min read

Demand Gen Vs Lead Gen: What Drives Your GTM Motion?

Full disclosure about the demand gen vs lead gen discussion before you read the blog – we’re team demand gen. And with good reason! Find out why.

Krishna Charan
November 24, 2023
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Demand gen Vs lead gen. The conundrum is not too different from ‘to gate or not to gate’ your content. The end goals of demand gen and lead gen are the same. To deliver value with content. Drive buyer trust. Build a sustainable funnel. Accelerate your pipeline. 

It’s just that the path to the goals is varied, and has to be adorned according to the changing behavior of today’s SaaS buyers.

If you’re privy to discourses on LinkedIn about demand and lead generation, the jury is still out. And rightly so! Because the GTM motions of companies aren’t as binary as taking sides with a single approach among the two.

In this blog, I’m going to contextualize my reading of this split between demand gen and lead gen; and determine what might work best for today’s SaaS buying patterns.

Demand gen and lead gen differ in their core principles

The primary goal of demand gen is to make your target audience aware of the problems that your company solves. It's about building a relationship with potential customers, nurturing that relationship, and guiding them through the buyer's journey, providing value and content that cuts through the noise of ‘sell at any cost’ marketing.

On the other hand, lead generation is more about converting interested prospects into potential customers. This involves collecting relevant details about your prospects, such as their name, email address, company size, and more, to nurture them into sales-ready leads or MQLs.

Here’s where things get murky though. What defines ‘interested prospects’ and why can’t they get instant access to your content even if they are sales-ready prospects? Read on.

Lead gen is gold when you have a prospect’s explicit intent 

If a prospect is looking for a detailed account of how to optimize the buyer journey, I’m not going to gate it. I’d much rather build trust by giving them what they want right there without asking them to fill up a form.

But that’s not what explicit intent is. Explicit intent is when you host a lead generation form by setting the expectations that a sales outreach makes complete sense if they fill in their details.

Cue elements where you’d only want the contacts of prospects who are keen on evaluating your product:

  • Demo request forms
  • Meeting scheduling forms
  • Free trial or freemium onboarding forms
  • Product walkthrough webinars
  • Co-marketing e-books and webinars
  • Detailed competitor comparison documents and product whitepapers

The lines between demand gen and lead gen can blur

Make no mistake. Demand gen and lead gen belong in the same sales funnel. The key difference lies in the stage of the funnel they target.

Demand gen aims to attract prospects into the top of the funnel, sparking their interest in your brand or product. Lead gen, at least by popular perception, focuses on the middle and bottom of the funnel, aiming to convert interested prospects into potential customers.

But truth be told, don’t you imagine demand gen holds more relevance until the very last buying trigger?

Marketers, salespersons, C-levels, and other decision makers are now in on the game. Prospects don’t trust their contact info and other personal data just to go through a content piece (that might provide what they’re looking for nonetheless), unless they come with a serious intent to evaluate your product.

A meme that shows a knock knock joke and cracks fun at lead gen content that is gated.
 Ask yourself this: what was the last time you submitted your ACTUAL contact info on a form to read a content piece? If you’re squinting your eyes too much to recollect, you know the answer.

Even paid channels need demand gen into their marketing mix today

When you’re putting money into Google and LinkedIn ads, you need to drive your audience to a demo request or a product tryout page right? RIGHT? Not really.

While it’s a good idea to send your most engaged audience and best-fit ICPs to a lead generation form, your less-engaged cold leads need more time to get acquainted with your brand and product offerings.

An image that shows one of RevenueHero’s LinkedIn ads that connects feature with a problem.
A problem-oriented feature ad from RevenueHero on LinkedIn.

At RevenueHero, we do both in tandem when it comes to paid marketing. The above promoted post is problem-oriented with a product push that drives clicks to a demo request. 

But the one below is just a witty, engaging video that indirectly showcases the use-cases we solve for. The sole purpose of this is to create brand recall value on top of the funnel.

Similarly, we have our customer testimonials, which add social proof to what our product claims to solve for. The clicks here, are redirected to our (ungated) customer stories and case studies that provide visitors with the successful GTM playbooks RevenueHero’s customers.

Imagine lead generation as a touchpoint. And know that not (just) one touchpoint drives conversions!

If you notice that you’re gathering pipeline from a gated guide, ebook, templates, webinars, or even an ad landing page, don’t get blindsided into doubling down your lead gen efforts. Leaving demand gen in the lurch.

Even if your GTM motion involves an elaborate lead gen strategy, the only objection I’m making is to not make it the centerpiece of your pipeline. 

Think about that podcast series that drove top-of-mind recall with prospects. Think of the witty, on-brand and on-product memes that gave you eyeballs. Think of all the dark socials that are driving people to one of your lead gen triggers. 

When demand gen is doing all the heavy-lifting initially, you can’t attribute your GTM success to a single touchpoint or a larger strategy around demand generation. 

An image that shows how a b2b buying journey is non-linear with too many touch points.
Don’t be confused by your prospects’ messy buying journey. It’s how you handle the buying triggers that matters the most.

What you can do instead: Reward declared intent with a seamless post lead gen flow

Now that I’ve established why your demand gen efforts reward the early stages of your funnel, you still need to be ready with the right systems in place – as soon as a prospect submits a lead gen form.

Keep your form concise 

I know lead qualification is an important step in keeping your SDRs and AEs free from junk. But your prospects don’t have to bear the brunt of filling up a form that asks too many questions.

At RevenueHero, we use our software’s native enrichment to fetch basic details like disposable emails, timezone, and region. And Clearbit to enhance the contact details further with role, decision-making power, revenue, and other information that can help our sales.

Your prospects want a meeting; Give them a schedule to pick from NOW, not later

Just routing leads is not enough. A “someone will reach out to you shortly” message won’t cut it, especially when your prospects come in hot with buying intent. Show them that you’re unique and that you care about their time and buying experience.

A GIF that shows RevenueHero’s instant meeting scheduler in action.
Allow your prospects to book meetings in a jiffy.

And to do that, you need to have the right setup at the backend:

  • Lead qualification and account matching rules that help route a prospect to the right AE who understands their pain points.
  • Display the right SDR or AE’s time slots instantly after a prospect submits a demo request form.
  • Humour your already engaged outbound, ABM and other campaign-generated leads over emails and enable them to book a meeting without filling up a form.

Be available across the funnel 

You never know when a decision maker might find triggers to buy your software. It could be a blog, a social media post, a customer success story, and so on. But you can ensure that when they do want to reach out to you and provide their contact info, you’re ready to pounce.

  • Add lead gen forms, widgets, and live chat nudges in the right places across your website. 
  • If your software involves a PLG motion, add in-app meeting schedulers to encourage users to talk to an AE or a product specialist for helping with their adoption.
  • Stand out with your demo booking workflow by adding personalized meeting links and messages to your forms.
An screenshot that shows RevenueHero’s personalized meeting link builder in action.
A screengrab of RevenueHero’s personalized meeting links and booking pages.

Long story short; use your demand gen efforts to build trust, educate, and deliver value with every piece that goes out. And lead gen to make buying simple for your prospects with a frictionless experience post form-submit.

Revenuehero is fast and intuitive, custom-built for modern sales teams.
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