Bridging the Data Transfer Gap In Lead Generation
That most honorable sheriff of the Wild West, John Wayne, once said, "If everything isn't black and white, I say, 'Why the hell not?'" The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) seems to agree, having just released a set of data transfer guidelines for the lead generation industry.
The document is chock full of guidelines and best practices. As lead generation marketers, it behooves us to think of these "best" practices in the spirit of "only" practices. There's no doubt that following these guidelines will help us win customer and client trust. Equally important, they will also help make lead generation marketing simpler, more secure and more efficient.
Here's why. The guidelines cut to the very heart of lead generation marketing: the data transfer process. In a lead generation campaign a publisher collects leads. The leads must then be sent to the advertiser. The inadequacy of previous practices to bridge that gap between publishers and advertisers is a major obstacle to growth in the market.
With these guidelines, the IAB is telling the industry:
a) Improve operational efficiencies involved in the data transfer process;
b) Ensure that all lead data is transmitted in a secure manner.
Let's address the first issue. Can we make improvements in operational efficiencies in the data transfer process? Absolutely.
Today, there exist multiple standards in the marketplace for transmitting lead data. Some advertisers want their lead data sent by email, others prefer HTTP(S) Post, while still others label (S)FTP as their delivery of choice.
As a result, publishers have to set up each and every lead generation campaign from scratch -- a process that can take several days. To put it mildly, this delay disappoints the advertiser who is straining at the reins to get to market.
For publishers who put their best technical resources to work on setting up lead generation campaigns, it can be an expensive process. And when you talk about multiple campaigns, you are talking about multiple error-prone setups for each campaign.
We don't have to look beyond the world of email for a solution.
Do you have to set yourself up with your email services provider each and every time before you send an email? I hope not. Then why should you have to set up each and every lead generation campaign from scratch?
An ideal lead generation marketing solution would necessitate that publishers, advertisers and agencies set up a profile only once and be able to communicate easily with each other, irrespective of the standards being used for data transfer at either end. This would greatly help improve campaign setup times and drive down costs.
In its best practices document, the IAB also outlined best practices for naming lead generation fields.
And a good thing too! Many a lead generation marketer has felt the pain of trying to match lead fields. Fname. First Name. First_Name. first_name. Why can't they all be the same?
Now, the IAB has helped us by outlining naming conventions for a variety of fields. As a result you will say first_name. I will say first_name. Consequently, the world is a nicer place.
This is a good start. But surely in an age where iPhones (not offered for those willing to read this entire article) can guess your deepest thoughts and auto-fill them for you, shouldn't there exist a technology that can "Automatch" lead generation fields, thereby simplifying campaign set up?
There's yet another important aspect of the data transfer process that the IAB has tackled in its best practices document: security.
No one wants their personal data falling into the wrong hands as they shop online this holiday season. It's that simple.
The IAB recommends that lead data be encrypted during the transfer process. They recommend an encryption equal to or greater than 128 bit SSL. For batch transfers, they recommend Secure FTP (SFTP) as opposed to plain old, insecure FTP. It's not very difficult. And demanding secure data transfers from our lead generation partners is the right thing to do -- for our consumers and for our clients.
Streamlining data transfer practices will allow for faster growth, greater transparency, and increased advertiser participation in the lead generation market. We are entering exciting times, and the IAB guidelines provide an excellent signpost to take us forward.