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 Content?
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 Content?
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 alternatives.
How Demand-Gen Works
This makes demand-gen strictly top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), either awareness
, which lead-gen never strictly is. Demand-gen content usually works in
one of three ways.
1. Directing Future Market Growth
This is when your brand discusses a future technology that you don't sell yet, but you
plan to sell it. Or perhaps you do sell it, but nobody's buying it yet for some reason.
This might be a technology you want to win in a format war (like HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray). Or
it might be something where you hope to accelerate the leap to the future because the
present is becoming less profitable for you. This might take the form of a whitepaper or
2. Realigning Present Perceptions
The goal here is to change perceptions in your current market so your product is no
longer looked at as a niche alternative but as a mainstream choice. A good example here
would be a projector company taking out some native advertising in the NY Times
discussing their benefits over large-screen TVs.
3. Expanding The Present Market
This is when you try to try to grow the pie by selling your product to a new kind of
customer. For instance, it might mean positioning what was once large enterprise
software as an SME solution, and running a TV commercial about it. However, it only
counts as demand-gen if you're the first vendor to this segment.
Who Should Be Doing Demand-Gen Content?
Demand-gen for a future product is usually a game for the Fortune 500, because usually
only they have the resources to spare for content on spec (unless you're a smaller firm
where your whole future is tied up in a certain product or tech taking off).
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 and ready, because growing the pie
will only mean growing their pie if it's not.
One Last 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 one of
the reasons 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.
I appreciate the nobility of intention in those who believe in demand-gen. But if you
don't share it, don't worry so much about it. The content marketing funnel
can do what
needs to be done.