"The opt-in rate is much higher at registration than on any other form of lead generation," said Dan Felter, co-founder of New York-based Opt-Intelligence, who along with his partner Joe Broumand have managed to get big advertisers such as Circuit City, eBay, HP and Procter & Gamble to opt-in to their consumer lead-generating system. With a proven appetite from marketers seeking qualified, permission-based leads, they have created LeadServe to tap into smaller publishers and advertisers that comprise the fastest-growing segment of the online universe.
"We made a decision a long time ago not to be in the list game," said Felter--noting that Opt-Intelligence, which launched nearly five years ago, already has generated more than 100 million opt-in leads to date.
"It's all about finding those good-quality partner Web sites that generate good-quality leads for our advertisers," he said of Opt-Intelligence's approach. Most of those leads come from consumers who proactively agree to offers and ad messages when registering, but some also come when ancillary offers are made available at various Web sites. Importantly, Opt-Intelligence does not work with any sites or schemes that utilize incentive-based opt-in programs that offer consumers premiums to register.
Felter said the approach has generated impressive yields. Sites that participate in Opt-Intelligence's program typically generate consumer opt-in rates of about 20% at registration, and the percentage can be as high as 50% for some publishers.
Advertisers like the leads because they are 100% permission-based, relevant to their brands and offers, and generally lead to high conversion rates. Publishers like them because those variables translate into high CPMs for their advertising inventory.
Felter estimates that the effective CPM yield for a typical publisher is "50 to 100 times" that of conventional advertising inventory.
"They seem to bring in fairly good quality relative to everybody else," said Justin Hill, director of panel development at YouGovPolimetrix, a survey research site that utilizes lead-gen firms to recruit panel members to its research surveys.
"I'm getting good conversion rates. For me, this is mainly about the targeting and the easy of use," he said of the new automated LeadServe system.
Historically, he said, the site has utilized either conventional static advertising banners or programs like Google AdWords to generate leads--but LeadServe has proven more effective, especially in terms of attracting difficult-to-reach demographics or specific geographic audiences that are essential to building a representative research panel.
Other publishers that have begun utilizing LeadServe range from Hearst to Zacks, but Felter said the real payoff may come from the smallest members of the online publishing community.
"LeadServe is mainly for the small- to medium-size business owner. We're reaching out to blogs," he said, estimating that the long-tail aspect of opt-in advertising ultimately will grow to eclipse the one currently being generated by big publishers, and could be worth upwards of billions of dollars over time.
In fact, Opt-Intelligence's Broumand likens it to the online advertising equivalent of Google's AdWords and AdSense search advertising systems because of its ease-of-use, its effectiveness, and its ability to make a market between buyers and sellers of leads regardless of their size and scale.