The Great Shift: Why Brand is Eclipsing Demand Generation at B2B Tech Companies
At the dawn of digital marketing, communications became solely about demand generation. The ‘spray and pray’ strategy became the norm, a crude, direct, and arguably soulless approach, aimed to yield as many leads as possible with minimal finesse.
The world of B2B marketing was essentially turned into a high-stakes numbers game, where a higher volume was equated with higher success.
What is Demand Generation?
Demand generation, in essence, is a marketing and sales strategy aimed at attracting interest in a company’s offerings and amplifying the awareness strategies from marcom and PR teams, with the ultimate goal of driving leads and sales.
Some have argued, and I agree, that demand generation has been miscategorized and elevated beyond its real function: a critical, but purely sales-driven tactic.
It’s important to clarify here that asserting demand generation as a function of sales does not undermine its value. However, it’s about recognizing it for what it is – a mechanism that drives sales. It’s the fuel that powers the engine, but it’s not the engine itself. It’s a subset of marketing (some companies actually put it on the sales team), working in tandem with the sales team, focusing on tactical ways to generate leads.
And there have been consequences.
That trend in digital marketing seems to have magnified the importance of demand generation to a point where it obscures the broader and more strategic role of marketing. This undue focus on demand gen has often resulted in a skewed perception of the marketing function.
The problem emerges when the pendulum swings too far, causing organizations to allocate disproportionate resources and emphasis on demand generation, often at the expense of strategic brand marketing.
When marketers are evaluated primarily on demand gen metrics like lead conversions, you will never experience its full potential to contribute to the broader strategic goals of the company.
As Forrester Research notes, B2B marketers who focus only on demand generation miss out on opportunities to engage with customers post-sale and cultivate lasting relationships. A Harvard Business Review study found that customers who feel engaged by a company deliver a 23% premium over average customers in terms of profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.
When Did the Shift Start (again)?
Now, we see a marked change, a paradigm shift, if you will. The conversation is starting to lean towards the value of meaning, purpose, and engagement over the previously established, somewhat one-dimensional lead gen strategies.
We started to see the pendulum swing back to brand in 2020 when COVID-19 happened. While most consumers were forced even deeper into the internet for their needs, an interesting trend happened at the same time.
The digital sphere became even more noisy. It was becoming even more difficult for companies to reach their audiences because of all the noise.
But what cuts through that noise? Brand, values, meaning, purposeful engagement and conversations.
This shift has now evolved into a full-blown trend that has begun to reshape the entire B2B tech marketing landscape.
I am not alone in observing this trend.
A 2022 report by Deloitte Insights identified a growing emphasis on brand purpose and authenticity as top priorities for companies. This is a clear departure from the traditional demand gen paradigm and a resounding endorsement of the shift toward brand and meaningful engagement.
Salesforce is another example. While they undoubtedly employ demand generation strategies, a significant part of their success can be attributed to strategic brand marketing initiatives. Their commitment to thought leadership, customer success narratives, and industry reports all contribute to their brand value and industry authority, going far beyond the purview of demand gen.
A report by Salesforce highlighted that 71% of customers expect companies to communicate with them more due to the pandemic. Businesses had to show they understood and empathized with the challenges their customers were facing. This required a shift in tactics away from volume-based demand generation and towards more targeted, authentic, and meaningful interactions.
IBM was also part of that shift. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, IBM launched the “Call for Code Global Challenge” initiative, encouraging developers to work on tech solutions to tackle COVID-19. This move not only underscored IBM’s commitment to social issues, but it also allowed them to engage meaningfully with their audience in a manner that was both authentic and directly relevant to their brand.
Another example can be found in Twilio, a cloud communication company. They released an Impact Report in 2020, detailing how their communication tools helped businesses, healthcare providers, and educational institutions to remain connected during the pandemic. It was not a sales pitch, but an assertion of their commitment to their customers and a demonstration of their impact during a time of crisis.
I have long been a staunch proponent of this transition. We’ve seen that successful B2B marketing is no longer about simply being the loudest voice in the room. That’s nearly impossible anyway these days, with so much noise to cut through.
Instead, it is about conveying a compelling narrative, one that is imbued with the brand’s core values and mission. It is about meaningful, mutually beneficial engagement, and fostering long-term relationships.
In a landscape increasingly dominated by tech companies, each vying for attention, it’s never been more critical to build a unique, authentic, and purposeful brand identity.
A study by LinkedIn revealed that 64% of consumers have switched, avoided, or boycotted a brand based on its stand on societal or political issues . This emphasizes the necessity of ensuring a brand’s mission aligns with the values and aspirations of its audience.
People don’t want to be talked to all day long.
The Bottom Line
The challenge here is twofold. Firstly, to articulate and amplify a brand’s purpose clearly and consistently. Secondly, to foster genuine engagement with your audience – to move beyond mere transactions to create relationships.
At Omnia, we guide our clients through this evolution from the ‘spray and pray’ approach to a more nuanced, value-based approach. We empower them to tell their stories, communicate their purpose, and engage meaningfully with their audience.
No longer are B2B tech companies mere vendors, they are now thought leaders, influencers, and change-makers in their respective industries. This transition from demand generation to brand marketing is not just about redefining marketing strategy; it’s about redefining the very identity of these businesses.
This shift may not be easy, and it certainly won’t happen overnight. But the rewards are worth it. It is time to take a bold step towards authenticity, purpose, and meaningful engagement. The days of ‘spray and pray’ are numbered; the era of brand marketing has arrived.
- P. Khera, “What is Demand Generation Marketing?” Forbes, 2017.
- Deloitte Insights, “The Rise of the Social Enterprise: A New Paradigm for Business,” Deloitte Insights, 2022.
- L. Ramos, “Is Demand Generation the Weak Link in Your Company’s Sales Chain?” Forrester, 2018.
- K. Thompson, “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” Harvard Business Review, 2015.
- Salesforce.com, “Marketing Cloud,” Salesforce, 2023.
- Salesforce, “State of the Connected Customer Report,” Salesforce, 2020.
- IBM, “Call for Code Global Challenge,” IBM, 2020.
- Twilio, “2020 Impact Report,” Twilio, 2020.