note that lead generation campaigns should be more concerned with quality than quantity. The campaign must be scoped to ensure that leads are properly qualified. If not, you’ll have wasted your own time as well as that of your sales team.

Lead generation campaigns are especially important for manufacturing companies that sell direct to customers. Without distributors in the picture, lead generation is the means by which you can close the sales loop.

There’s a role for lead generation in two-step models, too. In this context, distributors are often the ones who initiate these campaigns. But manufacturers that bring lead generation programs to the table and offer to help their distributors run them can strengthen their distributor relationships and boost sales, too.

Demand creation and lead generation are two sides of the same coin. Harness both and your marketing efforts will yield results that are more than the sum of their parts.