Whatever happened to lead gen? The hot ticket for b-to-b publishers to generate new revenue from their very specified audiences has lost some of its luster, thanks to the market being commoditized by companies simply giving away names, as well as publishers not following through on actually driving and nurturing leads down the value chain.

In response, Randolph, New Jersey-based Edgell Communications, a b-to-b publisher serving the IT and seasonal merchandising markets, has undergone a major overhaul of its lead gen offerings. "We’ve been offering lead gen for more than five years, generating what we call a transactional lead–defined as someone downloads something and we pass that information onto our client," says vice president of online media Robert Keenan. "It’s become clear to us in the last couple years that that’s become a more commoditized part of the business, especially in the b-to-b space. It’s imperative that we make a change so we move beyond that transactional lead provider and move into becoming that lead nurturing and lead scoring provider."

Starting last January, Edgell gutted its infrastructure, selecting a new CMS (Kentico) and rebuilding its proprietary lead gen platform in tandem with the CMS. "That allowed us to bring a level of intelligence between the two that we didn’t have before," says Keenan. "This unites all our databases into one centralized audience database. This helps us move those transactional leads down the value chain and at the same time gain new levels of intelligence into our reader base so we can better leverage that from a marketing standpoint and a content creation, content targeting standpoint."

The new system includes individualized lead portals that allow customers and agencies access to leads on demand; custom reporting options that allow customers to receive leads in formats that align with their own CRM processes; custom question and polling capabilities that allow customers to further qualify leads; custom filtering that allows reports based on demographic, geographic and other filtering options; and personalized e-mail delivery options that let customers decide how and when reports are delivered.

Edgell is also developing an integration with SalesForce.com that it expects will be available by third quarter 2011.

The new system can accommodate customers with specific privacy policy or lead gen qualifications that don’t align with Edgell’s standard qualifying questions. "In the old days, that was a week’s worth of development time and maintaining that data was a headache," says Keenan. "Today we can add those questions in a couple hours and be reporting on them immediately.

Pricing is set on a sponsorship-based model, with typical packages ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

"The number one problem with lead gen is going up against people who are just giving names away," says Keenan. "We’ve not offered a cost-per-lead model to date, but we get challenged on that topic every day. For a niche publisher, it’s a tough place to be. Our audiences tends to be higher level execs yet we’re being looked at for a $30 CPL. We needed to look beyond that, to offer value to our leads and become a bigger player in our ecosystem. We do that by a better user database. We can track everything our users do. Say we have User X and User Y. User X reads a story on point-of-sale, downloads a Webinar on POS and reads three news items on POS. User Y reads a POS story but is also looking at loyalty cards and reading about hospitality. Who is the more qualified lead? With the system we have, we can track user behavior and look at behavior over time to better qualify the lead."

5 Tactics to Help You Eliminate Your SEO Blind Spot
Check out this related session at The Folio: Show, November 1-2 in NYC!

Web traffic is driven by more than just content, and search engine optimization is essential for online magazines. In this…