Crowdsourcing Lead Generation

Yesterday I bookmarked, and today I took the time to read a long and thoughtful post by Bernard Lunn on Read/Write Web. His thesis is that the coming (current?) recession is accelerating the transition to a new phase of Web innovation he calls the “Main Street Web”. In his view, this phase will be characterized by themes that are eerily reminiscent of our thesis at Judy’s Book, e.g.:

  • The core economic value proposition for the consumer web lies in its ability to connect consumers with real-world goods and services.
  • Despite continued growth in online selling platforms, local businesses will remain the primary distribution and customer service hubs for most consumer transactions.
  • The winning web companies in this phase will get paid for delivering customers and/or completed transactions to merchants, not just ad impressions.
  • Individual consumers will participate in the value chain by creating content (e.g., reviews) that helps others make a purchase decision.

I think Bernard’s analysis is right on in many respects, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly novel. (The Web 2.0 emperors – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – haven’t had clothes for a while, but it seems like it took Tim O’Reilly saying so to make it OK to admit it).

Boiled down, the arguments he presents are what folks in the online lead generation space have known for a decade:

  • Customers need goods and services
  • Businesses need customers
  • Customers increasingly use the Web (and primarily search) to find what they need
  • Most businesses haven’t yet made that switch
  • There is a ton of money to be made by bridging that gap

In my investment thesis post a while back, this theme (Mind the Gap) was number one on the list. There are lots of ways to play it, and it’s more relevant than ever given the current economic climate, but it’s definitely not a new insight. That said, what Bernard added to the idea with his post was the idea that consumers now play a larger role in the lead generation opportunity. By creating content that leverages their own intellectual and social capital, e.g. on blogs, social networking sites, etc., they can help drive leads and (in theory) extract value for doing so: crowdsourcing the lead generation opportunity.