The performance marketing sector has never been hotter. As the 2014 Online Performance Marketing Study revealed, performance marketing is now a £1 billion industry in the UK, generating £14 billion in sales for advertisers both big and small. In the US, performance-based advertising comprises 65% of all online ad spend, according to the IAB. Clearly, there is a strong and growing demand for performance-based marketing services.

Brands are increasingly coming to the realization that working with an experienced performance marketing partner is critical. Equally important is the acquisition of action-taking consumers in a social media setting versus merely purchasing a presence.

In short, more advertisers, along with the social media platforms they use to reach consumers, are realizing that a strong lead-gen component is needed for successful ROI and positive brand advertising.

With that in mind, it is worth examining which consumer verticals that work best for performance-based marketing campaigns. As the head of Matomy Media Group’s US Client Strategy team, I have had numerous opportunities to see which performance marketing verticals work best in America. Here is a rundown of the top-performing performance marketing verticals in the US.


Dating advertisers are looking for user value by encouraging users to become paying members so they can contact other users and access additional features on the site.

Some of the major brands that are included in this category are eHarmony, Mate1 and in US, along with Eden Flirt, Smartdate, Meetic and Flirtcafe in Europe. Some of the advertisers in this vertical have two types of brands: “soft” brands (i.e., dating) and adult.

Most dating sites require users to register to the dating service for free but require them to pay for monthly membership fee. Users are offered 1/6/12 or 1/3/6 month subscriptions — the longer the subscription the cheaper the membership per month. Most advertisers let female users to browse for free (like the best nightclubs); therefore, they are looking to acquire male traffic.

There is a diversity of user flow types that the user must complete before a conversion is created. These include: DOI (email confirmation); SOI (registration without email confirmation); Facebook connect; Facebook apps; and mobile connect.

Email, social media and search work best for performance-based dating campaigns.

Finance & Insurance                  

The finance and insurance vertical is one of the mainstays of US performance marketing. Companies like MetLife, AIG and American Express have been running performance-based marketing campaigns since the early days of search.

Since most finance and insurance products or services are high-consideration offerings — meaning that they require a lot of time and consideration before the consumer makes up his or her mind whether to purchase — performance marketers need to work through the whole sales funnel with the client and offer a multichannel approach to the customer acquisition strategy. A simple banner ad will not cut it.

The finance vertical often has a long sales cycle and therefore requires performance marketers to use multiple touchpoints, such as social, search and email, plus retargeting to engage and acquire new customers.  

Success in the finance and insurance vertical requires a lot of patience, creativity and innovation. Since the vertical is heavily regulated, performance marketers should expect that their clients will need to go through multiple rounds of internal and legal review. Do not let that discourage you, though. Once you find the sweet spot in this vertical, and gain your client’s trust, the finance and insurance vertical offers numerous opportunities for campaign expansion since advertisers in this space are often launching several new products and services throughout the year in order to entice new customers.

Health & Beauty

The health and beauty vertical is another mainstay of the US performance marketing space. It has evolved over the years due to increasing regulation and changing consumer interest, but the vertical remains strong due, in part, to Americans’ keen interest in healthy living and looking their best.

Success in the health and beauty vertical requires performance marketers to have a high tolerance for risk. Unfortunately, some of the advertisers in this space are of the “run and gun” variety: they look legit on the outside but may have some financial problems, which can become your problem if you do not carefully scrutinize the client’s financials. It is important to do your due diligence and make sure they have enough credit to pay for all of the leads that a typical performance marketing campaign will generate for this type of advertiser. Do not be afraid to walk away from a health and beauty client if you are concerned about being paid for the leads you generate for the client.

Social media, search and email are the best media channels to run health and beauty performance marketing campaigns.

No matter how you look at the performance marketing industry in these changing times, the strong influx of dollars, whether from advertiser spend or investment, is creating a more mature and sustainable ecosystem. Never have marketers had the ability to engage, acquire and retain so many people so quickly and accurately.

Performance marketing has shown its value and will become even stronger as more advertisers in the finance, health and beauty and dating verticals continue to invest their advertising dollars into it.