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How Content Impacts Lead Gen

Publishers examine content attributes and the perils of putting format first.



By Vanessa Voltolina
09/23/2009

As lead generation continues to be a hot topic for advertisers, publishers have become increasingly conscious of upping efforts to produce cross-platform content for driving potential leads at different stages of the buying process. And while experimenting with platforms can lead to beneficial discoveries about readership, the keys to success continue to lie in quality content and feedback on reader engagement.

In many cases there is no rhyme or reason for marketers to be developing brand new content for each one. IDG Connect has coined this "random acts of content." "It's about the perils of putting format first," said IDG Connect’s general manager Frank Cutitta. “People say that they base their content on the format, when instead it should be the other way around. They may have boring piece of content, and a different platform just magnifies how dull it really is."

When it comes to lead generation, the b-to-b giant’s centralized database and resource library has about 6 million contacts, including about 2 million opt-in, e-mailable names—and growing—said Cutitta. The database has contributed to one hundred percent business growth to the company and its booming lead generation business over the past three years. IDG built this database two years ago in-house from scratch, leveraging a home-grown database from Computerworld.
 
The fastest growing part of this business is content optimization, which includes deep analysis of content such as Webcasts and whitepapers. "People will ask us, 'Can I get 500 leads from this?' and we'll respond, 'Well, no, not with this content, but you can generate 50,'” said Cutitta. "We've turned this process into a business." Cutitta and his team perform a "content audit" to determine what people want and need at various stages in purchase process to find out how this will align in each stage of the process.
 
In the case of content assets like commercial content (whitepapers, Webcasts), IT companies will send IDG Connect a number of assets for them to "lab test." This lab test involves scoring assets based on 30 attributes for every stage of the buying process. "We do a GAP analysis and see what is aligned with buyers informational needs, what is not, and where is there are gaps," said Cutitta. "For example, a company (client) may be too heavily skewed toward the education stage, and as a result, they need to develop new content for subsequent stages, or they come to us, which builds our custom content business."

NewBay Media, with publications that center on five vertical markets—Pro Audio, Broadcast and Video, Musical Instruments, Systems Integration and K-12 Education—is also no stranger to diversifying content assets.

“As we have rebuilt and redesigned our sites, we have added more content types to offer our site users/visitors,” said Joe Ferrick, vice president of Web development for NewBay, with print, Webinars, whitepapers, podcasts, digital editions, virtual tradeshows, slideshows, online and print product directories, and a sponsored video channel included in their stable of content offerings. “And the results have been positive. We have seen solid traction to new offerings like slideshows and video channels while at the same time not seen a drop-off in response to ‘traditional’ content offerings like Webinars, whitepapers and directories.”

But, Ferrick cautions, “it isn’t easy to know the user's goal when it comes to content, short of asking a site visitor upon entrance to a site page, ‘When are you purchasing, what are you purchasing and what is your role in the purchase?’ Because of this, the publisher rolls out
a variety of offerings to reach its users at each stage of the purchasing cycle.”

While assessing how each piece of content can most effectively be positioned as a lead gen tool can be a challenge, both Ferrick and Cutitta offer some first steps that all publishers should take when formulating their content:

Request Feedback
Whenever possible, user-generated feedback should be requested, said Ferrick. “I’m not sure you have to assign certain attributes to the content since this kind of feedback will let you know information about your content, as well as help a publisher know the kind of content a
user might look for in the future.” At NewBay, Ferrick said that he might generate feedback from a variety of sources, such as surveys, or perhaps via discussions in their forums. And of course, there is instant feedback via Facebook and Twitter, which he considers invaluable. “The key is a wide variety of content offerings that will keep the flow of feedback happening,” he said. “Also, varying the message that users see based on their entry points to your content is what will keep the content appearing fresh and enhance the user
experience.”

Turn Whitepapers into PowerPoint Presentations

Limited funds make repurposing content a necessity, but know how to execute it correctly. Cutitta suggests that publishers consider turning whitepapers into boardroom-level PowerPoints as a tool for senior
management decision makers. This provides an additional engagement,
which signals an upward movement through buying influences.
 
Test User Engagement
Webinars are a tricky platform to pull off: a dull topic is made even more painful when it is broadcast over the Internet. In response, IDG
Connect "uses engagement as a lead nurturing and scoring tool, said Cutitta. Webinars should provide options like, 'If you'd like to hear more, click here for the next module.' This becomes a nurturing score. An entire Webinar with no break gives no assurance that the audience actually listened to the entire presentation or was engaged. Therefore,
things like chapterizing both podcasts and Webcasts, and moving people through the content is crucial. Just think about what your tolerance level is for the length of a YouTube video sent to you by a friend as your building chapters of Webcasts."

By Vanessa Voltolina
09/23/2009







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