Last week, Eric Wittlake (@wittlake) wrote a great post called Lead Generation is Crippling Demand Generation where he argued that these two marketing activities were working against each other due to the different outcomes each is trying to achieve.
Many marketers lose focus on the bigger picture as they chase more leads.
They throw registration forms in front of their content without thinking about earning the right to build an engaged audience that will return to you when they are ready to buy.
Too often we think about how to capture people in our nets instead of helping them along their buying journey.
Eric generally produces the most thought-provoking articles, and this one got me to thinking that we need a new term to describe the whole process. I think the rise of content marketing as a hot topic in B2B Marketing is partly due to this struggle.
So instead of lead generation or demand generation, content marketing might be the term to use.
Eric describes the two processes:
Lead generation: collecting registration information, often in exchange for content, in order to build a marketing database for email or telemarketing followup. The direct outcome of lead generation is new contacts available for sales or marketing.
Demand generation: the practice of creating demand for an organization’s products or services through marketing. The direct outcome is your audience is more likely to purchase your products or services.
In the comments, Ardath Albee correctly pointed out that “leads” do not always have to equal contacts who filled out a registration form.
But even with this clarification, I think Eric’s larger definition applies. Many marketers focus on leads instead of the larger demand picture. And they do this because, well, because that’s how they are measured!
But can we truly “generate demand” or is our job as content marketers to harness demand by helping our buyers?
I think if you’re selling candy bars, you can tap into people’s desires to self-medicate with food by showing them a picture of a delicious candy bar.
But in B2B Marketing, aren’t we just educating people that we have solutions to problems they either know they have or we are educating them that they have a problem, (and thus we have the solution). But they are still in control.
So I think content marketing is an attempt to cover both lead generation and demand generation.
The content’s goal is to educate and inform, at different stages of the buying cycle. Some content is more relevant for early stage (problem identification?) and some is more relevant for later stages (solution identification, vendor short list.)
But it is all about managing that demand to produce more engagement, with more people, earlier in the buying process and earning the right to see them continue their journey with us.
In the end, I agree with Eric’s point that the terms Lead Generation and Demand Generation should not be used interchangeably. But I think we should combine them into the holistic term of Content Marketing. And we need to adjust how marketers are measured.
We need to generate leads. We need to harness demand. And we can only do this with a sound content strategy and cost-effective, inbound marketing approach.
What’s your take?