Marketers often exchange the terms demand generation (demand gen) for lead generation (lead gen), but they're not the same strategies. Companies with dedicated sales teams can deploy both strategies simultaneously. Companies often have an inbound sales team to respond to demand generated sales requests and outbound sales teams to engage in those leads generated through lead generation activities.
If the conversion can be applied online with no interaction with the company, demand generation is critical to driving awareness, trust, and authority with your products and services. If your conversion requires sales interaction, negotiation, or longer sales cycles, lead generation is critical to target and acquire qualified sales leads nurtured through to a close.
What is Demand Generation
Demand generation drives awareness and interest in a company's products and services. The goal is to drive closed business with minimal interaction with the consumer or business you're attracting.
In the case of demand generation, you may be more aggressive in driving the prospect through the sales cycle and getting them directly to the conversion.
What is Lead Generation
Lead generation drives interest or inquiry into products or services. The goal is the collection of qualified connections to build relationships with and nurture until closed as a customer.
When deploying lead generation strategies, you may be more aggressive in the collection of contact information so that you can build trust and engage with the prospect over time. Of course, you also don't want to interrupt or slow down the lead's interest in closing business with you. Lead scoring is critical – understanding whether the lead is ideal, has the available budget, is close to a purchase decision. Longer sales cycles, multi-step engagements, and enterprise sales require a lead generation strategy and process.
The process may be very similar, and tactics may even be identical between the two strategies. For instance, I still may aggressively pursue search, social and PR strategies to build awareness and drive either demand or leads. I may develop an infographic or whitepaper that helps nurture a lead or encourage a purchase decision. If I'm attempting to generate leads, though, I may put more emphasis on the expertise of the company and how establishing a relationship between the two long-term would be great strategically.
Success or measurement may differ between the two strategies, though. For demand generation, I may be more focused on the reach of my marketing and the resulting conversions. For lead generation, I may be more focused on the quantity of qualified sales leads. While the marketing team may be held responsible for either strategy, it's the sales team that's held responsible for closing business with a lead generation strategy. The marketing team is just responsible for the quantity and quality of the leads handed off.