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Online Customer Acquisition: Lessons Learned

  |  April 8, 2008   |  Comments

A report from the first LeadsCon conference.

I've just returned from the industry's newest conference, LeadsCon, solely dedicated to the online customer acquisition industry. Founder and producer Jay Weintraub, a longtime Internet advertising strategist, uses the "online customer acquisition" term constantly because he has a broader vision for his industry. He hopes his new conference will help advance and elevate the online performance marketing industry, educating current players so they can not only grow within their current sectors but also expand beyond their traditional boundaries and help advance brands. Weintraub would like to see his industry thought of more as "starting the dialogue" with a prospective customer than as direct or data response marketing.

Ever curious, I attended LeadsCon for several reasons:

  • Knowing how fast all things online change, I was curious to see what, if anything, had changed since I wrote "What Agencies Should Know About Lead Generation."

  • More of my agency's traditional clients are interested in lead generation.

  • I wanted to see what kind of companies attended this event and what their reaction would be.

I was not disappointed.

Key Takeaways

For a first-time show, LeadsCon boasted a phenomenal turnout (600-plus registered attendees; the goal was 250). Most attendees were lead-gen providers (or aggregators) and, surprisingly, venture capitalist companies. Although a few buyers attended, many were actually resellers. Many attendees needed to hear the key takeaway points, such as:

  • Define and deliver lead quality. It's no longer good enough to merely deliver leads. Leads must convert, and the industry has to do a better job of figuring out why they convert.

  • Offer transparency in lead sources and offers' locations. This is particularly true for marketers who want to attract big brands (which insist on controlling their brand) to the marketplace.

  • Strive for buyer and consumer satisfaction. Satisfying the lead buyer alone isn't OK. If the consumer feels misled by a lead opportunity or receives too many of them, she'll get worn out and become less responsive.

  • Educate clients, innovate, and provide content during the lead-capture process. Ideas like "born on" dates for leads and lead "identification stamps" might come to fruition to help buyers feel more confident in the leads they're buying. No longer should the lead generator expect a down-and-dirty lead form to produce desired results. They'll have to provide more and richer content to truly capture user interest and gauge intent.

  • Solve the user intent issue. For example, why did the user become a lead in the first place? Was it strictly due to an attractive incentive, or was that user truly interested in the product or service offered? Understanding intent leads to better conversions and, ultimately, to more lead sales.

  • Qualify leads. Systems need to be implemented to help qualify lead quality on the front end and lead conversions on the back. Ideally, the lead-gen buyer will allow some kind of integration into its CRM (define) system, so that predictive models can be built and the quality of the leads delivered can continue to improve.

  • Networks must consider whom they partner with for lead gen. Eliminating lower quality partners might create scalability issues, but in the future, as lead quality goes up and lead volume decreases, more of these leads should convert and the lifetime value of these customers should increase.

  • Segment the audience. At the risk of sacrificing revenues, lead-gen providers must get better at segmenting, not just by demographics or geography but also by the ability to generate leads by specific buyer, not just on a mass scale.

  • Remember consumer privacy, regulation, and compliance. The very nature of the information collected on a daily basis means the lead-gen industry bears a huge responsibility to consumers to protect privacy. With FTC crackdowns and potential legislative regulation looming, lead companies must follow compliancy standards if they want to remain in business.

The event proved there's plenty of complexity in lead gen. Keep an eye on the space.

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Hollis Thomases

A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."

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