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Demand Generation vs. Inbound Marketing: Rivals or Relatives?

05 August 2022

Life isn’t the same as it was two years ago.. So why are you still treating the B2B landscape like it’s 2012?

Your sales and marketing strategies must keep up with the market and the customer evolution. 

And that means not being hung up on inbound marketing.

You need to hold the attention of customers before they interact with your sales team. Sure, you can do this with inbound marketing strategies that attract attention to quality content. But that won't suffice anymore.

What you need is for demand generation to take your pull marketing to the next level (pull marketing is a strategy that uses SEO, social media, and other non-intrusive methods to draw customers to a brand).

Now, I’m not saying you have to pick a side in the demand generation vs. inbound marketing discussion right now. But you should really look into their strengths and weaknesses if you want to keep clients coming.

What is demand generation?

Demand generation marketing takes a holistic approach to drive awareness and interest in a company’s products or services—all while bringing sales into the fold.

You don't push prospects to tap the buy button. Instead, you meet them in channels where they hang out. And you engage in activities to show your expertise, build authority, and expand your audience. Sort of like “How do you do, fellow kids?” but much better.

For instance, you may offer training programs to assert authority and create informative blog posts to show you're an expert. You can also provide trial demos to rope in new users.

With B2B demand generation, you're not just engaging with leads who have already expressed interest in your company. You're also capturing the attention of those who aren’t even aware they have a problem you can solve.

You’re not just sending email blasts to prospects on your mailing list. You’re stirring up conversations on LinkedIn and drawing attention at trade shows.

And that is beautiful.

But for demand generation to succeed, you must keep the marketing and sales functions aligned. Primarily, you should be able to gauge intent signals and build a healthy pipeline of leads for your sales team.

Common demand generation strategies

If you want to do demand generation the right way, these data-driven strategies can help.

Achieve alignment between marketing and sales with data-driven leads

Successful demand generation starts with feeding your sales team qualified leads—as determined by data. 

True, the criteria for qualifying leads vary. But it all boils down to ensuring the marketing and sales teams are subscribing to the same metrics. 

Be as specific as possible. Don't target broad categories like “tech companies.” Instead, hone in on detailed qualifications like on-site activities, budget range, and subscription to specific business systems.

Use intent data to determine the best time to reach out to prospects 

Resist old habits. Don't just pour all your efforts into nurturing leads until they reach the end of the funnel. You’re better off engaging prospects at the right time. You can do this by leveraging intent data. 

So, how exactly do you track intent data? Like with basically everything in life, it’s debatable. 

I suggest a scoring system that follows the actions of qualified accounts. This way, you’re giving the sales team high-quality leads and also telling them the best time to reach out.

For instance, tracking tools like Leadfeeder can show you how long particular accounts have been staying on your site and which pages they’ve visited. 

Using this data, you can create scoring systems that quantify intent. Then, say, you can assign eight points to an account’s pricing page view and only 2 points for a blog view.

Set the right time to track metrics

It’s common practice to track metrics at both the top and bottom of the funnel. 

But that's not enough to assess how effective your marketing approach is. You need to check your metrics throughout the funnel, so consider TOFU (top-of-funnel), MOFU (middle-of-funnel), and BOFU (bottom-of-funnel).

You can measure engagement and consumption rates at the TOFU, demo or trial conversion at the MOFU, and marketing sourced pipeline and revenue at the BOFU. 

Highlight account-based metrics

Don’t just track high-intent channels. Take a closer look at account-based data. 

You can check the number of employees from a specific organization (or account) visiting your platform and the pages they are viewing. You’ll get a wealth of information that will help you identify high-intent accounts. 

Account-based marketing (ABM) tools like Leadfeeder make the initiative much more accessible. So there’s no reason for you to miss out on this promising bandwagon.

We’ve shown you what B2B demand generation is. Now, let’s look into the inbound marketing definition and see how it relates to demand generation. 

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing draws in potential customers with valuable and relevant content. It's aptly called pull marketing. 

Here, you don't interrupt your audience with outbound marketing tactics like direct mail and unsolicited ads. You catch people's attention with events, blogs, and social media posts that answer their questions, solve a problem, or simply build connections.

You know you’re doing inbound marketing right if you’re increasing the awareness of your brand and people’s trust in it. Instead of focusing on closing sales, you make it your mission to empower your audience and help them meet their goals.

Popular inbound marketing strategies

HubSpot did a great job at splitting inbound marketing strategies into three groups that are supposed to:

Attract clients

What you need to do: Devise ways to raise the awareness of your brand and attract potential customers. Create content that acknowledges specific needs, arouses emotions, solves problems, or improves the way people or businesses do things.


  • Create videos that catch people’s attention and hold the potential to go viral.

  • Post content on social media that spark conversations.

  • Write informative blog posts that mirror the values of your target audience and answer their questions.

  • Publish ebooks and white papers that demonstrate your expertise and ability to solve problems.

It’s not enough that you’re creating high-quality content. You need to put together an SEO strategy that increases the likelihood of search engines leading people to your content.

Engage with clients

What you need to do: Don’t just attract people; make them feel invested in your brand with marketing tactics that compel them to take action or actively engage with you.


  • Send personalized emails. 

  • Integrate effective calls to action.

  • Ask for reviews.

  • Host interactive webinars.

  • Use automation to instantly respond to questions or requests for assistance. 

You know your strategy is working if your audience is not only attracted to your brand but also feels attached.

Delight clients

What you need to do: When encouraging people to engage with your brand, make sure they’re having a delightful experience too. This increases the chances of them coming back for more. 


  • Train your staff to become advisors who are adept at providing after-sales support. 

  • Offer discounts for your customers’ next purchase.

  • Keep them in the know about exciting updates with newsletters.

  • Highlight customer journeys with user-generated content.

Delighting customers will not only keep them loyal but will also turn them into advocates of your brand.

How inbound marketing contributes to your demand generation strategy

You may have noticed that inbound marketing sounds a lot like demand generation. So, how is it different? Or here’s a better question: how does it contribute to your demand generation strategy?

The truth is, that inbound marketing falls under the umbrella of demand generation. After all, your efforts to create quality content and pull in people play right into the demand generation playbook. 

The success of your inbound marketing largely determines the number of prospects who’ll show up at your virtual doorstep. Demand generation then makes the most of the results with strategies that keep sales closely tied to your marketing efforts.

But while they play along well, it’s important to distinguish between inbound marketing and demand generation. Otherwise, you may end up forgetting other methods of demand generation like sales enablement and lead scoring.

How Leadfeeder balances the two

At Leadfeeder, we fuel our inbound marketing with search-engine-optimized blog posts that drive traffic growth. We take it a step further with our demand generation strategy of distributing this content on social media channels and other relevant platforms. 

Beyond just pulling people in, we find them where they hang out. And, of course, we empower the sales team with intent data and metrics that tell them the best time to engage with the leads.


You need an approach to marketing that mirrors the evolution of the B2B buying journey. And demand generation does just that. 

It veers away from traditional marketing methods that organize activities around a linear pipeline. It doesn’t strive to move leads from one stage to the next. Instead, it meets prospects right where they are and keeps the sales team informed of their unique journey.

Yes, inbound marketing strategies attract prospects, but they should only be used as a component of a comprehensive demand generation approach. So it’s not about demand generation vs. inbound marketing; the real trick is to learn to use them both.

Note: Sign up for Leadfeeder to find out how you can track high-intent site visits.

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