Demand Generation versus Lead Generation—What’s the Difference?


what is demand generation

Marketing these days is full of tech, full of tools, and full of … terms? It’s true. There’s an entire modern marketing language out there, and sometimes the differences between concepts can get lost in translation. In the past, my team and I have explored the meanings of like-sounding terms such as multichannel and omnichannel marketing, visible and invisible innovation, and remarketing and retargeting. Today, let’s tackle another: Demand generation versus lead generation. What are the differences? What types of content marketing activities fall under each umbrella? Let’s explore.

What is Demand Generation?

Demand generation describes marketing activities focused on generating awareness for products, services, brands, or even entire industries. Content to support your demand generation efforts includes things like blog posts, videos, infographics, and other content you offer without stipulation. The main purpose here is to educate and engage your audience. For demand generation purposes, you give stuff away, which helps you build trust and credibility with your target audience.

You’re not alone when it comes to focusing on demand generation. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s most recent B2B content marketing trends report, 79 percent of organizations polled indicated brand awareness—a product of demand gen—was an organizational goal for 2017.

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation describes marketing activities focused on generating leads that can then be moved through the funnel, ideally through to conversion. What kind of content do you need to support this? For lead generation, your content mix should include gated whitepapers, e-guides, downloadable assets, online events, and other materials that require audiences to provide information in order to access.

According to that same CMI report, 80 percent of organizations polled indicated lead gen was an organizational goal for 2017—which, of course, only makes sense. Leads tie directly into sales, and sales ties directly into the viability of a business.

How to Balance Demand Generation and Lead Generation in Content Marketing

Demand generation and lead generation are different, but they’re on the same team. However, some marketing departments struggle to find a balance between the two. Here are two common problems:

  • Trying to create content that satisfies both demand gen and lead gen goals. Some content is created for demand gen, and some is focused on lead gen—it’s either/or, not both. If you try to do too much with one piece of content—say, a whitepaper or eBook—you run the risk of losing your audience altogether. They may feel tricked because they thought you were trying to give them something or teach them something (demand gen), then swooped in to gather their information at the last moment (lead gen). Or, they might be engaged enough to hand over their information (lead gen) only to find their experience with your content becoming too watered down with background information (demand gen).
  • Focusing too much on lead gen because the metrics are there. For many marketing departments, it’s easy to focus on lead gen. There’s a clear business case for these activities, after all, and the metrics are straightforward, especially when we’re talking about gated content. You can run the numbers on ebook downloads or webinar registrations much quicker than you can determine the reach of an informational, ungated whitepaper. Still, be careful not to put your lead gen blinders on, leaving Demand Jan sitting in the corner crying “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” (I couldn’t help it.) Bottom line: Demand gen is critical to organizational longevity, too, even if the returns are less obvious.

The Takeaway

Brady Bunch jokes aside (man, does this date me), there’s a serious takeaway here: Demand gen and lead gen are not the same, and you must balance them correctly if you want your content marketing initiatives to be successful.

How does demand gen and lead gen look in your marketing department? What questions do you have about how to approach either more strategically? Ask me in the comments, and I’ll be sure to cover it in a future post.

Additional Resources on this Topic

How to Develop Content for All Stages of the Customer Journey
Lead Generation vs. Demand Generation

This post was first published on V3Broadsuite.

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