Demand Gen vs. Lead Gen: How to Generate Leads and Demand

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As a small business owner, you strive to offer top-notch products and services. In order to succeed, you need demand for what you sell and a customer base that chooses you over the competition. You can boost public demand for your goods and services through demand-gen marketing, and you can convert that demand into paying customers through lead-gen marketing. 

Here is an overview of how to incorporate demand gen and lead gen into your marketing strategy.

What is demand gen?

Demand generation is a marketing strategy focused on creating interest and demand for a company's products or services. Demand generation creates awareness of a brand and attracts potential customers, engaging them throughout the buyer's journey to drive conversions.

Businesses use demand generation to sustain growth, acquire new customers, and maintain a healthy customer base. It often involves close collaboration with marketing, sales, and customer success teams to align strategies and deliver a seamless customer experience.

Strategies for demand generation

Businesses use demand-generation marketing tools to draw in potential customers. Here are some of their demand-generation strategies:

Content marketing

In a content marketing campaign, you create high-quality, informative content—including blogs, articles, videos, infographics, and podcasts—to educate and engage your target audience. In doing so, you’re building brand awareness and generating demand for your products and services.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

An SEO demand-generation strategy involves optimizing your website and its content to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for relevant keywords. The demand-generation process includes on-page SEO (keywords, meta tags, and URLs) and technical SEO (backlinks and site architecture) to improve visibility.

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Landing page optimization

You can optimize a landing page—where an ad, email, social post, etc., brings a site visitor—by using compelling headlines, persuasive copy, and clear calls to action (CTAs). If the targeted landing page can grab a visitor’s attention, this demand-gen strategy may convert casual browsers into potential buyers.

Email marketing

Email marketing campaigns contribute to demand-generation campaigns by informing potential customers about the goods and services you offer.

Social media marketing

Generate leads with social media marketing, where you can share valuable content, run targeted social media ads, and engage in conversations to build a community around your brand.

Paid advertising

Your demand-generation efforts may include pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on platforms such as Google Ads or social media. PPC ads often let you target specific demographics to increase visibility.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing taps into the social cache of influencers in your niche to reach their audience and gain credibility. Typically, these influencers post content on social media, where they can reach people who might otherwise not know about your brand.

Event marketing

As you work toward creating demand, you can attend or host events, conferences, or trade shows to network with potential customers and showcase your offerings.

Customer referral programs

Customer referrals can power demand-generation campaigns. An enticing referral program can​​ incentivize existing customers to refer new clients to your business. Offer rewards or discounts to referrers and new customers to encourage participation from both directions.

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What is lead gen?

Lead generation is the process of identifying, attracting, and capturing potential customers (known as leads) who have expressed interest in a company's products or services. The primary objective of lead generation is to collect contact information and other relevant details from individuals or businesses, enabling further engagement and nurturing prospects into a company’s sales funnel.

The lead generation process includes:

  • Identifying prospects who have shown interest or potential interest in your business’s goods and services. After creating demand, you’ll start the lead-generation process with a pool of brand-aware prospects.
  • Capturing customer contact info from your inbound leads, including their names, email addresses, phone numbers, and other relevant details necessary for communication and further interaction.
  • Engaging and nurturing new leads to provide relevant information, educate them about your company, and build a relationship that encourages them to move through your sales funnel.
  • Qualifying leads to determine which interested prospects are actual leads and which are merely browsing. Qualified leads are more likely to convert into paying customers based on their needs, intent, and demographics. Your ability to generate high-quality leads depends on earlier steps like lead generation marketing and lead nurturing.
  • Handing leads off to a sales team for direct interaction and potential conversion into customers. This concludes your lead-generation work, but a particularly qualified lead could end up becoming a lifelong customer.

Strategies for lead generation

The strategies associated with lead-generation campaigns mirror those of a demand-generation campaign. Lead-generation tactics include SEO, relevant content marketing, landing page optimization, referral programs, PPC advertising, social media posts, email marketing campaigns, and event marketing. However, with lead gen, you are not introducing a potential customer to your brand and products; you are trying to win them over so they make a purchase. 

You may also consider using on-page chatbots and other AI tools as part of your lead-generation efforts. With this lead-generation strategy, you engage with prospective customers by answering their questions and collecting lead information. Think of chatbots and AI as automated lead-generation tools that work in the background while your team focuses on other tasks, like creating lead-generation content.

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Demand gen vs. lead gen: key differences 

Demand generation and lead generation are similar but distinct aspects of the marketing and sales process, each focusing on different stages of the customer acquisition funnel: 


  • How they’re similar: Both demand generation and lead generation seek to convert prospects into paying customers of a company.
  • How they’re different: The primary differences between demand gen and lead gen are that demand gen works to create awareness, generate interest, and build demand for a company's products or services. Lead gen seeks to convert potential customers who have already shown interest or intent to buy a product or service. Demand gen ushers new people into a company’s sales funnel. Lead generation helps them get through that funnel on their way to being paying customers.


  • How they’re similar: Both demand-generation and lead-generation marketing campaigns try to reach people with potential interest in a company’s goods and services.
  • How they’re different: The key difference between demand-generation and lead-generation activities is that demand gen reaches out to a larger audience, including those who may not be actively looking to make a purchase. A lead-generation campaign focuses on individuals or businesses that have taken a particular action indicating their interest, such as filling out a form, signing up for a trial, subscribing to a newsletter, or frequently visiting a website.


  • How they’re similar: There is overlap between demand-gen and lead-gen marketing efforts. Both involve tactics like SEO, landing page optimization, PPC advertising, and email campaigns as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
  • How they’re different: The key differences between demand-gen and lead-gen activities come down to where potential customers reside within the sales process. Demand-gen prospects are high in the sales funnel. Therefore, activities geared toward them focus on introducing the brand and explaining why your products might help their lives. When it comes to actually generating leads, the marketing activities center on the idea that the prospect wants to make a purchase but must be won over to a particular brand.

Desired outcome

  • How they’re similar: Both demand gen and lead gen seek to move people down a sales funnel and eventually become paying customers.
  • How they’re different: Demand gen aims to nurture and educate the audience, creating a pipeline of potential customers who are aware of the brand and its offerings. Lead gen works to generate qualified inbound leads that you can engage, nurture, and eventually hand over to a sales rep for conversion.

Demand gen vs. lead gen FAQ

What are the main differences between demand gen and lead gen?

The main difference between demand gen and lead gen is potential customers’ awareness of your brand. Demand gen works to create awareness of a product and brand, with tactics that suggest to customers that they may wish to engage with that brand. Lead gen seeks to convert shoppers who are already interested in the brand into paying customers.

When should you prioritize demand gen vs. lead gen?

Prioritize demand-gen activities when you’re new to a market or when you offer a product that few people know about. Opt for lead gen when your demand-gen activities have produced a crop of interested potential clients. Eventually, you’ll take the leads generated by your marketing team and pass them off to your sales team for final customer conversions.

How do you use both demand gen and lead gen in marketing strategy?

Since demand gen and lead gen use many of the same marketing tactics—SEO, content creation, email marketing, social media campaigns, and more—you can pursue both objectives using the same core marketing team. You’ll differentiate your efforts by focusing campaigns on different types of buyers: those who know little about your company and products and those who have already shown interest.