Shifting from Lead Gen to Demand Gen: How to Do It Right

What demand generation isn't vs. what it actually means. And how to do it right
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  • Demand generation isn’t just un-gating your content or running a bunch of ads. It’s a strategic approach to build relationships with your audience by providing valuable content that speaks to their needs, with consistent and engaging brand presence across all relevant channels.
  • Building a media machine is critical in demand gen. This involves understanding your audience, growing a following, and utilizing subject matter experts to provide value and connect with your ICP.
  • Measuring success means ditching the end-result, conversion-focused mindset. You need to measure everything - including reach, engagement along with conversions. Evaluate what you do against the right metrics. For example, if you're running ads to drive LinkedIn views and shares, then it makes more sense to measure LinkedIn engagement instead of CTR to your website.

When filling up the pipeline, most marketers set their sights solely on generating leads, capturing user data, and moving them down the funnel quickly. 

And while there's certainly nothing wrong with lead gen, at Cognism, we've found focusing on demand generation enables us to be more effective at attracting quality leads and building relationships with our ICP.

That's why we've made the deliberate shift from a lead generation model to one that's focused on driving demand. Rather than focusing on forms and lead capture, we implement a holistic approach, providing tremendous value to our target personas. 

In this article, I'll walk you through exactly how we've done this at Cognism with tactics, key learnings, and advice on how you can implement a similar approach.

What demand generation isn't vs. what it actually means

Before diving into the nitty gritty of Cognism's demand generation approach, it's worth discussing misconceptions most people have about demand gen and setting the record straight on what it is.

Demand gen isn't about un-gating all your content and running paid social ads

Yes, demand gen can involve making your content accessible and leveraging paid social. But it's not just about these tactics.

Rather, demand generation is a strategic approach that involves building relationships with your audience, providing valuable content that speaks to their needs, and creating a consistent and engaging brand presence across all relevant channels.

It's not about producing 4x blog posts per week with an emphasis on volume

Churning out a high volume of blog posts won't necessarily lead to success in demand generation. Will your demand gen efforts involve producing more content? Sure. But at the end of the day, your focus should be on value, not volume. 

Demand gen isn't just about turning your content into one video snippet  

While it's true that video is a powerful marketing tool, demand gen isn't about simply turning your written content into video snippets. It's about determining which content formats best serve your audience and how to repurpose your content effectively. 

Demand generation isn't distributing the same content on as many channels as possible

A key component of demand generation is to drive awareness by getting in front of your target audience – but this doesn't mean you need to be everywhere. Instead, focus on the channels that matter most to your customers and double down on them.

It's not a set-and-forget exercise

Demand gen is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring and tweaking to ensure success. You must constantly review and analyze your data to make informed decisions about what's working and what's not.

All in all, demand generation isn't about a specific tactic, channel, or piece of content. It's about delivering information and knowledge that your ICP cares about, in a format they prefer, and via the places where they actually hang out. 

Building a media machine

We power our demand generation efforts through what we call a "media machine." Think of it as a framework or mechanism that guides our efforts around:

  • Getting to know our audience - Determining where they spend their time and identifying key trends our customers care about. 
  • Growing our following - We do this through our podcast, YouTube, and live events for different personas.
  • Providing value - We redefined our content creation processes to ensure teams can effectively identify the best topics for content production and what formats to use. We also leverage subject matter experts (SMEs) to deliver even more value to our audience. 

Redefining the content role

Content is a massive part of demand gen, which is why our content and DG teams sit closely together and are constantly aligned. 

This helps our content teams understand the entire marketing mix and produce the most relevant and impactful content pieces. Rather than having them write a bunch of blog posts, the group focuses on multiple formats, and those decisions are driven by audience research and DG insights. 

Implementing an effective content creation process

We know the buyer journey isn't linear, so we produce, publish, and distribute content in a non-linear way. Our audience gets various always-on content all at the same time. 

We have four key buckets for our content. They include:

  • Thought leadership - These are pieces that tackle key themes and trending topics. Content that falls into this bucket is typically further away from our product. 
  • Content with a dotted line to the product - This bucket contains content pieces that touch on the pain points that Cognism can address. 
  • Product - Product-centric content would be the bottom of the funnel pieces. They educate audiences on what our software does. 
  • Social proof - Social proof content are our case studies where we showcase customers using Cognism. 

Utilizing subject matter experts

As mentioned earlier, getting in front of our target audience and providing tremendous value are critical to our demand generation strategy. That's why we partner with SMEs to increase our reach and connect with the community. 

Two of the SMEs we've engaged with are Ryan and Morgan. They help drive authentic value through their content and speak about our audience's pain points. Ryan and Morgan are known as sales leaders in their space, so working with them allows us to tap into different (and trusted) voices, which also helps build up our following.

Rethinking attribution

Now that we've covered how we implement demand gen, let's look at tracking and measuring success. 

Ditch the conversion mindset

When shifting from lead gen to demand gen, you need to rethink your metrics for success. 

Part of doing this means ditching the conversion mindset. You need to accept that you won't always be able to attribute everything, and there isn't one report that can be the single source of truth. 

It's also important to remember that the buyer's journey isn't linear. For instance, someone can hear about Cognism through our podcast and then end up converting on the website. So while Salesforce might say that this person converted on the site, the reality is their journey started well before that. 

Measure everything

When implementing a holistic marketing strategy (i.e., demand generation), you need to look at things from multiple angles. To do that, you must measure everything. Things I used to think were vanity metrics are measures that I pay close attention to these days.

That said, there are two main areas you want to focus on:

Reach and engagement

  • Impressions, reach video views, frequency
  • CTR, engagement rate, likes, comments
  • Qualitative feedback/shares
  • Traffic, time on page, bounce rate


  • Leads
  • Anonymous conversions
  • Goal completions
  • Pipeline

Measure all these things with equal weight, and look at these metrics in conjunction with each other. 

Get clear on what success looks like

Success can look different from one company to the next, but here's some insight into how we do it at Cognism. 

When tracking the performance of our demand gen efforts, we run three comparisons to help inform effectiveness:

Performance over time - For example, if we're running a campaign via LinkedIn, we'll look at the engagement rate, the click-through rate, and the frequency. Are they improving or declining?

Performance against previous benchmarks - Then we ask, "How are these campaigns performing against our previous benchmarks? Is the campaign performing at the same level as before?

Performance against existing campaigns - We also compare the performance of a campaign with other current initiatives. 

Taking the steps above gives us a good idea of when something is starting to dip or diminish so that we can adapt or switch it off. 

Measure against the right metrics

When determining success, always ensure you measure against the right metrics. For example, for our product ads on LinkedIn, we measure against the "reach" objective. As such, we optimize the content in people's feeds to drive engagement and educate them on Linkedin without taking them away from the site. 

There are times, however, when we ended up reporting on click-through rates when we should've been reporting on reach. 

So, that's one thing you need to keep in mind. When you've identified your goals, see that your reporting mirrors those objectives.

When it comes to conversions, measure what you can attribute—and what you can't

It may sound confusing, but when determining conversions, look at things you can attribute along with those you can't. 

At Cognism, we look at those direct conversions but don't view them as north-star metrics because that could potentially lead us down the wrong path. 

What we actually do is examine general trends. 

We look at inbound leads versus the six-month average. If these are trending up, then we know we're doing the right things.

For attribution, it's good to look at your first and last touch UTM, direct conversions, and inbound trends; but make sure you mirror those metrics alongside your engagement metrics.  

All that being said, remember that you're never going to have a clean report that tells you exactly where to go or what to do. You'll have to rely a bit on your gut when measuring success.

Final words

Shifting from a lead generation model to a demand generation model can help you attract high-quality leads and build stronger relationships with your target audience. By implementing a holistic approach that involves providing tremendous value to your ideal customer profile, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and grow your following, conversions, and ultimately your bottom line. 

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