The terms “lead generation” and “demand generation” are often used interchangeably. But these are very different things (where the former is actually a subset of the latter).

Let’s break down the difference.

Lead generation

In essence, lead generation is about collecting email addresses. You tell me what type of person from what type of company you want to reach. I’ll find you contact information, so you can cold call them and try to sell them something.

In the early to mid 2010s, companies adopted the practice of publishing “gated content” (white papers, e-books, etc. that live behind forms on their websites) and asking for visitors to exchange their email addresses in order to download them. They’d then follow with a sales pitch.

The problem here is that a majority of these individuals have zero intent to buy. Not only is this a waste of time for a manufacturer’s sales team, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the “lead” (note that “lead” is intentionally in quotation marks here!).

What’s changed over past five years is that now you can spend a few thousand dollars with Zoominfo or Uplead (among probably 100 other services) and download email addresses today for your entire audience. So if you insist on calling a list, save yourself the time and go do it that way.

Demand generation

Demand generation, on the other hand, is about creating an appetite for your product or service (or even your category).

Rather than blasting bottom-of-funnel “buy from me now” sales messaging at everyone in your audience, hoping a few land, you focus on generating awareness, building trust and educating the buying-process influencers from the right companies.

The goal? When these individuals enter a buy cycle (which you can’t control, by the way), the idea is that they’ll think of you first. And they’ll already have positive association with your brand.

In summary, while lead generation is about collecting email addresses, demand generation is about:

  • Building a respected, trusted brand via thought leadership content
  • Establishing a clear point of view and brand narrative
  • Winning the long game

Can you tell which one we like better?