Practicing the Best in Online Lead Gen

A year ago, when my company and three others formed the Online Lead Generation Association (OLGA), we were motivated by the desire to promote high standards in our small but fast-growing segment of online marketing. For every straight-up lead-gen company, there are probably 10 that are more interested in making a quick buck. They’ll use whatever untoward tactics they can, even if it means plucking clean the golden goose lead generation represents for marketers and Web sites when done correctly.

OLGA is about to issue what should be the bedrock tenets of best practices in online lead generation. We’ve circulated the draft guidelines to our membership. In the interest of obtaining the widest array of feedback, I share them here with you. We’re starting with five and will build from there. They aren’t carved in stone, but they are a reasonable starting point. If you have comments or suggestions, let me know.

Here we go:

  • Always know exactly where your offers are running. As I’ve repeatedly said, this requires spadework, but so does doing media post analyses to make sure your radio, TV, or whatever spots ran when they were supposed to run, on the outlets you chose, and in the rotation you specified. Why should lead generation be any different? Marketers only risk cheapening their brands and flirting with legal disaster if they turn a blind eye to where their offers are being proffered in cyberspace. Some networks won’t like this suggestion, but sunlight and full disclosure are powerful disinfectants.

  • Avoid forced offer selection. If Web site users spend the time and effort to register for a particular site, they’re perfectly capable of checking boxes. Forcing them to uncheck 5 or 50 boxes serves no useful purpose. Marketing is all about consumer choice, so let them choose. Don’t make them have to reject your choices. They may even respect you more for respecting their intelligence.
  • The opt-in or -out mechanism shouldn’t hinder consumers. Offers that are easy to bypass result in more registrations, opt-in acceptances, and quality marketing leads. Web sites should make every effort to allow consumers to continue the registration process and bypass offers they have no interest in. Any interruption in the sign-up flow could be perceived as forcing an opt-in and perhaps create a damaging user experience.
  • Any incentive should directly relate to the offers consumers select. If a user receives an incentive for signing up for a product or service that isn’t related to what they sign up for, the lead’s quality lessens.
  • Use auto-responders with clearly delineated unsubscribe or opt-out links. A true opt-in is when a user selects an offer, submits the selection request, then finds the confirmation in his inbox, an absolute must for maximizing a lead-generation campaign. Don’t hide the unsubscribe or opt-out.

OLGA is first and foremost a source of education and information. Marketers call us because they have lots of questions about lead generation and because some of them are confused by the myriad companies claiming to be lead-generation experts. OLGA’s best practice standards will be posted prominently on the Web site and disseminated through our various communication vehicles, including speaking at industry conferences.

I look forward to your feedback.

Dan is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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