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Content Marketing for Lead Generation vs Demand Generation

Since social media is driven by content, the types of content you share will influence not only your success on social networks, but how social media helps your business. Different types of content serve different purposes and different audiences, and every business should be choosing the right content for their specific business goals. It is this principle that makes the distinction between demand generation and lead generation, two widely confused marketing concepts, so important.

Demand generation vs lead generation

The difference between demand generation and lead generation can seem murky, but it’s really as simple as the words themselves. Demand generation is a marketing operation that serves to create a demand for or interest in your product.  Lead generation, on the other hand, is used to collect specific information about potential clients, turning them into sales leads.

In other words, the purpose and the desired result of demand generation are the same: to make people want to buy from you. With lead generation, the purpose and the result are different. Lead generation activities are supposed to make people want your content. The desired result is the information you gather. In this way, the difference is almost one of perception vs. data. Which one is more important to your business?

“These terms are often used interchangeably by B2B marketers,” according to Eric Wittlake. “The result is a single content marketing program that is expected to both deliver leads and drive demand. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.”

With different purposes, these two marketing operations need to be undertaken in different ways. Specific approaches to content are better suited to each function.

What content to use for lead generation

Lead generation is largely dependant on gated content. You promote and advertise your content to a wide net of people, often on social media. Anyone who shows an interest is driven to a landing page, registration page or form fill which they need to fill out in order to access your content. Those with only a casual interest in your content won’t even bother. But a small portion of the people you reach will be willing to exchange their information for the content, even knowing—as many of them will—that this will make them the target of your sales efforts. These people will likely believe the content might help them with their work, or are otherwise very passionate about the subject matter. As a result, this gate helps weed out unlikely buyers while providing your sales teams with more qualified leads.

Lead generation is more suited to very detailed content. Often people expect a little more if they’re forced to fill out a form, which is why ebooks, white papers, reports and other forms of long-form content are commonly used for lead generation. Webinars and panels are also common forms of lead generation content, as people expect to register for these types of events.

To be successful at lead generation on social media, consider using social media advertising. This allows you to target very specific groups of people who may already be interested in your area of expertise. While casting out a wide net on social media is fine, the purpose of your lead generation content is to really appeal to the core audience that makes up your prospect pool.

Lead generation also requires that you have a lead management tool like Salesforce, Marketo or WebCRM. These tools let you track and manage the leads that you generate with your content.

What content to use for demand generation

Demand generation tends to focus on brand positioning and brand awareness. To raise awareness you want to remove all barriers between people and your content—basically the opposite of gated content. The wider the net the better.

Content that suits the model will have wide appeal. Videos, lists, blog posts and accessible resources are all forms that suit demand generation. These types of content are often dubbed inbound marketing activities. They also perform generally better than their lead generation counterparts on social media. And that’s the point.

Because the goal of demand generation isn’t immediate but more of a long-term shift in perception, search engine optimization can also serve a big role in this process. Blog posts and websites that end up highly ranked in search will immediately place your business top of mind for anyone actively seeking out that subject matter, this week or three months from now.

Choosing between lead generation and demand generation

Clearly lead generation and demand generation require different approaches to content. That being said, they aren’t mutually exclusive. There can be overlap depending on your approach, so you don’t always have to choose between the two.

Wittlake explains that the two operations can work in sequence, rather than simultaneously. Leads you gathered can they be targeted with content to increase demand among that list. Great content can also result in a greater interest in your product, driving people to seek out further information.

If you were forced to choose, the first thing to do is consider how you hope social media contributes to your overall business goals. If it’s really focused on brand awareness, customer service or community building, you’ll likely want to stick to demand generation. If you do see it as a sales tool, lead generation might be your best bet.

Small businesses will likely begin with demand generation. This process has broader applicability, especially in businesses with small or no sales teams. Larger enterprises will likely garner more value out of lead generation.

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