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Next-Generation Lead Generation

Everyone in the channel knows telecom technology constantly is evolving with new capabilities that are progressively more powerful, more efficient, more flexible and, therefore, more in demand. The evolution of the Internet is no different.

Web 1.0 literally changed the world. It was the domain of technicians and code writers who created and maintained Web sites. But the Internet is all about information sharing, and before long non-technicians were learning how to create and share content. Web 1.0 evolved into Web 2.0, where almost anyone can contribute content, relate and be dynamic; where channel members are interacting with their customers and getting leads. In a few years, Web 3.0 will not only be interactive and content-driven by amateurs, it will also be intuitive, able to predict what users need and want from it.

Web 2.0 is shifting our world, changing the demand-generation fields forever. For the first time in our industry, large marketing budgets don’t guarantee success and traditional routes to market are challenged. The channel’s ability to attract and retain new business will require new thinking. The time to learn what will and will not work in this new Web 2.0 world is now. If you’re not already there, get there — and then make sure you get the most out of it by putting the right things into it. Learn what is and is not working in this new Web world.

The most critical thing to keep in mind as you evolve your demand-generation strategy is that the customers you’re trying to reach are overwhelmed, pressed for time and struggling to keep their heads above water in a sea of information. As a result, they’re screening — avoiding your sales calls, not answering the phone, not returning messages and throwing out direct mail. What are they doing instead?

They’re blogging. There are currently around 13 million blogs online. Eight thousand new blogs are created every hour. Still, less than 20 percent of those blogs make weekly updates, so fresh content is in high demand. Are they reading your blog?

They’re watching content. More than 100,000 new videos are posted on the leading sites every day. Two-thirds of adults watched a video on YouTube over the last year. Are they watching you?

They’re texting content. More text messages are sent every day than there are people on the planet. Just as important as what is being said is how it’s being said: in short, impactful messages. Any Twitter fanatic, law enforcement hotline or business owner can tell you about the power of a short message.

Unfortunately, as attention spans are getting shorter, marketing in the technology channel has gotten longer. I almost can guarantee no VAR has a marketing message they can say in one breath. And that means it won’t fit on one small screen. Ninety-seven percent of the electronic messages we learned to create in the Web 1.0 world are now being viewed on tiny little screens. That’s why a marketing campaign that produced an astounding 17 percent lead rate in its first hit was sent over a mobile phone and consisted of less than 200 characters.

They’re tagging content. Twenty-eight percent of Americans have tagged content — nine percent do it daily. People that tag content say it’s 12 times more valuable to them than a standard site or search. Are you tagging content?

They’re sharing content with their peers. The American Marketing Association estimates within two years, 35 percent of marketing content will be customer created. By 2012, a quarter of all entertainment will be created, edited and shared within peer groups. Where’s your customer’s voice in your marketing?

They’re learning from each other. Twenty million people listen to podcasts. That number will increase to 50 million in the next two years. By the year 2020, we’ll be spending two hours a day learning. In a knowledge workplace, learners will rule our economy.

So now you know where your customers are and what they’re doing. Before you jump in and start blogging, texting or crowd-sourcing, here are a few things to keep in mind as best practices for creating demand generation and sales success in the Web 2.0-enabled channel.

Don’t venture into Web 2.0 without an online code of conduct for your company and your people. The Internet offers unique opportunities and unique risks. Before you start to use LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace; before you create a Web site or even list your employees’ names online, make sure your terms and conditions say employees may not talk about your company online except in preapproved ways. Have enforceable policies stating employees must not misrepresent or disclose information about your company and must maintain a professional online persona or not use your company.

In a world where 47 percent of people admit to having Googled their own names, 78 percent of sales buyers are Googling your company name to see what they can find out. Don’t venture online without changing your employee rules to make sure you’re safe.

Decide how you’re going to measure the outcome. If traffic to your Web site or your social online networking isn’t tied to revenue, new customers or referrals as an outcome don’t do it. Stay focused on your audience and results. These are not just your conversations, they’re a marketplace.

Find the right talent to spark your online presence. Generation V, whose members of are all ages, can use a virtual world online to get you business. Last year, a member of Generation V produced $3.4 million worth of leads for his VAR. How? Through an online social network of 100 people, on user forums, on blog rolls and on LinkedIn.

Once you’ve got the right talent, get a Web 2.0 face-lift. If you go online with the same old look and feel as you have today, you won’t get what you want from your Web site. Take your existing Web site and add videos, user scenarios and referrals. With a world-class Web site and some good search engine marketing campaigns, you can realize 50 percent more qualified leads a week.

Get in touch with the right people. A startling piece of research recently revealed that IT decision makers spend more time online consuming social media and user generated content than they do reading any other content. That’s a whole new take on networking. Make sure you’re listening and responding, using the peer network to your advantage for leads.

Promote learning. By the year 2009, the amount of online information will double every 72 hours. The Internet is the biggest technological change in education and learning ever, and customers are using the Internet to learn. They Google random bits of information as they need them. So the more content you have for people to learn from, the more likely you are to engage them.

Connect with others. The Institute for Corporate Productivity reports that 65 percent of business professionals will utilize a social networking Web site this year. One in four Internet users visit a social site at least once a month, according to iProspect. LinkedIn is taking the tech business world by storm, helping people connect to contacts. Our peers are using social networks to embrace their next level of partners.

Get heard. Be where your customers are talking and finding value. Social media is effective. A recent survey showed that maintaining a corporate blog, doing online marketing, creating RSS feeds and using social media elements outplayed traditional marketing by about five to one.

Smart matters everywhere online. Small business channel firms are winning an increasing share of the market by using social online networks more frequently than their enterprise competitors. The channel has never been in a better position. When customers are talking to each other and talking about our technology, we win.


Avoid Gravanity

About 80 percent of the time, companies’ Web strategies are a big box of “dig me” and not something that will generate revenue or attract new customers. As you prepare to use Web 2.0 to build your business, you need to examine everything you do there to make sure it isn’t just gravanity. What’s gravanity? It’s a concept born of Facebook, MySpace and other social sites on Web 1.0. The word, which will be in Webster’s next dictionary, is a combination of graffiti and vanity and refers to people’s obsession with making their names and likenesses available for all to see. It’s self-promotion masquerading as communication — a great way to socialize, but something to be avoided when doing business online.

Roy Schijns is president and CEO of The JS Group, a channel solution provider offering business evolution programs. He can be reached at rschijns@thejsgroup.com.


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