What is Demand Marketing?

Marketing as a business discipline is ever-evolving.  Arguably the only ‘constant’ in marketing today is constant change. This is particularly true for Demand Marketing, which today finds itself at a crossroads. Answering the question, “What is Demand Marketing,” requires some context – particularly given a substantial shift in its core mission over the past twenty years.

So we’ll tackle the definition and then explain how we got here.

What does Demand Marketing mean today?

Here is a modern, functional definition for Demand Marketing:

Demand Marketing is the discipline through which companies 1) orchestrate customer engagement and 2) provide lift to pipelines. It is a strategic component of a company’s overall go-to-market motion — complementary to and collaborative with a company’s sales and channel organization(s).

“Orchestrating customer engagement” includes:

  • Educating along the buyer journey
  • Coordinating points of interaction – online and offline
  • Maintaining a 360-degree view of buyer behavior
  • Managing go-to-market processes, technology systems and data

“Providing lift to pipelines” includes:

  • Contributing opportunities
  • Assessing buyer and organizational intent
  • Optimizing demand investments against sales outcomes

The activities that comprise Demand Marketing are inherently inter-disciplinary – encompassing elements of people, process, content, technology and data.

The connective tissue that brings together these activities is the customer buying journey as an organizing principle. Strategic Demand Marketing thus seeks to operationalize engagement, nurture and conversion of customers through this buying journey.

Modern Demand Marketing is separate from – but shares overlapping responsibilities with – disciplines that are defined as brand marketing and product marketing. But arguably, Demand Marketing is eclipsing them both – and taking over responsibilities that were once claimed by each.

Demand Marketing Eclipsing Other Disciplines

What did Demand Marketing ‘used to’ mean?

“Historically, marketing teams [were] tied to soft outcomes, such as awareness and branding, that are difficult to measure,” we note in another ANNUITAS report. “But now, business leaders expect marketing to prove its value in a more concrete way: by predictably contributing to sales and revenue lift.”

This is the turning point, which has re-defined Demand Marketing – shifting from tactics to a strategic objective.

In the past, Demand Marketing was focused on two elements. The first was direct sales enablement – a supporting role – and it was not necessarily called Demand Marketing. Field marketing, lead generation, demand generation, and lead management are all precursors (and components) of modern Demand Marketing. Often this type of sales enablement was defined by specific tactics, such as list purchases and field events. It was driven by random acts of marketing, and the outcome of these collective activities was largely to identify names for sellers to contact.

The second element Demand Marketing focused on was engaging in a largely ‘inside-out,’ interruptive, ‘megaphone’ approach to build brand and awareness. Yet such a POV misses the significant evolution of how customers buy and the shift in power from seller to buyer that has occurred over the past twenty years.

So, we were either digging up prospect names for sellers and/or shouting at customers – but we weren’t ‘engaging,’ and we weren’t closing the loop.

Let’s correct this POV:  Companies do not ‘create’ demand; customers’ pain points and needs create demand. Effective Demand Marketing captures and helps to shape it by operating ‘outside-in.’

I noted in my 2012 book, Balancing the Demand Equation:

What we see today is that decades of inefficient methodologies and beliefs around B2B marketing and sales strategy are literally crumbling.  Mad Men tactics were able to persist in a nascent Web 1.0 world.  But the new dynamics of a Web 2.0 world — which have given B2B buyers more tools than ever to consume content when and where they want, to circumvent vendor interactions and to better engage one-to-one with peer insights — are changing the fundamental equation of what it means to successfully market and sell to modern B2B buyers.

That is where Demand Marketing has come from. But as we noted, the practice is changing. So where is it going?

How is Demand Marketing evolving?

Two factors are most responsible for reshaping Demand Marketing into a more strategic discipline.

One, the buyer empowerment noted above has caused a shift in companies’ fundamental approach. Companies are moving from an inside-out, product/solution-led approach to a pain-point-led, buyer-centric customer strategy.

“More businesses will shift to a customer-led growth mindset in 2020. By placing customers at the core of their marketing strategies …” notes a post on The Drum.

Demand Marketing is thus picking up the mantel of leadership amid this evolution.

Two, the Growth Marketing movement is rapidly maturing – shifting to a new phase – and the concept of optimizing growth as a strategic discipline is rapidly taking hold.

Growth Marketing is evolving past optimizing individual tactics and becoming a discipline of orchestrating the entire marketing, sales and product ecosystem. It’s becoming a holistic view that takes into account every touchpoint a customer has along his/her buying journey – both pre- and post-sale – and brings focus to improving that end-to-end experience so that ultimately the entire customer lifetime value increases.

These converging factors are reshaping Demand Marketing; in fact, one might argue that Growth Marketing and Demand Marketing are on a course to become one discipline, longer-term.

It is a natural evolution given that Next-Generation Growth Marketing and Strategic Demand Marketing share a common mission. Both are driving to become more outcome-oriented by increasingly focusing on the customer-behavior result of Demand Marketing activities over and above intermediary objectives such as ‘leads.’

It’s also a necessary evolution. “Demand Marketing should be held to a clear, high standard of incremental – i.e., ‘net’ – contribution to sales. It should be held to the standard of being able to provide lift,” I note in another post.

It’s also a timely evolution, given that achieving sustainable, repeatable, predictable demand has increased exponentially in the current macro business environment.

Learning more about Demand Marketing

ANNUITAS works with clients to transform their Demand Marketing and has built a number of reports and blog posts that cover elements of Strategic Demand Marketing and Next-Generation Growth Marketing.

See below for a curated group of reports that should help you further answer the question “what is demand marketing”:

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