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Transparency and Targeting

Posted on 10.31.2007
Selecting a Lead Generation Network

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Lead generation, or “lead gen” as it is often called, is the process of obtaining access to information on qualified consumers interested in a particular product or service. Sounds simple enough, right? While it may indeed be simple in theory, successful implementation and execution can be challenging. This is why many Web professionals turn to lead generation networks; to have a qualified enterprise satisfy their need for additional sales prospects. But with hundreds if not thousands of individual lead generation networks, how does a Web enterprise go about choosing one company over another? It starts with clearly defining your goals.

Lead Generation Defined
In the traditional sense, a lead is simply information that has been gathered about a consumer and is then used to generate sales by a company. The means by which these leads are generated varies and can be achieved through a variety of activities on the Internet including email, display advertising and Web marketing (SEO, SEM, SMO) in general. For our purposes, we focus on the practice of online lead generation by third parties, often called lead generation networks and the core elements of transparency and targeting — what makes easy work of navigating the often treacherous waters of lead generation.

The primary benefit of lead generation is the sheer number of qualified consumers that can be identified and acquired than is possible from one source (yours) alone. Lead generation networks have existing affiliates (or an existing database of prospects and in some instances a collection of sites to showcase your offer) that are potentially open to learning more about your service or solution. Generating leads is the business of these companies, and most are quite adept at delivering.

Lead generation networks, when presenting offers in a timely and targeted way, do much of the pre-selling on your behalf by segmenting their lists and refining who sees the offer. When less time is spent on identifying potential customers, there is less waste of  marketing dollars and businesses can focus their efforts on turning qualified leads into actual sales.

When choosing a lead generation network, potential clients will be confronted with a host of variables they must weigh accordingly to determine how appropriate the fit is between the lead vendor and themselves, the enterprise purchasing the lead. Selecting a network that takes these issues lightly will produce a poor return, which is why understanding how to choose such a network so important.

Transparency is Essential
Successful lead generation requires the utmost level of transparency on the part of the networks generating the leads. According to Brad Powers, CEO of Active Response Group, transparency is essentially a permission- based expression of interest. “Consumers must know how they are going to be contacted. When a consumer is signing up for an offer, they need to know who their data is being shared with and what is going to happen next. There must be no question that they get what they are expecting.” In essence, consumers will openly share their information but expect an honest, relevant offer in return.

The following are a few tips to keep in mind when exploring lead generation solutions.

Permission: Now and Forever
All lead generation efforts should be strictly permission-based; consumers should not be coerced or otherwise unknowingly misled to accept an advertiser’s offer. This coercion is best exemplified by networks placing incentives for subscribers to take action on offers.

List Segmentation Crucial
Lead generation networks utilizing email marketing should be able to refine their customer lists and send consumers offers or information that matches exactly what they have requested. For instance, if a consumer asks for mortgage information, that consumer receives only mortgage information and not offers for home improvements handbooks, much less screensavers.

Data Integrity is not a Buzzword
It goes without saying that those who have acquired the list (lead generation network), as well as those doing the actual acquiring (lead buyers) should not rent, resell or trade the lead without the consumer’s consent as outlined in a privacy policy. This privacy policy should  be clear, concise and explain to consumers how their data will be used and should be readily accessible for review.

Feedback Loops
Those working on lead generation campaigns need to work directly with their vendors. If clients are willing to provide accurate feedback about the quality of leads, the feedback loop will shorten and ensure that poor sources are eliminated — increasing conversion and lowering cost. Not all marketers exploring lead generation have the correct processes in place to provide real-time feedback. Establish a relationship with your lead gen provider to discover the cost per inquiry and the sales conversion percentage from each source. You may also want to quantify the dollar value of sales to new customers and find out the length of the sales cycle. Answers to these questions provided by the network will help business owners get the most from the campaign.

Lead Verification & Validation
Marketers need to look beyond simply how networks are obtaining leads and the quantity of actionable information that can be provided. It is also important to understand what validation systems the network has in place. For example, the USPS (United States Postal Service) has a system that verifies the existence of accurate postal addresses to ensure delivery and minimize lost materials.

Yes, Lead Generation Works
Lead generation can be a powerful way for businesses to add thousands of valuable and highly qualified consumers. But it can be a tricky proposition. Consumers traditionally shy away from sharing data with businesses — especially those with whom they have no experience. Being clear about what data you want and why, ensuring that your consumers’ data will not be abused and delivering on your promise will return the best results and make lead generation a nice addition to your marketing plans.


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