Lead generation has dominated much of the b-to-b conversation for the last year, offering hope, revenue and not just a little frustration on the part of publishers, many of whom quickly find out the lead gen business can be more than they bargained for.
"We’ve been able to re-build our properties not from larger, share-of-market accounts, but with smaller companies who want to see lead generation from e-products," says one b-to-b publisher who wishes to remain anonymous. "Even some of our larger accounts are not buying based on the number of unique visitors or page views or any of the other site metrics. They want to see direct ROI in terms of clicks on their ads."
The publisher’ traffic continues to skyrocket but because a follower on Twitter may not necessarily be the right fit for the advertisers, the click-through actually goes down and the publisher can’t leverage the traffic itself because that’s not a key buying point for many of its customers. "I feel caught between keeping up and wanting to tap into the benefits of these social mechanisms but I’ve got limited resources and still need to attend to the basics of getting print products out the door on time, developing new e-newsletters and improving our Web sites," he says.
More publishers have to take a stand with advertisers over lead generation. While Haymarket’s SC Magazine has used the success it’s had generating leads with its SC World Congress virtual show to switch from a flat fee to cost-per-lead model, PennWell’s FDIC Online virtual shows will retain a flat $4,500 sponsorship fee that includes leads, according to Eric Schlett, vice president, publisher/executive director of Fire Engineering Magazine.
"We don’t want to get into the discussion with the exhibitor of, ‘OK, we had 800 folks come to our booth, but a lot of these guys wanted free t-shirts, how do you qualify them?’" Schlett says. "We don’t want to start discounting because of it. Someone like Pierce Fire Truck Co. knows how to follow through on a lead. Another company will say, ‘It didn’t turn into a sale.’ I don’t want to coach their sales staff on how they should follow up. That’s not my job."
Sophistication at the client level is all over the map. "We have extremely sophisticated clients who can measure through to sales, to clients who can say, ‘I’ll give you $20 per lead, take it or leave it,’" says EE Times CEO Paul Miller. "That’s not a business we want to be in-it’s commoditized."
If advertisers are expecting publishers to deliver prospects right through to the sale, publishers should get a cut of that sale, according to Miller. "If you can track through the sales, why not give us a share of the sales we helped create?" he adds. "That’s where client says, ‘That’s crazy, the process can’t be that sophisticated.’ At end of day, it has to be that sophisticated."