These documents are similar and are often used interchangeably. While they vary a bit from each other, they are used for the same purpose which is to show intent and an agreement to agree. Most are considered "nonbinding" unless the wording is included to make it binding.
Here's where the difference comes in between a cover letter and a letter of intent. With a cover letter, you likely already have a solid idea of what the job opportunity is, and how to position yourself for it. With a letter of intent, you have to make a slightly trickier balance—positioning yourself as qualified for a job that may not be clear yet. To do that, align your self talk around the company or the industry, making sure to highlight your skills and achievements that would make you a good fit for the company. You can also be specific about your level and experience. For example, you should make it clear that you're looking for a manager-level position if you don't want to be considered for more junior or entry-level roles.