What’s the Difference Between Lead Generation and Demand Generation?




  • April 9, 2015

    “Someone asked me what you do for a living. I told them I didn’t know exactly, but something with advertising.”


    Sigh. Your mom will never understand your job.


    But in her defense, marketing has gotten pretty complicated in recent years. And if we marketers are willing to admit it, a lot of us might say even we don’t understand exactly what some of our teammates do.



    If there is a role on the marketing team that mystifies people most, it’s probably demand generation and lead generation. Not only are these terms vague (compared to, say, “copywriter” or “graphic designer”), but they sound like they might actually refer to the same thing (which they don’t).


    While these tasks are often overseen by the same person, they’re fundamentally different:



    • Demand generation is creating awareness of and interest in your company and its products, or sometimes even your industry as a whole.


    • Lead generation is using content or other marketing efforts to collect names and contact info for future follow-up.

    One easy way to understand the difference is to think about how each of the above leverages content.


    Demand gen typically gives away content freely in order to build awareness. There might be a CTA, but it will come at the end of the piece (“Want to know more? Contact us/click here!”).


    Lead gen typically places content behind a “gate” to motivate form submissions (“Want to access this valuable content? Fill out this form, and we’ll send it to you!”). Those contacts then go into a queue where the sales team can reach out and engage with the ones who seem most qualified. (For good measure, lead gen content will usually have a CTA at the end as well.)


    It’s important to note that each of the “gen” twins has its place within a content marketing program—they just shouldn’t occupy the same space.



    What’s the Difference between Lead Generation and Demand Generation?


    For instance, if you’re running a campaign whose goal is to generate sign-ups for your cloud-based invoicing app, it might make sense to create an eBook on five ways to prepare your small business for tax season. However, you need to make a choice as to whether the purpose of the eBook will be demand gen or lead gen.


    If it’s demand gen, you’ll want the content to be shared as widely as possible, so readers should be able to access your eBook without filling out a form. If your goal is lead gen, you’ll want to promote the eBook but require readers to fill out a form before downloading the file.


    As the Content Marketing Institute puts it: every interaction you want an individual to have with your content must be focused either on lead gen or on demand gen.


    And, as with so many things in life, balance is key. If you decide your tax-planning eBook will serve as a lead gen piece, you might create a lighter infographic to serve the demand gen function. Without demand gen, lead-focused campaigns will have a harder time reaching people. And without lead gen, you’ll have a harder time tracking sales impact (making your sales team even more skeptical of marketing’s value to the organization).



    Want to learn more about closing a lead once you have it? Check out this helpful infographic.


    (Note: You’ve just been demand-genned. Now prepare to be lead-genned in 3 . . . 2 . . .)

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