Lead generation tactics that work

If you want to grow your e-mail databases or generate more online sales, lead generation is essential. Four experts sound off on the best way to maximize your return on investment.

Eric Bamberger
VP of performance marketing, Innovation Interactive

There are many ways to generate a substantial amount of qualified leads online — search marketing, e-mail, affili­ate marketing and contextual text adver­tising are just a few.

One of the best ways to generate qualified leads, though, is auction-based display media. For one, it offers more scale than other channels, such as search, in terms of Web properties.

What’s more, auction-based display is efficient. The advent of ad exchanges makes it possible for marketers to place one display ad buy and reach millions of prospects across hundreds of Web sites. After the campaign is launched, the advertiser will instantly gain access to real-time campaign performance reports

Auction-based display advertising also provides marketers with flexible pricing arrangements. In comparison to search, where everything is on a cost per click (CPC) basis, ad exchanges often allow advertisers to select the pricing model that works best for their goals — cost per thousand, CPC or cost per acquisition.

Auction-based display does share some characteristics with search market­ing, namely bid optimization. Armed with a strong optimization and reporting technology, an advertiser can optimize its display ad budget across a broad range of networks and exchanges to make sure that the campaign scales intelligently. For example, an advertiser can optimize its campaign so that its ads only run across the most effective properties in order to maintain a specific price target or campaign goal.

These four benefits — scalability, effi­ciency, price flexibility and optimization — make auction-based display one of the most cost-effective ways to generate qual­ified leads. A properly deployed display campaign will generate substantial leads for a marketer, along with 24/7 access to revenue, costs and conversion data.

Auction-based display is an efficient way to generate qualified leads online

Zephrin Lasker
CEO, Pontiflex

Every dollar you spend on advertis­ing must produce tangible returns.

Cost-per-thousand and cost-per-click pricing models are unfriendly to advertisers trying to grow their busi­nesses during a recession. Why should you have to pay for people that never even see your advertisement or for clicks that never sign up on your landing page?

Through cost-per-lead (CPL) advertis­ing, marketers only pay when an inter­ested consumer signs up for their offers. CPL advertising is the most cost-effec­tive way of getting leads to grow your newsletter list, e-mail database, reward/loyalty program or community site. It’s little wonder that, with 71% year-to-year growth, online lead generation is the fast­est growing segment in online advertising.

That said, even in a CPL campaign, advertisers need to do everything possi­ble to ensure that they get only qualified leads at the lowest possible cost. There are four necessary criteria that go into a successful CPL campaign.

First, transparency — know exactly where your offers run, to allow you to optimize your campaign by lead source and increase returns.

Next is openness. You should be able to work with publishers from one place to simplify campaign setup and management. Doing more with less is critical during a recession.

Uniqueness is also key. Ensure that your leads are not generic sales leads. To ensure relevancy, leads must be unique to your brand and not resold to multiple advertisers.

Lastly, follow up on your leads in real time before they go cold.

Marketing in a down economy requires a laser-sharp focus on maximiz­ing returns. Don’t pay for unseen ads, unopened e-mails or wasted clicks. CPL pricing models help you get returns on every advertising dollar you spend — exactly how it should be in a recession.

Cost-per-lead advertising helps grow your lists and databases cost-effectively

Eric Best
CEO, Mercent

In the consumer products space, lead generation typically means new cus­tomer and order acquisition. In this context, “best” would be quantified as low advertising spend per order, a high volume of conversions and strong life­time customer value.

The best places to find these leads online are through organic search engine optimization; pay-per-click/pay-per-order shopping search engines and marketplaces, such as Shopzilla, NexTag, Pricegrabber, Amazon and eBay; Google Product Search; paid search engine inclusion, such as on Yahoo; general paid search text ads, including those on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft; and affiliate marketing net­works such as Commission Junction and Linkshare.

The good news is that with online lead generation it is very possible to measure the return on an incremen­tal dollar of ad spend.

In addition, there are a growing num­ber of marketing platforms and market­ing service providers that are able to allow the marketer to capitalize on these opportunities with an efficient outlay of time and the ability to measure results against a fully burdened cost of ad spend and campaign management costs.

All of this adds up to the fact that the risk/reward ratio for online lead generation for consumer products is very low, on a scale relative to the other somewhat more traditional marketing methods. There is a low risk, or no risk, and the likelihood of a material volume of qualified leads.

As one would expect, the lead-to-conversion ratios for consumer prod­ucts are often highly seasonal and are specific to respective product categories. Regardless, if online consumer product lead generation is complimented with a strong organic product offer, and good customer service (pre and post sale), the results can very well be sudden, viral and even game-changing for companies of all sizes.

Online lead generation offers a variety of platforms and easily measured ROI

Brad Feldmar
VP of business development, Falcon Response

Online lead generation campaigns are ultimately measured by the out­come. However, there’s more to con­sider than just looking at ROI. Smart marketers must also focus on the deli­cate mix between branding, volume, cost and quality.

ROI management begins with your online media mix – that is, how you evaluate and select online channels. It’s about actively managing a blend of media across multiple channels, to generate the ideal mix of high volume leads that become high quality new cus­tomers. This way you will have a better chance to generate a scalable and profit­able return across media expenditures — as opposed to a siloed, channel-specific ROI that may not be able to achieve the desired volume goals.

One channel might provide great lead volume, but minimal profits. Another might offer branding dividends, such as category exclusivity, but carry a higher price. In a balanced online media portfolio, marketers must appraise financial risk vs. brand risk and man­age that strategically in their media for­mats and buying decisions.

For example, cost-per-action affiliate marketing buys provide a high level of pricing accountability but less placement control. Conversely, premium cost per thousand placements provide strong brand protection but carry more finan­cial risk. Cost per click-based paid search offers the ability to control message/place­ment, while buying in a more account­able, performance-based pricing model — a major reason why it has become the primary form of online media.

To achieve a more balanced approach for your online lead generation cam­paigns, first, integrate your campaign spend and creative to deliver brand con­sistency and increased response across your media mix. Then test different approaches within channels, applying the findings across channels to enhance your overall blend. Finally, follow through with active maintenance and test­ing to continually balance your ideal mix of price, control, volume and quality.

Manage online channels by integrating spend and actively testing pricing models

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