Justin Rees looks at the future for lead generation
2011 has been a big year in the world of online lead generation from companies going bust at the start of the year, others getting bought for millions and a handful winning various fastest growing business awards.
Rather than dwell on the myriad of goings on in 2011, with just a few weeks to go before the end of the year it seems like a good time to take a quick look into what 2012 and beyond has in store.
<strong>Fewer lead providers?</strong>
2011 has seen a number of new lead providers emerge onto the scene. Some of these companies have risen from the ashes of previous lead businesses while others are brand new, bringing a fresh perspective to the market. While competition is healthy for the industry and certainly good for lead buyers the market can probably only sustain a few large lead suppliers with perhaps a handful of more specialist niche providers.
As margins are typically slim in the financial services lead market business can be tough for those without the systems and the experience to gain a foothold in the market. 2012 is set to be a year of consolidation which will perhaps see a few new entrants leaving the market or getting swallowed up by some of the bigger incumbents.
Only those smaller lead providers with a unique offering that can truly bring something different to the table and add real value to customers will be able to flourish over the next 12 months. Those that just try to replicate the same business model as the current crop of providers will find it hard to make a splash in 2012.
<strong>More focus on technology</strong>
For the most successful lead providers, technology is absolutely pivotal. This includes everything from validation of leads to the sophistication of the platforms available to lead buyers and sellers and the tools available to help them get more from lead generation.
On the validation side of things the last few years have already seen a big step up from the major lead providers with most now having some sort of real-time telephone validation in place. In theory, any field of data captured can be validated so the possibilities of using technology to improve lead quality should be good news for lead buyers. The next 12 months are likely to see further advances in deploying these sorts of technologies that can verify consumer data in real-time with no need for any human intervention.
At the same time, many providers are also working on technology to get a better grip on consumer intent so not only will leads be more contactable but more consumers will be ready to do business when they are contacted. Traditionally one of the downsides of lead generation is that you can capture the consumer at any stage of the buying cycle. In the mortgage lead world, that could be a consumer making their very first enquiry all the way through to somebody ready to sign on the dotted line for a new home. Technology can be used to score leads and suppliers in real-time to help determine which leads are more likely to convert. Many of these technologies are likely to see their first outings in 2012.
<strong>From data leads to voice leads</strong>
For high value verticals like financial services, the majority of leads are followed up by phone call. Even the most successful lead buyers working with the best suppliers don’t manage to contact every lead and for most small firms buying leads, low contact rates are often the biggest barrier to making lead generation work.
Either way there will always be some degree of wastage — perhaps the consumer just doesn’t pick up the phone or they didn’t read clearly enough that somebody would call them if they submitted their details so were just looking for an online quote.
There is an increasing demand to buy voice leads as well as or instead of data leads where you pay a premium but have a guaranteed contact. Up until now, this market has been filled by call centres cold calling old data and then hot-keying interested consumers through to the lead buyer. While this can work, the downside is that often the consumers are pushed through without really having much interest in the product and the end results are more contacts but also more wastage.
In the US, there is a growing market for voice leads where the consumer is initiating the contact — i.e., they are responding to marketing and instead of filling in a form to be contacted, they are dialling a number and these calls are routed to the relevant lead buyer. Each valid call is paid for on a cost per call basis. This eradicates many of the problems of the old call centre model. Like many innovations from the US, expect to see this execution making waves on this side of the pond in 2012 and beyond.
Justin Rees is director of marketing and partnerships at LeadPoint UK. Follow Justin on twitter at @leadpointuk