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How to Build a Demand Gen Machine From the Ground Up

Over the last four years, Cognism has scaled massively. 

When Alice de Courcy (CMO) joined, it was just her and a team of three. Today, her B2B marketing team is nearly 40-strong.

A lot has changed over that time, and the team has learned many lessons.

In this episode of Demandism, Alice and Fran Langham, Global Head of Demand Generation at Cognism, share their demand gen secrets.

Want to execute the Cognism demand generation strategy?

Here’s the deal - you don’t need a 40-person team to build a demand gen machine. 

Every organisation is different and will be at various stages of size and growth. 

Instead, what’s required is a framework for thinking about it.

Keep scrolling to find out more. 👇


Work to be done framework

This is the framework used at Cognism, devised by Alice herself.

It can be implemented through any size organisation. 

You’re not limited to finding highly specialised roles either. You can keep some positions more general, covering multiple aspects of the framework. 

It’s split into four key sections:

How to Build a Demand Gen Machine From the Ground Up


1. Content

Let’s go through the must-haves for this section. 🔍

Subject matter experts 

A subject matter expert (SME) enables you to plug the gaps in your team’s knowledge. They power the media machine with forward-thinking and meaningful insights. 

Expert interviews lead the content, preventing assumptions. You can then package up this content in various ways.

If you’re in the early stages of growth, you might be unable to hire a full-time SME. But there are many other ways you can collaborate with one.


You could work with one on a freelance basis. Or someone with expert knowledge might already sit within your organisation.

To ensure your content is relevant and value-led, you’ll want to have regular conversations with your SME.

Understand content in all its formats

In many organisations, a typical content role is a combined approach of SEO and blog writing. 

But content doesn’t just mean writing a blog post!

Anyone working in a demand gen or content role must be able to repurpose content for multiple formats.

What do these content formats look like? Here are some examples:

  • Curating content off the back of a live event.
  • Identifying snippets that would be good to run on paid social.
  • Taking a blog post and creating a bigger content asset. Then running ungated static ads.

This is thinking about content with a demand generation mindset.

Considering “multiple content assets” is a skill set in its own right.

Journalistic content

This means creating content that engages the audience.

You need stories! Alice looks for a great writer and storyteller.

The goal is to build a media machine. The days of gated PDF e-books are over.

Alice told us:

“This could sit within one role, or you can get some of this from a demand generation person. That way, you could conquer two things within one role.”

But what is quality content?

Cognism writers follow some simple rules:

It has to be original.

No copy and paste allowed!

You’re never going to stand out with recycled content. What’s needed is a unique angle.

It has to contain actionable takeaways.

To pass the quality test, the reader must leave with actionable advice.

The reader should be able to apply what they’ve learned in their day-to-day.

It has to be engaging.

B2B content has a bad reputation; there’s no need to send your readers to sleep. 😴

Get ahead by writing a compelling narrative and using captivating visual media.

2. Capture demand

Alice defines capture demand as:

“Intent-based performance marketing that converts buyers when they are in market. Focused on conversions.”

So what do you need for this?

Access to someone (freelance or in-house) with a Google Ads philosophy tied to revenue. Not in-platform marketing metrics or MQLs. 

They must be aligned with the demand generation philosophy!

How do you ensure the right fit?

When hiring, it’s essential to understand what kind of marketer you’re talking to.

Here are the questions Alice asks:

  • “What’s your Google Ads philosophy?”
  • “High-level - how do you run ads, and what do you optimise for?”

Finding the right people who know how to run the platform for revenue can be challenging.

They need to understand the difference between creating demand and capturing demand. 

Capturing demand requires an understanding of bottom-of-funnel organic SEO opportunities.

Alice explains further:

“I believe those high-intent keyword phrases that you’re bidding on and running Google Ads campaigns for through paid. You should also have a strategy around organic and SEO.” 

“This could be the same person, or it could be split into different roles. It depends on the talent and where you’re looking.”

Budget management is crucial.  

A good way to assess their budget management skills is by asking them how they set up their budgets in previous roles.

3. Create demand

According to Alice, create demand is:

“Delivering value consistently to your audience, friction-free. Focused on education and enablement. Double down on in-feed consumption, 0-click content and optimising for consumption over conversion.”

This can be difficult to hire for!

What kind of profile is suitable? Alice says:

“They need to understand what a media machine is and how they will go about executing that.”

A critical component is being action-driven - someone who gets a lot of things done.

You want someone who always adds value. They can create an idea and get it live.

Alice said:

“Some people are great with ideas but don’t know how to start executing or delivering.”

“You’re looking for a ‘creation, ideation and process superstar’. They can go from a concept to live and build a scalable process around this.”

Additionally, they should be able to run create demand activities on paid social. 

This includes not optimising for conversions or running gated content plays. They should understand the demand generation philosophy.

4. Product marketing, messaging and positioning

This is the essential link back to the product.

Alice explained:

“They need to be able to take the product and articulate it into key assets, messages and positioning that can roll out in multiple formats.”

But what are these formats?

Video, web copy, persona docs and demo tours.

They power the website - which is your shop window!

Not only this, they power your product and social-proof advertising buckets.

Building bottom-of-funnel content is super important.

Breaking traditional habits

How do you get behind this change?

Clearly, a mindset shift is in order.

A new organisational structure requires re-structuring your own thinking.

Fran explained:

“I’ve been talking with the team about thinking differently – getting out of those traditional habits. I have old marketing habits based on conversion metrics and following a formulaic plan. Encouraging testing is super-important. The main thing is driving value and collaboration.”

Ready to jump-start your demand gen machine?

We haven’t scratched the surface yet!

Alice and Fran cover all the ‘build a demand gen machine’ fundamentals in the full episode.

They dive into KPIs, planning - and how to get started with a team of three!

▶️ Play the full episode below to find out more.

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