Probably no two terms in B2B marketing get mistaken for each other as often as demand
generation and lead generation. They are often treated as interchangeable. A Google search for
"demand-gen" yields definitions that would make you think they're the same thing. And I've
seen top-tier marketers with 30+ years in this business do the same.
But demand generation and lead generation are not the same thing. They never have been,
and they never will be. They have different purposes. And unlike lead-gen, not everyone
should have demand-gen prioritized.
What Is Lead-Gen?
Lead-gen is exactly what it sounds like. Its purpose is to generate leads now, for a
product that you have available now. Typically, lead-gen content talks about your product,
a problem it solves, a pain point it addresses, or a benefit it provides (or some
combination of these). After a prospect has consumed this content, you want them to leave
their email address, go to your website and leave their email address, or call a sales
Lead-gen content can take many forms. It can be a whitepaper, e-book, blog, product guide,
or almost anything really. Are you with me, so far?
What Is Demand-Gen?
Demand-gen, on the other hand, is a different thing, in that it doesn't ask you to do
something immediately after you've consumed the content (at least not directly). And its
job is typically to grow the pie. To use a metaphor, if you sell fast food, the job of
lead-gen is to make prospects want your new plant-based hamburgers now, while the job of
demand-gen is to grow the overall market for hamburgers by touting the benefits of vegan
This makes demand-gen strictly top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), either awareness or sometimes
consideration, which lead-gen never strictly is. In fact, demand-gen content often talks
about a roadmap product or technology that you don't even sell yet. Typically such
content takes the form of a whitepaper or a blog. And before you ask about whether or
not demand-gen could be done for a product that currently exists, the answer is, "yes,
but it's rare."
And if you do demand-gen for a current product, there are two basic ways to do it. One
would involve content on a channel that you don't own, where you do all the normal
lead-gen stuff in the content, except you don't make the ask at the end because the
rules of that channel don't allow it (bylines, native advertising, etc.).
The other way to do demand-gen would be to reframe a problem that your prospects
currently have away from a technology or solution that has default mindshare and
towards a technology or solution (hopefully yours) that they weren't considering before.
An example of this would be an article on why you should consider a projector instead of
a big-screen TV for your next home entertainment purchase.
Demand-gen for a current product is an unassailable good if you're a startup or
otherwise doing something very unique that your addressable market isn't really aware of.
But if you have competitors, you'd better make damn sure that your follow-up content
(for when they do a subsequent web search) is good & ready, because growing the pie will
only mean growing their pie if it's not.
Who Should Be Doing Demand-Gen?
There are two kinds of companies best suited to demand-gen. One, as I mentioned earlier,
are companies that sell something truly unique, or that your addressable market is
largely unaware of, because you need to butter up your prospects a bit first before
asking for that email address.
And the second is market leaders or challenger brands that hold elite intellectual or
technological status in your industry (i.e., top half of the Gartner magic quadrant),
enabling you to talk authoritatively about the future. But if you don't have that street
cred, demand-gen won't be as effective because fewer people will care what you think.
And One More Thing
Demand-gen is not the opposite of lead-gen, and it's not everything except lead-gen
either, because while all demand-gen content is either awareness, consideration, or both,
not all awareness and/or consideration content is demand-gen.
Demand-gen grows the pie, but many pies are already as big as they're going to get, with
awareness and consideration focused on getting larger pieces of that pie. This is why I'm
not a huge fan of demand-gen as a concept. Awareness, consideration, and lead-gen are near-
always applicable in content marketing, while demand-gen is applicable in some instances
but not others.
So, don't worry so much about demand-gen. All you really need to know is that it isn't
lead-gen, and not the opposite of lead-gen either.