When ski goggle brand Glade Optics built and launched its website in 2016, founder and CEO Curt Nichols thought they were ready to go—but something was missing.
“I made the mistake that I think a lot of entrepreneurs probably make, which is the idea that, ’Oh if I build it, they will come,’” Curt told Shopify Masters. “I had spent all this time trying to dial in the product … and then I built the website, and just sat there like, ’Oh yeah, there is this whole other component of this business, where I actually have to generate demand.’”
Eventually, Nichols discovered a demand-generation marketing strategy that worked for Glade Optics. If you’re struggling with your own demand generation strategy, you’re in the right place. Learn what demand generation is, strategies you can use, and how to measure them.
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What is demand generation?
Demand generation is a marketing strategy that creates awareness and builds your brand’s reputation in order to drive business growth. Put simply, it’s the practice of getting would-be customers excited about your products or services.
There are many different demand-generation strategies. Marketers know an effective demand-gen strategy touches every stage of the sales funnel, from educating potential customers to maintaining the interest and trust of existing customers.
Demand generation vs. lead generation
The key to understanding the difference between demand generation and lead generation comes down to the question: What is a lead? Leads are potential customers who have shown interest in your product or service and, in many cases, provided their contact information. Therefore, lead generation focuses on obtaining contact info from members of your target audience who are interested in your product, so you can further nurture the relationship.
Consider other ways demand generation and lead generation are different:
- Content creation: Both demand- and lead-generation efforts involve creating high-quality content relevant to your business and your target audience.
- Goals: The shared long-term goals of demand and lead generation are attracting customers, creating demand, and increasing revenue.
- Marketing and sales involvement: Demand-generation and lead-generation tactics typically involve sales and marketing teams to ensure goal alignment and consistent messaging.
- Content creation: Lead generation often uses gated content—like ebooks, whitepapers, webinars, reports, or videos—to obtain contact details. A demand-generation campaign focuses on generating freely available, helpful content like blog posts or YouTube videos.
- Goals: Lead generation’s short-term goal is collecting leads (contact information), while demand-generation programs are designed to pique interest in the brand.
- Marketing and sales involvement: The sales team is likely to be more involved with lead-generation strategy. They may implement a lead-scoring system and give the marketing team feedback on the number of high-quality leads.
Strategies for effective demand-generation marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Free tools
- Influencer marketing
- Paid ads
- Public relations (PR)
- Social media marketing
How do you create demand? By showing your target audience the value of your product or service. Here are a few ways to set up a demand-generation program:
Content marketing involves creating content relevant to your brand and target audience, such as blog posts, podcasts, and videos. Content marketing is inbound marketing, meaning it does not explicitly try to sell anything. Instead, content marketing builds brand awareness and provides value to the user without asking for anything in return.
Email marketing involves sending targeted emails to promote products and services or build relationships. It’s one channel where demand- and lead-generation strategy overlap, because contact information is necessary.
“I love email as a marketing channel,” says Glade Optics founder and CEO Curt Nichols in an interview with Shopify Masters. “I would strongly encourage anybody out there to start building their list, and getting really serious about that, because to this day, email drives about 25% to 30% of our revenue.”
If your business provides an app or service, consider offering a free trial or other free tools to increase brand awareness and build your reputation with customers. For example, Shopify offers several free business tools, like a profit margin calculator. Some tools, like Shopify’s bar code generator, require an email address, making them lead-generation sources as well.
Paid ads, like display ads on search engines and social media platforms, aren’t just about conversion. When appropriately targeted, display ads can also increase brand awareness—the extent to which your brand is recognized and remembered by consumers in your market. In the early days of skiwear company Glade Optics, Curt found “digital advertising certainly was a big help in spurring demand.”
Public relations (PR)
Press can be a great way to drum up demand.
“I cold-emailed several editors who I knew had interest in writing about Asian food,” Fly By Jing founder Jing Gao told Shopify Masters. “Two of them ended up writing pieces about the campaign that went live on New York magazine and Saveur on the day of the campaign launching, and that led the campaign to be fully funded within a day.”
At Glade Optics, Curt also found success with PR. “We noticed a massive jump in conversion rate as we started to get logos of well-respected publications in the ski industry onto our front page,” he says. “When you see those types of articles about us, it makes people a lot more comfortable purchasing from us, so that’s been huge.”
Social media marketing
Instagram and Facebook were crucial to generating demand for Glade Optics.
“The ski goggle product itself was inherently shareable,” says Curt, who used a combination of paid social and organic social media marketing.
“I had a network of friends, family, and colleagues that were supporting me. They probably ordered the first 40 to 50 pairs of goggles. As they were going skiing, they were posting pictures. When you’re posting pictures of yourself skiing, goggles are usually the primary focus of the photo.”
How to measure performance of your demand-generation efforts
How do you know if your demand-generation activities are working? Here are some of the most popular demand-generation key performance indicators (KPIs):
- Conversions. There are several ways to measure when a user converts. Maybe they click a call-to-action (CTA) button, become a lead by filling out a form, or maybe buy something.
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC). Your customer acquisition cost is the cost of the entire marketing campaign divided by the number of paying customers acquired during the campaign.
- Customer lifetime value (CLV). Calculate CLV by multiplying the average purchase value by the average purchase frequency rate.
- Engagement. How you measure engagement depends on the medium, but session duration (time spent on a page) is one important metric.
- Search volume. Compare the search volume for your brand against competitors and over time to get a sense of brand awareness.
- Traffic. Track the number of new and returning visitors to your site and specific pages, noting the traffic sources (such as direct, organic search, or referral). Find your traffic-to-conversion ratio by dividing the total number of visitors by the number of conversions.
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Demand generation FAQ
How is demand generated?
Demand is generated when potential customers recognize a problem your product or service can solve and trust your brand to solve it for them. Demand generation involves creating awareness of and interest in your brand and building your business’s reputation through various marketing strategies.
What is an example of a demand generator?
Many marketing strategies can generate demand, from content marketing to online display ads, direct mail (snail mail), and social media marketing.
How can I improve my demand generation?
You can improve demand generation by developing and implementing a solid demand-generation marketing strategy that can include content marketing, email marketing, free tools, influencer marketing, paid ads, public relations (PR), and social media marketing. Measure your campaign’s success and tweak your strategy as needed.