Demand Generation vs. Demand Fulfillment: What’s the Difference?


In the B2B marketing community, there’s a fair bit of confusion surrounding the terms “Demand Generation” and “Demand Fulfillment ”. On one hand, a large part of the industry uses the two terms essentially interchangeably.  On the other hand, another portion of the industry contends that demand generation and lead generation are two entirely different entities.

So, which of these views is the right one?  Neither.

Smart marketers understand there are two kinds of audiences they need to reach: the first are those potential consumers who recognize they have a problem/need and are actively looking to resolve it; the second are those consumers who aren’t yet looking to resolve a specific problem/need.

To try and reach both of these audiences with the same tactics is ineffective and one of the reasons advertising and marketing have acquired a bad reputation.

Instead, I like to differentiate between Demand Creation and Demand Fulfillment:

Demand generation:

Demand generation is the process of generating, well, demand.  Demand generation is concerned with creating awareness and interest among a specified group of individuals.  The overall goal of demand gen is to educate the audience about the related product/service or category of products/services.  The direct outcomes are brand awareness and brand positioning, while, in the long-term, demand generation hopes to elicit further investigation (which eventually leads to the purchase).

In terms of look and feel, demand generation campaigns tend to reach larger audiences and trend toward content that has broad appeal (infographics, videos, blog posts, etc.). Demand generation assets may or may not be gated behind a short form.  Demand generation can involve inbound channels, like SEO, social media, and blogging, or outbound channels, like email, display advertising, and promoted social media posts.


The launch of a new market category. When the iPod came out, no one was thinking that they needed a small, portable device that could hold thousands of songs in their pocket. If Apple hadn’t first created demand, why would consumers have cared about the iPod?

⇒ The launch of a new product or improved product. When a new product is introduced, a seed needs to be planted in the minds of consumers. It’s true that most people who hear or see the message won’t respond, but a percentage will, and those may begin to seek out this product. Movie trailers can be extremely effective at generating interest in a new or established franchise.

⇒  Promotion of an existing product or service. Much like the launch of a new product or improved product, demand creation tactics are needed to continue planting the seed in the consumer’s mind. Almost every consumer has a problem or needs that they don’t yet know about, but once they see or hear about a solution, they will have that “aha moment”. Television commercials are very adept at keeping consumers aware of a particular brand.

Demand Fulfillment:

The opposite of demand generation is demand fulfillment. In this scenario, the consumers have recognized that they do have a problem or need and are actively seeking out potential solutions. In the 20th Century, this is where the yellow pages mentality came into play. Your car breaks down, you look for a mechanic. Looking for a restaurant? You go to the yellow pages. Looking for equipment for your business? You look through catalogs and industry publications.

Local Seo

In the 21st century, this has switched to search engines and focused networks. Do you need a recommendation for a restaurant? You go online or use a restaurant app. Looking for a project management software package? You turn to Google.

So what does it all mean?

All companies looking to grow to need to employ both Demand Creation and Demand Fulfillment tactics. You need to plant the seed that some consumers do have an unknown problem or need. You also need to have the assets to pull consumers that have identified the problem or need. This is where having a smart brand and marketing strategy comes into play – you have consistent messaging and tactics that resonate with your audiences for both demand creation and demand fulfillment.

Does your company need help with their Demand Generation and Demand Fulfillment strategies? or need more information about Demand Generation and Demand Fulfillment.

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