During the Customer Experience Mapping session at this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit, the audience (including me) erupted with laughter following a comment from chief research officer Tony Jaros: “Can someone take a picture of this slide and send it to my mom, so she knows what I do for a living?”

I’m blessed to have two older sisters – a doctor and a chemical engineer – who can summarize their trades in two or three lines. But like my colleagues in demand creation and marketing operations, I have a difficult time getting their friends and family to understand what I do for a living. However, when you think about it, there’s no excuse for this lack of comprehension!

The foundations of online demand creation are ingrained in modern-day internet users, but when they’re explained, they confound and bewilder the listener. Like the parasympathetic act of breathing, if you were to teach a human the steps required to fill the lungs with air, he or she would likely become frustrated (and winded!). However, with no instruction at all, most humans breathe naturally at a cadence that matches the oxygenation level that the blood requires.

When I try to explain effective demand creation – specifically, how inbound marketing and a solid data capture strategy, supported by technology, propel perpetual demand creation – I’m met with glazed looks from my family, friends and innocent cocktail party captives. However, if I ask that same audience what step they would begin with when seeking to buy a new car – the majority would tell me “I go to Google.”

Some are partial to specific car makes and models, and go directly to a dealer’s Web site to compare pricing and packaging options. Others go to consumer review Web sites or other watering holes, seeking the opinions of their peers before they make a short list of dealers. Each person approaches the decision with a different degree of readiness, but all have a common need: a method of self-operated, on-demand transportation. Seasoned B2B marketers are familiar with this scenario, understanding that where individuals enter the buying process is based on their needs and level of familiarity with solution options.

Here’s where demand creation professionals come in. Our technology and measurement skills enable a surgical approach to segmentation, based on the needs of our audiences. We use our skills to activate the messaging and content buyers need through channels they prefer. We’ve developed ways to assess and prioritize buyers, based on their explicit qualifications and implicit behaviors. We then capture buyer data and automate the delivery of relevant information to buyers at each step of the decisionmaking process. We engage innovative technologies that support the direct and indirect sales team, accelerate pipeline and promote participation, retention and advocacy within our customer base.

This might sound complicated, but it’s all built around the idea that buyers start with needs. Those needs can be simple (self-operated transportation) or complex (e.g. specialized data security that complies with specific industry regulations). In every situation, authentic demand is created when that need is understood from the perspective of each person who has a role in the purchase decision. For car sales, that might only be one person. In complex B2B sales, marketers must consider many different needs.

So, to my friends and colleagues in demand creation, the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, don’t get discouraged. Just say you’re in the business of understanding customer and buyer needs.