When it comes to generating leads, online direct marketing has long been a highly effective, cost-efficient tool for database building. According to eMarketer, nearly 87 percent of surveyed advertisers cite new customer lead generation as the number-one role of online marketing. And according to Forrester Research, 60 percent of surveyed marketers cite online advertising as more effective than traditional advertising for generating quality leads.
The big challenge of lead generation over the years has been getting the volume without the junk -- generating high-quality leads in large numbers. In the early days, if you wanted to cast a wide net, you had to purchase and manage inventory across many sites. And in terms of lead quality, you simply hoped for the best -- expecting a lot of duplicate, fraudulent or simply irrelevant data to come in along with the good stuff.
But with the advent of ad networks, the game changed. By leveraging network advertising, lead generation campaigns can easily be run across multiple sites -- allowing you to reach your largest possible target audience without the hassles of managing multiple site relationships. And with today's sophisticated targeting and lead-scrubbing technologies, you can ensure that even in high volumes, you're collecting high-quality leads. A network model plus smart quality control put the holy grails of volume and quality within easy reach of advertisers.
The numbers game
The internet reaches more users every day, making it an ideal venue for building a massive database. The more sites on which you advertise, the bigger your audience and the bigger your database. It's a no-brainer, but it can be an administrative challenge. Ad networks solve the problem by enabling extensive online reach across many sites with single-vendor simplicity.
The quality question
Gone with good riddance are the days of manually reviewing incoming leads for duplicate and fraudulent information. Advanced lead-scrubbing tactics such as data verification, fraud detection and CODE-1 PLUS address verification help raise the overall quality of generated leads, saving time, reducing costs and ensuring good leads in volume.
Consumer privacy is perhaps the largest hurdle facing the database marketing industry today. Smart, cautious consumers are hesitant to provide any of the personal information often required on a standard lead generation form for fear of what an advertiser might do with it.
Any time you ask a consumer to fill out a form, you run the risk of getting back false information. That's the reason lead generation campaigns can be rife with fraudulent, duplicate and poor-quality leads. Again, today's advanced data verification and lead-scrubbing tools can minimize the impact of this phenomenon. They quickly remove bad leads from the overall batch, ensuring that your database is filled with actual consumers who are interested in your product or service.
Seven tips for better leads
- Take advantage of technology: Two key advantages of online database marketing are advanced targeting and pre-screening capabilities. You can dramatically increase the efficiency of your online placements by targeting specific demographics or behaviors. You can also customize your ads and landing pages to pre-qualify consumers as valid leads, for example "Are you a NY resident? Click here!" Additionally, take advantage of measurement technologies to track as much as possible throughout the lead generation and sales cycle -- and use that information to continuously improve campaign efficiency. If possible, pass along post-conversion data to your vendor for campaign improvements down the road.
- Clearly define required actions: As in any marketing effort, you get just one chance to make a first impression. With online lead generation, your creative is that first impression. It's vital that you clearly define the action you want the prospective lead to take. Don't complicate the message, and make the path crystal clear.
- Have a distinct landing page: Second impressions are pretty important too. It's at your landing page that your prospect decides to become a lead or not. Again, keep the prospect focused on the desired action - don't distract him with random opportunities or irrelevant information. Make your landing page clear and welcoming, and limit the number of fields your prospect must complete as much as possible without compromising lead quality.
- Scrub your leads: There will always be a few consumers who want your incentive, whether it's a prize, game or e-card, but don't want to give you truthful information. Analyze incoming leads for quality, valid data, potential fraud and more to ensure a high-quality database.
- Diversify: Integrated marketing never goes out of style. By implementing a cross-channel strategy, you can take advantage of multiple placements and multiple price points. For example, you can offset the high cost of a search campaign by adding web marketing to your plan. And, by carefully monitoring performance, you can adjust your campaigns in real time to take advantage of the channels that work best -- maximizing campaign efficiency.
- Follow through: The majority of leads are meant to be converted into a revenue-generating action such as a sale. So, be sure you are making the most of each lead. What processes do you have in place to convert potential leads into paying customers? How do you track the lifecycle of a lead? Know your goals and your sales cycle: track leads acquired through online marketing from initial contact to actual conversion (for example, the completion of a sale) and use this data to continually improve the lead generation process.
- Take advantage of ad networks: Finally, use common sense when it comes to volume. The more sites you touch, the more lead volume you will generate for your database. While single-site buys often reach repeat visitors, promoting your lead generation campaigns across a network maximizes your exposure among a dynamic, unique audience on a mass scale -- without a lot of administrative burdens or costs.
It's really not all that hard to generate a lead for your database. But to generate a quality lead that converts to actual revenue -- that's a true challenge. But with today's ad networks and great quality control technologies, there needn't be a trade-off between volume and quality. Implemented effectively -- online lead generation campaigns are highly effective, produce high-volume AND high-quality leads, and can result in ongoing sales from loyal consumers.
Nada Stirratt serves as senior vice president and general manager of Advertising.com's national sales efforts. In this role, she oversees Advertising.com's extensive advertiser and agency relationships and is responsible for the company's award-winning advertising sales team. Nada previously led Advertising.com's publisher operations and was responsible for the growth and development of the company's advertising networks.
Prior to Advertising.com, Nada was vice president of business development at America Online, Inc. She has also served as senior vice president of advertising sales for MovieFone, Inc., as well as advertising director for Conde Nast's Allure Magazine.