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For many outside of the world of marketing, it is easy to conflate the concepts of demand generation with lead generation. While both of these terms sound interchangeable, they are uniquely different.

Historically speaking, it's hard to pinpoint when these two concepts became separate. What is clear, is that demand gen emerged from a need as marketers realized that lead gen was not sufficient enough to scale broadly and build a long-term business strategy.

After all, capturing marketing or sales leads is not enough; sustained growth requires sustained customer interest which demand gen aims to achieve.

In this article, I dive head-first into the world of B2B marketing and will look to explain the key differences between demand generation and lead generation. We’ll review the core components, metrics of each and share some ideas on how to effectively incorporate both into your B2B marketing strategy. 

What Is Demand Generation?

Demand generation is a marketing function that encompasses the tactics and activities geared towards creating awareness for your company’s products or services. The strategy focuses on building a strong brand presence, educating your audience, and creating engagement throughout the customer journey.  

The shift towards demand generation gained some serious steam and momentum over the past decade with the rise of digital marketing, inbound marketing, and marketing technology.  

Marketing technology, also known as MarTech, has truly changed the way businesses engage with potential customers and therefore how businesses create demand. The landscape of marketing tools that exist today is plentiful and has enabled marketers to reach potential buyers in various channels and establish brand presence more effectively. 

Inbound marketing grew in response to changing consumer behavior. It focuses on attracting and engaging potential customers through content marketing, SEO, social media, and email marketing. At the core of it, inbound marketing emphasized the importance of providing valuable information to your audience and building trust. This has allowed businesses to grow, attract and retain customers more effectively.

Components Of A Demand Gen Strategy

Brand Awareness

This component is at the center of any good demand-generation strategy. Let’s face it, the competitive landscape of your business is changing. Increasing the visibility of your brand and ensuring it has positive attributes associated with it is critical.

Here are a few steps you can take to get started on increasing your brand awareness:

  • Focus on building your brand message. Develop a clear and cohesive message that aligns with your company’s value proposition. 
  • Establish your brand as a thought leader by creating content that provides valuable insights for your customers. 
  • Generate a base of customers that are willing to share their positive experiences with your company. 
  • Last but not least, make sure you monitor your brand reputation through customer surveys, online reviews, and leveraging third-party tools and services.

Content Marketing

Make great demand generation content your best friend. Great content is hard to come by today and requires a strategic approach focused on creating and sharing relevant and valuable content. 

It is also important to include various types of content in your strategy. Include content like case studies, thought leadership pieces, free content, and even webinars

Here are a few tips to consider when putting your content strategy together:

  • SEO: Make sure your content is optimized for search. Conduct keyword searches, optimize meta tags, and ensure your content is well organized and structured.
  • Distribution: Make sure you identify the channel where your target audience is most active and distribute your content accordingly.

Analyze: Make sure you measure and analyze the performance of your content using key SaaS metrics (we will get into this a little later on).

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Optimization of MarTech

Using the right tools can significantly impact your demand gen results. A good tech stack will allow you to effectively and efficiently scale your efforts. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Use marketing automation to streamline and execute your demand-generation tactics. A good marketing automation platform will allow you to nurture your potential customers through demand-generation campaigns. 
  • Create a robust reporting structure that measures the impact of your demand gen efforts.
  • Use comprehensive solutions to better manage your customer data and integrations. 

Demand Generation Key Metrics

There is a wide range of demand gen metrics you will want to consider tracking when establishing your strategy. These metrics provide insight into various stages of your B2B marketing and sales funnel.

Here are some of my top metrics to think about to better assess the overall performance of your demand-generation efforts:

Impressions: This metric is an important measure as it looks at the number of times your content or ads were viewed. Impressions can be a great indication of how far your reach and exposure is across your various channels.

Website Traffic: You should be consistently thinking about how many website visitors are being drawn to your website from your demand gen efforts. Web traffic can be a great indication of how well your brand presence is established or how effective your ad strategy is in driving potential customers to your website.

Content Performance: As mentioned above, all good demand gen strategies should include great content as part of it. Measuring content performance will allow you to evaluate what content is most effective and how to best position that content in the right channels to draw the right engagement.  

Although these are just some of the most important metrics in measuring your demand gen strategy  here are a few more to think about:

  • Social engagement
  • Brand sentiment
  • Click through rates

What Is Lead Generation?

The lead generation process is intended to cultivate audience interest through lead nurturing with the end goal of converting people into customers. There is a wide range of activities designed to support this process that generally revolve around nurturing your audience.

While demand gen is what you do to attract your audience, lead generation strategies allow you to convert your audience to customers. 

Components Of A Lead Gen Strategy

Create Lead Magnets

Utilizing lead magnets is the tactic of offering valuable incentives and offers to your audience in exchange for collecting their information such as email, phone number, or contact information.

Strong lead magnets such as downloadable resources or exclusive time-based offers can propel your lead gen efforts. Free resources, gated content like whitepapers, and discounts are more examples of effective lead magnets.

Landing Pages and Forms

Landing pages and marketing forms should be critical components of your lead gen strategy. Your marketing team should be designing and optimizing landing pages that are focused on converting visitors into leads.

Leverage well-crafted marketing forms to capture essential information while minimizing friction and ensuring a seamless user experience.

Powerful Call-to-Actions

A call-to-action or CTA, is a prompt that encourages someone to take a specific action. In the domain of lead generation, CTAs are a core component of your strategy.Your marketing team should be focused on creating persuasive and clear CTA’s that prompt visitors to download content, request demos, or subscribe to newsletters. CTAs should be visually attractive and clearly displayed throughout your website.

Key Lead Gen Metrics

Because lead gen strategies vary across companies, the metrics and KPIs that each organization will care about will also vary. Here are some of the most commonly used metrics to measure the effectiveness of your lead gen efforts.

  • Lead response time
  • MQL to SQL conversion rate
  • Cost per lead
  • Lead to customer conversion rate
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Total lead value

How to Use Both in Your B2B Marketing Strategy:

While demand gen and lead gen serve two very unique purposes, there is no question that they two are interconnected. A comprehensive B2B marketing strategy should incorporate both.

Here is a four-step approach on how to connect these two strategies:

1. Align your strategy

Work on clearly defining your marketing objectives. Ensure your demand gen efforts align with your lead gen goals and how you plan to support your sales team. Work to identify your target audience, their pain points, and buying behavior. This step will ensure you create the right tactics and content to support your strategy.

2. Content creation and distribution

Work on creating valuable and informative content. Create different asset types that talk to your audience depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey. Optimize your content for search engine results and enhance visibility.

Distribute your content through various channels such as targeted advertising, email marketing, and social media. This will give you the best chance of turning your generated demand into qualified leads.

3. Lead capture and nurturing

Create lead capture mechanisms such as forms, CTAs, and landing pages. Use lead gen software to collect the contact information you need to nurture your audience.

Develop marketing campaigns intended to nurture leads. Use marketing automation to deliver targeted and personalized content. Include various marketing assets and collateral to demonstrate your product value and build trust with your audience.

4. Measure and optimize

Set up a reporting structure to regularly measure and optimize your key performance indicators (KPIs) related to your B2B marketing strategy. Include both lead and demand gen metrics that matter most to your organization.

Analyze the data to determine the effectiveness of both strategies. Make sure to continuously test and optimize your tactics and activities.

Putting It All Together

While demand gen and lead gen are two distinct elements, it's easy to realize that a well-oiled B2B marketing strategy will incorporate both. By understanding the difference between these two elements and leveraging them effectively, your business will create a holistic approach to marketing that will drive sustainable growth.

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By Mohammed Abukar

Meet Mohammed Abukar. He currently leads the Sales Technology strategy at TELUS, one of Canada’s flagship telecom and technology companies. With a broad range of experience in Revenue Operations, Mohammed brings a unique lens to the conversations around process, technology, data, and people. When he is not knee deep in software implementations and integrations you can catch him outdoors enjoying time with family and friends.