Numbers Don’t Lie: Gen X, Can You Handle the Truth?

If you’re a Gex Xer, chances are since you’ve been in the workforce, for better or for worse you’ve lived in the shadow of the Baby Boomers. They’re the ones who have hired you, fired you … and most certainly always held the best jobs. The more I think about the marketing world, the more I realize that there’s an important undercurrent here, one that will have a tremendous impact on Gen X, and quite possibly Gen Y, as well.

If you’re Gen X, that means you were born in the ’70s, grew up in the ’80s and came of age in the ’90s, or something like that. You grew up listening to music like Van Halen, Run DMC, The Smiths and Nirvana. You went to school, and probably began working sometime during the second Clinton Administration, beginning to pay off your student loans. It was an exciting time to enter the labor force, just as the digital revolution was beginning to take hold.

Like many others in my generation, I entered the labor force in the mid-’90s. My first job was with a marketing firm. I was hired by a Baby Boomer, a nice woman named Stephanie about 20 years my senior. Marketing at the time was still pretty old school, but it was there where I was given my first work PC, set up with my first email address, and taught to surf this new thing called the World Wide Web using what was then the state-of-the-art browser called Netscape.

If you’re a Gex Xer, chances are since you’ve been in the workforce, for better or for worse you’ve lived in the shadow of the Baby Boomers. They’re the ones who have hired you, fired you … and most certainly always held the best jobs. The more I think about the marketing world, the more I realize that there’s an important undercurrent here, one that will have a tremendous impact on Gen X, and quite possibly Gen Y, as well.

You see, last time I talked about a transition that’s taking place in the marketing world, as an older generation of brand stewards gives way to a new generation of digital marketers. I explained this trend was set to accelerate in coming years due to the rapidly changing nature of marketing itself, which is becoming more data driven, technology focused and operational in nature. In case you missed it, you can read about this topic in “3 Ways Rank-and-File Marketers Matter to the C-Suite in a Brave New Marketing World.”

In the marketing world (not in tech, but most definitely in the rest of corporate America), most high-level roles are still staffed by Boomers. What I find very interesting is that for the most part, the vast majority of Baby Boomers (with some notable exceptions, of course) are not especially digital people. Many have learned to live and work in the digital world and quite well, but when I see my dad fumble around on his feature phone I most definitely can see a huge gap.

So the transition I mentioned above will essentially be a passing of the baton, as the Boomers recede from the picture and are replaced by the next generation of marketers. Now here’s where it gets really interesting. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a Baby Boomer is someone who was born between 1946 and 1964. Ranging in age from 48 to 66, Baby Boomers aren’t getting any younger. Generation X spans the years 1965 to 1983, more or less, while Gen Y is from 1985 to 2003. Now let’s take a look at the size of these three generations:

  • Baby Boomers: 79 million
  • Gen X: 41 million
  • Gen Y: 85 million

What this means is that in the marketing world if you’re a Gen Xer, your time to lead is coming. If you look at the numbers above, you can see there will there be a huge leadership void that will need to be filled as the Boomers retire during the next few years … as a small generation replaces a huge one. The economic crisis during the past for years may have postponed their retirement. But any way you slice it, the Baby Boomers will soon begin retiring more or less en masse during the next few years. When they go, they will leave huge leadership vacuum behind.

But that’s not all. In today’s marketing world, playing a leadership role will require both digital and managerial experience. This means that if you’re a Gen Xer with digital marketing and managerial experience, you’re literally going to be worth your weight in gold in coming years as the generational transition accelerates.

Don’t believe me? Just wait and see. And if you’re not ready to rise to the occasion, guess what? There are 85 million hungry and talented digital natives in Gen Y itching to move up ahead and take your place. If anything, they are the most digital generation yet. At this point, they’re still young and have yet to acquire the years of on-the-job experience it takes to succeed in a high-level marketing job. But give them some time and that will certainly change.

So, Gen X, are you up for the job? To quote Jack Nicholson is the classic 1992 movie A Few Good Men, “Can you handle the truth?” If not, Gen Y will be there waiting in the wings, happy to swoop in and take your place.

Any questions or feedback, as usual I’d love to hear it.

—Rio

13 Things You Must Do This Year To Boost Your Biz! Part Two

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

[Editor’s note: This is Part Two of a two-part series.]

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

Today, I’m wrapping up the list with even more tips and tricks to get the most out of your marketing efforts (and marketing budget!) this year.

7. Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. If PPC is new for you, then don’t start out with the big guys like Google or Yahoo, run your “test” campaign on smaller search engines such as Bing, as well as second-tier networks, such as Adbrite, Miva and Kanoodle. In addition, you must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

8. Free Teleseminars or Webinars. These are a great way to collect names for list building, then cross-sell to those names once they’re in your sales funnel. You can use services like FreeConferenceCall.com, where it’s a toll (not toll free) call. But in my experience, if the value proposition of the subject matter is strong, people will pay that nominal fee. Promote a free teleseminar or webinar to prospects (that is not your internal list). Remember, this is for lead generation. So your goal is to give away valuable information in exchange for an email address. You can have a ‘soft sell’ at the end of the call and follow up with an email blast within 24 hours. But the most important thing is getting that name, THEN bonding with them through your editorial.

9. Free Online classified ads. Using CraigsList or similar high traffic classified sites is a great way to sell a products or get leads. The trick is ad copy that is powerful and persuasive, as well as geo-targeting—picking the right location and category to run your ad in. Hint: think of your ideal audience. Ads are free, so why not test it out.

10. Reciprocal Ad Swaps. One of the best kept secrets in the industry: Some of your best resources will be your fellow publishers. This channel often gets overlooked by marketers who don’t give it the respect it deserves. In the work I do for my clients, I spend a good portion of my time researching publishers and websites in related, synergistic industries. I look for relevant connections between their publications (print and online) and list (subscribers). Let’s say I come across a natural health e-letter that has a list of readers similar in size to one of my clients, who is a supplement manufacturer. Since many of their audience share similar interests, cross-marketing each other products (or even lead gen efforts) can be mutually rewarding. Swapping ads will save you money on lead-generation initiatives. Since you won’t be paying for access to the other publisher’s list of subscribers, you can get new customers for free. The only “cost” is an opportunity cost—allowing the other publisher to access your own list. It’s a win-win situation. This technique also opens the door to potential joint-venture opportunities for revenue sharing (sales).

11. Guest Editorials and Editorial Contributions. Another popular favorite used in the publishing industry is editorial contributions. This is where you provide quality editorial (article, interview, Q&A) to a synergistic publication and in return get a byline and/or editorial note in your article. In addition to an editorial opportunity, this is a marketing opportunity. You see, within the byline or ed. note you can include author attribution plus a back-link to your site. Some ed. notes can even be advertorial in nature, linking to a promotional landing page. Relationship networking and cultivation come into play when coordinating these, as it’s usually someone in the editorial or marketing department that spearheads such arrangements. These are great for increasing exposure to other lists, which can be beneficial for increasing market share, bonding, sales and lead generation efforts.

12. Snail Mail. Direct mail is still a consumer favorite—and another good way to get your sales message out. It can be especially effective used in conjunction with another effort, such as an email campaign. Studies indicate that 70 percent of respondents prefer receiving correspondence via mail vs. email. As with any marketing medium, though, you can end up paying a lot between production costs, list rental costs, and mail shop/postage costs. The most costly direct mail packages are magalogs and tabloids (four-color mailers that look like magazines). However, 6 x 9 postcards, tri-fold self-mailers and simple sales letters are three low-cost ways of taking advantage of this channel. Note that copywriting, list selection and geo-targeting can be crucial for direct mail success, no matter which cost-effective mail format you pick. Although 100 percent ROI (return on investment) is what you should aim for, many direct mailers these days are content with 80 percent returns. This lower figure takes into consideration the lifetime value of the names that come in from this channel, because they are typically reliable buyers in the future and snail mail address are more solid—they don’t change as often as email addresses.

13. Print Ads. This is another channel that gets a raw deal. One reason is because it can be costly. To place an ad in a high-circulation magazine or newspaper, you could shell out serious money. But you don’t need a big budget to take advantage of print ads. If you don’t have deep pockets, consider targeted newspapers and periodicals. Let’s say you’re selling an investment report. Try using the Internet to research the wealthiest cities in America. Once you get that list, look online for local newspapers in those communities. These smaller newspapers hit your target audience and offer a much cheaper ad rate than some of the larger, broad-circulation publications. You end up getting quality rather than quantity. I once paid for an ad in a local newspaper in Aspen, CO, that had a flat rate of less than $500 for a half page ad. My ROI on this effort turned out to be more than 1,000 percent. Most important rule: Know your audience. That will determine placement and price.

An Online Lead Generation Chat With LeadsCon Founder

Jay Weintraub, founder of LeadsCon, a conference and expo focused on online lead generation, believes that online lead generation is alive and well — and getting stronger. That’s what he told me during the recent discussion we had about online lead generation, and he certainly ought to know: Following stints with Advertising.com and Oversee.net, Weintraub’s annual LeadsCon conferences have taken off since the first one was held in April 2008.

Jay Weintraub, founder of LeadsCon, a conference and expo focused on online lead generation, believes that online lead generation is alive and well — and getting stronger. That’s what he told me during the recent discussion we had about online lead generation, and he certainly ought to know: Following stints with Advertising.com and Oversee.net, Weintraub’s annual LeadsCon conferences have taken off since the first one was held in April 2008.

As he was preparing for LeadsCon’s third conference to be held next February in Las Vegas, I asked him about the state of the online lead generation industry. The following are highlights from our discussion:

Melissa Campanelli: How would you define online lead generation?
Jay Weintraub:
There are two distinct types of online lead generation. One type involves an expression of real-time interest by a consumer, whereby the consumer completes an online form about himself. Then, in real time or near real time, that information is in the hands of the buyer or the person who’s interested in using lead generation.

Another type involves prospecting and what people tend to also call demand generation. Here, I may sell high-end databases and I may want to purchase a large file of names of potential prospects. Then, I may follow up with them on the phone or via email. The folks I am contacting didn’t request that I contact them, but they’re part of a data set of people that fit my criteria.

These two online lead generation worlds are very different. Not one is better than the other. But it shows that the term “online lead generation” is very broad.

MC: What are some trends in the online lead generation space?
JW: I’ve seen an emergence of consumer-facing sites that offer great value but only get paid when some sort of action happens.

One example is a site called BillShrink.com, which I call “LowerMyBills.com 2.0.” The site, which compares gas prices, credit card offers and cell phone plans, and then directs consumers to buy the best plan for them, only gets paid on a performance basis. The company only gets commission when people sign up for plans they were directed to by BillShrink.com

Another example is Mint.com, which was recently purchased by software giant Intuit. This site, a provider of free online personal finance services, generates revenue by recommending personalized financial products to its users.

MC: What are some best practices for using online lead generation as a marketing technique?
JW: As dumb as it sounds, know if you’re a B-to-B or B-to-C company. Know who you want to go after. This will dictate very much which online generation techniques to use or which companies you’ll choose to work with.

Also, know your cost per acquisition. Look at what you spend today to acquire new customers, because you may very well not know, or, more likely, underestimate this cost. A referral from a buddy, for example, will most likely close at a high rate, while a lead from someone who doesn’t know you will most likely close at a lower rate. Knowing this information is prudent when trying to figure out how much to spend on online lead generation.

Also, be aware that every lead you have will not close and that it’s up to your lead provider to give you a valid lead. Finally, know what you’re going to do with your lead in advance of getting it, and be ready to follow up on it immediately.

Ed Ojdana at LeadsCon

If there truly is a rock star in the world of online lead generation, it is Ed Ojdana.

If there truly is a rock star in the world of online lead generation, it is Ed Ojdana.

Ojdana recently retired as global president of Experian Consumer Direct, a division that was created in 2002 to focus on the consumer credit management market. Experian Consumer Direct combined the operations of CreditExpert, Experian’s consumer credit management group, and ConsumerInfo.com (also known as FreeCreditReport.com), the largest provider of online credit reports and other credit-related information to consumers. Ojdana founded ConsumerInfo in 1995.

At LeadsCon, Ojdana spoke with Jordan Rohan, founder of Clearmeadow Partners, an investment firm that focuses on the Internet space. Previous to founding Clearmeadow, Rohan served as managing director and Internet analyst for RBC Capital Markets.

The two discussed trends in lead generation.

“Going forward, we are going to have to start tying more content to lead generation,” said Ojdana. “The landing page will have to have something more there than just an offer to buy a product or service. People today are looking for information.”

While Rohan thought Ojdana’s point was a good one, he wondered aloud whether or not there is a need for a “full-frontal” approach, where visitors click on a landing page with an offer they can buy immediately.

While Ojdana said there is a time and place for that kind of lead generation, the content play usually leads to better leads.

“If you’d like to just have folks buy an item on a one-time basis, that would work,” he said. “But the key to content is [how it can help build] lifetime value with the consumer, as opposed to the consumer signing up for something on an impulse.”

Rohan asked Ojdana to discuss other things a lead generator should do to generate quality leads.

Ojdana spoke of the importance of good segmentation.

“To do a good job of that, go back to your advertisers and really find out who their customers are,” he said. “ If you are [targeting ads to] a school, and 90 percent of the people who are converting are Hispanic, that means you have to get up there on some Hispanic sites, as opposed to blasting [ads] all over the place.”

He also said that lead generators should “live and die for analytics.”

All true words, indeed.

LeadsCon: Everything You Want To Know About Online Lead Gen

Had a great time at LeadsCon this week.

I was invited to serve on an expert panel of judges for LeadsCon’s “In the Spotlight’ Company Showcase.” The showcase, which took place on April 3, the first day of the first LeadsCon, provided a stage for some companies that may not be well known to a general audience, but had something truly unique to talk about.

Had a great time at LeadsCon this week.

I was invited to serve on an expert panel of judges for LeadsCon’s “In the Spotlight’ Company Showcase.” The showcase, which took place on April 3, the first day of the first LeadsCon, provided a stage for some companies that may not be well known to a general audience, but had something truly unique to talk about.

Other judges on the panel included Jodi Harris, managing editor, iMediaConnection; Mike Kelly, media advisor, investor and chairman, Eyeblaster; and Jay Webster, general manager, lead generation, Yahoo.

Each company presented for seven minutes. Us judges then had two to three minutes during which to share our impressions with moderator Saar Gur (Partner, Charles River Ventures). The companies represented a broad mix, and each were selected for bringing something slightly different to the table. They were all really neat.

Two companies aid in the acquisition of customers (MarketingAnd and Creative Calls), while another was one of the pioneers in the new era of ad networks (SocialMedia Networks). Others were AdReady, which makes display advertising as accessible as search; GLAM Interactive Group, a women’s-only business networking group; and Mint.com, a consumer-oriented Web site that shows what happens when you focus on the consumer and build something they can’t live without. And, one company was well established (TARGUSinfo) but presented a new product helped make quality a focus in this space.

The winner? SocialMedia Networks, because they have built an innovative platform for publishers of social media applications to monetize their traffic.

I thought they were all great, though!

The conference in general has been great as well. LeadsCon was created and produed by well-know online lead generation guy Jay Weintraub. It is a conference and expo expressly designed for companies and individuals in the online lead generation and customer acquisition industry.

Many conferences address online advertising and marketing, and some vertical confercne address online lead generation in their industry, but LeadsCon is the only event I know of to focus entirely on the challenges, issues and opportunities that are unique to the fast-growing, sometimes controversial and ever-changing online lead generation and customer acquisition segment.

The conference was targeted, well attended (over 600 total attendees, according to Jay) and interesting. It also had a warm, family feeling to it. In fact, Jay’s mom helped out with registration! And most speakers were fiends with Jay from his background –he worked at Advertising.com and Oversee.net—and all commented on what a great guy he is.

Congratulations, Jay!