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From Lead Generation to Lead Engagement

Tony Uphoff
Tony Uphoff
May 21, 2014

Smart marketers are realizing that while the ultimate goal is to acquire a good lead and convert this lead into a customer, simply acquiring a lead isn’t enough. An unbranded lead is a commodity with limited if any real value. This award-winning ad for McGraw Hill from 1958, offers a smart and timeless reminder.  

It’s difficult to understand much about a buyer simply by getting their lead form, other than they are in the market. By the time the buyer fills out the form, they   are up to 75% of the way through their purchase process but if they weren’t introduced to your company at the earlier stage of their buying journey- when they were formulating their thinking about market leaders, solution providers and best in class vendors, they know literally nothing about your company. The goal in marketing today is to shift from lead generation to lead engagement (Tweet This!). To do this requires knowledge about the buyer, the ability to position your company as a thought leader, and a process for nurturing the buyer through their purchase journey.

The Complexity of Lead Generation

How do you do that? The good news  is that there are brands, platforms and tools available today to help shift from lead generation to lead engagement. The challenge is that the content marketing, ad tech and performance marketing ecosystem is highly fragmented and confusing. You run display programs on various sites and networks. You have search campaigns on multiple search engines and vertical search sites. You distribute your content marketing across a range of content syndication networks. And you buy leads from the multitude of lead generation sources. This disjointed process is complicated and inefficient, and it actually detracts from the marketers ability to drive engagement and marketing performance.

Running disparate campaigns across the wide range of networks, platforms and systems and assuming they are reaching the right buyers, at the right time and delivering the right message- is simply unrealistic. Marketers today need to coordinate their marketing so it works together in order to drive engagement. They also need to ask more of their media providers.

  • Old Media Model: simply connect buyer and seller and get out of the way
  • New Media Model: use data to connect the right buyer to the right seller at the right time and nurture the relationship.

Companies Shifting to Lead Engagement

The most advanced data targeting, data analytics, lead profiling and lead nurturing systems in the world are useless unless your marketing is engineered to work together.

  • Autobytel, the auto site, is a good example of a company doing this really well. Instead of simply sending a lead to advertisers via email, they take the time to educate car dealers on how to reach and engage the interested buyer via text messaging and targeted email messaging. They also use data to help their advertisers. As an example, their data shows that 53% of auto buyers end up buying a different make/model than the one they were looking for. Autobytel uses this data to help advertisers better communicate with prospects about the range of similar makes and models they offer and not just focus on the one the consumer filled out the lead form for.
  • At, we have built a proprietary data platform for our site and network that allows us to track detailed data; from every visit through to a lead, as a buyer goes through their purchase journey, providing a more contextual experience for our audience and higher performance for our advertising. We also aggregate lead data and provide benchmark reports for our advertisers on which brand the buyer bought and how the follow up process worked.

How to Shift to Lead Engagement

Here are a few tips to get you started on shifting your lead generation to lead engagement:

  1. Focus on the basics.  Narrow the number of suppliers and limit the number of systems you use in marketing. The added complexity in managing too many vendors and systems detracts from the performance of your marketing. Make sure you have clear metrics for success, based on your cost per acquisition goals, your conversion to customers and the lifetime value of the engagement your marketing generates. Share your goals with your media and systems suppliers and get their best thinking on how they can help you achieve them. Be aware of the cost of constant switching. While it may seem wise to constantly switch your advertising and marketing, the reality is your absorbing a significant cost every time you switch. Focus instead on scaling the performance and engagement with a small number of strong providers, as opposed to regularly switching around.
  2. Start with the buyer in mind. Develop a best practice around creating buyer personas. Write out personas for each of your key buyer segments by title, function, need and size of company. Name these personas and assure that everyone in marketing and sales understands them completely. Then focus your marketing messages and content to these buyers. Tweet This Tip
  3. Think of the marketing funnel as a continuum. You want to introduce yourself to the buyer early in their journey when they are at the top of the marketing funnel. Engage and nurture their interest as they work through the process and then continue the relationship once they’ve become a customer. Your best future customers are your current customers so don’t stop your marketing once they’ve purchased.
  4. Ask your customers how they feel about your marketing. Business product buyers today are very savvy. They have access to information at the touch of a keystroke- more than your best sales rep could possibly share with them. As a result they are also very knowledgeable about marketing. They love marketing that engages them, that helps them solve a problem, learn something new, validate an assumption or inspires them.

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Tony Uphoff
Tony Uphoff
Tony Uphoff, is CEO of A uniquely accomplished operating executive with an unparalleled track record of building, growing and transforming media and marketing businesses, Uphoff has been a leader in business innovation and transformation for the last 20 years. Prior to, Uphoff served as CEO of UBM TechWeb where he led the transformation of a declining print-centric business into a fast-growing digital media, live event and marketing services powerhouse. He was President of VNU Media's Entertainment Group and Publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, building out and expanding the brands via digital media and live events. Uphoff served as Publisher of InformationWeek in the mid-90's, growing the brand into the largest in the history of B2B media. Uphoff also served in several key management positions at Ziff-Davis during the company's rapid growth in the early 1990's. Uphoff has been named "Folio Forty C-Level Visionary" by Folio Magazine, "Top Media Innovator" by Mins B2B and is regularly named in the Top 100 business media execs by B2B Magazine. Uphoff is acknowledged as an industry expert on media, marketing and technology and is a regular speaker at industry conferences and leading business schools. Uphoff serves on the boards of NTN Buzztime, the HIMSS Media Group and as a Trustee of Linfield College. He also serves as a Business Mentor at Mucker Labs Accelerator and on the advisory boards of the data company Connotate and the programmatic radio ad platform company Jelli. In addition to serving as a Market Expert on, Uphoff also writes about Media, Marketing and Technology trends on his blog Uphoff On Media.