Web Sites: Now, Built for Leads

Lead generation is edging out e-commerce as the raison d’etre of
corporate Web sites, according to a new survey by analytics
provider WebTrends. Marketers, meanwhile, are taking over control of that Web
site from the IT department. But as the mantle of power shifts from IT to
Marketing, it’s up to marketers to optimize the site and to turn
visitors into customers.

In WebTrends’ survey of over 1,000 marketers, 30 percent
said lead generation is their primary site objective, while 28
percent said e-commerce is the main goal of their site. (Another
20 percent were content publishers; 9 percent focused on customer
service.) The comapny is a division of NetIQ .

“There’s this massive silent army of lead generation sites that are
responsible for people using the Web,” commented Brent Hieggelke, WebTrends’
vice president of marketing.

At the same time, marketing managers are more
responsible for Web site optimization than ever before. In the survey, 38 percent said the marketing manager owns and manages the Web site optimization process, while
36 percent said the traditional Web development team handled it. Two year
ago, Jupiter Research (owned by the corporate parent of this Web site) found
organizations left ownership and management of the Web site to IT, not
Marketing.

That’s a good thing for business, Heiggelke said. “With the shift of the
Web site from IT to Marketing, now [the question becomes], ‘Where does the
Web fit into our whole business, and how do we use it?'”

The best marketers are technologically savvy, adds Sean Carton, chief experience
officer of Carton Donofrio Partners, a marketing communications company.

“The problem with marketing people is that if they don’t have technical
knowledge, they don’t know the good questions to ask,” he observed. “You end
up with messes like these huge CRM installations where no one does anything
with the data.”

Marketers who focus on lead generation must also grapple with grey
areas, such as what constitutes a good lead? That’s been a big bone of
contention with some of Carton’s clients. “People are used to
considering every call to a toll-free number a lead,” he said. “But on the
Web, is it an e-mail query, someone who fills out a whole form, someone who
fills out part of one?”

To Carton, a good e-mail address as good as a telephone call. Some marketers
must work to convince their internal clients that’s the case.

The good news, said Heiggelke, is the Web is proving itself as a medium.
“We’re seeing that the impact of the Web on offline channels of
doing business is more dramatic than people thought,” he said.
“Companies don’t have to sell online to have a extremely successful Web
strategy.”

Despite the recent rush to search engine marketing, Heiggelke said his company’s study has not found a decisive link between that trend and a greater emphasis on leads over coversion.

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