Looking at lead generation as education, not sales

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Frank Cutitta returned to IDG in February as general manager of IDG Connect, a lead-generation unit with access to IDG's vast database and global content. Before he left IDG in 2003 to become CEO of the International Advertising Association, Cutitta served for nearly 20 years in various corporate management positions at IDG. After two years at IAA, he founded the Center for Global Branding and led it as CEO before rejoining IDG.

Media Business: What is your vision for IDG Connect?

Cutitta: IDG is a lead-generation content company. I think b-to-b publishers largely miss opportunities for lead scoring because they don't include enough content to qualify the lead. The value we provide is engagement. I would like to develop an algorithm for engagement that would include the type of content, the amount of content and the degree of difficulty—which adds up to intensity—over time. For example, if a CEO walks into the CTO's office and says, `We need to implement virtualization software across the enterprise, and I need your recommendations in 30 days,' that CTO is going to consume a great deal of content over a very short time frame.

MB: How is this different from serving up content based on the various stages of the purchasing process?

Cutitta: We think of lead generation as an educational process, not a sales process. So we offer content that goes from the most basic 101 level to the most complex graduate level. To do this, we not only use the type of content—webinar versus white paper versus live event—but also the differentiation of our brands. As a content company specializing in lead generation, we want continually to develop a brand affinity between audiences and our Web sites' content library. For example, the preliminary-level content might be developed as an Infoworld webcast. The next step might be a white paper with the Computerworld brand. When the lead is ready to make a presentation to the CIO, we might offer a report from Network World. The way we use each brand will change for each program.

MB: Does IDG Connect develop all this content like a custom media project?

Cutitta: No, the clients themselves have a tremendous amount of content, but they often don't realize how many content assets they have. So we do an audit to identify their content assets. Then we stage those assets into a curriculum. Then we decide what kind of additional assets are needed to fill in the gaps. This can include vendor content and custom content, but research shows that independent content gets much higher engagement. So we sometimes include repurposed content from our brands. This is pure editorial. We can also include research from our IDC research division, which is squeaky clean. The clients have no say in the content, but they establish an association by sponsoring it.

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