More companies are seeing the benefits of online lead generation (OLG), with budgets rising, and a greater proportion of offline sales coming from online activity. 

The proportion of companies who are generating leads online with the intention of converting them offline has increased from 70% last year to 81% this year, while on average OLG is responsible for 42% of total sales, up from 40% last year. 

These are some of the findings from Econsultancy’s Online Lead Generation Report 2010 (B2C), produced in association with Clash-Media. More highlights from the report after the jump…

Online lead generation methods used

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is still the most widely used channel for generating leads online, and this has continued to grow, with the percentage using search engine optimisation up by 13% to 90% this year.

Email marketing (to in-house lists) is the second most widely used online lead generation method, up from 74% last year to 83% this year, followed by PPC on 73%. 

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Naturally, given the ubiquity of the subject, there has been a big increase in the use of social media for OLG. Two thirds (66%) of companies surveyed are using this channel to generate consumer leads, compared to 40% last year.

There has also been an increase in the use of rich media and video, while RSS is the only method on the wane, down 2% on 2009. 

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Lead generation budgets

The increasing importance of OLG is reflected in the allocation of budgets. The number of companies who say that OLG budgets have gone up in the last year has increased from 59% last year to 65% this year. This compares to 31% of respondents who say that offline lead generation budgets have increased.

38% of companies surveyed are now spending at least £100,000 annually on online lead generation. Last year, only 21% of companies surveyed said they were spending this amount or more.

The proportion of lead generation budgets targeted online has dropped slightly from last year’s survey, though still roughly the same:

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Measurement

Measuring the effectiveness of online lead generation is an on-going problem, with only 32% saying they are either “excellent” (8%) or “good” (24%) at this. There are still significant numbers of advertisers who say they are only “average” (22%), “poor” (17%) or “very poor” (3%). There has not been any significant improvement since 2009.

How online leads are converted 

Advertisers are most likely to convert online leads through email and online transactions (85%) and telephone calls (67%), followed by social media (23%) and stores (16%). 

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Since last year there has been a significant increase in the proportion of respondents using these email and telephone for lead conversion, by 10% and 9% respectively.