Finding an Online Lead-Gen Network

Lead gen, lead gen, everywhere there’s lead gen.

Last week was ad:tech New York (it should actually be called broker:tech, but we’ll stay away from that for now). I don’t think I could have listened to the pitch “we’re an online ad network” one more time.

After walking the show and working the booth, I really saw why an organization like the Online Lead Generation Association (OLGA) is so vital. If you were a novice at that show, how could you possibly tell the difference between all the players? If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Internet comprised lead generation and search optimization companies, and nothing else (grouping affiliate networks in the lead-gen camp).

If an advertiser were looking for a new source to garner leads, I have no idea how he’d even start. Every company claims to have an online lead-generation network, targeting abilities, top-quality Web sites, and so on. The only real way for advertisers to dive into buying leads is to do massive testing with multiple sources. It’s a tall order and a ton of work. It most certainly isn’t easy, but anything worth that much rarely is.

Some companies say they’re going to test buying leads online with source X and if it works they’ll roll it out to other sources. In my heavily biased opinion, this isn’t the way to go about it. Believe me, there are plenty of shady characters in this space. If you watch your metrics properly, you’ll discover who they are very quickly. Don’t judge the whole space on a couple of sources. Test across the board, and do the work.

For Web sites looking to generate revenue, lead generation is a great way to add income. Shame on the Web sites that actually care about their users but run them through a slew of offers on page after page. The short-term buck in this space can be sickening. We have an opportunity to take online lead generation to some very high levels. Yet most third-party providers run consumers through multiple pages of offers if they possibly can.

It’s up to site providers to watch their own shops. Don’t be greedy. Run your business along the lines of its core competency. Running third-party offers is a great way to generate revenue (and the CPMs (define) are much higher than any other advertising form out there).

Online lead generation has the opportunity to be as big as any other piece of the online advertising space. I firmly believe it will get there some day. Done properly, buying leads online generates customers within the allowable for advertisers. When displayed properly, co-reg offers generate much higher CPMs than sites are used to seeing. Sooner rather than later, more companies will start doing it properly, but unfortunately I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

As ad:tech has proven once again, more and more companies just pop up a sign that says “online lead generation network” without really bringing a whole lot of value to the table. Oh, well. We’ll get there. With a little fortitude, we’ll see it through to the proverbial promised land.

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