In lead-generation programs, whitepapers have been the perennial go-to content source for hooking basic leads. Yet publishers are in a better position than they might realize to produce any number of one-off and custom projects that collect a full range of leads‚ from preliminary to sales-ready.

At tech media company Ziff Davis Enterprise, lead generation content ranges from the basic whitepaper to e-seminars to fully interactive, Web-based tools—even a vendor-sponsored wine-tasting. "We’re running between 50 and 80 individual lead generation programs at a time," said senior VP of audience marketing Peter Westerman.

Westerman said his team keeps track of which content types are consumed by their customers at the different stages of the buying cycle. "We look at the kinds of media that different levels of IT pros consume at each stage of the purchase process," he said. "From whitepapers to e-seminars to vendor-focused e-newsletters, there’s a certain sequence to that, but it does vary by the product. It also varies a lot by the job function. Senior positions don’t like to be contacted by a salesperson until very late in the process. They’ll do everything they can to remain anonymous until they’re deep into the sales process."

In the meantime, Westerman breaks down how each content type works in the company’s lead-gen operation.


Whitepapers are given as much opportunity for dispersal as possible. Along with e-seminars and the occasional PowerPoint or Flash-based slideshow, this kind of content is primarily syndicated through the brand, a destination site and searchable database of content.

The content is also sprinkled throughout the company’s other Web sites, positioned alongside articles in similar verticals as related content. Additionally, Westerman said there are about 200,000 customers that have opted in for e-newsletters that are produced according to the content categories selected by the customer. "Those newsletters are essentially platforms to promote content," said Westerman.

Web-Based Interactive Tools
ZDE creates a variety of calculators and other tools—data center power consumption calculators, and so on—that users must provide basic contact information before they can be used or access the results. The degree of complexity of the tool also reveals certain information about the user. "Some of the tools are sophisticated enough that prospects are going to be pretty serious about wanting to understand the results," said Westerman. "Others are easier to use. In that case, the person may not be very far into the sales pipeline."

Contests are lead magnets, but Westerman cautions to avoid the easy giveaway. "We tend to guide clients away from giving away certain products like TVs, iPods or sports tickets. We like to focus on things that are more related to the technology."

Westerman said meet-and-greets with developers that create the tools ZDE customers use is a popular choice. Or, in a giveaway during an e-seminar on e-networking, instead of awarding an iPod, Westerman has the sponsor offer an IEEE tome on networking technology. "You’re likelier to get someone who’s not just trying to win the premium, but has a vocational interest in it."    

Offering Help When Needed

Westerman says there are still plenty of clients that have not made the creative leap beyond whitepapers, and their limitations in the lead cycle. "Now, the sales people want highly qualified leads, but you can’t use the same kind of content you used a year ago and think it’s going to attract a better lead. I can do all the targeting I can, but if the interest isn’t there it won’t work."

Where client-provided content falls short, Westerman has a strategic content team ready to help. "Our strategic marketing experts can look at all the material the client is using. We’ll go through dozens of whitepapers and marketing collateral and do a teardown of all their content. The team will either cherry-pick certain assets or make recommendations on the topics and nature of the content the client should add."