In our digital age where one’s personal brand (the words you choose to describe yourself in a bio) can be changed at will, it’s worth a deeper look at why we include what we do. I look at my bio and still wonder why I chose those words. Most times, the choices were made to represent myself in the best way possible, telling others where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and who I’ve worked with. And like anyone familiar with SEO, I want to make people aware of who I am through search engines as well. Hmm, lofty ideals but it does tell a story, my story. My story is a marketer with a digital mindset in which words have specific meaning. One phrase stood out to me just today to give me cause to reflect on my choices.

“As part of the Global Demand Generation organization, his team uses the Adobe Marketing Cloud to deliver on KPI-driven results including worldwide subscriptions, trials, sales leads, and revenue-based metrics.”

I put myself in your place and did a search engine query on the term “demand generation.” I was quickly bombarded with statements such as “it’s different than inbound marketing,” “it isn’t lead generation,” “drive awareness and interest,” “lead management,” “strategic revenue marketing services and consulting,” “customer buy cycles,” and “it’s all content marketing.” The variety and scope blew me away.

What Is Demand Generation?

Okay, I promised some wise words and here they come: “I know what demand generation is as part of the digital marketing effort.” However, guess what? That isn’t important because it’s your perspective that really matters, and my job is to influence your perspective so that you can take action. I’m going to borrow Hubspot’s step-by-step guide to Internet marketing to illustrate my point with a slight modification of putting some place markers in the flow.

  1. Define a keyword strategy
  2. Optimize your website to get found
  3. Create blog and other marketing content  (inbound marketing)
  4. Promote content & participate in social media (demand generation)
  5. Convert site visitors into leads  (lead generation)
  6. Nurture leads with targeted messages (lead management)
  7. Optimize your marketing for mobile
  8. Analyze and refine strategies

Yes, demand generation is an awareness effort designed to drive traffic to your website to cause potential customers to “inquire” about your products. Once they hit the landing page though, there is the subtle turnover of the “inquiry” to the lead generation folks to develop the lead. This could be done through email nurturing, lead scoring, call center services, or events or webinars, depending on goals and resources.

Indeed, demand generation is not lead generation. It’s an enabler for lead generation.

That leaves us to clear up the inbound marketing versus demand generation dilemma. After all, both terms accomplish the same end—driving traffic to a website via content creation. The nuance here is the transition from a general marketing funnel effort (inbound) to a specific sales marketing funnel effort (generating demand, from the perspective of sales value). It’s the old shell (in our case funnel) game in all its glory. Which funnel is the prize hiding under?

Demand generation is the sales side of inbound marketing; it comes complete with back-end goals related to conversion rates and revenue, whereas inbound marketing is a precursor to demand generation and leaves the ROI issues to the demand generation people in your organization. Super simple—front-end awareness versus back-end nurturing and closing. has produced a report that gives us some insight into what kind of ROI numbers we can expect from demand generation. These were reported in a blog titled “An Inconvenient Truth About B2B Demand Generation.”

I have young boys who have seen Lion King many times. The results remind me of the scene when Simba returns to reclaim his kingdom from his uncle and his friends look at the desolation and say, “We’re going to fight your Uncle for this?” If you’re good at inbound marketing/demand generation, you have to generate 70 inquiries to gain one conversion that leads to revenue for a 1.47 percent conversion rate.

We marketers do indeed weave a tangled web. Why did I include demand generation in my bio? It’s a keyword that gets me ranking on the search engine. In fact, one of my earliest blogs, “Social Enablement Strategy,” popped up in the search engine results as I navigated my way through the tangled web.

Your Turn

Does any of this confuse you? I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions to the best of my own personal knowledge.