In recent years, publisher FierceMarkets has seen lead-gen grow by 10 percent to 20 percent of its overall monthly revenue. “We can define leads any way clients want—name title, demographic, info such as number of employees, further clarification of role, and the asset they interacted with,” says COO Maurice Bakley.

But FierceMarkets quickly learned that it needed to educate clients on the business of leads and manage their expectations about what to expect.  “We are always a little disappointed by the level of sophistication or nuance that people are able to put toward interpreting a lead,” said Bakley. “We recently did a campaign for a company in the telecom space in which they gave us a whitepaper that generated good response. But when following up on these contacts or ‘expressions of interest,’ they made sales calls, and no one bought. We have to counter by explaining that someone downloading the whitepaper is only in the first part of the process—most likely, it’s someone who recognizes your brand and downloads a whitepaper that’s of some interest in their research.”

Publishers should be prepared to layer on additional qualifying questions or actions. “If a customer says we want x,y,z, we don’t say, ‘here’s x,y,z,’ we give them three options within a proposal that gradually increases the number of filters and level of targeting based on demographic data,” said Bakley.

Common Mistakes

Even though there are check boxes and disclaimers on most web and lead forms, users often mindlessly click through to get to the contact, not thinking or worrying about who might call them from a sales angle, according Joe Pulizzi, founder of custom publishing/content marketing resource Junta42. “So, in most cases, these are not warm leads…they are names that need to be qualified further, that need to be nurtured,” he adds. “Publishing clients need to know that when they receive leads, they are probably not close to buying, and should have a plan to take these names through the sales funnel over a longer period of time.”
Setting ground rules can be a real challenge, since the last thing  salespeople want to do is tell their clients that these aren’t prime, ready-to-buy leads. “The best method is to make sure the sales team doesn’t just sell the lead-gen package, but has a clear idea through Q&A how the leads will be used,” says Pulizzi. “In my experience, most salespeople don’t ask and don’t care. Consultative sellers ask the right questions that open up even more opportunities than the original program, which could include custom content, additional marketing services (including telemarketing) or more.”
A few months ago Pulizzi worked with a client who was very discouraged with their webcast leads, saying that none were ready to buy and that it was a poor investment. “That’s because the process was get the lead, then call them on the phone,” says Pulizzi. “What person that signs up for a webinar wants to get an immediate sales call? None. But the leads were good, they just needed work.”  

For the next program, Pulizzi and the client set a further qualification in place with variations of white papers, ebooks and offers to move original leads down the buying path. “Once they self-selected an additional two-pieces of content, they would get a call,” he says. “Needless to say, the conversation rate was much higher.”
Setting Pricing

Pricing for lead generation programs can vary wildly—Pulizzi says he’s seen pricing range from $5,000 to $40,000 per webcast to $25 to $100 per lead. “The best practice before starting a lead-gen program is to chat with customers to find out what they are currently paying per lead now,” says Pulizzi. “Talk to at least 15 customers to get a good ballpark. I’ve seen publishers go into lead-gen not based on any market pricing at all.”

Of course, there is a growing sentiment that publishers shouldn’t try to price per lead. “The best concepts I’ve seen have not revolved around price per lead,” says Pulizzi. “When you deliver an integrated program of print display, online display, custom content, lead-gen and other marketing services, price per lead goes out the window. It’s all about delivering on the marketing objectives of the program. That works best.”  

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