Lead Gen: Where Do Publishers Go from Here?
Several years ago, I had a transformative experience surrounding lead generation. At the time, I worked for Edgell Communications and a good portion of our online business was driven by lead-gen programs. We were proud of our programs. We had a new platform. We delivered quality results. Our business was growing.
But, as I sat in front of a customer, I realized that we hadn’t gone far enough. In the middle of the discussion, the customer stopped us and said that we actually weren’t delivering leads. We simply were delivering referrals. What they needed were “sales-ready” leads – leads that had either expressed specific interest in having a sales discussion on their product.
Wow! I walked into that customer meeting feeling that we we’re rocking it on lead gen, and I walked out realizing that if we didn’t change, our digital business could be in big trouble.
Fortunately, that customer opened our company’s eyes. Over the next few years, we started to change the way we delivered leads and began to implement programs that delivered more data. At the same time, our customers started to demand more from us,
Unfortunately, Edgell got sold before we could put all of our plans in place. But, from what I learned, here are some changes that media companies should implement today to move their lead-gen products forward.
It Starts With Data
We’ve all talked about it. We need more data on our users. We need data to show behavior. We need data to show intent. We need data to show interest.
Many media companies are looking for this data to better engage our audience. But, this data is also a critical component for enhancing our lead-gen programs.
Recently, I polled several business executives about the direction of their lead-gen programs. Almost all told me that they are getting pushed by their customers to provide more data on their users.
So what data do today’s media companies need? It definitely starts with better demographic and firmographic data. Media companies need to better understand who the lead is, what type of company they work for, what their buying influence is, and what industry they work in?
Media companies can collect this data a few different ways. If you haven’t done it yet, take a look at your lead-gen collection forms and make sure your collecting the data that you need to meet a customer needs. Also, many companies are leveraging third-party sources to add firmographic data.
Before you can worry about scoring, nurturing, or any other lead-gen enhancement, you need to get this data set right. If not, your entire lead-gen program could be dead in the water,
Set Up a Scoring System
Improved demographic and firmographic data is only a start to improving your lead-gen programs. Today’s media companies must go further and help customers understand which leads are actionable now and which they should add to their nurturing pipeline. As my former customer said, which are the “sales ready” leads and which ones are not.
One of the quickest ways to improve your-lead gen efforts is by creating a lead scoring system. Through content systems and databases, media companies can track the habits of a user. If your tagging content properly, you can see the types of content he or she is reading, the type of content the user engages with, the topics that content is associated with, and potentially the companies mentioned in that content. If you can tap into this data, you can then create a score based on these tags.
Once you have the data, you can assign scores to user engagement and then place those scores on a lead. In turn, this will allow you to deliver a weighted score on your leads. Leads with a higher score are more sales ready while leads with a lower score are more likely referrals.
There’s one thing to keep in mind when scoring. You need to be as flexible as possible with your scoring. This way you can deliver meaningful scores to your customers.
But, Scoring Isn’t Enough
To me, scoring is now the base entry point for any lead-gen approach. While scores are great, there can still be a gap between what we define as a score and the actual intent of the user.
The question then is how do we take this further? The answer lies in our ability to better understand the intent of the user and relay that intent along with our lead-gen programs.
Think about it this way. I can hear about and read about a new analytics product. I may even download a white paper on it. So, there’s no doubt I’m interested. But, the question is how interested. Am I in a buying mode? Am I looking at solutions for the future? Am I just poking around?
These are the types of questions that marketing partners are looking for media companies to answer because they show intent and allow them to truly prioritize leads for their sales team.
So, how do media companies judge intent? There are several answers to this question. In my recent poll of industry colleagues, it’s clear that marketing automation tools can help. Through marketing automation, you can create nurturing paths and drip campaigns to better understand overall user intent for a product or service.
Another option is to create lead-gen lifecycle funnel products. For the most part, we often sell lead-gen campaigns as buying a whitepaper, sponsoring a webinar, or engaging in some other one-off solution. A better option could be to bundle lead-gen products together into a package and track users through that path.
For example, a package could include a report sponsorship, a whitepaper campaign, a webinar sponsorship, and an event sponsorship. The report would be at the top of the funnel because it would include the most general referral leads. The event would be at the bottom because it creates a face-to-face engagement and the most valuable leads.
If done right, you can track the leads through this funnel. Then you can report back to your marketing partners what leads are the most “sales-ready” based on engagement through the funnel.
The Holy Grail: Predictive
We can’t wrap up any discussion about lead-gen without talking about predictive analytics. Through predictive analytics, we can combine data mining, statistics, and machine learning to understand not only how a user’s needs today but what they will be in the future.
While some publishers are starting to move toward predictive analytics, it’s still more of a future trend for media companies. But, you should also keep a close eye on this trend. As the cost of technology drops and better tools arrive, predictive analytics will be a clear direction for lead-gen programs and could reinvent how we develop and deliver leads to customers in the future.
Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.