Lead generation: acquiring customers

July 10th, 2011 by Slabs | Print Lead generation: acquiring customers

At Datran I managed a lead generation product: top-colleges.com. The business consisted of getting online users to submit their contact information to various for-profit schools who then paid us for the lead. Our central issue was always quality versus volume.

For example, if Strayer gave us a cap of 2,000 leads that we could sell to them per month, if we only sold 1,000 then our cap for the next month would be restricted to 1,000. Doesn’t sound like a problem right? Read on. We had different media channels that leads came through. Some of those channels were high quality (email, paid search) and some were horrible (interstitial, call centers).

If we delivered high quality leads we got more cap, but if we delivered poor quality we lost cap. Every month was a delicate balancing game of quality and volume. We would take a loss on high quality leads via Google adwords, making as little as 50 cents on the dollar, to balance out high volume and high margin low quality leads.

Our golden goose was email. No one else in our industry could run email campaigns as big or effective as we could. The problem is that you can put all your eggs in one basket.

One of my top initiatives was to diversify our lead generation sources. Below were several goals I set out in the strategic vision for the product:

  1. White label partners: We had been successful at organic search (setting up niche sites dedicated to capturing search traffic for certain categories), but it took too long to get results. A new site would take anywhere from 9 months to 2 years to develop any amount of decent traffic. Our executive team required faster results. By partnering with sites that already had major traffic, we could instantly create a new traffic source. The hardest part was locating partners and structuring deals so that we kept enough margin to be profitable.
  2. Buzz Marketing: The requirements for a buzz campaign where that it had to be cheap, get media coverage, and it had to generate leads. Our best performing category was medical: nurses, phlebotomists, x-ray technicians etc. What better way to generate buzz, give back to the community, and get leads than by having a wheelchair race (contestants would sprint pushing a partner in a wheelchair down a closed off street). We could promote healthy living via exercise, partner with a local hospital to borrow 100 wheelchairs, and have a submission form to get contestants. The winner of the race would get a 1 year scholarship towards a nursing degree at one of our partner schools. To enter the race you had to sign up online where we mixed in lead gen form, and at the least got users contact info to market to them further.
  3. Retarget abandons: We pay a lot for the leads that we get, unfortunately many of them abandon the sign up process before completing it. As long as they had provided some form of contact and checked off the optin box, we started to retarget them to come back and finish what they started. What we found was that selling them directly didn’t always work best. The journey a user takes that ends in conversion is often not a direct path. Sometimes they need additional information about a particular school, finances, or college life. By giving them the additional information they sought we could often close the deal and make the sale, thereby reducing our costs of acquisition.
  4. Social: Everybody talks about social marketing like it’s the next coming of Christ. Like anything else, we found you can’t jump into it doing what you’ve always done and make it rain money. Check out my next post on what worked and what didn’t work in social advertising.

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