The prevailing theory of Demand Generation starts from the premise that you (or your client) has got a fairly decent supply of something that you want to sell – all you need to do is provoke/cajole/plead/badger people into wanting it so badly they will exchange hard currency for it.
That’s the “Generation” in Demand Gen – actually creating or conjuring something that didn’t really exist before. Which is true enough for a lot of B2C, particularly premium goods, luxury items and even a whole bunch of FMCG product. Stuff you didn’t even know you needed until someone convinced you that you just had to have it. That’s pretty much all of everything that’s stocked on Orchard Rd, really.
I never even thought of that! Oh, wait.
But I’m not sure it holds true for most of big-end-of-town-stye B2B. Does a company wake up one morning not even thinking about, say, storing their data or giving their employees the tools to do their individual tasks, and then somehow gets convinced to that storage or cloud access would be a great new idea?
Sure, there are the occasional new tech breakthroughs that might require true ‘Demand Gen’, all the way from education through to purchase. But even then, if you look at it in the context of need (the quarter inch hole), rather than product (the quarter inch drill bit), it’s unlikely the primary task is to make more people want holes.
You don’t even know the meaning of thirsty!
The trouble with Demand Gen is that there is often a physical limit to the size of the market, even in B2C. Kids in many countries in Asia, for example, are already chugging Milo or Coke at pretty much maximum daily capacity of liquified intake. The challenge is to design and normalise entirely new moments (and modes) of consumption (coke ice blocks, Milo energy bars) just to eke out new demand where none previously existed.
But a company doesn’t behave like a thirsty kid (unless your kid is a psychopath). It doesn’t pursue leisure or pleasure – it only purchases what it functionally needs, and often it purchases less than that, at least over the short term. Can you convince someone that driven to want something they fundamentally don’t believe they need? Seems too much like hard work to me.
Why do Demand Generation when you can do Demand Capture?
Seems more elegant, right? Rather than toiling to build something out of nothing, it should be more efficient to observe and respond to demand that is already there. But if that sounds like lazy (hu)man’s marketing, your’re right. The trick is to do it more obsessively, more effectively, more quickly, more cunningly than anyone else you’re competing against. To set traps, lay bait, remain silent, lie in wait and capture the little wisps of something that are floating by on the air: the nascent, latent demand that is yet to be truly demanded.
Nice trick, but how? *
* Not a theoretical question.