Few things have caused more disruption for business marketers and business media than the changing nature of demand generation. Email, the Internet and social media have enabled drastic new ways to generate demand and engage with customers and prospects. As a result, many of the laws of physics in advertising and marketing – reach and frequency, brand awareness, brand preference and call to action – have been upended and replaced by brand generation to create and sustain a more substantial engagement with customers. The challenge for b-to-b marketers and media providers alike however, is that we are still too often operating in the old world, focused on driving “opens”, “clicks” and “likes”, which do not suggest customer interest or potential nor truly serve the customer.

Online and email lead generation has focused on capturing basic business card data on prospects, heavily enabled by the new tracking and measurement tools available. Once basic info is captured, the email “blasting” begins, trying to convert a casual visitor into an immediate prospect. In essence, we are putting out bait and then chasing prospects. The extraordinary ability to measure online marketing is actually distracting marketers from the fundaments of marketing however; driving a level of lead generation myopia that focuses on clicks, open rates and lead counts as opposed to buyer demographics, interests, affinity and brand.

This has also led to a confusing set of ROI metrics for online marketers. The click-driven value proposition of the majority of online lead gen marketing is the equivalent of valuing billboard marketing based on the number of cars that honk as they drive by. It is clearly time to evolve, and business marketers and business media must rise to the challenge to better serve their audience customers and marketing clients.

Changing Times, Changing Tactics

The market for lead generation has now segmented into 3 categories:

·Business Card Data. Basic top of the funnel lead generation that is in essence enhanced list rental.

· Marketing Automation. Companies that offer some form of email and online automated services for lead generation and lead nurturing services.

· Brand Generation. Business information and media companies who offer branded, content-led marketing to engage and sustain a relationship with customers.

Engaging buyers of highly differentiated, expensive business solutions requires more than a teaser or a click-through. It requires high quality, targeted content, that helps build knowledge and aids in the decision making process. In many respects content marketing – combining educational information with differentiated brand value – has become the new form of advertising. Content marketing helps cut the wheat from the chafe; engaging those with a real need, the right demographics and interest, as opposed to simply capturing business card information. Content is also the fuel that nurtures a lead, once engaged, by providing additional related information. Marketers are now moving beyond simple lead counts and looking to drive more sophisticated, sustained, content-centric demand generation programs. Media providers must rise to the challenge.

Ironically, while media companies are best suited to deliver content marketing, most aren’t yet organized or prepared to do so. At the same time the online list rental firms and the marketing automation companies are struggling to move upstream as they don’t have the branded and trusted content that fuels content marketing. What’s clear is that the buyer has spoken and they want and need decision-support information and viable solutions from differentiated b-to-b providers.

As business professionals and marketers needs shift and the market segments, the big question is: are media companies ready to help marketers move from chasing customers to creating their customers?

Tony Uphoff is the CEO of UBM TechWeb.