Enterprise Apps

Generating Leads in a Web 2.0 World

Marketing is going through a revolution online, thanks to the continual adoption of the Web 2.0 concepts originally defined by Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty.

If you want to see some excellent graphics and analysis explaining Web 2.0, subscribe to Ross Dawson’s blog, Trends in the Living Networks.

A New Conversation

Social networking has removed many of the obstacles that got in the way of better understanding prospects and customers, and serving them. Here are a few insights from trying to stay up with how Web 2.0 is changing how companies interact with prospects and customers:

  • Overbalance the scales with offers of knowledge, not sales hype. Instead of blasting out PDFs that tell prospects how great your company is, think about setting up weekly webinars where you invite in an industry expert that freely shares their knowledge of what’s working in the area your products, services or software deliver value. Before you dismiss this as just for the Fortune 1,000 realize that industry experts need PR coverage too and often you can get them do these in exchange for promoting their practice.
  • Define a Web 2.0 strategy now for your company and start executing on it fast. The two best bloggers in this area are Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li of Forrester who write Groundswell. These two authors, through their analysis of social networking and the Web 2.0 landscape, continually show how transparent and more connected previously isolated social networks, both in private and commercial areas, have become. What also emerges from their analysis is that when Web 2.0 technologies are used for connecting with customers, sales hype is dead. Informative, knowledgeable content that solves a complex question or problem for a customer is all that matters. Blogging to deliver solutions to customers in the form of knowledge generates real leads. It takes some companies a year or so to see any sales from this, yet it is hardly time wasted. These companies have changed how relevant they are to customers by delivering significant value without first asking for an order. Sales follow knowledge.
  • Consider your own YouTube University. Getting a channel on YouTube to upload videos that can be inexpensively produced is another approach to gaining a reputation as a company willing to share knowledge with potential and present customers. The development of your own YouTube University also needs to have periodic updates, fueling new traffic in the process. It’s a fairly large resource commitment to make, yet getting your best product experts onto your own YouTube channel can increase your company’s credibility across the industry and with prospects.
  • Work with any channel, technology or services providers to offer them participation in your trade shows and events, and vice versa. This works well as many partnerships have overlapping customer bases, yet have their own unique market segments as well. Developing this type of partnership significantly reduces the costs of trade shows and increases face-time with prospects, a critical part of lead generation.
  • Understand that Google AdWords is only as effective as your landing pages, lead management process and continual managing of keywords. Google has delivered some exceptional tools in this area during 2008, including the ability to optimize a landing page design by testing it iteratively before its launched. This is the largest lead generation strategy for many technology companies, and their continually improving of landing pages and key words generates significant results.

Knowledge Is Power

I’ve not spent years studying lead generation, yet what I have seen is that many companies are still doing very well with leads despite news about the economy this year.

I’m convinced it’s because they have worked very hard using the strategies discussed here to get and stay relevant to prospects and customers. They’re delivering more knowledge, value, insight and intelligence than anyone else.

As a result, they’re trusted more and sales happen. Lead generation cannot be reduced to a series of causal factors; it all begins with trust in your company. In a Web 2.0 World, earning and retaining that trust is much more about offering insight and knowledge first.

Louis Columbus is senior manager, enterprise systems at Cincom Systems and a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He has worked with enterprise clients on defining solutions to their channel management, order management and service lifecycle management strategies. He also teaches graduate-level international business and marketing courses at Webster-Loyola Marymount University and University of California, Irvine. He is the author of 15 books on technology and two books on analyst relations. His book, Getting Results from your Analyst Relations Strategies, can be downloaded for free. You can contact Louis on Twitter at @LouisColumbus.

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