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Thomas Publishing division shifts away from lead-gen

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Heather Holst-Knudsen is president of Thomas Publishing Co.'s Manufacturing Enterprise Communications division, which includes the Managing Automation and Manufacturing Executive brands. Over the time it took to build technology for lead generation for advertisers, Holst-Knudsen came to realize that the system would bring in more money if she used it to sell subscriptions to her brands rather than generate leads. Media Business: What technologies comprise your lead-generation system? Heather Holst-Knudsen: It's a combination of Eloqua, Salesforce.com and our content management system, Ektron. Customer relationship manage-ment software systems such as Eloqua, Marketo and Silverpop are designed to bring leads into one specific company; but lead generation in the business media is an outward- facing function, and it must support the goals and criteria of multiple clients. No software is actually designed for that. In addition, we wanted to use the CRM for ourselves, like any marketer would, to sell subscriptions to our end-users. Once you've chosen a CRM, the implementation partner is absolutely critical. The one we chose didn't understand our requirements, although they said they did. We ended up reaching out to Eloqua, which doesn't sell direct, but they responded to my cry for help. Working directly with Eloqua has proven to be much, much better for us. MB: This system cost you a lot of time and money. How long will it take to make your money back selling leads? Holst-Knudsen: It won't take me as long as it might take a traditional media company, because I want to move away from selling leads as fast as humanly possible. I want to sell subscriptions to end-users. By following that plan, I should get back double the money I spent by the end of the year. MB: Why are you moving away from lead generation? Holst-Knudsen: It's a commoditized business. There's constant price pressure from the advertisers at the same time that they want more and more expensive services—from validating the leads to calling up to verify the phone number. They want us to do all the work and they don't want to pay for it. Let me give you a mathematical example for why I'm changing my business model: Joe Smith comes to my site and downloads a white paper. I might be able to sell him as a lead for $40, if the advertiser accepts him. If I can sell Joe Smith a subscription to the Manufacturing Executive website for $249 a year, I make six times as much. If I can sell him a subscription to use the TechMatch software for $349 per month, I make almost 10 times as much. MB: Manufacturing Executive is your new brand, which includes live and online business networking, a bimonthly journal and a website, manufacturing-executive.com. What is TechMatch? Holst-Knudsen: TechMatch is a business collaboration software system that helps companies manage the life cycle of enterprise technology selections. Every member of the team must subscribe to use the system, and the process typically takes three to six months. According to my research, five to 10 people are involved. If the buyers create an RFP using the TechMatch system and they want the vendor to respond using my system, the vendor will also have to pay $349 per month. We're just launching now, so I don't have any actual data. —M.G.
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