This past week, a good piece of the online space participated in Ad:Tech New York. Once again there was a myriad of companies that all claimed to do exactly the same thing. I am biased because my company is focused on the opt-in ad space and we are heavily involved in online lead generation. Now to those who walked the show, is it just me -- or were there about 45 companies claiming to have a lead gen-network, the ability to target ads, have optimization, with both a publisher list and advertiser clients that would make the best of agencies drool? I wish I had a buck for everytime someone came up to me and asked "How do I tell the difference?" or "Can you give me 10 questions I should ask to help me find the good companies and weed out the brokers that aren't really bringing value to the table?"
These are two truly difficult challenges facing even the most experienced and savvy ad buyers and publishers alike. For years we have been dealing with the fact that there is really not much of a barrier to entry in the online lead-gen space, other than having some relationships with people who have access to advertisers and publishers alike. People can just play the middleman and instantly call themselves a "lead generation network."
So, if you are an advertiser, I have prepared some questions to ask your provider to assist in rooting out some red flags. This does not mean that your particular source will work out, but it should help eliminate some immediate mistakes and assist you in finding some reliable sources.
· Am I able to test -- meaning different creative & copy, small amounts of dollars, etc? If the answer is some type of large minimum, watch out.
· If I put a deal up, how long would it take to turn off? If a provider gives you an answer that involves more than a couple of days, beware. It's very possible they are brokering your deal to sources unbeknownst to you.
· Can I see all the different places my offer will run? If a source says no, be very careful. I don't think it would be unreasonable for a source to have you sign a non-compete with their source, provided they are the sole provider from that source. Advertisers sometimes get greedy and try to circumvent sources, causing unnecessary problems for the provider.
· Will you sign a document that states that my offer will not run in incentive-based or promotional ("free" iPod, laptop, etc.) paths? If they balk, move on quickly. If that is part of their business, specify that you would like to see exactly what the process looks like; you should be able to pay a significantly lower price per lead for the leads generated in these paths.
· Can you send an auto responder on my behalf? If no, move on.
· Can you transfer the data to me any way I need: real time, batch on certain days, FTP, etc.? If a company is in the lead-gen collection space, this should be a no-brainer.
Again, these questions aren't a surefire way to find solid lead sources, but they should help you avoid the bottom-barrel companies right out of the gate. I can't say enough about the transparency of the sources.
The other side of the coin is with respect to Web sites that want to offer some type of opt-in advertising, and on that front the pickings are even slimmer. After a consumer registers or logs on to a Web site, the site has literally one initial shot and then about once every 2 weeks to really generate significantly effective CPMs that are exponentially higher than they are conventionally used to. Offering opt-in advertising on your Web site can be a dicey thing because Web publishers must be incredibly sensitive to their users, mainly protecting their privacy and not interrupting the flow throughout the site. It may sound simple enough, but it is a huge challenge. I will leave the details of this for another column.
On a different front, Florida's attorney general on Nov. 7 filed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with New York-based Azoogleads US, Inc. that contains many implications for the lead generation industry. It's too complex a document to digest in this space, but we'll be posting it shortly on the Web site of the Online Lead Generation Association (www.olgassociation.org). OLGA is about to announce its new Board of Directors and has made great strides in crafting 5 Preferred Practices for the lead generation industry. More on this soon.