140321_Leads-versus-Demand-02Are you creating demand for your offerings, or for your content?

That’s the question Eric Wittlake asked some months back over at Content Marketing Institute: an interesting discussion about the seldom-acknowledged gulf between lead generation and demand generation. Semantics? Not quite. They are not the same thing – in fact, they are opposed to each other.

Because one just captures customers’ details, while the other shapes their perspective. You can have fantastic content, but gate it behind forms and you’re likely to put off quite a few potential customers. Yet take those away and you can’t gather leads.

So what’s a marketer to do?

When does lead generation come first?

Take a good look at the content you’ve cooked up around your product, service, or solution.

  • What’s its value to its intended audience?
  • Is this the sort of thing appreciated by a lot of people with very specific needs?
  • Is this the sort of thing people would want to consume even before the need arises?

If you’re inclined to answer ‘high’, ‘yes’, and then ‘yes’ again, then you’ll want to lead with the leads – get to know them first, then start growing demand.

Because when folks know you’ve got something that could be valuable and useful to them, the barrier to entry drops a great deal. The expectation, the seed of demand, is already there. Leverage that. Once you’ve captured their information, it’s a matter of staying in touch and keeping the content flowing to build demand.

This angle works best with complex offerings, where requirements are more evident, or with addressing a niche or specialist audience who will derive more significant value from it than the everyman consumer – like server administrators.

Many of these know what they want. They’re less likely to balk at signing up to gain access to something that will help with that.

When does demand generation come first?

On the other hand, if you’ve got content that doesn’t precisely address critical pain points, or isn’t really the sort of thing people would put up with a little inconvenience to get to, then use it in the good tradition of content marketing. Make it freely available.

If this sounds like a waste of a lot of opportunities, it’s completely natural. But hold the knee-jerk, and think about that one thing about demand generation many forget to consider – the call to action.

As a customer, scanning for vendors who could have the know-how to help with your problems, which is more appealing? A piece of content promising in-depth advice that you have to register for?

Or a piece of content you can just pick up, digest at your leisure, and then, if it strikes a chord, contact the creators about? And ask them questions – specific, you-centered questions that a static content piece probably can’t answer accurately?

That’s the principle. Each form they put their particulars into represents a sort of tacit contract between you and them – they divulge, you provide. And when are contracts at their most favorable? When they’re on your terms.

Let them click that CTA button and ask for more on their own initiative, and it works better for both sides. Because:

  1. Them making the first move gives them a sense of ownership over the engagement, which puts them in a more receptive frame of mind.
  2. You’ll know right off the bat that these are leads with genuine interest – not leads who submitted that form just to peek at your content, and then go dark when you follow up.

So what are you after?

Mixing these two approaches becomes a problem when you set out to do both, but gauge success by one. If you’ve ever been part of a marketing campaign where the aim is ‘growing mindshare’ and ‘driving interest’ and the metric of success is the number of new sign-ups, you’ve seen it.

Nobody’s saying you shouldn’t go all-out awareness boost mode, AND pick up potential customers. It’s when you try to do both at the same time that conflict occurs.

Both types of generation can and should coexist: it all lies in which takes precedence.

How does your marketing strategy balance capturing leads and generating demand? Tell us!

And check out how GetIT Comms blends them in campaign execution.

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