The science of generating leads

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Scott McCafferty and Mike Emich this month are launching a magazine called Design World. When calling on potential advertisers, the pair emphasize their Web site's novel means for generating leads. will offer CAD drawings for engineers to download into their product designs. The offering is intended to allow Design World to enter into engineers' work flow; it also provides advertisers with strong leads. 

"When an engineer downloads a model into his design, the manufacturer gets the name, address and phone number of the person who downloaded the product," McCafferty said. "We're giving the sales guys the exact tools they like to have."

Design World's approach underscores a new reality in b-to-b media and marketing—a publisher would be short-sighted to launch a product that didn't at least promise to deliver high-quality leads. With a climate of marketing accountability that seems here to stay, the Internet's speed in delivering leads and the depth of prospect information that can be gleaned online, leads are more important than ever.

Leads, of course, have always been important, a critical tool for measuring a publication's performance. Who could forget the trade magazine bingo card?

But in the Internet age, the bingo card has become passe. "I'm sure a bunch of kids selling today, if you say 'bingo card,' they'll look at you like, 'What do you mean?' " said Bruce Morris, president of Source Media's banking group.

Although they still exist, bingo cards, or reader service cards, fall short of what the Internet can offer in delivering timely leads to advertisers. "With the reader service card, the people fill in those things and a few weeks later the advertiser would get the lead," said Kevin Vermeulen, VP-group publisher of ALM Properties, publisher of The American Lawyer . "Now, online, they track [leads] every day. You can track them by the hour if you want."

Making the most of these leads has become essential in b-to-b marketing organizations that must now track the effectiveness of their spending. "I don't think that most marketers will return to an age of 10 or 15 years ago—or anything in that time frame when there was comparatively very low measurement of true ROI against a marketing program," said Bill Reinstein, CEO of Accela Communications, which develops rich media products for marketers.

With ROI accountability a reality for marketers, media companies have in turn engaged in a leads arms race, developing new products—most of them Internet-focused?to help their advertising and marketing customers generate leads.

Online is where customers are, not only in the technology arena but also in more traditional industries. According to recent survey by GlobalSpec, a Web site directed at engineers, 91% of those polled said they used the Internet to find components and suppliers. Additionally, 82% said they used the Internet for research, up from 69% a year earlier.

GlobalSpec has developed an "engineering search engine" that is focused not on the broad Internet, as Google is, but on sites specifically geared toward engineers. The search engine is one of many new products specifically designed to help marketers generate leads.

Other Web-oriented products intended to generate high-quality, specific leads include e-mail newsletters. Although their effectiveness may have waned compared with a few years ago, they remain an effective way to reach an extremely targeted audience, which is, after all, the goal of b-to-b media. "There's probably not a month that goes by that we don't create another e-newsletter," Source Media's Morris said.

Additionally, webcasts—which offer relatively inexpensive narrowcast video to marketers that have traditionally relied on print—have generated fresh leads for companies in a variety of industries.

Ziff Davis has produced virtual trade shows as well as its Web Buyers' Guide (, which profiles 43,000 products from 17,000 information technology companies, according to Barry Harrigan, VP of Ziff Davis. Other tech media companies such as CMP Technology, CNET Networks, International Data Group and TechTarget have produced similar lead-generating media products.

Accela's Reinstein said the content must be right for these new media to work. It must have "educational value," he said, and be focused on what the customer needs and wants rather than the vendor's story.

Online isn't the only place where media companies have developed innovative lead generation products in recent years. For example, Penton Media's Windows IT Pro Group has pioneered the use of custom road shows.

Other offline products developed to generate leads include custom events. Vermeulen said ALM's award dinners, such as for the litigation department of the year, provide an opportunity for face-to-face lead generation. These dinners may have 60 people in attendance and five or six marketers, he said.

"We offer it only to the best advertisers first," Vermeulen said. "It's all about getting buyers and sellers together in any way, shape or form, whether it be through the Web or physically bringing them together."

Vermeulen said that while the strategy for b-to-b media companies remains the same—bringing buyers and sellers together—many of the tactics have changed. "The role of the publisher has changed in that, yes, I'm a publisher, but I'm also a person that has a large database," he said.

Like some other b-to-b media companies, ALM is using its database to conduct telemarketing to generate leads for customers. "We just call them up," Vermeulen said. "If they're not interested in buying anything at that time, we call somebody else."

Marketers say they like the availability of this variety of tactics, and most engage in some sort of integrated marketing in which they use a number of lead generation products. Tina Stewart, VP-marketing at Arbor Networks, said, "We recently launched a multimedia campaign that fully integrated both new and old media."

The network security company hired Accela to develop online product tours and uses case studies as an attraction for generating leads, more than 13,000 of which the campaign has produced in four months, according to Stewart.

Paul Calento, VP-marketing at InfoWorld , said the medium is important but the message is even more critical. "The medium itself is not a differentiator; the program is," he said. "Video for the sake of doing video, for instance, will yield modest increases in new visitors and commodity-priced advertising programs. The best programs integrate a variety of elements into what begins as a lead gen program and develops into an environment of continued communication between the prospective buyer and the vendor."

Lead processing offered

In addition to developing lead generation products, some b-to-b media companies now help their advertising customers process leads. As with most Internet-oriented trends, the technology media companies are leading the way.

TechTarget introduced its lead engagement system, Lead Prism, last year. Based on a prospect's online behavior, LeadPrism rates how strong a lead the person is. The best leads are either flagged or fed directly into a marketer's CRM system.

"The business of lead prioritizing, that is where the industry has shifted. This is what the vendors need the most help with," said Marilou Barsam, TechTarget's VP-client consulting. The company earlier this year introduced the TechTarget Magnifier, which among other things enables marketers to build a relationship with prospects by automatically sending them additional information that complements, for instance, a white paper they downloaded.

Other major tech publishers, including CMP Technology, IDG and Ziff Davis, have developed their own systems to score leads for advertisers.

Kevin Normandeau, exec VP-business development and general manager-online at IDG's Network World , said that being involved in marketers' CRM systems moves well beyond mere tactics. "What I love about the leads business is that it allows us to get more strategically involved with our customer base," he said.

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