Can Agencies Persuade Their Clients To Increase Marketing Budgets In A Recession?

Interactive agencies have always been challenged to do more with less. In the fourth quarter of 2008, they will have to do much more with much less.

Financial experts such as Warren Buffet are of the opinion that with the housing crisis, credit crisis and rising gas prices, the current recession will last for at least as long as the one in 2001, which lasted thirty months. What then can agencies do to ensure that their clients don't cut back on marketing?

Businesses want increased returns from both branding and direct response campaigns, which are increasingly more difficult to achieve as the click-through rates on banners continue to fall, and search engine keywords become more expensive. This explains why an increasing number of online marketers are investing a portion of their media budgets against high ROI lead generation advertising. But they are not investing in just any old lead generation advertising. They are investing specifically in a specific segment of the online lead generation market-marketing leads.



The marketing leads segment of online lead generation is a new category for the industry. It has transformed online lead generation from being the domain of the direct marketer to being the new and exciting tool for the brand marketer's toolbox. But just what exactly are marketing lead campaigns and how do they differ from traditional online lead generation? With marketing lead campaigns, marketers can pay only for leads -- and not for wasted impressions or clicks. But that's where the similarities with traditional online lead generation end.

Traditional online lead generation advertising has been largely associated with sales leads. These are generic leads generated on the basis of demographic criteria -- age, FICO score, income, etc. On the other hand, marketing leads are brand-specific. They are unique leads generated for a particular advertiser offer. This makes them ideal for brand marketers looking to build a use base for their community sites, brand newsletter or rewards programs quickly and cost-effectively.

Another key difference is that sales leads are often resold to multiple vendors. Think of the model - where multiple banks compete over one lead. While these leads are ideal for sales people looking to close business through a phone call, they are not suitable for brand marketers. However, marketing leads are never resold. If a marketer from Microsoft gets a marketing lead, that lead would not be resold to an Apple marketer.

Marketing lead campaigns have come into being recently as a direct result of the increased transparency in the online lead generation market. Transparency enables marketers to engage consumers in the most relevant way. For example, a consumer that has signed up from would receive different messaging from a consumer that has signed up from say a

How can interactive agencies use marketing leads to engage consumers?

The Internet has opened a myriad number of possibilities in this regard. Look around you. Marketing is moving from an announcement oriented push strategy to a pull strategy, where the emphasis is on building engagement and conversation with customers. A New York Times article titled "The New Advertising Outlet: Your Life" quotes Nike executives as saying that much of the company's future advertising spending will take the form of services for consumers, like workout advice, online communities and local sports competitions.

The Jetblue Twitter Forum, The Mercedes Benz community site, and the Starbucks Idea site are some other examples of brand marketers incorporating real-time feedback from their consumers to drive meaningful and relevant branding experiences. Even though some companies put a price tag on vehicles such as newsletters (e.g. Comcast buying Daily Candy for $125 Million), a great interactive brand medium is frankly priceless.

By using marketing lead campaigns, agencies can build a qualified pipeline of leads for their clients quickly and cheaply. In addition, agencies can work off the CPL metric, which is much closer to the desired end goal (sales, repeat buys, etc) than metrics like click-throughs and Cost-per-Click that are so far removed. Finally, by using marketing leads to build branding vehicles, brand marketers can engage consumers at multiple touch points, increase brand loyalty and drive sales, making their campaigns more accountable. And there's no better rationale to provide for an increased budget.

Online lead generation might not be the new kid in town. But with marketing lead campaigns, it's certainly the most changed kid in town. And it's a change that we can all believe in.

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