Online lead generation is big news in the digital marketing community. The recent release of the IAB’s first performance marketing study values the affiliate and lead generation industry at over £800m generating £9bn in sales. Without wanting to state the obvious, these are significant numbers and online lead generation is starting to make CMOs sit up and think about whether they are investing enough budget into the channel.
The report is recognition of all the hard work by a number of industry pioneers that have worked tirelessly over the last few years building lead generation businesses in the UK and helping to establish and grow the industry. But now is not the time for the industry to rest on its laurels. Arguably the story so far of the fledgling UK lead generation industry has been based around selling the concept of lead generation to advertisers and publishers. There has been little focus on innovation and a lot of just doing more of the same.
This has been fine up to now but in order for the industry to continue on its current growth trajectory, there needs to be some real innovation in the sector and if you scratch a little below the surface there are some interesting trends that should help take lead generation to the next level.
Online lead generation is becoming an increasingly technologically driven market. In the early days, the main technological focus of the industry was developing software solutions that could take leads from publishers, clean the data in real-time and then deliver the leads to the client. There are now dozens of companies that offer these simple types of solutions but a few are starting to stretch the boundaries of what technology can do for all stakeholders.
For example, one of the big areas of discussion in the lead gen community is around duplication of data especially in huge verticals such as energy. Conventional wisdom is that an advertiser only pays for each lead once but the fact is that consumers are often submitting their information to be contacted multiple times. There are a few companies working on solutions to model this type of behaviour across multiple suppliers in order to help advertisers extract more value from their leads by providing insight into customer behaviour as well as just a simple consumer prospect.
This is just one of a number of examples where technology can be used to enhance the whole lead generation process.
How many times have you heard the phrase “year of the mobile”? At the start of every year for the last five years perhaps? Well whether or not 2013 is the year of mobile, one thing for certain is that people are using their phones and tablets to research products or services and are filling in lead generation forms on these devices. Mobile lead gen is still very much in its infancy but it’s certainly growing in both size and importance.
The mobile experience is fundamentally different to the desktop one and this will have a huge impact on the types of lead generation campaigns that will perform well. If anybody tells you they have “cracked” mobile lead generation they are not telling the truth! There are a whole lot of companies still trying to work how best to capture consumers while they are on their mobiles. Whether it’s bespoke landing pages, short forms, long forms, click-to-call, call back requests or all of the above nobody yet has all the answers but rest assured that over the next year or so there will be lots of innovation in this area.
When people talk about lead generation they typically mean data leads but voice lead generation is also an area to watch. And voice leads don’t just mean click-to-call ads on mobile, it can be anywhere a consumer can call a number to speak to an advertiser about products or services and one of the most exciting areas is offline.
Historically the appeal of online for many advertisers has been the performance element, allowing advertisers to optimise their ad spend, track results and work out their ROI to within pennies. Over the last ten years companies have grown from nothing to become multi-billion dollar behemoths thanks to the power of online performance marketing. This trend has also been partly responsible for the decline of offline publishers that have traditionally found it hard to compete with this performance promise.
But the fact remains that millions of people still read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch TV etc. and many of these would prefer to pick up the phone and speak to somebody rather than fill in a form online. We sometimes forget in digital that the world still does exist offline and it’s a big world at that! There are companies such as Iovox based in London that now provide sophisticated voice analytics and tracking software that allows any publisher to sell voice leads. Just stick a unique number in an ad, agree a price per call with an advertiser for calls lasting over a certain time period and then away you go. Every conceivable piece of information about the call can be tracked and lots of metadata can be added. This is a huge untapped lead generation market in the UK.
At the most fundamental level, all lead generation does is aim to capture consumers at their point of interest or need and then deliver these prospects to an advertiser. And guess what, people aren’t just going to Google any more looking for products and services. They are increasingly going to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. and broadcasting these needs to their connections but also into the ether and crucially they are also often expecting a reply.
This is really at the cutting edge of where lead generation may be going as this trend is only set to continue as people turn away from traditional channels and do everything more socially. There are already a few companies looking at ways of harnessing these online conversations where consumers are expressing their needs on mass. Leadfindr.com is just one such company (full disclosure – I am a co-founder of the company) using sophisticated semantic technology to identify potential customers. Campaigns running in automotive, leisure and education are showing click through rates of over 50% on average. Expect to see a few companies start to make some real headway in social lead generation over the next 12-18 months.