There are 2 somewhat opposing forces that advertisers are always trying to reconcile:
- broader reach
- higher precision
Search marketing solves the former. And niche publishing solves the latter. It seems to me that there are ways everyone could benefit from combining those systems in some way.
What B2B trade publishing discovered is that more valuable customers can actually be found and identified with the right kind of carrot. The methodology is very simple. If the value of the content on offer is higher than the cost of obtaining it, then people will give the publisher marketable data about themselves.
It hit me after giving my email and then downloading John Hagel’s and John Seely Brown’s PDF’s that I should be able to setup something like this through a simple self-serve tool if I wanted the same functionality on my site. There are a couple of longer papers I’ve been considering writing, and I’ve started playing with screencasts that might be particularly valuable to certain people.
If my paper or screencast had specific advertiser appeal, I should be able to triage the lead collection and bidding for temporary access to those people who agreed to be contacted in exchange for the content.
Online tech publisher TechTarget purchased BitPipe in late 2004 for $40M, a successful whitepaper-based lead gen provider, so they could own the whole service chain from promotion to lead collection. This is very smart as they collect ad revenue all the way along the marketers path.
The next step after that, of course, is to connect directly into the sales channel at the advertiser’s side. That way you could watch the whole chain. You could see which promotions converted to leads and then translated into sales.
KnowledgeStorm shares this vision and has made some progress toward that end. They offer a lead generation system in tech B2B publishing which includes several methods for following up with the leads they pass to marketers. For example, they actually phone the lead and ask whether or not they purchased anything. (It turns out that in many cases the marketer doesn’t even contact the lead.)
There’s a lot of work going into algorhythmic improvements to ad targeting and behavioral approaches to identifying the right customer for a particular advertiser. These are certainly important, but there’s a much larger opportunity, in my opinion, in a distributed lead capture system. As always, the first to market in that kind of ecosystem will be difficult to unseat.
Regardless of who gets there first, that kind of efficiency would potentially create a win-win-win across the board. The marketer could spend less to get more, better customers. The publisher would improve yields on their already limited inventory. And people would get more relevant promotions for the things that interest them…well, we can dream, at least.