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Archive for March, 2010

Guest Post: Relationships Matter In Lead Gen

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Guest Post By: Jeremy Sacco

The idea that relationships matter may seem obvious: successful closes, especially for big-ticket items, often depend more on establishing a good relationship with the customer than with the details of your product.  But in the lead-gen industry, there’s another relationship that can be critical to your success: the relationship between lead buyers and the lead gen companies they work with.

Like many fast-growing industries, lead gen sees its share of fly-by-night, low-price, low-value competitors. Establishing a relationship with those types of players is difficult or impossible – first because they’re mostly interested in volume, and second because they’re not likely to be around for very long.  But when working with reputable lead sources, there are a few key ways to get the most out of the partnership.

Do the math: measure your ROI

In our experience at BuyerZone, a surprising number of lead buyers gauge the success of a given lead program off the cuff. They hear from the sales team that ‘many’ of the leads aren’t closing and decide that the leads aren’t any good.

The problem is, in most B2B situations, it doesn’t take many successful closes to see a positive ROI from a lead gen program, so an overall impression might not give you the real picture. We’ve had customers come to us expressing disappointment in their leads – and after we pushed them to calculate their actual ROI, they realized they were making their money back many times over.

So do the calculations. Make sure you measure the percentage of contacts and closes for each lead source so you can know they compare to each other, and calculate revenue versus cost for each program to get a hard ROI number. Then you’ll be in a better position to negotiate prices, lead volumes, and other details.  When you compare the ROI of a lead program to direct mail, media buys, and other traditional marketing channels, you should be able to see a clear benefit.

Stay in touch

You’re an expert in your industry, right? So is BuyerZone: we’ve been doing lead gen for over a decade. But one of the weaknesses of lead aggregators is that we’re not experts in your industry. The best lead generation services understand this, and value feedback from the lead buyers who are actually out in the trenches doing the selling.

Specifically, talk to your lead generator about how they’re bringing leads in, what qualifying questions they ask, and the types of additional information they provide. Your expertise can help better inform buyers and improve results for you and the aggregator both.  What industry forums, publications, or events are good potential sources of leads? What new trends in the industry will impact the quality or volume of leads?

On the flip side, keep in mind that lead generation services who seem uninterested in hearing from you may not be good choices for long-term partnerships. Even though we handle lead generation for over 150 products and services, in dozens of industries, we know the importance of customizing the lead gen experience for each product.

Test, measure, repeat

The ability to customize your lead program is an important route to success. Work with your lead provider to test all of these components and find out which work best for you:

  • Lead volume – Do you want as many leads as they can provide so your sales team can go for wide coverage? Or is your sales channel better suited to a more intense focus on a smaller number of leads?
  • Geographic coverage – You may want to start with a core area, then slowly add more cities, counties, or states.
  • Delivery method and management – are simple emails enough? Probably not. A good lead management system provides tools that can help you track and maximize the value you get from your investment, and quality lead providers can customize your delivery options. Test all the delivery and management options available.
  • Product coverage – Does your lead provider offer leads for several products or services you can sell? Test them separately: leads for multiple products – even from the same source — may perform very differently.

Because you’re carefully tracking ROI (right?), you can change these attributes one at a time, let them run for a month or more, depending on the volume of leads you’re seeing, and see exactly how they perform.

Communication is everything

There are plenty of other reasons to work closely with your provider, such as credit policies (what types of problem leads can you get refunded for?), new products to cover, and simply staying in touch about new products and services. That said, I’d love to hear your side of the story. What can lead generation services learn from the buyers? What do we need to listen to you about? Let me know in the comments.

Jeremy Sacco is the Editorial Manager for BuyerZone and blogs about lead generation, sales tactics, and online marketing for About Leads.

Cloud 9: The Benefits of Web-Based Software

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

One of the foundational features that Leads360 likes to boast about is the fact that our software is Web-based. Now although this may sound enticing, what does this actually mean for a user, and what are the true benefits of this type of system? Vinny Lingham, an award winning Entrepreneur puts it best on an article from his self titled blog.  Check out some excerpts of his points that relate to our software below.

Never installed

Browser based software never requires installation processes or hard drive space. It lives in a virtual cloud in the Internet and this means that whenever you launch it, it always has the latest version.

Updates are seamless

Instead of having to patch each and every individual user, the patches/upgrades are applied to the server and each user received the updated version the next time they log in.

No admin rights required

Finally, a world where the network administrator in the company does not have to approve the installation of your software!

Available anywhere, anytime

The same way that people access their email from any browser, web apps are exactly the same.

Less environmental conflicts

There are certainly going to be a lot less bugs in Web based software, due to the fact that it is not depending on any of the hardware or environment settings in the OS that may usually cause a problem.

Usable from inexpensive PCs

$100 Laptops, here we come! What do you need a dual core processor for, if you’re running a thin client application? This opens up a world of cost savings for both companies and consumers.

No Viruses

No installation, means no viruses. Start shorting all those Anti-Virus stocks! Enough said!


Monday, March 15th, 2010

At our recent presentation at the 2010 Leadscon show I discussed some common challenges related to lead distribution. I used some funny use case videos to illustrate the point, you can see them here; but I also used this slide in my PowerPoint presentation.

On first glance this probably looks pretty overwhelming, but it’s actually pretty incredible. I say that because some of our clients actually using Leads360 to do all of this. You can imagine how nearly impossible it would be to manage without a sophisticated lead distribution engine. Let’s look at what’s going on here.

  • New leads are getting routed by state to different teams
  • Some leads are going to a qualifying team
  • Leads that aren’t called fast enough are getting recycled to other agents and leads that are  not contacted after 6 attempts are going to a shark tank
  • There are filters to restrict agents from ever getting leads in areas they aren’t licensed for
  • Some leads are going to management for approval
  • And so on…

If you can think it up, we can make it happen. Yes, our lead distribution engine is that powerful.

The Right Message to the Right Person at the Right Time

Friday, March 12th, 2010

This business seems familiar in some important ways. Featured in an article in today’s New York Times, AppNexus provides a platform to allow companies to bid on webpage ad space in real time based on the available details of the web page visitor. The platform is analytics driven and allows ad sellers to set up rules to make sure the bidding and sale of highly targeted ads can occur in less than a quarter of a second. AppNexus is the company that Ebay has been using to bid on and buy ad space for over a year. This type of business is built on the same principal as Lead Management Software: Leveraging technology to reach a specific buyer at a specific moment with a targeted message. Consumers are inundated with advertising messages. Even without a saturated ad space, the human attention span is a finite quantity. A buyer is focused on a specific desire until another one takes its place. On top of that, overexposure and ad fatigue have presided over a further shortening of the attention span and a fiercer competition to reach the ever fickler buyer.

Ads convert at a higher rate when they are target at people who want to buy what’s being advertised. A more obvious tenet of marketing would be hard to come by. But what is becoming increasingly clear are the benefits of reaching a customer at the right moment. An individual is susceptible to persuasion when he is in a state of desiring a particular product. Companies are paying more to place ads by this method because they lead to more sales.

Lead Management Software operates the same way. The quickest way to reach the hottest lead is using an LMS that is integrated with online lead providers and has real time lead distribution that can be configured to route leads to agents based on rules.

Getting the right message to the right guy at the right time is getting easier for people who are prepared to integrate new technologies in their business.

More On Google Comparison Ads

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Nick Hedges, our SVP of Sales and Strategy, was recently interviewed by Anthony Garritano from Mortgage Technology about the benefits of Google’s new Comparison Ads.

Click here to read the full article, or check out Nick’s excerpt below.

“We’ve been working with Google, helping them think through this opportunity,” said Nick Hedges, senior vice president of sales, business development and strategy for Leads360.

“They are trying to create an ecosystem of technology providers that allow Google to authenticate the mortgage rate to make sure the companies actually offer those products at those rates. They also want lenders to manage those leads in an efficient manner.

“We send a notification to the lender that they have a lead from Google. From there the lender can manage the lead through leads360. The major significance is that this legitimizes the online marketplace.

“Google becoming a lead provider will pique the interest of lenders that don’t buy Internet leads. It’s significant to the mortgage industry as a whole because there will be more competition,” noted Mr. Hedges.

Is Buying Respect a Bad Thing?

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

There is a great article in Business Week from March 15, 2021 about how for-profit education companies like ITT and Corinthian Colleges are buying small schools to acquire regional and national accreditation. The article takes a pretty aggressive tack on the damaging effects these corporate behemoths are having on the education system, not to mention the seizing of government financial aid dollars.

There may be another way, albeit perhaps too optimistic, to look at this. This country was founded on capitalism. If not for the ambitious entrepreneurs and companies like GE, Apple, and Walmart, drive to make money, we might not even have the economy we do have. Of course there are whole books dedicated to that debate, but maybe the for-profit education revolution isn’t such a bad thing. Just because your school is a non-profit doesn’t mean that you run it efficiently, nor does it mean that you provide a quality education. I’d put my money on UOP from a business operations standpoint before UCLA any day. That said, I think the bigger question is about education quality. Can a for-profit school that does 90% of its classes online really make a student smarter?

One thing I’ve always believed is that the student is more important than the school - meaning that a student that wants to learn and applies himself will get a better education at a seemingly lower rate school than another student who didn’t do the work but attended a prestigious school.

That aside, for any business to have longevity, it must have a good product and something people want. Education is no different. The for-profit educators that invest in the quality of their product (teachers and curriculum) will be the ones that last. It would seem to me that the most successful educational institutions in this country will be those that blend good operations and revenue focus with quality product; companies like ITT and University of Phoenix have definitely got the former done, let’s see what they can do on the latter.

Online Leads Dead? Not So Fast

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

There was a great article on CIC last week by Spencer Rascoff, the COO of Zillow. His sensational claim being that Online Leads are Dead.

He makes some great points extolling the virtues of ‘Customer Initiated Contact’. But one thing is for sure, the declaration of the death of internet leads is a little premature. His point of view may represent an ideal for consumers. It certainly represents an idealized view of the consumer, assuming that consumer always behave rationally and in their own best interest.

One fact that technologists and efficiency aficionados tend to overlook is that people don’t always behave rationally. The more time spent focusing on the technological piece of a puzzle, conceptualizing and building the ideal workflow for a given system, the less time is taken into account how the human piece operates.

Zillow is one of the smartest tools out there in terms of empowering real estate consumers to shop intelligently. It stands to reason that the view from inside Zillow would be of intelligent consumer behavior.

But there are a whole lot of different kinds of buyers in the world. And there’s still a brisk business to be done with the guy who has money in his pocket who wants to spend, but he’s not sure on what and from whom he wants to buy.

Two Types of Consumers

Cerebral. Self directed. Decisive.

These are the individuals who shop to get maximum value.  Saving money is a priority and they don’t mind doing research in order to get the best value. These are people regard holding on to their money as an obvious and natural extension of working for it.

Perhaps at some level for such individuals, spending money is fundamentally unpleasant. Or at least to be avoided. Anyway, they want to spend as little as possible.

This is all makes sense, and reading it you may be inclined to say, “Yeah. That’s me. That’s everybody.”

But consider another type of consumer:

Emotional. Suggestible. Indecisive.

These are individuals who have worked for their money and don’t want spending it to be work also. At some level they view spending the money is the reward they reap for having spent the time earning it. They want to be a smart consumer, but at some fundamental level, the act of spending the money is a reward; it’s pleasant. They want to be wined and dined, they want to be passive, let someone else do the work.

For such individuals maybe spending money is ultimately pleasant; to be buying something, getting something, expanding their circle of stuff.

The point is that consuming is an experience that many people enter into emotionally.

Consumer Behavior

The model of shopping has been people go to stores, and look around for what they want. And they walk into different stores. Consider the brick and mortar example of a shopper at a mall. They go to the mall to buy the thing they need from Store A. After picking up the item from Store A, they wander into Store B because they like the offer in the window, or they like the look of the place, or they heard somebody talking about it. Inside Store B there could be one of two things, salesmen, who engage the potential customer or devotees of CIC, who believe that displaying the offer is enough; that giving the consumer the information he needs to make his choice. In most cases, there are salesmen; salesman who have supply and whose job it is to drum up demand.

Internet customers are not so different from regular retail customers. To say that consumers are getting smarter and that this indicates a necessary change in how supply and demand relate to each other is not exactly correct. To be sure, the internet offers unprecedented opportunities for the cerebral, strategic shopper, and it could prove to be the tool that puts shoppers in full control of their spending. But indeed, being in full control requires forethought and decisive action. The fact is that a lot of individuals do not consume this way.

Cerebral and Emotional

Successful companies manage to merge the shopping experience to appeal to both the cerebral shopper and the emotional shopper. Mr. Rascoff mentions Amazon as a rational decision model. Indeed they have tools to empower the strategic shopper but they also have business practices that encourage the more emotional/ impulsive shopper. For instance, they (and everyone else) keep your credit card on file for quick purchases. Amazon has taken this even further with their “Payphrase” which defaults to something playful and innocuous like, “matt’s gregarious sunflower”. And Amazons ‘recommendations’ are classic algorithmic lead generation.

CIC, Supply and Demand

Looking at another successful internet company that  seems to be driven by sellers reaching out to buyers, Ebay. How does Ebay work? Is it CIC? No. It’s not Buyer driven:

And let’s imagine Ebay as a CIC model:

  1. I want a mountain bike, in good shape.  I’m willing to spend about $225 on it.
  2. I post my ad on CIC-Ebay, and people who have bikes to sell come look for it.

Maybe this model would work. But the point is; it hasn’t. It hasn’t because that’s not the way shopping works in people’s minds.

Does supply rise to meet demand or is demand created by supply? Clearly supply and demand are two sides of the same coin. To think that one could exist without the other is folly. Similarly, the cerebral shopper and the emotional shopper both exist. They both exist inside a single individual. To create a tool for one of those types of shoppers is a great idea. Creating a sales strategy and process around only one of those groups, not so much.