One of the biggest challenges in B2B tech marketing is generating qualified leads to fill your sales pipeline. Leads are often the most important metric to your sales and executive teams and the anchor to an effective B2B marketing strategy. But how do you know if you should focus on lead generation or demand generation, and what’s the difference between the two? You can’t generate leads if you’re not also generating demand—and generating demand loses a lot of its value if you can’t translate that demand into qualified leads.
Some marketers have used these terms interchangeably—and while they may share some similarities, they have different meanings for your B2B tech marketing strategy. They use many of the same tools and tactics (like compelling, relevant content, accurate targeting, landing pages, and forms), but each drives a different goal for your company.
What’s the difference?
Put simply, demand generation is everything you do to generate interest in what you’re selling, while lead generation describes your specific process for collecting information about contacts to pass along to sales. Demand gen might include raising awareness of your product features and why they matter, sharing thought leadership that demonstrates your expertise, or distributing free resources and tools that show how useful you and your services can be. It focuses on overall brand awareness and is designed to reach a wide audience that may or may not include potential customers.
Lead generation translates the interest that all of this activity creates into something tangible and actionable; names and contact details that you or sales follows up with. If you gate your content behind a form asking for contact details, then you are doing lead generation. Your main objective is to capture as many leads as possible by giving visitors to your website a reason to share their contact details (and making it easy for them to do so).
Ultimately, your lead generation activities are supposed to make people actually want your content enough to give you their contact information, knowing that they are subjecting their inboxes to your marketing. The information you collect may be as little as an email address for Awareness level content or as detailed as a contact’s job title and organization details. In terms of content, this usually means it’s gated behind a form on a landing page they have to fill out in order to access the content.
Lead Gen, Demand Gen, and your Content Strategy
Your content strategy should strive to both deliver leads and drive demand. It’s worth noting that certain types of content can play a demand generation role and generate leads at the same time. If you produce in-depth research or an eBook packed with value, you’ve got a great piece for educating potential buyers—and you’ve also got something with enough substance that prospects will be willing to give you their contact information.
When thinking about Demand Gen content, think top of the funnel awareness pieces that will appeal to visitors that may know little to nothing about your company:
Lead generation is more suited to very detailed, long-form content that delivers enough value to be worth the cost of giving away your contact information.
Vendor or product comparisons
As content becomes more saturated, B2B tech marketers have to think outside of the box to create an engaging, compelling offer. Demand Generation and Lead Generation are not mutually exclusive and should both play a role in any B2B tech marketing strategy. If your content fails to deliver value, you may capture someone’s details, but chances are you will leave your lead feeling cold and won’t be setting sales up for success.
Kady is a digital native marketer that has spent the past several years in the B2B technology space on the brand side until joining Idea Grove in 2018. She serves clients as a Digital + HubSpot strategist and is Idea Grove's resident HubSpot evangelist. In 2019 she started leading the DFW HubSpot User Group after almost a decade of using HubSpot's tech stack to help drive marketing programs. She has a BBA in Marketing from the University of North Texas and an MA in Communications from the University of Texas at Arlington.