As publishers evolve from pure lead generation to “lead nuturing,” they need to develop ways to “score” leads, or identify how valuable the lead is to the client, including demographics such as company size, job title or even how ready they are to buy.

“Internally, we would like to see leads as more than just contact information,” said Maurice Bakley, COO of FierceMarkets, which sees 10 percent to 20 percent of its monthly revenue from lead generation. “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.”

Publishers need to be prepared 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.

FierceMarkets is in the process of building a centralized database on open source CMS platform Drupal to fully capture relevant reader data and analyze it for behavioral marketing purposes. Later this year, FierceMarkets plans to marry that information with data based on what type of stories consumers are reading and which types of articles they click through for the newsletter to eventually tie that back into behavorial data.

The “Far Extreme” Of Lead Scoring
Publishers with mature lead generation programs, such as Tech Target and Tippit—which offers a b-to-b network with sites such as IT Management, IT Security and Homeland Security Weekly—realize it requires more than automated registration to score a lead and often field client consultants and follow-up telephone interviews.

Tech Target lets clients access early-stage leads with fast-pass registration that allows them to generate leads without filters. Client consultants then help clients develop custom registration questions. Tippet generates leads and then does heavy qualifying by telephone to put together a profile and figure out if someone is ready to buy.

Bobit Business Media generates high value leads through extensive telephone interviewing that it does for advertisers. The publisher will identify customers from its database that fit the advertiser’s target market and then customers are interviewed by phone to get the leads as close to “sales ready” as possible.

Pricing Leads

Typically, FierceMarkets sets $50 as a baseline for leads, which can grow to $150 or $200 depending on the qualification of the lead and the difficulty in obtaining that lead.

“If a lead is limited to the geographic U.S. or North America, if it’s a hospital with a certain number of beds, or if it’s only VP or above, those leads are highly expensive,” said Bakley. “Frankly, it’s hard to fulfill because you end up promoting broadly and a lot of people have to be thrown out. We don’t want to do that, which is partly why we’re building new systems so we can hit fewer people but those in the target demographic.”

For Bobit, highly qualified leads cost $300 to $500 or more. “If a sponsor is selling a school bus or some other big ticket item, then they will value a lead much higher than someone selling small business software,” said director of marketing and e-media Christine Oldenbrook. “One of our publishers suggested in a recent meeting to ask your advertiser what value they put on a lead. That gives you a place to start pricing.”

Still, Bakley warned publishers against trying to take on very defined lead programs with no scale. “Companies that are horizontal and IT focused are trying to drive prices down,” he said. “We’ve had to walk away from lead gen deals sometimes. Maybe we price it lower or we offer a tier price where we manage on yield. Even if someone wants to pay $500 per lead, if you’re only going to get 2 percent of leads to be qualified, it’s not a deal worth doing.”

With lead generation, the risk is placed even more squarely on the publisher. “You have to take the approach that you are the marketer—you are an extension of the client’s marketing team because they put the risk on you,” said Bakley. “Not that it wasn’t always that way but it’s much more measurable now. With each program, we are the marketing managers. It’s a pretty hand’s on, intensive process. If something is not going well, then we engage with the client on new materials and new ways of getting conversions.”

Growing & Leveraging Your Audience Database
Check out this related session at The Folio: Show, November 1-2 in NYC!

Audience data is more expansive and insightful than ever. Audiences exist in an array of silos—print, mobile, web, events, email,…