There are two buzz terms that are crucially important in modern marketing, especially in the last 10 years with the advancements in technology that allow for meticulous tracking and increased accountability – the terms are Lead Generation and Demand Generation. I’m sure you all agree that these two terms are probably used at least a handful of times each day in your office. But is your team using these terms correctly? Are you using these terms correctly? I recently even heard them used interchangeably…and therein lies the reason for my post.

I was asked to explain the difference between lead generation and demand generation a few years ago when I was training a new marketing employee, and it was then that I realized I had been using these terms on a daily basis and never really knew what each specifically meant. From that point forward, I decided that I would begin researching these terms, use them more often, and most importantly apply them in the correct context.

Let’s begin with Demand Generation – demand gen encompasses any marketing activity that creates awareness for your product, your brand, your company and your industry. Demand gen involves both inbound and outbound marketing; so all of your email marketing, webinars, events etc., – all of the fun stuff! The objective of a demand generation team is to strengthen your position in your specific market and create an overarching awareness of your brand. Demand generation is handled solely by marketing (with the one-off exception of a sales person spreading the word at a networking event or something along those lines), some departments have dedicated roles like a VP of Demand Generation, or Demand Generation Specialist.

Here are some examples of Demand Generation activities:

  • Exhibiting at an industry event
  • Blogs
  • Whitepapers
  • Resource Guides
  • Youtube/Vimeo channels featuring the product
  • Email Campaigns

Let’s move to Lead Generation, which is a much more simple concept – lead gen is just the process of collecting leads. Most leads are captured through form fills but leads can also come from website tracking software housed in your marketing automation platform. The objective of lead generation is to gather all of the leads (form fills, responses, website visitors, etc.) that have come in as a result of your demand generation programs that we discussed earlier and then add them to your database so that you can follow up with them. Lead gen is a result or product of demand gen, or a subdivision of demand gen.

Here are some examples of lead generation:

  • Form on a pay per click (PPC) landing page
  • Sign up form at event exhibit booth
  • Form to download/attend a webinar/whitepaper/ebook
  • Website tracking from a marketing automation platform or other device
  • Opt-in form


The Catch22 of Demand Gen + Lead Gen

As a B2B digital marketer, it is important to me to provide my audience with relevant content across multiple channels so that they can easily educate themselves with readily available materials. However, without tracking who is downloading those materials through a web form we can’t follow up with these folks, who are likely on the market for our product or a similar product. Furthermore, without that form you’re also missing out on information about that person. On the web forms I publish, I always ask for First Name, Last Name, Company, Email and occasionally the Title. Those 4-5 fields are extremely important because they help us understand not only who the person is, but that information can help us qualify or disqualify a lead. It’s important to know as much about my potential prospects as I can and web forms are just a way of marketing life; we need that data. The caveat? Implementing a form to download content acts as a barrier to the free marketplace of sharing content.

Most of us all agree that filling out a form is not only annoying, but also concerning at times; we are giving our email address, our company and last name – even as a marketer, giving out that information makes me nervous. What if they call me every day? What if I’m added to an email distribution list that emails me multiple times a day? Sometimes those questions alone will prevent me from downloading content that I really want to read. When filling out a form isn’t required, you’ll experience higher website traffic volume, more links back to your website, and increased social sharing…but without forms you have no way of capturing those who download the content as leads and you cant take it a step further and qualify them either.

You certainly can’t have lead generation without demand generation because they go hand-in-hand; the challenge is finding the perfect balance for your marketing team.