Plus, The Top Demand Generation and Lead Generation Strategies that Helped us Grow at Oz

A lot of B2B companies are familiar with the demand generation vs lead generation debate- though a number of marketers persist in using the two terms interchangeably. While it’s rare that you’d be corrected for that error in nomenclature, lumping them together isn’t that helpful for your marketing strategy – demand and leads are two very different things. Leads are the promise of a sale – it’s a potential buyer whose interests and intents make them a good match for your business. They can be quantified and tied to specific financial outcomes and actual sales. But demand is largely unquantifiable. There’s no way to actually define how much demand you have created for your product.

Think about the demand generation vs lead generation debate this way: I saw an ad for a king size memory foam bed eight months ago that I am still dreaming about (no pun intended!) – but until I visit their site and sign up for their mailing list I won’t be considered a lead. Experienced marketers know that you have to drive demand and then follow that with lead capture in order to boost sales and revenue.

It’s important to understand the difference between demand gen and lead gen so you can devise campaigns that work best for each. As you delve deeper into what differentiates the two, one thing becomes readily apparent – Lead gen is much more easily measured, while demand gen tends to look more like an artform. Let’s take a look at how vastly different the two really are.

The Art of Demand Gen and the Science of Lead Gen

Demand Generation is all about creating an interest in the products or services that your business provides. You want to engage a large audience and make them find what you offer very appealing.

It’s not just making people aware of your brand, it’s actually making them super stoked about your product.

Just like any marketing campaign, content is at the core of it – whether it is an article, video, white paper or infographic. You provide interesting and relevant information to as wide of an audience as possible in order to offer you maximum exposure. You’re giving away high-quality stuff for free in order to expand your reach – and hopefully doing so with great magnitude. So, as we already know but sometimes forget, the marketing journey starts with simply making people want your product.

Lead generation is the art of capturing contact information once the demand has been established.

That means getting someone to the point that they are interested enough to hand over their name, email and other contact info so that you can carry on with your lead nurturing and sales development in the hopes of building a healthy batch of customers. Lead gen is all about predicting, containing and controlling the customer journey in order to make more money – and those can all be measured data and analytics systems.

demand generation vs lead generation art or scienceBut is it really that that cut and dry? Some people argue that human choice is more complex than that and that it can’t be reduced down to a bunch of numbers in a spreadsheet. In our view at Oz, it’s less about defining lead gen and demand gen as opposing forces and more about coming up with the perfect blend of the two in order to build smart campaigns that work. We think it’s less of a rivalry and more of a yin-yang situation.

What Do The Experts Have to Say About Demand Generation vs Lead Generation?

To get more wisdom on the topic, we turned to the experts to see what they have to say about it all.

Eric Wittlake at B2B Digital Marketing feels that “Lead generation and demand generation, although related, are at odds with each other.

When many B2B marketers say demand generation, they really mean lead generation, and the program will be measured on leads and the value of those leads.” – Eric Wittlake

His view is that demand is focused on changing, or creating, a perspective while lead gen is focused on capturing their information.

He goes on to argue that coming up with a single content marketing plan that does both isn’t going to happen. But understanding how they are woven together can present excellent opportunities for businesses to both create demand and generate leads.

Judy Caroll at Callbox is of the same mindset.

“The difference between demand generation and lead generation is important enough that applying to one what you prepared for the other could turn out to be a major stumbling block if not a huge blunder.” – Judy Caroll

The kind of content that you design for each is completely different. Demand gen content is easily sharable, never gated and usually fun to read or view. Lead gen content generates sign ups – there are forms and submissions and it usually offers deeper value and insights, such as e-books or whitepapers.

expert views on demand generation vs lead generationWittlake is emphatic about the fact that you can’t combine lead gen and demand gen – they have to work together in sequence. “The sequence can go in either direction, but it cannot be accomplished effectively in a single step.”

Emily Beaver argues that brand awareness and lead generation can at times feel like a boxing match.

“Awareness fights to increase the size of your audience, while ‘lead gen’ limits your audience to a group of people who are willing to trade their contact information for your content.” – Emily Beaver

They are opposing forces by nature, but they can complement each other if you do them correctly. One caveat of focusing on lead gen, she goes on to say, is that you may end up generating interest for your content, rather than your brand’s offering. This gets into the differentiation between brand awareness and demand gen – more on that later.

Ritika Puri of Hubspot thinks that the differentiating factors of demand gen compared to other customer acquisition tactics are a commitment to long-term customer relationships and a strategic mindset. These are what sets it apart from concepts like inbound marketing. Demand gen programs are touch points throughout the conversion optimization and sales cycles.

The Give and Take View

It could be simplified in this way: Demand gen is offering something to your audience over time while lead gen is taking something from your audience.

Nick Rojas of Media Village says that demand gen “is the process of disseminating information about your products and services by providing relevant, informative and interesting content about them.” Lead generation, on the other hand, “is the process of collecting contact information from an audience whether in person or via email, website or phone.”

So while demand gen works to shape perception of your brand or product, lead gen hones in and collects potential customers from those who have developed an interest in it. According to CSG Services, lead gen is considered an activity within demand generation.

Although experts might split hairs over the semantics of defining the two, everyone seems to agree on the fact that demand generation is the umbrella term that refers to creating a buzz around your brand and products – and lead gen is an aspect of that in which you capture tangible information from prospects.

How Oz Manages Demand Generation vs Lead Generation with Content Marketing

At Oz, like many startups, we initially had a product and a website to sell it. On our website, we had lead capture forms which allowed potential customers to contact us (i.e. we did lead generation) but we didn’t have loads of customers showing up at our website.

So we tried a number of things to generate demand. Initially we tried doing PR outreach but quickly discovered that not enough people care about B2B Marketing to make it in the news cycle. We also tried Social Media- though it’s tough to make B2B Marketing go viral on social networks.

Ultimately, we’ve settled on one main channel- which not coincidentally- is what our product helps us be really good at: Blogging on our own website with content that is highly relevant and discoverable by our audience. We’ve learned a lot about lead generation and lead capture this way.

Demand Generation vs Lead Generation: What Should Your Site Focus On?

 So, now that experts have weighed in on the difference between lead gen vs demand gen and how they work together, what does that mean for you and your business? Here are some key takeaways to help you move forward with an effective demand gen vs lead gen strategy.

1. Think about your Demand Gen as you set up your CTAs, Forms and Lead Capture systems

Your website needs to drive sales – that’s the bottom line- and you if you don’t have potential names and contact info- you can’t make a sale. Therefore, lead gen is the obvious way to start selling– it’s all about asking them to sign up for a newsletter, download eBooks, registering for events, etc. in exchange for their contact info. But importantly, you want to think about demand gen as you set up these lead captures.

What is going to cause your audience to think more positively about your product? Remember that a bunch of pop up ads and forms might repel them at first. Consider giving away some high value pieces of advanced content instead of gating them. You want people to see how great your brand is without having to turn over any information at first.

If you have a unique product or service and are providing a lot of value to your customers, demand generation will pay off for you in the long run.

2. SEO and Demand Gen aren’t just for top of funnel

SEO and demand gen should go hand-in-hand – but SEO professionals are often left out of B2B demand gen efforts. It’s important not to forget that demand generation also includes “conversations and activities that occur prior to the lead being passed to sales.” SEO isn’t just about TOFU- It’s about MOFU too. SEO can represent a key channel for demand gen teams to leverage and demonstrate performance – no matter where a buyer is at in the cycle. Instead of housing landing pages on subdomains of your site, have them reside on the primary website like Salesforce does here.

3. Don’t confuse Demand Gen with Brand Awareness

Demand gen and brand awareness are two very different concepts. You’re marketing your product with demand gen – not your brand. Brand awareness makes people aware of who you are while demand generation makes make interested in what you are selling. Check out this H&R Block ad – it goes beyond the realm of brand awareness into demand gen by plugging the actual product that they are selling, a $9.99 state income tax return. Brand awareness is still an important part of your marketing strategy, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not what translates into sales.

4. With Lead Gen, you’re building a database; with Demand Gen, you’re building an audience

demand generation vs lead generation audienceThe customer journey is a long and interesting one and folks need to be nurtured from the time they come in contact with your brand all the way through to purchase. Content is what nurtures them – and the goal isn’t just to turn them into a contact name and email that you can add to your database. Demand generation is what inspires and educates your customers – you’re using content to inform them about experiences and options that they haven’t considered or started researching yet. This builds a loyal and happy audience.

Lead capture, or lead generation, comes much later in the funnel after you’ve already hooked your prospects. They have made a decision about what they want and are just deciding where to get it. Imagine how many more potential leads you could capture if you focus your efforts on creating a buzz earlier in the funnel rather than trying to lock in the few prospects who have made it all the way to the bottom already.

Summarizing the Demand Generation vs Lead Generation Debate

The demand generation vs lead generation debate is an ongoing conversation in the content marketing world. Experts all have opinions about what they each mean, which comes first and how much effort should be focused on one vs. the other – and a lot of this depends on who you are, what you do and what stage your business is in at any given time.

But everyone agrees that a mix of the two is necessary in order to execute a successful marketing strategy. Whatever your particular methodology entails, the root of both lead gen and demand gen is killer content – it’s all about getting the right content into the right hands at the right time.
At Oz, we craft the most well-researched content on our topic – content ideation. Follow us to stay up to date with our latest updates on content marketing and B2B business tips.

Also, if you’re doing demand generation with Content Marketing, we’d love to hear from you!