Follow The Lead
The other day I was talking with a longtime contact from the b2b publishing industry about how little attention and respect trade publishing gets from the consumer side of the business. And I suspect it is true that most media industry types see the b2b "side" as a backwater of painfully narrow trade journals about pipe fittings, the plastic lanyard industry or supply chain something-or-other. In truth, there are many areas in which b2b media is far ahead of the consumer side. The marketing services businesses that many media companies now are embracing, where they take more integrated and consultative roles with clients, has been advancing much deeper and faster on the b2b side than on the consumer side.
Once commonplace in b2b, "lead generation" is coming up increasingly in consumer-side media. Giving ad clients solid names and contacts they can pull into their own marketing mix and CRM systems is an increasingly attractive alternative to impression-based media. Ultimately, leads are worth multiples more than impressions, both to the advertiser and to the publisher. The rates of return on a lead should beat CPMs any day, and for good reason. You are delivering to a client someone who has already raised ther hand in showing interest. It's more than just another eyeball.
Now some publishers would argue that handing over names and contact info of their audience to advertisers threatens to disintermediate the publisher in the end, and in many cases this may be true. The publisher may get a higher value over the long haul by continuing to "own" the audience and only leasing it anonymously to adverting and direct marketing clients who never get to access the specific leads themselves. But in the case of many of the smaller mobile development houses, the supply of audience is so diverse and ongoing that diluting the value of the audience is less of a concern.
And so it is interesting to see from a Web marketing company Pontiflex an alternative monetization model for mobile app developers that relies on the lead-gen model rather than CPM or even CPC.
Quite simply, instead of serving an interstitial ad into an app, Pontiflex serves a sign-up sheet. When I fire up a small app called DrumPad, I get a screen asking if I want to sign up for a Mom-oriented blog, a free eFax number or an invisible fence for a dog. Now, granted, these offers do feel pretty random and untargeted. But according to Pontiflex's marketing director for publishers in its network Stacy Huggins, the company is already working with brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Groupon.
There are up to three different offers on a page. The user checks off which ones she wants and clicks through to an in-app sign-up sheet for name, email and zip. If it is targeted correctly, the upside for the consumer is a promotion that could deliver value rather than just another interruptive ad. For the developer/publisher, the pay-off can be substantial, Huggins claims. For game publisher Brisk Mobile, inserting this AppLeads product into their free version of the Medieval iPhone game rendered eCPMs of $21, more than five times the typical CPMs in most apps. This is worked out from a cost-per-lead price of $1.50 to $1.75.
Better still, the publisher can use the same data the marketing partner accesses. So a game publisher can remarket and create real CRM programs off of their apps.
According to Pontiflex, about 2% of viewers of these interstitial sign-ups check at least one box and enter valid contact information. The experience is arguably less intrusive than a takeover ad that might click the user into a slow-loading mobile Web screen -- or worse, out of the app altogether.
To be sure, the model is still rough. In my use, the frequency capping was broken in the DrumPad app, so the pop-up screen soon became tiresome. And the haphazard targeting and rather bland appearance of the grey sign-up sheet detracted from the experience. And then there is the basic hurdle of asking for contact info on a smart phone keypad. Anything on mobile platforms that asks for user input beyond the simple click can be a problem. When will the iPhone have some sort of universal autofill that can plug in my email when I want regardless of being in an app or the Safari browser? That simple feature could make this kind of lead-gen a breeze.
But the idea of leveraging the mobile platform for lead-gen is especially interesting if you are a brand trying to acquire customers, not just eyeballs. Arguably SMS has offered mobile marketers this lead-gen capability to grow their list for years. But I imagine we will see more attempts to find ways of grabbing more information about a user from within apps as brands embrace the format and come to see some of its inherent limitations.