Demand Gen vs Lead Gen: What's the Difference?

Demand gen vs lead gen sounds like the Battle of the Generations. But the two marketing strategies should be the best of friends. They can work in sequential harmony to first attract and then nurture your leads – and, finally, close the deal.

It stands to reason, then, that demand gen and lead gen are quite different even though the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

So, what exactly is the difference between the demand gen and lead gen? 

Imagine, if you will, a rock concert. Demand gen is the band that gets people through the door. Lead gen is the person behind the merch desk selling stuff and collecting emails. It would be a waste to have all those fans at the show and not get their details; without the band playing, there would be no emails to collect.

So here's the breakdown:

What is demand gen?

Demand gen campaigns consist of any kind of marketing campaign designed to attract customers. There are lots of ways to generate demand including advertising, webinars, account-based marketing and events. However the most popular is content created to entertain, and/or inform your ideal customer (ideal customer profile or ICP) on a topic attractive to them. Whatever the demand gen type, potential customers come to you.

What is lead gen?

Lead gen, on the other hand, is any campaign in which you nurture or cultivate leads – or those people or company representatives which have shown an interest in your product or service. The interest could be casual such as a site visit or they may be banging on your door shouting “take my money!”

What content should you create for your B2B campaign?

At the core of demand gen and lead gen is B2B content. This will nearly always tends toward the practical and useful, typically a “how to." (If solving customers’ real-world problems sounds infinitely more satisfying than distracting them, then you are in the right place.) 

The content should detail how customers can tackle the same issues as your product or service, or it might help them with a related matter. For example, a camera maker could commission content on either soft-focus techniques, lighting or Photoshop usage. 

If you know how to solder a diode into a circuit board, you might be the right company to buy the components from. Your buyers are just like you. Pull them in with a topic that enables their buying decision -- and pretty soon, they might be looking at the additional products or services that your company offers


Want more on B2B marketing for manufacturers? Don't miss our 7-Step Guide on Content Marketing for Manufacturers


As to the content format, the top three for B2B marketers are: their own website (90%); blogs (76%) and email newsletters (69%).

Other media are available; videos, webinars and podcasts are more work to create, but also very effective for buyers. 

The more you help your prospective buyers, the more you will increase the awareness of your brand as a source of expertise and build trust in your organization.


How exactly does lead gen work?

Where leads come in as a result of content, as described above, your prospects might hand over details via an email form in exchange for access to useful information such as a white paper. Or they could be interested in offers, deals, or events, opting to add their email to a newsletter list or blog subscription. 

The aim is to turn people into customers by showing them how your product or service meets their needs, makes their life easier, or saves them money. 


The first step is to identify who your target market is, or your ideal buyer persona – what kind of leads do you need? You could look at age, gender, location -- or define their industry and position. Hubspot has a Make my Persona quiz that can help. 


After this, you should develop your so-called “lead magnet”, as detailed above. Whatever type of content that may be, it needs to add value so prospects are happy to hand over their details. When they do tell you more about them, you should have a customer relationship management (CRM) system that helps segment those contacts automatically. Salesforce and HubSpot are popular choices but there are CRM systems for every size and industry.


Not all leads are created equal. Someone who visits your blog to quickly learn more about charity tax write-offs isn’t as useful – qualified, scored – as the person interested in buying your accounting software. You should prioritize the latter. People normally qualify leads out of 100 weighting various interactions with content, social media, newsletter opening and other information-seeking activity. 


You can also use interactive content like calculators, quizzes, assessments, etc. to gather lead information. This will help you better score and qualify leads. Furthermore, it enables you to gauge the level of interest, responsiveness, and engagement that a particular lead shows in your product/service. You can then focus more on the leads that have a higher probability of converting into paying customers. 


Want to learn more about lead scoring? Don't miss: The Savvy Marketer's Guide to HubSpot Lead Scoring).


After that, qualified leads need to be contacted (a “touch”) via marketing channels such as emails. webinars and ads according to their categorization. These channels should obviously be connected to your CRM. An analytics engine will help you understand where you lose leads and what is working. 


Demand gen vs lead generation example

Salesforce is an expert at both demand and lead generation. Their 360 Blog covers all types of sales and marketing topics, by no means just related to CRM systems, including brand building and employee engagement. Site visitors can read these without handing over details. 


However, the company also carries out in-depth research such as their well-respected reports. To read these, potential leads need to qualify themselves with location, name, email address and job title. Readers click the “get the report” button and they are added into Salesforce’s Salesforce. 


When reports come out, Salesforce will plug them on social media, advertise them on other pages and inform previous leads. 


The marketing department might, then, retarget (via a cookie) visitors who read blogs on similar topics but didn’t download the full report. Or they could run ads on social media encouraging further report downloads – and handing over of contact details. 


B2B marketing strategy: the marketing funnel

Since the 1990s, marketers have increasingly relied upon the idea of a marketing funnel, distilling leads from first point of contact to handing over their cash. 


There are lots of different and sometimes quite complex iterations of this funnel, but the basic one consists of awareness, consideration and decision. 


In the awareness phase, customers become interested in your company, product or service though an ad or a social media mention. Or maybe they reached you via SEO. You should then keep attracting them and get their details, begin to offer them discounts, and/or put them on your newsletter mail list.


After this comes consideration. This means that customers are shopping around between you and your competitors. Gently sell them on the benefits of your product in your emails and make sure they have more trust-building content to read. Product sheets and brochures can also be useful. We’ve written about this here: Content Marketing for the Middle of the Funnel


Finally, the decision – hopefully in your favor. Your site should have plenty of positive testimonials and or reviews so they know they are making the right choice. Your offer really needs to stand out so expert copy is mandatory. 


Other, later steps, include making sure actually ordering or buying your product or service is as quick and easy as possible and encouraging ongoing loyalty in or retention of your customers.



Demand gen and lead gen are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to B2B marketing strategy. Both concepts need to be in place at the heart of a robust marketing strategy that is fully researched and targeted, expertly created and managed, and thoroughly measured and adjusted. The entire operation must be carefully managed particularly since marketing is a cost that needs to deliver ROI – or have its budget slashed.

Here at PMG, we take a rigorous approach to helping you develop and manage your marketing strategy. We will assess your site, including content; co-create and agree upon a growth strategy; research your audience; assemble an expert team; create content that will rake in qualified leads; and ultimately, help your business close more leads. 

To put it into context, have a look at our content, Pros and Cons of a B2B Content Marketing Agency. Or, simply contact us at any time with questions or ideas on how we can leverage some ideas mentioned here. 


Michael Willoughby | Senior Writer
About the Author
Michael Willoughby, Senior Writer

With a background in journalism, paired with a Content Marketing Certification from HubSpot, Michael has a sharp eye for a good story -- and the know-how to bring that story to life through digital marketing practices. Michael can tackle just about any subject matter but has a keen interest in technology brands for PMG's B2B customers.