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Leads: Finding, tracking, nurturing, converting

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Welcome to the inaugural issue of BtoB's Lead Generation Guide. Our guide offers case studies, expert columns, market statistics and vendor lists, and is a direct response to what we've witnessed in the b-to-b marketplace: an increasing emphasis on lead generation, lead tracking and lead nurturing. This trend is reflected in one finding from our exclusive survey of marketers about their lead-generation plans (and challenges). The e-mail survey, conducted in May in conjunction with the Sales Lead Management Association, found that nearly half the respondents (45.4%) said they would increase spending on lead-gen programs; only 10.3% said they planned to spend less. You can find the survey results on page 34. Other research mirrors ours. When IDC asked technology marketers to rank (on a scale of 1 to 5) the importance of different goals to their companywide marketing activities this year, “lead generation” came out at the very top (4.3), besting both “brand awareness” (4.0) and “online and interactive marketing (4.0). This research, as well as research from other sources, can be found on page 13. The current focus on lead gen shouldn't come as a surprise: A shaky economy compels all businesses to reduce waste, including the waste in time and money of marketing efforts that don't generate the quantum unit of sales: the lead. Our page 6 interview with Laura Ramos, a VP at Forrester Research, provides an excellent synopsis of lead generation. However, nor is Ramos myopic about leads at all costs. “Balancing lead generation with activity to build loyalty and adoption will let b-to-b marketers learn who their best customers are, how they became their best customers, how they journeyed through the buying process and how to find more like them,” Ramos said. Our guide reveals at least two themes: Successful lead generation is a combination of process and processors (read automation). This notion is expressed nicely by Eloqua CEO Joseph Payne, who told us, “Marketers need to automate the process of capturing information and routing great content and making sure they are completely aware of all the people that want to be sold to.” Payne is part of an overview of the lead-gen automation marketplace that starts on page 4. The second theme could be labeled the “Web 2.0 puzzle.” That is, despite the feverish excitement over social media and Web 2.0 technologies as a marketing channel, this environment muddies the waters when it comes to lead-generation strategy. Indeed, a number of our columnists discuss Web 2.0 and how it changes the game. Will marketers find ways to apply the principles of lead scoring and lead nurturing to social media? They'll have to. Of course, the Internet isn't the only place marketers conduct lead-gen campaigns. There are events, telemarketing and sales calls, for example. “We do a lot of networking,” said Lisa Burchard, president of Advance Office & Janitorial Supplies and one of the many marketers who answered our “The Question” on page 4. “We make sure we're involved in networking organizations. We do a lot of lunches and dinners, and we make sure we're involved in the industry, so we can get to know the top people.” And don't forget the biggest offline tactic, direct mail. Russell Kern, founder and CEO of the Kern Organization, makes a compelling case for good old direct mail in his column headlined “When it comes to lead generation, don't fail. Mail” (page 11). “People like to get mail. Always have; always will,” Kern writes. Enjoy our guide. Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at ebooker@crain.com.
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