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The data trend you should be watching

The data trend you should be watching Ross Shanken

As the lead-gen business changes for each vertical, lead buyers and sellers should be focusing on one notable trend that is standing out prominently in the education, mortgage and insurance segments.

Transparency is key

The FTC is increasing its examination of lead generation practices to ensure that consumers -- and their sensitive information -- are secure as that information exchanges hands between lead generators, lead buyers, and other participants in the industry. In fact, LeadiD was among the presenters at the inaugural FTC Lead Generation Workshop on October 30, in Washington D.C., which focused on transparency for buyers, sellers, and consumers. 

LeadiD's technology witnesses consumer intent and consent on more than 125 million events each month across the education, mortgage, insurance, home services, and solar industries. We know that nearly 100 percent of all leads being sold require or prompt consumers for minimal personally identifiable information (PII), including name, address, email, and phone number, while less than 5 percent of these leads required the user to provide their DOB. This informs us that the number of companies doing this the right way far outnumbers the bad actors. 

But, as FTC staff attorney Pablo Zylberglait wrote in the weeks before the Lead Generation Workshop, "Getting products and information this way can be convenient and very fast. But the information (consumers) share may go through the hands of middlemen they may not know exist. So-called "lead generators" collect information on people who may be interested in a given product or service. Marketers pay them for specific lists of these leads. Many lead generators explain clearly what they do, and you might find their services helpful -- for example, they might link you with the right seller or service provider. Other lead generators might not be so forthcoming -- for instance, some make attractive offers that stretch the truth. And some may not do a good job protecting your sensitive information."

Bringing the existence of these third parties to light is the job of the regulators, of course. However, maintaining a level of transparency within the multi-billion-dollar lead generation segment has become the job of every company in the segment. If we don't maintain such best practices, the FTC has made it clear that regulation will be forthcoming, an eventuality none of us wants.

What does this mean?

It's easy enough for anyone to support transparency in his or her business practices. But what does it mean for you, and what might it mean for your business? 

In the education segment, it may mean less dependence on offshore call centers. Only 16 percent of leads in the education industry are still created through the use of outbound telemarketing to consumers and, of those, 83 percent of calls are made by companies within the U.S. and Canada.  

In mortgage and education, it may mean being more responsive to the consumer. More than 90 percent of leads in mortgage and education are delivered to brands within one minute of the consumer requesting information, up from just 50 percent in January 2013. This has led to a better consumer experience and nearly eliminated the possibility of aged leads entering these markets. While an improved consumer experience is paramount here, this data also indicates better business results.

For the insurance industry, it may mean less utilization of programmatic or retargeting display campaigns -- or at least smarter utilization. Though the freshness of leads is just as important in insurance as in the other segments, insurers generate their leads through the purchase of much more display advertising online than do mortgage lenders and education providers. Capping their retargeting campaigns would be a solid first step toward a more consumer-friendly insurance marketing effort.

Recognizing this trend and taking these and similar actions now will enable you to not only remain in the good graces of the FTC, but also those of the consumer.

Ross Shanken is a digital technology business builder, thought leader, and patent holder who founded Jornaya (originally LeadiD) in 2011 after a 13 year career at TARGUSinfo that culminated in the company’s $650M exit to Neustar. Ross’...

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