It’s 2016 and everyone seems to be selling lead generation. Marketers have the “luxury” of owning the strategy and execution of demand generation programs, with the constant pressure of ROI and sales satisfaction. The selection of demand generation strategies, partners, and vendors requires marketers to be very well educated in all aspects of the lead generation process.
I sat down with Robert Alvin, CEO and Founder of NetLine Corporation (where I work), to better understand all sides of the lead generation market. Robert has more than 20 years of experience supporting the needs of B2B marketers globally and commonly describes the vendors vying for marketing budgets as the good, the bad, and the ugly:
“I often tell our Marketing Team that the only thing that matters is ROI. Find the best method to generate the best ROI with scale—scaling being the killer—and we’ve got a winning strategy.” – Robert Alvin.
But, of course, that’s easier said than done. To gain a better perspective on the marketer vs. publisher side of lead generation, Robert and I started at the top:
Amanda: This year, 42% of marketers reported obtaining enough quality leads as their biggest challenge. Starting first with volume, as lead generation vendors are typically selected for their reach, what concerns does volume present for publishers?
Robert: Typical web publishers, and even print publishers, have an audience that is traditionally semi-static. That’s not to say that they can’t grow or attract new users, but driving traffic to a website is based on having content, and the awareness that there is available content, and paying for it…In today’s competitive, high cost-per-click world, it can be tough for a web publisher to justify paying for search and display to drive traffic to their website.
Amanda: In regard to the “quality” factor of that statistic, how does lead quality impact a publisher’s reach?
Robert: When it comes time for [marketers] to buy leads from a web publisher, [marketers] want the best lead [they] can get. Therefore, [marketers] specify targets that systematically pair down the publisher’s audience with their lead requirements. Geography, Industry, Company Size, and Job Function are standard profile sets, but sometimes getting so specific can cause the publisher to only be able to deliver a handful of relevant names.
If [marketers] choose an ABM-based campaign, then they don’t need to specify the industry and company size because they will only provide a finite list of acceptable company names. But, if the [marketer] can’t come up with a list of tens of thousands of companies, then there is a good chance that they have limited the publisher’s relevant audience to less than 5% of their total audience.
…But this may work well for you if you only want to run a few small lead generation campaigns. The bottom line is that the publisher can only do a finite number of emails, if they can target at the required level, and limit display placements to generate enough of the right leads for [marketers] before exhausting their entire audience.
Amanda: Outside of setting audience filters, what other measures are taken to ensure lead quality?
Robert: These days many of NetLine’s clients want us to filter out duplicates as part of their campaign requirements, which means we won’t send them a lead we have already sent in the past. So, if a publisher’s audience is only growing or changing by a few percentage points over the course of a live campaign, then they can’t provide the clients with a significant amount of new leads since their audience will quickly become exhausted.
Plus, if [marketers] are paying a cost per lead (CPL), then this is definitely a diminishing return for the publisher and eventually [marketer].
Amanda: So, your observation of B2B marketers is that they want a continuous flow of new, high volume, quality leads that meet their demographic target attributes. But, from the publisher’s perspective, how can they possibly deliver on all of those requirements?
Robert: [Publishers] can rent an email list or buy the names. But publishers that do this are just acting as lead brokers who end up selling these leads with very thin margins. This approach almost always blows up in their face. They could be just buying some names for ten to fifty cents each and selling them to you at $25 or more per lead.
Amanda: The use of call centers is a hot topic today—what’s your opinion of using this tactic for increasing lead generation scale?
Robert: The real savior for publishers today is the use of 3rd party offshore call centers in a foreign country that have access to huge databases with very inexpensive labor for calling as many names as needed to deliver the leads you want. In general, there is nothing wrong with using a call center, and there are pluses and minuses to employing these offshore teams. But don’t [marketers] want to be told about it?
Amanda: So, while you’re in favor of the call center—you’re concerned that marketers are not being made aware of this channel of lead generation for their campaigns?
Robert: Today many publishers are telling their clients that they generate all their leads from their website, mailing list, newsletter, etc. But are they really? If you want to know the truth about where your leads come from you could ask, but I have heard that not all vendors are being honest and upfront with their clients.
Amanda: How can marketers ask the right questions when it comes to selecting lead generation vendors?
Robert: Start with these basic due diligence questions:
- Where and how are you generating my leads?
- Are you going to sell me purchased lists for my campaign?
- Are you going to use rented lists to generate the leads for my campaign?
- Are you going to use a call center to generate the leads for my campaign?
- What technology differentiates you from your competitors?
Amanda: As you mentioned before, what if the publisher is not being honest — then what?
Robert: Anyone with a website and who sends emails has access to every audience interaction including their IP address, the type of device used for browsing, and a host of other audience-specific information.
If you can’t get this information, then you need to question the tactics for generating your leads. If you can get this information, you still need to beware that they could be appending vs. collecting the data, unfortunately.
Amanda: Thank you, Robert. These are really important aspects for B2B marketers to consider. Any closing words?
Robert: As someone who believes that unethical behavior typically comes back to bite you in the butt, I would hope all lead vendors would be honest if not transparent about how they’re getting you the leads they’re selling you. Knowing the truth and getting the required results is a win-win for all.
Partnering with digital publishers to amplify the reach of lead generation campaigns is a proven form of audience extension for marketers. However, just like any other company, marketers need to know that publishers also struggle with scale and are solving for this challenge in different ways.
In order to achieve scale and net new lead generation while meeting your set of target criteria, publishers may choose to:
- Rent Email Lists or Buy Prospect Lists: There are obvious concerns of quality and intent of these leads, but also why waste your time with a middleman in this scenario when you could perform these tactics yourself without using a publisher?
- Enlist Call Centers: Many marketers cringe over this idea; however, working with call centers has several benefits, including access to huge databases, low costs, and quality lead generation.
At the end of the day, there is always the possibility that marketers don’t care where their leads are coming from. If the Sales Team is getting the leads they need and the ROI is decent, then why do you, the marketer, need to dig any deeper? It all comes down to your company’s goals, requirements, and ROI.
If you care about capturing true intent-based leads and maintaining a certain brand image, then understanding where your leads are coming from should be very high on the priority list. Marketers need to educate themselves on the good, bad and the ugly of lead generation. Whether you are looking for a new lead generation vendor or unclear on your current vendor’s practices, you need to ask the right questions.