Quantifying Lead Quality

The Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB’s) recently issued “Marketer & Agency Guide to Lead Quality” (PDF download) defines lead quality and provides guidelines for quantifying quality in line with industry benchmarks. On the whole, it’s a worthy effort, but I disagree with some of its conclusions.

According to the IAB, the lead-gen industry “is shifting from a model based on quantity to one based on quality.” Quality, according to the IAB, is “the assessment of the consumer’s genuine interest in the advertiser’s product or service, and therefore, the likelihood that the consumer can be converted into a customer.”

It goes on to say:

By understanding that Internet leads have measurable components that can reflect the consumer’s intent, or influence an advertiser’s ability to convert leads into customers, advertisers can proactively measure the quality of each individual lead prior to funneling those leads to their call center or direct mail fulfillment center.

The IAB provides five specific components it thinks will affect lead quality the most. Highlights follow, along with my observations:

  • “Lead Origination, as it applies to online lead generation, refers to the specific advertising medium used to capture both consumer interest and consumer information. Lead origination answers the question, where and how are my leads being generated?”

    My absolute number-one criterion is the advertiser know exactly where leads are coming from.

  • “Consumer Motivation, as it applies to lead generation, refers to the reason(s) that the consumer filled out the lead generation form. Consumer Motivation answers the questions:
    • What was behind the consumer taking action?
    • Was the action proactive or passive?
    • Was the lead generated as part of an ‘up sell”‘ or did they only respond to one product?
    • What specifically piqued the consumer’s interest?
    • Were they genuinely interested in my product/service or was it an incentive that caused them to take action?”

    Hopefully, the days of offers with incentives (e.g., “to get this camera, you have to select at least two offers”) are ending. If the lead was generated in a process geared solely for generating leads, regardless of the user experience, what kind of quality is that? If users are inundated with offers to the point they keep filling them out or abandoning them (those being the two options), I hope those types of user flow days are numbered.

  • “Lead Exclusivity, as it applies to lead generation, refers to whether or not the lead is sold to one advertiser or multiple advertisers. Lead Exclusivity is dependant on whether or not the lead was generated for a specific brand or advertiser, or alternatively, a generic product or service where a consumer is likely to be price shopping or comparing similar products.”

    Obviously, you have the LendingTrees of the world, but for the most part, an advertiser must run a solo campaign not just for his company, but also for a particular promotion, product, or service to be effective and have scale.

  • “Lead Age, as it applies to lead generation, refers to the time it takes from the submission of the lead form to the delivery of that lead to the end buyer. Generally, advertisers who buy Internet leads see great value in following up on a lead immediately.”

    If an advertiser doesn’t have the means to communicate immediately, or at least within 24 hours, with a consumer who opts in to the offer, either have your provider do it for you or take a step back, build this capability, then start a lead-gen campaign.

  • “Verification of Data Fields, as it applies to lead generation, refers to whether or not the information submitted by the consumer through a lead generation form is verified using either a) internal technology or b) a 3rd party verification provider.”

In this category, according to the IAB’s committee, the number one verification score is calling a lead before sending it to the advertiser. I don’t see the scale in calling every lead prior to data transfer, nor the sense in doing so, but I roll in a circle in which only a small percentage of my customers want to actually call their consumers. As more and more marketers join the online fray, I’m not sure how many will be focused on the phone part of the lead (think Circuit City, P&G, Wal-Mart, etc.). Most are focused on e-mail, more a part of the online experience than the telephone.

The IAB developed 10-point scales for each of the five components. According to the IAB:

To measure the impact of Lead Generation, it is first necessary to determine the channel through which the lead was generated. The six options are:

  • Search
  • Portal
  • Non-Portal Publisher
  • Ad Publisher Network
  • Lead Network
  • Co-Reg/Transactional Provider

In days to come, you’ll most likely have to take search out of the equation. We’ll see a trend in which marketers will tell lead generators if they aren’t the company hired to do search, search can’t be part of their campaigns. It doesn’t make sense for advertisers to compete with providers on keywords, driving up costs and decreasing the clicks on their own offers.

We’re already seeing this trend at my firm. We’ve received a number of messages from marquee advertisers stipulating that if we use search (which we don’t), there are keywords we aren’t allowed to bid on. I recently moderated a panel discussion with Eric Obeck of SendTec. He said in no uncertain terms that if a company isn’t the agency of record for a marketer’s campaign, the marketer should outright restrict that company from using search to generate leads for them. There are very few in the lead-generation space with more experience in online and multichannel lead generation than Obeck, so I for one would heed his message.

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.