Commentary

It's What You Do (With Leads) That Matters

Many Performance Insider articles naturally focus on strategies and techniques to optimize qualified lead generation. This is as it should be -- the cost-per-lead model is growing and evolving, and best practices are needed. But what happens after the lead is generated? Are you set up to get full value from the leads you receive?

Advertisers love the idea of tying lead generation to segmentation. The theory is great - loyal relationships built through database marketing and customized communications can lead to greater and greater efficiencies. But the practice so often doesn't match the theory.

Too often, the carefully segmented leads are all thrown into a single bucket and all receive the same non-custom follow-up material. Opportunity missed.

What can advertisers and lead generation firms do to get maximum value from qualified leads? A lot! It starts with taking the time before you launch a CPL program to understand goals and capabilities.

Most advertisers enter lead gen programs with definitive criteria for judging success: clicks, contact information capture, conversion. But that's just the start. Here are four questions to think about before you get started. These can really improve results and align expectations to results:

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  • How good are your segmentation capabilities? : Before you start, make sure that you have marketing materials that vary offers and messages to different segments. Track the conversion rates of clicks to opt-ins, opt-ins to qualification, and ultimately qualification to the sale.

  • What are your segmentation goals? : Lead generation providers collect screener question answers for you. But to what extent are you looking to segment? Do you want to target specific demographics, attitudes or usage characteristics? Or does one size fit all? Don't ask for more than you plan to use.

  • How will you do the follow-up?: Many advertisers look at qualified leads programs as a laboratory for other direct marketing. Do you have the capability to follow up efficiently? Think about sending certain leads to a telemarketing group, others to a standard email function and others to a mailing house. Few organizations can do it all. If you outsource, make sure results are reported on a comparable basis so that you can learn from the tests.

  • How are your tracking capabilities? : Are your CRM systems attuned to monitoring lead generation as well as managing relationships with current customers? Are you confident that you'll get usable ROI calculations to measure the differences between segments and offers?

    It isn't easy to create 10 or 20 sub-segments and subtly vary messages and offers to each. It has also proven challenging for most organizations to initiate CRM programs from first contact and then accurately track returns. Add to that another impediment: so many organizations are simply not set up for effective outbound follow-up once a lead is captured.

    Qualified, segmented leads can build profitable business for many advertisers, particularly if you think through how to fully take advantage of them.

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