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What Is the Difference Between Demand Generation and Lead Generation?

Demand generation is a strategy or program that your business might undertake in an effort to boost sales. Lead generation is sub-strategy that falls under the broader umbrella of demand generation and is designed to attract new customers to your business.

You may have heard that the best kind of customer is a return customer—and that is definitely true. But if you’re really hoping to grow your business, you’ll have to lure in some new clients along the way.

Of course, if you’re following our advice on social media, SEO, and email, you’re probably well on your way to the business expansion of your dreams. Still, you might wonder . . .

Could you be doing more?

If you really want to dip your toes into the world of new-customer acquisition, there are some terms you should get familiar with. And you know we love to break this stuff down for you, so here we go.

Demand Generation Vs. Lead Generation

Because the internet is complicated and—let’s be honest—messy, these two terms are often used interchangeably. But don’t let the so-called experts online fool you; there is a big difference between demand generation and lead generation.

What Is Demand Generation?

Demand generation is a strategy or program that your business might undertake in an effort to boost sales. The entire process hinges on data related to your specific business, as well as the broader industry in which your business resides.

To successfully employ a demand generation strategy, you must understand the journey a prospective buyer will take from start to finish. How does someone get acquainted with your brand and where do they go from there? What makes the difference between someone who looks at your offering and says “no” versus someone who takes a look and says, “yes, yes, a thousand times yes”?

Once you are intimately familiar with this kind of business-specific data, you’ll be able to break down your demand generation strategy into highly-specific subcategories. Often, those sub-strategies look something like this:

  1. Increasing Brand Awareness
    • Establishing a brand voice
    • Identifying the target audience
    • Building a strong social media presence
  2. Upping Inbound Marketing Strategies
    • Generating leads (Oh, hello there! We’ll be getting back to this pronto.)
    • Investing in blogging and SEO
    • Upping your email marketing game
  3. Creating Outbound Marketing Strategies
    • Generating leads (Hi again.)
    • Paying for TV or radio advertisements
    • Making cold calls
  4. Investing in Customer Retention
    • Encouraging feedback
    • Making changes based on feedback
    • Generating renewals and upsells

Although the methods for each sub-strategy will differ, the goal is essentially the same: to increase sales. As you might imagine, demand generation is not a program you can expect to accomplish in a few weeks or months. Instead, it’s more like a way of life for your business. It’s the process of gathering marketing data and then using that data wisely.

How Can You Get Started with Demand Generation?

There are a hundred different ways to answer the question of how to get started with demand generation. We could dive into a breakdown of the four subcategories we just mentioned. Or, we might talk about specific ways you can gather data about your sales funnel and prospective buyers. But we’ll save those topics for another day.

For now, let’s talk about the big picture. To successfully achieve demand generation, you must:

1. Understand the Client

At this point, we sound like a broken record. But you really, really, really need to understand who you are selling to before you do the actual selling. Many business owners assume that they and their potential customers are on the same wavelength, but this is often not the case.

For example, you might want to target a younger audience and decide that Facebook is the prime place to do so. But if you fail to do some market research, you could be left unaware of certain marketing trends—including the fact that young people aren’t on Facebook like they used to be. Because you didn’t take the time to understand your target demographic, all your efforts (and money) could potentially be wasted.

2. Put the Client First

Once you know who your ideal client is, make that person the priority. Before you make any marketing decision, ask yourself this question first:

“How does this benefit my ideal client?”

If you find yourself drawing a blank, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

3. Create Content that Speaks to the Client

You know we love us some snappy copy. But you should never forget that the internet is already chock-full of content. If you can’t find new and helpful ways to present your information to the client, those web descriptions and blog posts won’t do anyone any good.

4. Evaluate Your Efforts

Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping those marketing efforts are successful, do a little self-evaluation. Take a look at the data, run some split tests, and ask your clients for feedback. Then, take what you learn and use it to further hone your demand generation strategy.

You may have heard that the best kind of customer is a return customer. But if you’re hoping to grow your business, you’ll have to lure in some new clients along the way.

What Is Lead Generation?

Now that we’ve taken a look at the bigger picture, let’s dial in a bit further. If you remember, lead generation falls under the greater umbrella of either inbound marketing (attracting new customers to your website) or outbound marketing (reaching out to potential new customers)— both of which fall under the even greater umbrella of demand generation. Confused yet?

Essentially, when it comes to obtaining new customers, lead generation is just one part of the process.


Lead generation, at its core, is about gaining the interest of potential new customers. A “lead” is another word for a person who has shown interest in buying a good or service. Not all leads convert to sales—but they provide the vital first step to sealing the deal.

How Can You Get Started with Lead Generation?

Lead generation can take many forms. If you are investing in outbound marketing strategies, your lead generation might look like this:

  • Making cold calls to pitch your good or service to prospective customers
  • Sending outbound emails to people who haven’t bought from you but might like to
  • Investing in pay-per-click advertising

If you are instead interested in lead generation for inbound marketing, you might try:

  • Creating website and social media content that is designed to attract interest from prospective customers
  • Offering free trials of your good or service
  • Sending emails to people who are already on your list, but have yet to buy from you
  • Using a chatbot to speak with new customers who visit your site

Keep in mind that new leads can come from virtually anywhere. You might be able to attract interest organically through SEO and your website. Or, you can generate more traffic by investing in a social media presence that slays. You can also pay for new leads through the help of a lead generation tool or affiliate marketer! Either way, we know you’ll be the belle of the ball.

Always Start with the Big Picture

As you can see, there are many pieces to the puzzle that is your overall demand generation strategy. And although lead generation is just one small piece, it’s a vital corner piece that enables the rest of the puzzle to fit into place. In fact, we believe that bolstering your demand generation strategy with solid lead generation techniques will have new clients lining the streets to get in your front door.

But you can’t successfully generate new leads without understanding what the bigger picture looks like. If you don’t understand your target audience, have no concrete grasp on your business goals, and can’t see how you compare to other industry heavy-hitters, you won’t be able to find much success in your marketing efforts. So, make sure you’ve answered the big questions before you get into the nitty-gritty.

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