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Brand & Demand: The only two marketing strategies that matter

June 01, 202410 min read

Brand & Demand: The only two marketing strategies that matter

If you’re trying to generate new business, there are only two categories of marketing strategies that matter. Yes, only two. The problem is, that most marketers don’t know them and don’t understand the difference between the two. 

We get so obsessed with tactics, channels, and execution. But while there are hundreds of tactics to choose from, they all fall under one of two categories. 

  1. Brand marketing

  2. Demand marketing

Your job as a marketer is to decide which strategy to deploy and how much to focus on each. The tactics fall into place from there. It seems simple, but how do you know which category to use? The short answer: it depends on the goals of your business.

Marketers and business leaders often develop the wrong strategy for their business goals. Then, select the wrong tactics and channels from there. The strategy is the foundation. If you choose the wrong approach, you’re going to fail, no matter how well you execute.

Do you need to generate demand today or build your brand? And to what degree do you need to do which?

In this blog post, I’ll describe the difference between the two categories, discuss their pros and cons, and explain how to decide which strategy you should deploy.

So, what’s the difference between brand and demand?

Brand and demand accomplish two completely different things:

  • Brand marketing: Market to potential buyers who will eventually have a need, but don’t today.

  • Demand marketing: Find and influence buyers who need your services now or in the near future.

Brand is long-term focused and demand is short-term focused. Both can work in concert to drive revenue, but they drive completely different initial results.

Let’s dive into each and uncover their strengths and weaknesses.

Brand marketing - playing the powerful long game

With brand marketing, you are trying to build awareness and affinity with potential buyers that are not currently in the market for your services.

Here’s something important to understand: Only 5% of your potential customers are in-market for your services at any given time. 

The 95% is often overlooked. This is where brand marketing comes in as an effective tool to plant seeds for when the 95% enter a buying cycle.

The main benefit of brand marketing is its ability to differentiate your business amongst competitors. When done correctly, buyers see you more, know you better, and as a result, trust you. They build an affinity for your company, and when the need arises for your type of product or service, they are more likely to come directly to you for a solution.

Building your brand is a powerful tool for the long-term. Every well known brand does this because of how impactful it is. It may not show you results tomorrow, but when done correctly, it helps all other aspects of your business; demand marketing, hiring, partnerships, and more.

Think about how you buy products and services yourself. Would you rather use the services of a company who is validated and well-known, or a company you’ve never heard of before? The answer is obvious.

Furthermore, in the B2B space, buyers are more educated and aware than ever before. They have access to information and know more about the landscape than they used to. By the time buyers are in the market looking for a solution, they’ll  have already been influenced by years of marketing, word of mouth, advertisements, industry chatter, and other content they’ve seen before.

Your job is to educate and influence these potential buyers on a consistent basis, so that when they become the 5% looking for a solution, you can capture them and have a fighting chance against your competitors. If done well, you’ll be their top choice to begin with.

Plant the seeds. Build affinity, and reap the benefits later on.

The biggest downside of brand marketing is the challenge of tracking its impact on revenue. Due to the fact that 95% of your potential customers are not buying today, it usually takes quite a long time to impact sales.

It’s also tough to track its impact on sales and requires a good amount of up-front investment with little certainty. You often won’t see the effect for many months or years down the road, and when you do, it may be difficult to show that it was the primary variable that influenced pipeline and sales.

Think about a TV commercial. Since there’s no easy way to track how many of your new customers saw the ad, you’re left trying to justify its investment. You may have anecdotal evidence, but how many of them came to you directly because of that ad? That’s difficult to say.

But that in no way means it isn’t worth doing. This is a trap I often see in the marketing space: an aversion to untrackable marketing activities and overinvestment in things you can track. This is a dangerous mistake that can put you on the hamster wheel of trying to scrape up whatever buyers are available at any given time. 

Brand marketing is a sacrifice you have to be willing to make in order to compete with the top players in your space over time. It's critical to make an impression on buyers long before they buy, even if you can’t clearly track its impact on a microscopic-scale.

Demand marketing - converting interest into sales

With demand marketing, you are trying to get users to take an immediate action that leads them closer to a sale. The key word is immediate - you are attempting to influence them right now. You are either influencing buyers, capturing leads, or ideally, a combination of both.

The main benefit of this strategy is its ability to generate sales quickly. It’s also much easier to track and requires less up-front investment. When done correctly, buyers find you when their need is the strongest and you’re able to influence them into purchasing your solution.

However, it’s a short-term play that requires you to be extremely precise in your messaging, timing, and follow-up. Because of the short-term nature of this strategy, the main downside of is how intensely competitive it is. You are getting in front of buyers late in their decision making process, making it more difficult to differentiate your business amongst competitors. It also requires constant investment to maintain over time.

Even though you’re only dealing with 5% of your total market at any given time, you can’t ignore the consistent and immediate opportunity in front of you, so you should find a way to influence and capture these buyers. This is what demand marketing is all about.

The good thing is, you can usually predict the places buyers are going to start looking when the need for a solution like yours arises. You can intercept them once there’s already demand and strike while the iron’s hot. In addition to capturing them, there is an opportunity to influence them while they’re looking to purchase.

Think about a Google search. A user goes to Google and searches for software. They visit websites, look at reviews, and gather information. During this, they give off signals that show they’re in-market. Their search behavior makes their intention of purchase apparent, and vendors have a chance to capture them. They may even request to talk to your sales team in an attempt to gather more information. During this evaluation process, you attempt to show up as a viable option to consider.

Not only can you show up in front of buyers, you still have some time to influence them. They will be looking at product features, capabilities, and proof of success with your other customers. They will be eager to see how your solution can help them. During this process, you can engage them with a relevant message that can give you a seat at the table in their decision making process.

This is the power of demand marketing. It requires much less guesswork and allows you to immediately influence the thing that matters most: revenue. You are also more able to clearly predict and forecast what your inputs will yield. After you’ve been doing it for some time, demand marketing allows you to put X dollars in and get Y dollars out, consistently. Marketing, finance, and executives are typically fans of this capability. 

And the impact can be shown much more quickly since these buyers are going to make a decision soon. Demand marketing is so effective that many companies can thrive off of it alone for a very long time before making big brand investments.

All that said, demand marketing alone can also put you in a troublesome spot. Few people will know about you until late in their buyer journey, leaving you scrambling to gain authority when the pressure is on. Without a strong brand presence, you’ll often be fighting from behind, trying to explain who you are and prove your worth. That's a tough place to be, especially in a large, complex sales process.

These buyers are usually well educated and probably have an affinity to some brands already. They have often already identified requirements for the project before they decide to talk to your sales team and you’ll be coming into the picture after the groundwork has already been laid.

This is the trouble with demand marketing. By solely relying on it, you’re hoping to win over buyers who already have opinions, preconceived notions, and favorites. If they were not already warmed up with previous brand marketing, they will have very little connection to you and your business, which will put you in a spot of fierce competition. You’ll be analyzed more stringently, less concessions on features and capabilities will be made, and win rates will likely be lower because of it.

Demand marketing is an extremely powerful marketing strategy that every business should focus on to ensure consistent pipeline and sales. It’s great at proving its impact, but shouldn’t be the sole marketing strategy you deploy, unless you’re in the extremely early stages of your business.

Conclusion: combine the two, with one focus

When deciding a marketing strategy for your business, it’s really not about picking between the two, but more about deciding how much you should focus on each.

These two strategies work together. If you have a strong brand engine, demand marketing is just a way of successfully capturing those warmed up buyers as they come into the market. The better brand, the easier it will be to create and capture demand.

You should also have a deep level of understanding and alignment of your business goals and objectives. No marketing strategy will work if it doesn’t impact the metrics the business cares about most.

From there, consider how much room you have to begin influencing out of market buyers. If you have a strong engine of leads, pipeline and sales, but have poor brand awareness and lower win rates, it’s worth considering shifting some budget over to more brand marketing. This is where most businesses find themselves after figuring out how to capture demand as it typically comes first out of a dire need to drive sales early in the business's lifetime.

While it’s a less common scenario, some businesses have managed to build excellent brands, but may not be able to consistently bring in and convert leads to sales at a high rate. If you’re in this spot consider fine-tuning your demand efforts to ensure the brand equity you’ve built translates to sales at the rate it should be.

I typically suggest businesses start with building a strong demand engine before focusing on building their brand. Without demand coming in, you may not survive long enough to see the fruits of your efforts in the brand department. However, ultimately, if you want to compete with the top players, brand marketing must begin taking more and more investment over time.

Combine the two, determine which needs more budget, and allow the tactics you select to fall in place because of your tight alignment with the business priorities.

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