Digital Lead Generation Trends to Watch in 2017

December 21, 2016

Young Professional with Laptop

DCI’s lead generation service has been going through a transformation in the last year, one dictated in large part by a changing marketplace. Since 2001, we’ve had traditional appointment setting services built on predictive research, followed by hard-nosed ongoing phone and email sales. As DCI’s recent Q Report on lead generation indicated, that just ain’t working anymore.

So, what is working? In 2016, we brought IP recognition software to the industry forefront through our Web-to-Leads service, which tracks visitation to the website of an economic development organization (EDO) or investment promotion agency (IPA), identifies companies worth contacting, and then facilitates a discussion with interested prospects. Through our work with clients at the regional, state and country levels, we’ve found that website visitation is easily the single most effective predictive factor for a company’s site selection needs. The process still involves a bit of “cold” outreach, but sourcing these leads solely through website behavior resulted in much higher conversions.

As we enter 2017, we have our sights set on four other emerging trends in digital lead generation for EDOs and IPAs. Here’s a snapshot:

Catch, Don’t Throw: Content Marketing Needs to Change

In a recent meeting with a marketing tech company, DCI was shown examples of EDOs that have used the platform recently. What stuck out most from the experience? Communities LOVE to talk about themselves. With every place touting how great they are, how are companies supposed to take the industry seriously? For the good of place marketing, we must look at content differently.

The Content Marketing Institute defines its namesake niche as “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience.” How great a city or state is doesn’t count as “relevant or valuable;” that’s called chest-beating. The EDOs and IPAs of the future are going to find new ways to engage companies on their terms, not yours. Content should be built around objectively solving pain points, not subjectively promoting your community.

Hyper-Target, or Remain Irrelevant

If we were to classify an EDO or IPA as a company, we’d consider most a cash-strapped, resource-tight small business. And small businesses — even well-funded startups fighting to produce revenue — don’t usually mass advertise in magazines or on TV. So why is every business publication filled with full-page promotions from various cities, states and countries? We’ve never understood this.

Meanwhile, these same small businesses (and a few innovative EDO and IPA groups) are finding much more efficient channels provided through “hyper-targeted” ad-tech. There is LinkedIn’s platform for starters, but there’s also companies out there offering the ability to get display and paid search ads in front of a particular industry, functional group, executive level and headquarters location (and in a scary way, even much more detailed than that). With options like these, mass advertising never looked so wasteful!

Native Advertising Finds Its Niche

Well, we’re not completely downbeat on advertising with publishers. Better than mass advertising, but not quite as good as hyper-targeted digital platforms, native ads still makes possible the targeting of key audiences and fostering stronger awareness of your brand through authentic storytelling. Native can take many forms, but its advantage comes in the subtle disguise with which it’s presented—in the natural flow of a publisher’s editorial content.

Big brands have mastered this, but there’s still plenty of room to run on this trend for EDOs and IPAs. And, as noted in the first trend above, native platforms only work if the content strategy is on target. Toward this end, we’re reminded of HubSpot’s 2014 blog, “Why Storytelling Will Be the Biggest Business Skill of the Next 5 Years,” which says, “Stories make presentations better. Stories make ideas stick. Stories help us persuade. Savvy leaders tell stories to inspire us, motivate us.” Native platforms enable this philosophy for EDOs and IPAs perhaps better than any other.

Game On in Search Engine Marketing

Basic SEO principles are a no-brainer, but how can EDOs and IPAs maximize search engine marketing in total? Through our Web-to-Leads experience so far, we’re finding that most prospects willing to talk have come via search engines (68%, to be exact). Combine this with two other stats from Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing: first, that 66% of executives reported using the Internet frequently during their most recent site search and, second, that 76% of executives reported first contact with an EDO after the short-listing process (or later). That means a lot of online research is happening behind your back and much of it starting on search engines.

In 2017, the savvy EDO or IPA will have a rock solid strategy for website and blog content that is oriented toward what the marketplace is searching, and take advantage of pay-per-click ads oriented toward long-tail executive terminology (rather than insider economic development speak).

Now, if we’ve just up-ended your 2017 marketing or business development plan and you’re about to hit the spiked egg nog hard, don’t fret. Give us a call and let’s work through this together. We like egg nog too!

Written by Steve Duncan

Steve Duncan is Vice President of DCI’s lead generation division. Since 2004, Steve has managed marketing programs for a diverse set of city, state and country organizations, from Albuquerque and Houston to Tuscany and Wyoming.

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