B2B Demand Generation vs. Lead Generation

As a marketer in the tech sector, you’ve probably heard the words “Demand Generation” and “Lead Generation” thrown around a lot. But what do they mean? When should you use one instead of the other? And how can you measure success? No worries — we’ve got all the answers in this B2B marketer‘s guide to demand-generation and lead-generation.

When it comes to B2B marketing, both demand-generation and lead-generation marketing are vital parts of the full-funnel marketing ecosystem. You’ve got to create interest in your organization and products (demand-gen) and you’ve got to convert that interest into leads (lead-gen). Which approach you’ll focus on depends on your particular organization’s goals, growth plans, and your own capacity.

Custom Illustration of two interlocked magnets

What is B2B demand generation?

Demand generation is an umbrella term that covers all marketing activities that are designed to generate interest in your products or services. The ultimate “top of funnel” marketing, demand generation marketing helps establish relationships with prospects before they are ready to purchase anything from you — relationships that can be nurtured and grown further down the road when that person actually needs your product or service.

How do you create a B2B demand generation strategy?

Keep in mind: you’re not just trying to gather leads here — it’s about creating interest with potential customers who may not even know about your company or even your category yet.

Creative B2B demand generation examples

Because the goal of demand generation marketing is to reach as many potential customers as possible, the tactics of a campaign might include any or all of the following:

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO): Obviously, you want to be sure your site is found when your target buyers are searching for solutions to whatever problems they have, so building TOFU content is vital.
  2. Free resources: Just like any other lead-generation campaign, but without the requirement of giving an email address. SEMRush does an amazing job at this, offering free courses and certifications that help their ideal customers learn more about how to do their jobs better.
  3. Build a community: Build a community around your topic that becomes so indispensable, your name becomes synonymous with said topic. Use LinkedIn Groups, Reddit, Discord, Slack — wherever your target customers are hanging out.
  4. Paid media leveraging lookalike audiences: You know your existing customers, so why not use them to find more people like them using the targeting available to you through paid media? Meta, Google, and programmatic platforms all offer the ability to build targeting to people who are similar or “lookalike” to your existing list.
  5. Partner with industry influencers: Is there a popular podcast host, author, or LinkedIn “influencer” who you might be able to invite to a moderated panel about a relevant topic, or co-host a webinar alongside? Look for ways to make their audience your audience.

HubSpot’s Academy offers marketers free courses and certifications – a great way to create demand for their product by building affinity for their content.

Screenshot of Hubspot academy, an example of a strong demand generation strategy
HubSpot’s Academy offers marketers free courses and certifications – a great way to create demand for their product by building affinity for their content.

When should you use demand generation marketing?

Demand-gen marketing is an important tool for B2B organizations in the following scenarios:

  • Sales have slowed or demand has diminished.
  • Your organization is looking to enter a new market or introduce a new product or service.
  • You have a loyal customer base that you want to grow.
  • Your product or service has a long sales cycle that requires more involved consideration.

If a B2B organization values visibility and marketing that recognizes your prospects, builds brand reputation, and drives engagement at scale — then demand gen marketing is the perfect solution.

How do you measure demand-generation campaigns?

Generally speaking, tracking “vanity metrics” like impressions and clicks on campaigns across all channels is important, along with tracking visits to its associated landing pages for content assets. Longer-term, measuring cost per acquisition (CPA) and ROI can provide insight into the larger picture of campaign effectiveness.

There are also more specialized tools like demand waterfall attribution models, which factor in timely attribution for multi-touch marketing activities throughout the customer journey.

Combining real-time dashboard analytics with marketing automation software like HubSpot can give marketers a pretty accurate view of exactly how demand generation activities are performing. And, while not necessarily the goal of demand generation, knowing which assets led to lead conversions can also be helpful in guiding future content development.

What is B2B lead generation?

Lead-generation marketing is essentially a customer acquisition process. In lead-gen marketing, businesses have to create content that’ll help customers find them and answer common questions they might have.

The ultimate goal of lead-generation marketing is to create and nurture prospects until they are ready for sales conversations.

Lead generation is more focused than demand generation — it’s all about turning potential customers into sales-qualified prospects by collecting their contact information, and then continuing to nurture the relationship through targeted emails and digital retargeting ads.

How do you create a B2B lead generation strategy?

To turn potential customers into prospects, marketers use tactics such as lead magnets (like whitepapers or free trials offered through landing pages) to capture contact info from those who visit their site or subscribe to their email list.

But let’s be honest: the days of offering something of value in return for an email subscription are coming to an end. People just aren’t as willing to give up their email addresses as they used to be, knowing that they’ll be signing up for even more marketing spam.

It’s imperative that you provide something of value anyway, with the hope that once that value is shared, you’ll have a very good reason your visitors should indeed sign up for your email list. (You’ve got a great email program, right?)

Creative lead generation marketing examples

In addition to the B2B gold standard eBook or whitepaper, there are many more lead-gen campaign tactics that smart B2B companies are using, like:

  1. Interactive quiz or calculator: If you know your clients face a very specific problem, is there a way you can quantify it for them or show them where they could be with proper inputs? Tools like Outgrow offer an easy platform to build something useful and unique.
  2. Virtual event: A great way to demonstrate your expertise and get eyeballs on your brand is to host a webinar, virtual conference, or moderated panel.
  3. Free trial: Providing a free version (even with limited access) can be an effective way of increasing leads by allowing visitors to thoroughly test drive before they buy.
  4. Email courses: Build a sequential email course that offers how-tos for your target audience to learn something about what you do.
Screenshot of a B2B Lead Generation Offer for a free trial
Databox offers a free trial offer that brings potential customers into their product to help get them engaged.

When should you use lead generation marketing?

Typically, lead generation is the next step in your funnel after demand generation. You’d employ lead gen tactics after you’ve attracted an audience, and are ready to convert those visitors into marketing-qualified and sales-qualified leads. Not all leads you generate will be ready to buy, so knowing how to nurture them with content that resonates with where they’re at in their journey is vital.

Almost any organization benefits from lead gen marketing tactics, but some specific examples include:

  • For organizations introducing a new product or service to an existing client base
  • To capture potential leads from website visitors who otherwise wouldn’t convert into paying customers.
  • When you’re trying to validate market fit for a new product, or identify leads that are the right fit
  • When your sales team is having trouble with cold prospecting, a lead gen campaign can help warm them up.

Ultimately, lead generation is all about building relationships with your customers and driving value from those relationships. With good lead gen tactics, you can connect with potential customers who are interested in your offer and nurture those relationships until they become customers. When done right, lead gen can be an incredibly powerful tool for driving leads, sales, and customer loyalty.

How do you measure lead-generation campaigns?

When launching a lead-generation campaign, it’s important to track metrics such as the number of leads generated, cost per lead (CPL), and most importantly, conversion rate. Conversion rate is the key metric for measuring how successful your lead gen campaigns are. It measures how many leads you convert into MGLs, SQLs, and ultimately, paying customers.

What are the key differences between B2B demand generation vs. lead generation?

Some of the differences between these two marketing strategies include:

  • Demand generation has a broader target than lead generation.
  • Demand gen is designed to generate interest in what you’re creating – lead generation nurtures prospects until they become customers.
  • Demand generation is considered the ultimate “top of funnel” marketing strategy, which precedes lead generation. Lead generation is further down the funnel.
  • Demand generation leverages SEO content, community building, and paid media to reach out potential customers. Lead generation leverages lead magnets like contact forms and email list subscriptions to build a relationship with someone who has become interested (thanks to your flawless demand generation campaign)

Work with an agency that understands B2B demand and lead generation

Demand-generation is essential to drive brand awareness, while lead-generation campaigns are necessary to turn interested prospects into sales. Demand-gen can start the process of generating leads, but it usually takes a more targeted approach to turn those leads into customers.

In the end, successful full-funnel marketing campaigns combine multiple tactics across the entire buyer’s journey, such as SEO, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, and more.

Not sure where to start? Reach out. We’ll help you get a better understanding of where your B2B marketing needs a boost.