Demand Generation is Not the Same as Content Marketing or Inbound Marketing

B2B Demand Generation is a “Revenue-focused” B2B Marketing function that creates targeted interest and inquiry in the company’s product or service and directly drives sales pipeline and accelerates revenue.

Demand Generation is a very strategic and complex B2B function and requires a lot of deep domain expertise. Demand Gen is a lot more than content or inbound marketing. But unfortunately, they are sometimes confused which causes CEOs and companies to recruit professionals or specialists in content or inbound marketing instead of recruiting Demand Gen executives and specialists who have the overall and complete domain expertise in this complex B2B “revenue-focused” function.


The Confusion about Demand Gen vs. Content Marketing or Inbound Marketing

There are a few confusions about Demand / Lead Generation which cause major problems for sales. Many executives think that Demand or Lead Generation is the same as Content Marketing or Inbound Marketing.  I’ve seen this misunderstanding derail a lot of sales teams from hitting their number – for example, unfortunately, I’ve seen this lead many companies to create wrong roles and hire wrong people (i.e. like hiring a writer to create more content rather than hiring a solid Demand Gen expert).

That misunderstanding of what Demand Gen really is and how it works has real ripple effects on the sales team and the company. I don’t know why many CEOs or VPs of Sales think that Content Marketing (or Inbound Marketing) is the same Demand / Lead Generation.  One of the first unfortunate missteps caused by this misconception is that companies design their Marketing Strategy incorrectly starting with the People Plan and they go out to recruit for the wrong roles and therefore don’t hire the right demand generation professional.  And having a wrong marketing org will create those ripple effects and create problems for the sales team. This is why I wanted to write this blog article hoping that it will create awareness and, most importantly, will help companies plan correctly by understanding Demand Gen.


What is Content Marketing?

Also, one of the reasons causing this misunderstanding is the popularity of both Content Marketing as well as Inbound Marketing. Let’s first define Content Marketing.  According to the definition from the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.” Content Marketing is just a spoke in the bigger Demand Generation wheel. It’s an important piece but it’s still just a piece of the overall strategy.


What is Inbound Marketing?

Now let’s define Inbound Marketing according to Hubspot (the original inventors who coined Inbound Marketing) – “Inbound marketing is about creating valuable experiences that have a positive impact on people and your business… You attract prospects and customers to your website and blog through relevant and helpful content. Once they arrive, you engage with them using conversational tools like email and chat and by promising continued value. And finally, you delight them by continuing to act as an empathetic advisor and expert.” They also summarize the Inbound process as “Attract > Convert > Close…” (and they add Delight at the end too). Simply put, Inbound marketing is one of the spokes in a big Marketing wheel’s strategy and is all about driving leads to your website rather than doing a traditional Outbound or interrupt-based marketing. Many common tactics of Inbound include using content assets such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, and white papers that help establish you as a thought leader but they also help drive organic traffic to your website (because your content is indexed by Google). Content Marketing is a central piece of Inbound Marketing (which is very content-driven itself). Therefore Content Marketing is part of Inbond Marketing, and Inbound Marketing is one type of Demand Generation.


Content & Inbound are Just Components of a Complete Demand Generation Strategy

To think of Content Marketing or Inbound Marketing as equating to Demand Generation can create risk for your sales organization because Demand Gen is a far bigger strategic function. And erroneously hiring a couple of content writers to create new content is not going to generate demand and leads by itself.  As for Inbound Marketing, while it’s the most efficient and cost-effective type of marketing today, it’s very important to note that Inbound by itself is not enough to hit aggressive B2B SaaS goals – while outside the scope of this article, you should do “Allbound” which includes Outbound (not just Inbound) as part of your complete Demand Generation strategy.

Content assets are very important to creating an effective Demand Generation process as shown by the figure below.  You have to engineer such a process that the right types of content assets are aligned correctly to the programs that drive the right stages of the Demand process.

Figure: ” Buyer’s Journey Map Framework” by SiriusDecision (now Gartner).  This shows how Content Marketing and the content assets play a supporting role inGenerationneraiton.


The Sirius Decisions Buyer’s Journey Map Framework


As shown above, having content on your website (like a blog) helps your SEO and also helps position your company (branding) and can talk about your product (product marketing).  And content in the form of eBooks or whitepapers are “assets” that your marketing can “offer” in some of the marketing campaigns (email campaigns, syndicated campaigns, etc.).  But again, these are just components of a much bigger Demand Gen machine – piece that fit one by one into a much larger puzzle.


Content Marketing Includes Content Strategy – What Content Works At Which Stage – for example, here is a recent survey of what works in Lead Geneartion.  Knowing what content works is very important. But it still is just focused on content and not the entire Demand Gen strategy that drives leads – this is one of the reasons why a lot of executives (those who have never done LeadGen) think that Content Marketing is the same as Demand Gen. Again, the point is that content is just a slice of the much bigger pie.  It’s one of the components but it’s not the entire Demand Gen.

Demand Gen content marketing survey


In this post, I wanted to share that companies who think they can rely just on writing Content will not have an effective Demand Generation in place – content is not a silver bullet to drive consistent lead flow to accelerate the Sales Pipeline.  And Inbound Marketing also is not the silver buillet that will drive your leads for the sales team to hit their sales targets.  It’s the entire Demand Generation which is necessary to have in place to drive sustainable revenue.


Note: In the blog post above, I use Demand Generation and Lead Generation and Demand Creation synonymously (i.e. I admit to proactively choosing to ignore the precise and pedantic nuances of these definitions because these all *generally* mean the same thing in the context of this article.