Mapping Demand Gen & Lead Gen Programs to the Buyer Journey



Marketers often confuse demand generation (demand gen) for lead generation (lead gen), but they’re not the same strategies. I suspect a lot of the confusion comes from using the same staff or team for demand gen as we do for lead gen.

Personally, I like to think of these strategies as it relates to the buyer’s journey because I don’t think anything else really matters. The prospect usually journeys through all of these buyer stages (see below) at some point or another. I should point out that buyers don’t always move through the sales funnel in a linear fashion, and tend to skip from one stage to another. You may also find that you have more buyer stages than the five I listed below, but I prefer to keep things simple.

Buyer Stages:

Learn. “I think I have a problem.” – Demand Gen
Solve. “How do I solve that problem?” – Lead Gen
Compare. “Am I solving that problem the right way?” – Lead Gen
Purchase. “Help me make a purchase decision.” – Lead Gen (this becomes Demand Gen after close)
Loyalty. “Show me you appreciate me as a customer.” – Demand Gen

What is demand generation?

Demand generation is a marketing strategy comprised of several integrated marketing programs designed to drive brand awareness and interest in your company’s products and/or services. You must consider how your marketing campaigns leverage one another across all channels for maximum reach while supporting your overall brand promise. Your messaging should also support your company’s position in the industry, and help you appear as a helpful thought leader that ideal prospects can trust, who also happens to offer superior products and services.

Many of my clients would send me campaign ideas and materials for a lead generation campaign, but were calling it a demand generation campaign, and vice versa. So I began looking at each strategy and how they relate to the buyer’s journey more closely.

From the buyer’s perspective, I imagine him or her at the beginning of the buyer journey, Learn (“I’m not sure, but think I have a problem.”). At this stage, I focus on demand generation content and offering programs that are educational and helpful in nature to the buyer (not lead capture). This content will not require completing a form in order to access it (ungated content). By telling prospects who we work with and why, what problems we fix, our company leadership, and values—and less about the actual product, service or solution—I’m going to make sure my messaging supports our company’s position in the industry. I will feature white papers, how-to guides, info kits, and case studies—all ungated.

To help measure success, I’m paying attention to brand awareness, or ‘reach.’ I might qualitatively or quantitatively survey prospects on how they perceive our company to ensure we are on target with our buyers’ perceptions.

Lead generation, on the other hand, is used to collect specific information about potential clients interested in your products or services (solutions to known problems), and then turning them into sales leads. At this stage, I’m going to have a lot of content (sitting behind gated forms) that will help prospects solve their particular problems. Examples include webinars, assessments, calculators, industry research, and consultation services.

By mapping my lead generation campaigns, content, and calls to action to the appropriate buyer stages, Solve, Compare, and Purchase, I’m seeing better results.

If you think about it, the types of conversations or strategies at each stage of the buyer journey are very different. If you are tracking how fast prospects move through the sales stages (funnel velocity), you should see an increase in speed or effectiveness when your content type is mapped properly.

I’m not sure this is helpful or not, but for me, I need a constant reminder that lead generation as a strategy isn’t always the right content strategy for every stage of the buyer journey. Even after going through a content assessment and mapping exercise, I tend to put on my sales hat and focus on lead generation more than demand creation. This method of mapping also ensures the tone of my content matches where the prospect is at in the buyer journey. The tone of my demand generation content might be less urgent and more methodical (or even nurturing) in nature, compared to the tone of increased urgency and stronger calls to action used in my lead generation campaigns.

Bottom line: it’s easy to get the two strategies confused if we don’t put ourselves in the buyer’s perspective at each stage of the buyer journey.

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