Not too long ago (say 1990) if we wanted to drive leads for our business we would send out postcards. Really great looking postcards. We would send out thousands of them, hoping for a 1% response rate. Online postcard companies that would send the postcards out for you automated this process. These companies would even provide the mailing list. Over the years, these organizations morphed into email houses and other eMarketing shops.
Prospecting 1.0 moved us onto the “internet superhighway” with online seminars (webinars). No longer limited to an in-person seminar in multiple local cities (can anyone else say 10 city seminars in 4 weeks?) the Internet allowed us to produce an online version of our in-person seminar. These of course became so dry that we supplemented the rather poor attendance with recordings that became available ‘on demand’. Prospective 1.0 eventually led to Podcasts and who (other than me) doesn’t want to listen to selling training materials on their iPod?
Web 2.0 has created a more open approach to the Internet, in particular user-generated content, blogs, podcasts, social media, review sites, Wikipedia, etc.Prospecting 1.0 has clearly benefitting from Web 2.0 trends as companies are using the social networks to drive business (certainly the recruiting industry and consultants are benefitting from social networks). Sales 2.0 brought together discrete marketing and sales tools into a single framework (think Salesforce.com, WebEx and Genius) and thus the Sales 2.0 sales force leverages the activity from Web 2.0 venues (such as Blogs) to deliver leads to the sales team. Web 2.0 was a real paradigm shift as consumer-oriented venues (Facebook for instance) are being leveraged for businesses. Companies started thinking about their social media coverage the same way they measure their public relations (print) coverage. But there has not been a shift in the way that prospecting occurs – it is very much the same formula; response to lead to qualified lead to warm lead to hot lead to opportunity to hot opportunity to deal. Many people have written about these steps (from Miller Heimen to Siebel) but let’s assume these are pretty much the steps. Web 2.0 has given more ways for responses to occur – from clicks, to blog posts, to downloads and web responses. These build on the direct mail response leads from the early 90s but in the end are still just responses. Shouldn’t the Internet be able to shift the way that people prospect for business the same way the recruiters now fish for candidates across LinkedIn?
Prospecting 2.0 is the new trend in allowing buyers to reach decision makers without the need for the first 3 steps of the marketing equation (response – lead – qualified lead). This is actually the most costly area of the marketing process.Think of how much you spent on your last Google PPC campaign and how many qualified leads were generated from that campaign. Think of how much you spent to exhibit at your most recent tradeshow and the number of qualified leads that were generated from that event. Web 2.0 has created an environment where one could easily leverage what we will call human capital. This started with eBay (albeit Web 1.0) where your ‘stuff’ is valuable because there is someone willing to purchase it. Prosper.com created a marketplace where your liquid cash can be ‘sold’ for higher interest rates because there is someone willing to pay a premium for a loan. More recently expert networks have become a common place where professionals could earn extra money (often referred to as an honorarium) by speaking to companies looking to leverage their knowledge (check out glgroup.com). Prior to an expert network a company would have no alternative but to hire a consulting firm whose analysts would serve as the industry experts on the desired subject. The analysts would do their research gathering information on their own and sifting through the bits and pieces to come up with their own conclusions that they would share with their clients for a very hefty fee. Online expert networks (the Web 2.0 flavor) bypass the analysts and consulting firms connecting the company directly with the industry expert.
Prospecting 2.0 works in a similar vein. Rather than a company using Google or other traditional marketing tools to drive responses, leads, etc. they bypass them by going directly to the source of the opportunity. They do this by creating a marketplace for referrals driven either by the buyer (of the qualified leads) or the seller. Companies like Myndnet, LeadVine and ThePerfectNetworker allow buyers to literally publish their lead request and the fee they are willing to pay for the referral. Companies like Inquisix and Passitto take the sellers approach by allowing a seller to list their referral or contact opportunity and allowing buyers access to their connections. Companies like Salesconx do both buy and sell introductions to decision makers. Are they working? It is probably too early to tell as a sector, but $10 billion will be spent in 2008 by businesses in the US on lead and opportunity generation. Checking out these companies sites, it isn’t just small businesses using these services. Myndnet has a few listings from Netscout, Passitto has a law firm, and Salesconx has Administaff, MessageLabs and Berlin Pacific. Companies of all sizes are faced with the constant struggle and desire to grow. In a day and age when every dollar counts, isn’t it time for Prospecting 2.0?