The future of demand generation – 2024 and beyond


Demand generation is rapidly changing and today’s marketers know it. You must be hyper aware of which demand gen channels are performing so you can spend your budget wisely. At the same time, you must always be exploring and testing new channels so when existing channels begin to show signs of overuse, you have options. 

For those who are new to the game – or anyone that needs a refresher – let’s start with definitions. 

Demand generation definition

First up, what is ‘demand?’

Harken back to your Economics 101 and recall that demand represents a person’s desire and ability to purchase something. But it doesn’t mean that just because someone seems interested in buying he or she has financial means to do so.

What is ‘demand generation?’

Demand generation encompasses all activities that help attract, engage, and convert likely customers. It’s about creating awareness and bringing these people into your marketing funnel based on their consumer need for the product you’re offering. It is not explicitly about selling at this phase, nor is it about gathering trackable leads (also known as lead generation). These efforts are, however, designed to translate to promising leads and eventually sales.

While lead generation is most often a short term strategy, demand generation is in it for the long haul. To decipher between these two, here is a real life scenario:

An example of a lead generation strategy would be a gated eBook where you would require an email address for the download, follow up on that download and attempt to create a meeting. Conversely, with demand generation, that same eBook would be ungated and readily available with the goal of measuring the impressions. 

Depending on your industry, ideal customer profile (ICP), and personas, demand generation may include a combination of:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing 
  • Paid ads (social, search)
  • Social media marketing (organic)
  • Trade shows and virtual events
  • Video/audio marketing (e.g. podcasts)
  • Forums/communities (e.g. G2)
  • Affiliate and referral programs/influencer marketing
  • Review sites
  • Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
  • Upselling or cross-selling campaigns

If you are a smaller business or have a small team, you may only be able to accomplish 3-5 tactics on this list. As your business grows and your team grows with it, you will likely add more tactics. The tactics to add on should be driven by your average deal size and complexity of the sale. For example, ABM may make sense for a larger deal size, but smaller deals may be driven faster via influencer marketing. 

Again, keep in mind that unlike traditional lead generation programs, which tend to focus on net-new emails or contacts, demand generation is focused on creating an environment to deliver net-new customers. Marketers should pay special attention to this reality. Filling your CRM with 1,000 new email addresses that never convert is a waste of time and money.

So, what’s the best approach for implementing a scalable demand gen program that delivers results? Let’s take a closer look.

How to improve demand gen in 2024 & beyond

Road with years 2023-24 on it

If demand generation is a multi-faceted endeavor that involves numerous disciplines, departments, and stakeholders, what can you do to maximize its impact for your company? Here are four steps to take today that will set you up for the future.

1. Work backwards

Whether you realize it or not, you already have programs in place that generate demand. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business!) To measure the impact of your existing demand gen efforts, jump into your CRM and pull a report of closed opportunities over the past year. You may be doing this on a month-to-month basis as you review large deals with the sales team, but stepping back and looking over a longer period is wise for demand gen planning.

Customize the report to include the originating source, such as outbound sales, existing customer upgrades, paid ads, social media, etc. Now analyze the data to understand where revenue is coming from. Visualizing your data as a pie chart can be a simple, yet effective way to understand what’s working—and what’s not. 

What can be frustrating for marketers is that all deals don’t necessarily show up under the correct channel. for example, we may have engaged a lead on LinkedIn, on our podcast and retargeted them with an ad. Then, when they are ready to engage, they look us up on Google and boom – organic search is credited with the win. Even if the sales reps are asking “how did you hear about us?” people’s recollection may be fuzzy at best. 

Takeaway – sometimes demand gen shows up in the wrong channel.

2. Develop a plan for collecting better data

As you analyze historical data, you’ll likely identify gaps that make it difficult to answer all of your demand gen questions. After all, customer data is not limited to basic contact information, such as job title, revenue size, and related opportunities. To truly understand demand gen’s impact on the customer journey, you may need to go deeper and begin collecting the following data.

Interaction data

Trade shows are great for generating lots of business cards but not for closing deals. One lead from a trade show may require dozens of sales and marketing interactions before he or she has the desire and ability to buy. Collecting web and email interaction data in your CRM provides in-depth insight for understanding which demand gen channels, campaigns, messages, and content influence a customer’s buying decision.

Behavioral data

Behavioral data is particularly useful for understanding the impact of your cross-sell and up-sell demand gen activities. For example, if you’re a software company, you might collect clickstream data from your app to measure interest in gated features. Simple adjustments to your product interface could have a major impact on awareness for and, as a result, demand for premium plans.

Attitudinal data

Customers can be an excellent source of new ideas, and demand generation is no exception. Why not ask your customers for demand-generating ideas? Survey your customers and ask them to share feedback on:

  • Which industry websites, journals, and publications do you read?
  • What type of content would you like to receive from us?
  • What would make you more likely to tell a friend about our company’s solution?
  • If you were the marketing manager for our company, where would you advertise?
  • What trade shows or virtual events do you regularly attend?

3. Align your sales & marketing teams

Gears labeled marketing and sales.

Sales and marketing teams are by far the largest generators of demand for companies. 

Incurring they are in alignment with one another is vital and can lead to big gains. When teams are on disparate systems, or even on the same system without visibility to each other’s data, negative outcomes can arise. Inconsistent terminology, misaligned objectives, and lack of visibility into the customer journey are just a few of the reasons why organizations consistently struggle to align these two groups.

If you’ve struggled to align your sales and marketing teams in the past, fear not. A well-structured demand generation initiative can be the perfect opportunity to foster cross-departmental alignment and simultaneously drive enhanced top-line performance. Alignment usually starts at the top, so your first step should involve gaining buy-in from sales and marketing leaders on a shared set of objectives, methods, and metrics.

Marketing should have a goal associated with pipeline – not leads. This creates more shared responsibility among teams and more accountability for lead quality on the part of the marketing team.

One tactic gaining popularity is Account Based Marketing, or ABM. Note that this tends to be most effective when sales and marketing teams use the same technology and when average contract value (ACV) is high enough to justify the time (subjective, but $10K+ is probably a good gauge.) 

With ABM, marketing and sales collaborate on specific organizations that would be a good fit for their product or service, and then target those organizations via multiple contacts on multiple channels. The idea is to create demand within the organization.

Whether using ABM or not, leadership must reinforce sales-marketing alignment as a priority. Once aligned on the big picture, leadership must continuously work together to operationalize the vision. 

4. Unify your demand gen systems into one platform

As you’ve probably noticed, there’s a blurred line between sales, marketing, and other demand generating functions. Allowing sales to work in one siloed system and marketing to work in another is not a viable solution in today’s competitive landscape. In short, you need the right technology to help you collect the right data, align your people, and understand what’s working.

Revenue generating teams want fewer, better systems. Ideally, they want one system that empowers them to visualize the buyer journey, create segmented lists of likely customers, and automatically engage buyers in a personalized way.

Unifying your demand generating efforts into one platform is a smart first step toward enabling this reality. Your revenue teams will spend less time on time-consuming data integrations and imports. They won’t need multiple logins to see what other teams are doing. They will have more time to spend on what matters most: developing highly targeted campaigns, programs, and initiatives that increase demand for your products or services. 

They’ll also have access to better data—and more of it—presented in a visually appealing way that simplifies decision-making and team alignment.

Maximize the impact of your future demand gen efforts

Customer behavior continues to change at a rapid pace. To compete, companies must view demand generation as a strategic initiative that requires buy-in from leadership, a commitment to cross-departmental alignment, and technology that supports data-driven demand generation.

Ready to see how a unified CRM for sales and marketing can help you take demand generation to the next level? Request a free demo with an Insightly representative. No commitment required.