by: Joseph Mann

Web sites have been an important part of the lead generation process for business-to-business companies for some time. Those who have been doing it correctly left behind "brochureware" sites long ago and learned to leverage the Web to engineer the creation of demand (sales) through integrated marketing activities and customer-focused content. I call these “Demand Creation Websites,” and they go hand-in-hand with the first iteration of the Web.

With all the talk about "Web 2.0" being the second coming of interactivity on the Internet and the overdue transition of the World Wide Web from a collection of websites to the next "generation of Internet-based services that let people collaborate and share information online in a new way," perhaps it's high time to reengineer the business-to-business web site within the context of Web 2.0.

The next evolution of the business web site must go a step beyond demand creation: it must not only create short-term demand but also to seed the opportunity pipeline with new business opportunities that will mature over time. Let's call it Demand Creation 2.0. At its core is an Opportunity Pipeline Web Site: a platform for continually fueling interest in a business’ offerings and providing critical intelligence for future growth. And it should be developed with an eye for integrating the "participatory Web" aspects of Web 2.0 into its functionality.

A small number of B-to-B companies are beginning to embrace Demand Creation 2.0, testing the waters with corporate blogs, wikis, podcasts and video clips, RSS technology, social media aspects - even posting content to Flickr - and wrapping it all together with a solid methodology for tracking and analyzing prospect behavior. But the medium is not the message. It's not about the technology. It is about using tech to connect customers and prospects with the content they want and to a large extent acknowledging that the power is no longer solely in the hands of the company or marketing department.

Ultimately this is a good thing, especially in B2B where the sales cycle is long, involves many decision makers and big dollar amounts. A wealth of prospect-driven content using technology as an enabler can only help build prospect interest, commitment to buy and raise barriers to competitive intrusion.

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