From Trade Magazines to B2B Pay-Per Action IT Lead Generation: The Ongoing (Re)Evolution

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The world of B2B IT marketing used to be simpler and easier to understand. There were only a few choices for advertising and of these the most ubiquitous were:

  • Point of sale
  • Billboards
  • Trade publications and other print options
  • Broadcast
  • Trade shows
  • Direct mail

When it came to B2B IT marketing and display advertising, trade publications were the primary source of advertising prior to the proliferation of web-based marketing. Basically, an advertiser would pay for an advertisement in the publication with the goal of generating interest in the brand or product. They relied on the targeted content of the publication, as well as their loyal and often, well-vetted subscriber base. They knew exactly who they were marketing to and paid using a model of cost per impression. The impressions simply meant the number of people who received and/or read the publication and there were a number of factors that determined the cost per impression. Some of these included:

  • If the publication was free or paid
  • Position of the advertisement in the publication
  • Frequency of placement of the advertisement over time within the publication

While these forms of advertising are still in use, web-based lead generation marketing strategies have boomed and are the primary focus of most B2B IT marketing teams in 2017. Let’s discuss the evolution of IT lead generation from a trade-publication dominated industry.

Web-focused marketing

With a serious cost advantage, content producers started or moved online. Not only was cost a factor, but the barriers of entry into world of publishing content online are so low that anyone with even a start-up budget could be a web-based publisher. And, because of the inherent interactive nature of the web, advertisers could more effectively measure who interacted with the online content and accompanying advertisements. Marketers and publishers soon noticed the  definite shift from the print model where you were not really aware of who looked at your advertisement, only who had the publication in their grips.

A second evolution

When Google exploded onto the scene, they inevitably changed this world forever. With their pay-for-click advertising model, advertisers were thrilled to only be charged for those ads that a reader clicked on (and not the ones that were ignored). This model of pay-per-performance came out of the desire for advertisers to only want to pay for advertising  that actually showed tangible results. Brand advertising on the Internet really never developed. And, under this performance-based financial model, regardless of what those results were, this model allowed advertisers to decide on an engagement strategy and then be charged for the deliverance of the results based on this strategy. For example, if the marketing team was only concerned with their audience clicking on and downloading a white paper, they only paid for the times that this action was taken. If you do it correctly, you are essentially only paying for results and that is obviously  very attractive to  advertisers.

Changes for publishers

This new pay-for-performance B2B IT lead generation financial model gained popularity quickly. Nd, as publishers moved online and others started publishing B2B content online without ever having a print product, the traditional publishing model of monetization of the subscriber base broke down, because now, as a publisher you only got paid if those subscribers actually did something, not just for them being there. In this new model, the responsibility has shifted from the advertiser to produce engaging and attractive content and imagery to one where the publication has to pressure their audience to perform an action.

This has led to the proliferation of tactics by the online publishers to get their audience to take the action that they can be paid for. This meant that the  publications were calling, emailing and putting up roadblocks  everywhere in order to get the audience to perform the required action. Consequently, it has lead to a more and more disjointed audience, where subscribers are becoming disinterested and even angry. Response rates are dropping and the cost of maintaining a subscriber base is skyrocketing. This is a definite breakdown in the entire financial model,  resulting in what could only be described as more work by the publishers to produce leads of an ever lowering quality.

While this shift towards pay-for-action is dramatically different than the days of impression-based advertising, ultimately brand building online will become a more important part of the mix  as time passes. But ultimately, when it comes to IT B2B lead generation, those who are results-focused and have reasonable ROI expectations will be the winners. At TCI, we focus on the result—a better quality lead at a fair price and use many different techniques to assure a great result for our advertisers. One thing is for sure: peddling dead databases where subscribers have become disengaged and have other, better, choices, is no longer a good choice for advertisers.

To reach Peter Ostrow, contact him at


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