In any advertising model there are three groups with intersecting but somewhat competitive interests:
- Publishers who want maximum revenue from their inventory
- Advertisers who want high ROI
- Audience members who want high-value promotions, interesting information and entertaining content
There are many examples of successful models – including search – where all three groups benefit from a complex system of content and advertising delivery. Print, radio, and online display advertising are other examples, where the audience gets interesting content that is subsidized by paid advertising.
But today’s lead generation model is largely unbalanced, where the market currently favors monetization of publisher inventory over consumer experience and advertiser performance.
This can’t last – without balance consumers will get turned off and advertiser ROI will bottom out. And this would be unfortunate because lead generation can be great when it’s used correctly. We’ve seen advertisers generate thousands of qualified leads, week after week, for extremely reasonable costs per lead.
In order to reset the scale, and keep lead generation viable, we have the following advice for publishers and advertisers:
- No pre-checked boxes, ever! Publishers shouldn’t offer them and advertisers should never accept them. Pre-checked boxes generally result in advertisers ending up with scores of unqualified leads.
- No forced opt-ins, ever! Requiring your audience to accept an offer in order to move forward with some process is even worse than pre-checked boxes. This practice guarantees that a good percentage of the leads that are passed on to advertisers are completely unqualified. Everyone loses in this scenario: the audience member who ends up with offers he doesn’t want, the advertiser who spends money on leads that will never convert and, in the long-run, the publisher who will lose the respect of both the audience and advertisers.
- Say it loud, say it proud: Instead of pre-check boxes and forced offers, the audience should be presented with a full disclosure of how their information will be used and by whom. Hiding this information just makes everyone suspicious and sets up subsequent campaigns for failure.
- Less really is more: A long list of random offers is another disaster scenario. One of two things will happen: the audience chooses offers willy-nilly resulting in untargeted, unsatisfying campaigns. Or, the audience, faced with too many choices, chooses nothing, depressing the publisher’s eCPM.
- 80% of life is following up: Publishers and advertisers should work together to be sure that the leads that are gathered get instant, branded welcome messages. The sooner the first email contact happens, the more likely that lead will convert.
- Add it up: Both publishers and advertisers should carefully watch the metrics to be sure they are getting the full value of a lead generation program. But everyone needs to be realistic. Publishers need to set achievable targets so they aren’t forced to compromise quality to make the numbers. Advertisers need to be willing to test to find the right creative, offer and audience that will give them the best ROI. They also need to be willing to follow the metrics over the long-term. Depending on their business, leads may not convert immediately. But that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually and ultimately earn out the initial spend.