How to Use Demand Generation to Fill the Top of Your Sales Funnel

To generate business from high-quality prospects, companies must have a plan to seamlessly integrate their demand and lead generation approaches.

Here’s an overview of demand gen, what media types are best suited to support these top-of-funnel marketing activities, and how to integrate demand gen with lead gen to support your entire sales funnel.

What is demand generation?

Demand gen focuses on the top and middle parts of the sales funnel (i.e., awareness and consideration). It helps you reach new audiences and get them interested in learning more about your products or services. Demand
gen marketing aims to generate brand awareness, build trust and credibility, educate audiences, and move them further down the path to purchase.

Lead gen picks up where demand gen leaves off by increasing the audience’s interest in your products or services, convincing them that your offerings can meet their needs, and converting them into customers.

How to build a demand gen strategy

Here are the essential steps in a demand generation strategy:

  1. Build awareness: Let people know you exist and create a positive impression and understanding of your brand. Use awareness to build trust in your brand as someone who can help solve problems and address opportunities.

  2. Align content and media mix with the customer journey: Position your brand as an authoritative industry leader by regularly publishing high-quality, relevant content that matches the steps of the buying process. Support this content with the right media types to support the customer throughout their journey.

  3. Nurture high-quality leads: Via data insights (e.g., past brand interactions such as content downloads or website visits), reach prospects at the right time with the right content to deepen connections and drive deeper purchase intent.

  4. Integrate Marketing Automation tools with CRM systems: Improve alignment and efficiency of marketing and sales teams by integrating marketing automation tools with your CRM system. This powerful combination provides leads with a data-driven, seamless journey from awareness through to close.

Best media types for demand generation

Demand gen starts with developing and executing integrated marketing and media campaigns to generate awareness among the target audience. Here are the top digital marketing tactics for effective demand generation:

  • Paid search: Pay-per-click (PPC) ads help you increase website traffic and connect with prospects searching for topics or solutions relative to what you provide. For demand gen, paid search keywords tend to be broader and more topical as opposed to paid search for lead gen which involves more specific, action-oriented terms.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Organic search is a sustainable and low-cost (but time-intensive) tactic to attract website traffic and increase brand visibility on search engine results pages. Combining organic and paid search can increase the impact of your efforts significantly.

  • Paid social ads: Social media is a great way to generate awareness of your business and your products and services. However, since organic reach of social posts is so low, paid social ads are important to add to the mix. These ad types allow you to effectively reach highly targeted audience segments by leveraging social media platforms’ vast amounts of user data.

  • Affiliate marketing: This channel helps you multiply your reach by having many affiliates in related business areas promote your brand and drive traffic from their websites to yours.

  • Programmatic advertising: Data analytics technologies help you buy digital advertising automatically and dynamically across the web, based on preset criteria such as prospect behaviors, interests, or past activities.

  • Retargeting ads: These social media, online display, and search engine “reminder” ads bring visitors back to your website after they have visited, giving them another opportunity to engage with you.

  • Events: While not technically a media type, events like tradeshows and conferences are a great way to generate awareness about, and interest in your brand among many people gathered to learn about a subject relevant to your business.


Integrating demand gen with lead gen

Once you have created awareness and interest, you need to continue moving prospects through their journey by educating them on why your products or services can solve their challenges and meet their needs. For example, drive them to your website to learn more about a specific topic or solution, encourage them to register for webinar, request a demo, or directly contact a salesperson by filling out a form.

As a result of most demand gen activities, prospects are considered marketing qualified leads (MQLs). An MQL is someone who has intentionally engaged with your brand (e.g., downloaded a white paper, filled out a form, or attended a webinar or event), and shows interest in your products or services. These leads become sales qualified (SQLs) when the contact shows enough buying interest (e.g., by requesting a demo or proposal or achieving a certain score) and proves a good fit for direct sales outreach.

Your marketing team needs an internal process to move MQLs to SQLs so sales can get in touch with prospects as soon as they show high purchase intent. Lead scoring is one of the most- used methods to facilitate collaboration between marketing and sales.

When a prospect takes an action or series of sequential actions (e.g., sign up for a webinar, download a whitepaper, schedule a demo) they should be assigned a score or ranking. Once they reach a certain score, they turn from MQLs to SQLs and are passed onto the sales team, who will further nurture the relationships and close the deal.

How to implement effective lead scoring

Effective lead scoring must address all of a prospect’s interactions with your brand across multiple touchpoints and align with your organization’s sales criteria. When executed well, lead scoring increases campaign performance, aligns marketing and sales,and improves efficiency.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system can serve as a single source of customer truth and the hub for managing demand gen and lead-scoring initiatives. A CRM system allows you to collect prospect data, determine their market funnel position, and focus your effort on those with the highest revenue potential.

You can also automate lead gen activities through marketing tools like Eloqua, Pardot, and Marketo. When integrated with your CRM system, you gain real- time insights into demand gen activity performance, how each prospect and/or segment interacts with your brand, and when a MQLs should be passed on to sales or targetedwith lead gen media campaigns.

Key to demand gen marketing success: connecting the dots

A successful demand generation strategy is an important first step in optimizing your sales funnel. By building brand awareness and authority, aligning content with the optimal media mix, defining lead nurturing processes and integrating marketing technology systems, you will be laying a clear path toward marketing maturity and transformative sales success.

About the author:


For over 20 years, Imaginuity has been combining imaginative thinking and innovative technology to create transformative results for our clients, their customers, and our people. Our services and platforms manage complexity to improve marketing outcomes.