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The revenue-focused guide to demand marketing

Say goodbye 👋 to tired lead generation tactics that aren't bringing you in any revenue.

Scroll through this playbook to find out:

  • What demand marketing is
  • How to implement and track a winning strategy
  • The best way to sell this 'hairbrained' idea to your CEO

With insights from Chris Walker, CEO @ Refine Labs and Alice de Courcy, Cognism's very own expert CMO.

It's all 👇

What is demand marketing? 

If you’re looking for a way to reach more markets, build relationships with existing customers and create demand for new products or services, then demand marketing is for you.

It’s a more organic way to market across channels while building brand awareness. 

And the best part about it?

Results are based on revenue rather than leads!

So there’s less stress to get volume and more time to focus on revenue. 

To achieve the best results, you’ll want to add it to your go-to-market strategy to create customer engagement and shift pipeline focus to prioritise intent.

If you’re not sure where to start, no worries!

This guide is going to tell you everything you need to know about demand marketing.

Use this menu to navigate around the page 👇

Say goodbye to lead generation | The dark funnel of B2B marketing | Creating demand | Core channels for demand marketing | Educational content and distribution | Creating revenue | The two core tactics of demand marketing | Selling demand marketing to your CEO | Hiring a demand marketing team | Closing comments | Make a diamond difference with Cognism

Say goodbye to lead generation 

“Many companies build their marketing around transactional conversions of contact information so they can do outbound sales. This is a model they've been running for about 20 years now. But, it was hard to get contact information back then, so they started gating content, and it worked! But, gated content leads close at a low rate causing unproductivity across sales organisations.” 
- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

It’s time to say goodbye to lead generation!


Because when you strive to measure things, like leads, your focus isn’t on the right thing for your business.

The right thing for your business is how much revenue you’re bringing in.

And that’s where you need to put all your effort.

When you measure leads, you're forcing your marketing team to pull in leads who really aren’t interested in your product.

And you’re essentially just wasting time that could be used for revenue generation.

CMO Book - CTA banner_2

Leading to:

❌ The leads are cheap, but the customer acquisition cost (CAC) is high.
❌ Overall, it’s expensive, takes a lot of time and creates poor funnel conversion metrics.
❌ Buyers get annoyed, leading to a bad brand reputation.
❌ An imbalance across teams: marketing crushes target, but sales can’t make target because the leads aren’t good.

This is why we need to start thinking less like marketers who only focus on results and more like business leaders who only focus on revenue.

Which will lead to:

✅ The leads are more expensive, but the customer acquisition cost (CAC) is low.
✅ The funnel conversion metrics are higher, your teams smaller and more productive.
✅ Buyers are happy, leading to an excellent brand reputation and more sales.
✅ Perfectly balanced teams: marketing and sales crush target because the leads are good and have intent.

If you want to achieve these fantastic results, you’re going to have to focus on creating demand, rather than simply dangling some bait and hoping your prospect bites.

Which means:

Embracing the dark funnel of B2B marketing...

👇 Discover the four main ideas of the dark funnel 👇  

Idea 1: Build your brand | Idea 2: Change your marketing execution | Idea 3: Start tracking revenue metrics | Idea 4: Go to your audience


The dark funnel of B2B marketing 

First things first…

What is the dark funnel?

“It’s a term that means the places that buyers are engaging and making decisions that no attribution software or tracking can account for.”

- Alice de Courcy, CMO, Cognism

The dark funnel can not only shorten your B2B marketing funnel, but it allows you to create brand awareness and affinity, drive differentiation, create demand and increase conversion rates.

Not to mention it can help free you from getting stuck in a content trap.

For example:

Your team finishes a new piece of content, and you’re eager to get it up on your channels, but you’re not giving it time to optimise before moving on to the next bit of content.

With demand marketing and the dark funnel, you can use this content to create demand rather than capturing demand.

“Most marketing teams only focus on capturing existing market demand. They wait for people to look for them. Then try to capture it with SEO, SEM, review sites, and retargeting. They spend all their time and effort and money fighting over the 0.1% of the market that is actively buying.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

To start creating demand, you need to embrace four main ideas:

💡 Idea 1: Build your brand

By building a well-liked and well-known brand; you can create demand to better attract leads that actually convert.

💡 Idea 2: Change your marketing execution

Look into reaching out to your audience and offering them value for free, rather than gating your content for leads that will never convert.

💡 Idea 3: Start tracking revenue metrics

Stop focusing on how many leads your team brings in; instead, look at how much revenue they bring in and realign your goals based on these B2B marketing metrics.

💡 Idea 4: Go to your audience

You need to go to where your buyers spend their time and use that space to educate and inform them, rather than simply selling to them.

Once you implement these changes, you’ll be opening up a world of new opportunities.

Opportunities your competitors aren't yet utilising!

Watch Chris Walker and Alice de Courcy discuss the dark funnel 👇


🚀 Already sold? Now sell it to your CEO! Click 👇 to skip ahead 🚀

Find out how

Creating demand 

To start your demand marketing journey, you’ll need to build from the bottom up:

“Exclude pipeline marketing for now. This should be someone else’s responsibility while you focus on capture and demand. There's no sense in starting a podcast or trying to run LinkedIn ads at high spend if when someone gets to your website, they don't convert, and they can't get in touch with the person they want to talk to. They won't be moving, so they won't be buying.”

“So, if you're not doing this repeatedly and consistently, then optimising that part of the process is a good place to start. We've done this and seen conversion rates improve by 45 to 80%.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

Start by optimising your website.

It’s not going to do you any good if you have prospects visiting a site that's confusing, has broken links or doesn’t provide them with the information they’re looking for.

Here’s a quick checklist to help you get your site optimised:

  • Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • Does your content match your buyers’ intent?
  • Can your buyers get the information they need in as few clicks as possible?
  • Do you have clear CTAs?
  • Do you have too many pop-ups? 
  • Is your copy clear?

After that, start figuring out what channels you plan on using and how you're going to measure them.

“Demo page views and demo conversion rates are a good leading metric for non-page traffic. So you won't just be running a bunch of ads to drive people into the funnels because your conversion rates will go down on the form and sales, which is not what we want as marketers.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

We want to optimise the entire process, not just one part of the process at the expense of other ones.

Look at your demo page views, your home page and direct traffic.

Once you're out of Google Analytics and on your website, review your channels and see how they influence your customer journey.

Core channels for demand marketing 

Often, the most important touchpoints in a B2B buying journey don’t get measured by attribution software.

And, for most companies, if it can’t be measured, it’s overlooked.

As a demand marketer, you need to stop thinking about what will work with your attribution software and lean into the channels that make up the dark funnel.

These are the channels where your buyers are, and you’ll find that not many companies are doing well on them, creating massive opportunities for you.

Here’s a breakdown of what these channels are and how to use them:


Engage and stay active in your buyer’s world in order to build relevance and awareness.

Join online communities to build meaningful relationships and get to know your buyers on a more human level.

Organic social

Social media doesn’t have to cost a fortune to build brand awareness.

Social should be about distributing worthwhile content from which people can get value, meaning no more gated content!

The more you educate your followers, the more they will look to you for advice and answers, and they might become one of your customers in the process.

Dark social

Private channels like messaging apps, email and text are the top referral sources.

You want as many people as possible sharing your links via dark social so make sure your content is shareable.

Track these shares with shortened links, tracking links and sticky share buttons.


Bring your content to your audience!

This is where your podcast plays a significant role - it may not be measurable, but it’s going to bring you a lot of buyers through shares, word of mouth and brand awareness.

Word of mouth

You’ll gain a lot of followers if your team is helpful, delivers on your product, and shares insights for free.

Why? Because this is what gets you referrals, which is also one of the most important factors driving B2B buyers.


Any PR you’re not paying for is like a referral on its own.

The more your name is brought up, the more prospects will remember you when they want to invest in a product or service like yours.


Live events, webinars, industry talks and sharing live videos on social media all constitute a dark funnel channel.

Events create impact, and they give you content to share on a wider level later on. The better experience you give your audience, the more likely you’ll stay in their minds.

If you’re a B2B buyer yourself, you’ll know where you’re doing your own research and discoveries for the products you want - just be sure to add them to your own marketing strategy!

“My strong recommendation is that you align on a holistic, high intent website funnel where someone will come to your website and ask to speak to a rep, request a demo or request pricing.”

“In the case that they have high intent to buy, they are qualified, and when those three actions happen, your win rates are significantly better than any other channels, sales funnels are short, and acquisition costs low.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

Are you thinking that you’ve already got this set up?

You may notice that more than half your marketing source revenue comes through high intent conversions that move through sales-qualified opportunities and then into revenue.

And, the mistake most companies are making is that they push lead generation funnels on people who have no intent to buy.

Leading to low win rates, poor sales productivity, high customer acquisition, and an incredibly long sales cycle. 

To counteract this, you need to focus on:

1️. Pipeline marketing

This is bottom of the funnel, with companies already in it and would normally fall into ABM, field marketing or sales enablement.

2️. Capturing demand

Find people who are already looking to buy what you sell or are already brand-aware and get them into a meeting with a rep as fast as possible.

3. Creating demand

Use the dark funnel for this. You'll need different metrics and expectations on time here, as well as a totally different mindset. You can't focus on bringing in MQLs; instead, you need to focus on incoming revenue.

💡 Remember 💡

There’s no point in generating a high volume of leads if your conversion rate is going to be 1% - volume means nothing if it costs your business money.

👇 See our top three tips for distribution 👇  

Tip 1: Use a subject matter expert | Tip 2: Stay consistent | Tip 3: Distribution is everything


Educational content and distribution 

Another BIG mistake many companies are making is focusing too much on what their competitors are doing.

Keep in mind that the way you do marketing won’t be the same as others in your industry. 

You’ll have different budgets and will need to focus on different aspects depending on your size.

So, stop trying to outdo your competitors and focus on creating the best educational content you can.

“The most important thing is content. Every startup I’ve worked with has relied on content to create a competitive advantage, and you don’t necessarily need money to do it well.”

- Alice de Courcy, CMO, Cognism

But, as we mentioned before, this doesn’t mean gating that content. 

Gated content can be just as bad as relying on MQLs to scale. Just because someone has downloaded your whitepaper or signed up to your webinar doesn’t mean they instantly want to jump on a demo.

What they do want is to learn; it’s why they downloaded your eBook in the first place.

To start, look at what your customers are doing and what they need.

If you provide this knowledge for free, without friction, your prospects will keep coming back, and they’ll refer you to their friends and colleagues - people who might want to do business with you as a result.

Just remember that when putting your content together, you shouldn’t be thinking about creating it for sales or anything other than simply sharing value with your followers.

Here are our top three tips for using your content for competitive advantage:

💡 Tip 1 - Use a subject matter expert

You can’t expect to give your prospects valuable content if it’s written by someone who doesn’t understand the subject.

So, if you’re selling to Chief Information Security Officers, you need to ensure you hire people who understand that position and have a level of respect in that industry.

It's the only way you will give people real value and get them to pay attention to your content.

💡 Tip 2 - Stay consistent

If you produce three podcasts a week, how is that going to benefit you?

Immensely! You’ll have enough content to distribute via micro-content distribution levels on various channels, including YouTube, LinkedIn and Instagram etc.

This top-level content pillar drives good content down so it can be repacked and distributed to social channels.

💡 Tip 3 - Distribution is everything

You can have the best content in your industry, but if you’re simply posting and hoping someone sees, you’re not taking full advantage of it.

The trick is to get it in front of the right people, and that takes a good balance of paid and organic sharing.

Speed and time are essential when distributing content; you’ll need to let go of content strategies you’ve worked on for five or six months to focus more on what matters now.

“When it comes to content distribution, it's great when you have more content to distribute, so when you get to that point, you need to start siphoning it off to organic. Then you can be more selective about what you run on paid, and you can see which is performing better.”

“Another alternative is to run one campaign with a lot of different assets and then turn off the ones that don't do well. Let the audience decide what content they want to see.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

Watch Alice de Courcy's presentation on moving away from the traditional demand gen model 👇

👇 Learn how to track metrics in the dark funnel 👇  

Attribution | Self-reported attribution | Give your customers a call | Keep an eye on opportunity metrics


Creating revenue 

“Lots of marketing teams are trying to transition to demand marketing but regress back to lead gen during this adjustment in go-to-market strategy because executives get scared that “leads” are going down.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

That’s because your ‘leads’ are going down…

Before you panic, 90% of the leads you lose through this process would never have converted anyway. They’re numbers that look good on paper but mean nothing to your incoming revenue because the intent to buy was never there.

You need to look at demand marketing leads as anyone who fits your ICP and approaches you with intent to buy.

Now, because we’re marketers who have been trained to measure things in order to streamline our strategies, you might be thinking:

How do we track the dark funnel of demand marketing?

There’s actually a number of ways, starting with:

1. Attribution 

Most companies have attribution software as a standard, but these tools can only measure certain things while giving most of the credit to what it can easily measure. Acknowledge these metrics, but don't build your entire strategy around them.

2. Self-reported attribution 

Add another field to your online form and ask prospects how they’ve heard about you. You might find that you already know where your prospects are coming from, but it's a good place to start especially when reporting to your CEO.

3. Give your customers a call 

Call your prospects and ask them how they heard about you. This will give you a deeper understanding of how your marketing is working, and it will provide you with more insight into how to market to your buyers.

4. Keep an eye on opportunity metrics

You can calculate win rate by each stage of the funnel. When you start measuring this way, you can find the source of your leads.


The two core tactics of demand marketing 

To start executing this new way of marketing, embrace two core strategies:

1. Paid marketing

Start with product marketing, then social media and work your way up. You can go straight to paid if you don't have an audience built for core organic distribution channels, and you believe it will make an impact and move the needle to someone buying.

Just remember, when you're paying for things, it needs to serve a business objective.

2. Referral marketing

One of the most important factors driving B2B buying decisions is word of mouth.

Think about it:

You have a happy customer who can’t stop singing your praises.

What’s going to happen?

Everyone they speak to is going to think:

“Wow, John had such a great experience with that company. I want to experience that too!”

But it’s not as simple as delivering a great product; you need to do more.

Your focus should be on creating a well-rounded content plan that supports your paid campaigns and covers the low-hanging fruit opportunities.

So, once your paid strategy starts moving, you can begin to build on organic marketing.

Then, as people see your ads, they might actually subscribe and get into a different stream.

“An easy win for any startup marketing strategy is getting your low hanging fruit Google Ads bases covered. These are your largest competitors and your highest intent keywords and can form the basis for your SEO prioritisation in the early days.”

“By creating these key SEO pages, people will be able to find you when they’re searching for your competitor or that specific keyword term.”

- Alice de Courcy, CMO, Cognism

We have a seven-pillar strategy to get this started:

Dark funnel core channels infographic

Having these strategies running in parallel is critically important because it gets organic traction and boosts paid.

At Cognism, our strategy has been to run an awareness phase to our ICP audience. This awareness phase usually consists of videos, as they can easily be reused and generate views at very reasonable costs.

After that, we build a phase two funnel, re-targeting those that engaged with the phase 1 content, serving them more product-related materials.

This can be testimonials, product show and tells etc.

Selling demand marketing to your CEO 

You might find that when you try to pitch the dark funnel to your CEO and stakeholders, they're stuck in an MQL hamster wheel.

“Companies give marketing a whole bunch of incentives to do the exact opposite of what sales want, which is drive a bunch of leads that don't go anywhere and waste their time. We need to get out of this mindset, especially if you want to scale.”

“CEOs often look at SQOs and go, 'Oh great. Our SEO is doing so well. Keep doing what you're doing.' But in reality, people are just funnelling through Google when they're ready to buy, and you don't have any tracking on the things that got them there in the first place.”

- Chris Walker, CEO, Refine Labs

 Breaking them out of this mindset can be tough, but it’s doable if done the right way.

Once you can identify the source of your SQOs, you'll start to discover a whole bunch of other things, like what's working and what isn't, but you won't make any discoveries if:

  • You're not executing organic content on LinkedIn.
  • You don't have a podcast.
  • You're not interacting within your buyers’ communities.

However, you will find that a lot of your leads do come from word of mouth.

So, hit your target, hit your number and earn your right to approach your CEO with your findings.

If you start by splitting the funnel and measuring both, there won’t be any argument about where the conversions came from.

You can then use this to make a business case for more money to siphon budget off from what's less productive and into what's more productive.

Most importantly, when pitching to your leaders, you need to go with a plan or strategy on how you're going to trigger outbound sales instead of MQLs.

Try wording your pitch as follows:

“What we're doing now isn't working. Here’s the data.”

“Here's what we're going to do instead: we're going to trigger outbound from intent data, from a certain source first, and 3rd party intent data as opposed to MQLs. This way, our sales team will be talking to people who are way more inclined to buy right now, and our marketing team can do more important things.”

👇 Tips on hiring your demand marketing team 👇  

Demand Marketing Leader | Performance Marketer | Content Marketer


Hiring a demand marketing team 

Once you start doing demand marketing, you'll naturally attract talent along with prospects. 

The best talent will be following your brand, listening to your webinars and engaging in the content you share.

Demand marketing doesn't just bring in new customers. It impacts retention, talent and long-term growth. 

To find the best team, start by putting together a solid process to filter out hires that don't fit your company and team values.

Roles you'll need to fill for your demand marketing team are:

Demand Marketing Leader

What really brings everything together is hiring a demand marketing leader who has the skills needed for your business and can evaluate talent. 

You're not looking for someone who did something back in 2012, and it worked for them then, so they continuously do it forever.

You're looking for a leader who understands the market, is passionate about revenue and encourages experimentation for better results. 

Essentially they should tick all of these boxes:

  • Accountability to pipeline and revenue. 
  • Quick to move on to new opportunities. 
  • Quick to ditch old opportunities that aren't working anymore.
  • Gets their team focused on the customer, not the background operations. 
  • Being able to manage the rest of the executive team and the board to do something unique.

Performance Marketer

To attract the right performance marketer, include a technological assessment inside your ad platforms. Show them that you're thinking about the future and that they won't stagnate in their role.

Content Marketer

You need to look for a content marketer who is also a subject matter expert in your industry, or has the skills needed to translate a subject matter expert’s thoughts into copy that resonates with your audience. Someone who is willing to hustle to get subject matter experts to contribute to their content. 

Your content writer won't be the one coming up with the blog ideas that your audience loves - the subject matter expert will give them what they need to make it work. 


If it involves your customers, do it in-house because your internal team will be the ones that truly understand your audience. Everything else can be outsourced.

Demand marketing: closing comments 

Changing up your strategy to embrace demand marketing could actually be a blessing.

Here’s a quick recap of why:

  • Firstly, you don't need to get so tied up in attribution metrics, freeing you up to create more and even better content and experiment with channels.
  • It will align you closer with sales, because you are both working towards the same north star metric: revenue. 
  • The dark funnel opens you up to dramatically better results. When you get off the MQL hamster wheel, you will be amazed by the efficiencies you will see. 

👉 If you continue to do the same marketing as everyone else has been doing for years, automation will eventually advance to where your job becomes obsolete.

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Make a diamond difference with Cognism 

Take your marketing to a whole new level for outstanding results.

Cognism, a leader in international marketing intelligence, sets a new standard for data quality and compliance with a database of over 400 million B2B contacts and phone-verified Diamond Data®.

Use our platform to: 

  • Run email marketing campaigns containing hyper-personalised content across channels.
  • Access intent data to ensure you’re reaching out to companies that are in-market and ready to buy.
  • Create highly targeted matched audiences on paid channels to fuel your demand marketing strategy. 

Find out how Cognism can change the way you do marketing.

Click 👇 to start your journey.



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