16 Demand Gen Terms We Should Agree On


Share on LinkedIn

Ask ten marketers to define demand generation – or lead velocity or sales-qualified lead, for that matter – and you’re likely to get ten definitions that are at least slightly different. Demand gen is evolving quickly, and the majority of those practicing their craft are more focused on driving results than defining terms consistently from one company to the next.

Yet consistent definitions are important. They enable partners to create common expectations. They help those working in demand gen to measure results the same way. And they help marketers use their tech investments more effectively. Consistent language, especially when it expresses demand gen in layman’s terms, improves marketing’s credibility with sales and other stakeholders. Broadly, standardization is needed in demand gen, and that applies to core terms as well.

In the spirit of greater maturity in the demand-gen business, I’d like to define 16 key terms relating to demand generation. These reflect the practices of Integrate, our customers and our partners. We hope this list can foster discussion that leads to a more uniform set of terms in 2015.

Customer acquisition funnel 

AutomationFunnel_v0.3A logical representation of the path to purchase used to plot leads and opportunities at various stages of the selling process. Some funnels are extremely granular with six or eight stages, while others have just early, middle and late stages. The funnel is used to place prospective customers (leads/prospects) in “buckets” that define their next marketing contact.

Demand generation 

Funnel_-_Mid-1A marketing discipline that focuses on middle-funnel activities – below top-funnel digital marketing and above lower-funnel activities managed by marketing automation and CRM systems (the so-called “Marketing Cloud”). Demand generation is geared toward discovering and engaging targeted audiences to both raise awareness and obtain information that can later be used to qualify and nurture leads. It typically encompasses content syndication, call generation, events, telemarketing, and purchased “lists” (all of which often require working with third parties). These tactics provide enough qualification to start or accelerate the process of engagement, but rarely produce leads that are ready for sales contact in the near term. Unlike top-funnel and lower-funnel activities that have been automated, demand gen largely still suffers from many manual processes.

Digital marketing 

Funnel_-_TopTop-funnel activities that primarily focus on driving traffic and generating anonymous audience data via search, social and paid advertising (although these efforts too can be used to generate lead data and are often closely intertwined with demand gen). Digital marketing is often managed by team within a demand gen department.    

Marketing cloud 

Funnel_-_BottomThe foundational pieces of a marketing technology stack that usually comprise CRM and marketing automation systems, used to nurture and score prospects through the lower customer acquisition stages (for example, inquiry to marketing-qualified lead to sales-qualified lead to customer – yet these stages and names vary substantially between organizations). Marketing cloud “platforms” are often connected to one another as well with myriad other marketing technologies that support activities throughout the customer acquisition funnel; however, marketing cloud systems usually act as the central hub(s) of all these technologies.


An early stage of engagement with a prospective customer, whereby digital marketing tactics (display, video, search, social media) and some demand gen tactics (content syndication, sponsorships) put a marketer on the prospect’s radar and is often used to obtain limited, often anonymous, prospect data. It’s a starting point for ongoing engagement.

Lead generation 

A subset of demand gen, along with awareness, that focuses on acquiring prospect-provided information (e.g., name, job title, interest) that can be used to score and nurture prospects through the lower stages of the customer acquisition funnel. Awareness and lead gen should work in harmony with one another.

Inquiry (term varies between orgs)

A person who has shown a minimal level of engagement, such as submitting an email address on a web form, though that information is short of purchase plans/timing of detailed demographics. An inquiry must provide more information via progressive profiling to reach the next level, which is a…

Marketing-qualified lead (term varies between orgs)

A person who has demonstrated some level of engagement, submitting more info than an inquiry and providing more visibility into their purchase plans, buying role and so on. In so doing, it has given marketing visibility into what to do next with that prospect. A marketing-qualified lead is typically a good candidate to be entered into a nurturing campaign. There are often MQL subsets, such as organizationally defined differences between a lead and a prospect.

Sales-qualified lead (term varies between orgs)

A person who has had multiple engagements/touches and demonstrated high enough engagement – by number of actions, lead score or both – to warrant immediate follow-up by sales. There are often SQL subsets, such as the sales-defined opportunity. Sales and marketing must have firm agreement on what meets the sales-qualified standard, what steps are taken upon reaching that milestone and how outcomes are recorded.


A concrete representation of potential deals, with forecast dates to close deals as well as details on revenue potential, prospective deal timing, key hurdles that must be overcome, and more.

Lead velocity 

The measurement of how quickly lead data moves through the customer acquisition funnel. Ideally, data moves in real time from system to system, free from any manual processes that may slow transmission and reduce how quickly and effectively marketing can engage with prospects. Slow velocity negatively affects data quality because prospect interest cools when there’s a lack of timely follow-up.  A very common obstacle to velocity is the disconnect between lead capture in the demand gen stage and lead nurturing in the lower-funnel stages.


The rate at which a marketing activity is executed. Examples include pace of lead capture and delivery, pace of sales follow-up, and pace of lead conversion. Measuring pace is important because it highlights bottlenecks that may slow velocity. For example, if a demand gen media partner delivers all contracted leads during the last two days of the month, it limits how quickly subsequent marketing activities can communicate with those prospects, ultimately diminishing the value of the purchased leads, aka…

Lead data quality 

Determined by the validity, accuracy, uniformity and age of lead information. Validity may refer to whether a lead contains an active email address or USPS-recognized physical address. Accuracy implies that all data points comply with selected audience criteria, such as specific job titles or company sizes. Uniformity refers to whether leads are formatted in a standardized way that allows for automated data delivery between systems. Age is tied to velocity; if roadblocks exist between data delivery, it allows prospect interest to cool and decrease data value. Accurate, standardized and fresh data result in better…

Lead nurturing 

Structured efforts that aim to advance leads, usually obtained via demand den activities, in the funnel with the ultimate objective of having them reach the bottom of the funnel for direct sales contact. Nurturing uses a set of business rules to define what happens upon a lead’s action or inaction. Each step in a nurture process takes place in an automated fashion, driven by software. The quicker demand gen activities can produce and inject lead data into nurture tracks, the better, because it will likely result in a higher….

Conversion rate 

Percent of those who could take a desired marketing action that actually do so. Examples include inquiries converted to MQLs, SQLs to customers, marketing targets that convert by responding to a call to action, and event registrants who convert to attendees. Conversion rate is a primary metric of most marketing campaigns; a higher percentage is always better.

Lead scoring 

Assigning points to a lead using an algorithm. In a typical scenario, a lead score is given a label that maps to pre-determined points thresholds, with the highest score being assigned to a “sales qualified” or “sales accepted” lead. Scoring usually works in tandem with lead nurturing.

I fully expect these definitions to be disputed – and they should be. The industry’s different understandings of demand gen and lead gen are alone enough to instigate another Tupac-Biggie-like rivalry. But these are issues that must be solved, because in the age of open platforms, shared data, and automation, without standardized terms, communication (both among marketers and between their technologies) is bound to break down. And that’s where the biggest problems begin.

I welcome your input on how your company defines these terms. Remember, when we speak a common language, we can all perform better. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Crane
David Crane is Strategic Development Manager at Integrate and an ardent student of marketing technology that borders on nerdy obsession. Fortunately, he uses this psychological abnormality to support the development and communication of solutions to customer-specific marketing-process inefficiencies.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here