The Real Lead Revolution is Coming

Internet leads are about to enter their third era. The first era, ‘inception’ (based largely in the auto market), and second era, ‘boom,’ is now giving way to a third – ‘refinement.’

In the inception era, many businesses figured out ‘how to do it’ and subsequently made very good livings, but took a good amount of time and energy to make it a working model. In the second era, we saw our first billion dollar company in, and several hundred million dollar companies to come along with them. In refinement, we are seeing the industry come of age. There is now the beginning of an industry association in LeadsCouncil, technology companies are now managing more standardized ‘commodities’ of the business, and all the while the industry continues to grow at an impressive pace. Despite all of this, everyone generally has the same opinion of the leads: ‘they’re terrible.’ Although you couldn’t expect anyone to not be selling in room full of salespeople, the outright fraud in the industry is palpable, with fresh and exclusive becoming useless words of pitch.

I’m here to tell you this: The Real Lead Revolution is just beginning.

In the first era, marketers made money from service providers simply because competition was thin, and advertising was cheap. Everyone did great. In the second era, marketers made money from service providers by mixing rice in with the meat so they could retain high ROIs. Because the buyers knew how to use them effectively, and consumer’s habits were opening to online use, the ROI was still strong. Now we enter the third era, and that slice is becoming thinner and thinner.

I will say it today: the fraud and complexity of data delivery will choke out future growth if we can’t get it under control. Services like CPA Detective, FraudLogix, LeadQual, and RealPhoneValidation are the future in the sense that the hackers and data pumpers out there will be curbed, and the good data will be more properly rewarded.

These services are likely just the beginning. We see fraudulent data dumping (picked up by CPA Detective), fraudulent re-selling (picked up by a LeadID), and a service like Datalot (lead buyers direct ping/post plugin) changing the way leads are bought and sold. Because of extensive trading, and fraud, validation is the new reality. Targus and eBureau (the old guard) did a great job of moving the ‘valuation’ of leads forward. They ‘improved the mix.’ Now we need a new kind of lead valuation going forward – one that is largely based on the ability to determine whether the lead is worth $10 or $.01 (a good email isn’t worthless!).

In this regard, we will have cleaned out a good chunk of hacker leads, and a good chunk of garbage phone data. There is also a good amount of re-sold data that is getting pushed out of the market. Needless to say, there is still more to do. We believe there are six pillars of the Real Lead Revolution:

  1. Real Lead Validations will separate what’s real from what’s not. Whether it’s phone, device ID, IP, email, LeadID, SSN, or another data point, the data is becoming available to separate the real from the fake.
  2. Lead management automation has been non-existent for third party lead sources. Sellers are just sticking buyers with data and making money on pure breakage. Buyers should be able to return crap easily. Sellers should be charging for real leads.
  3. Market segmentation based on the age of the lead, or the number of times sold has not been addressed, and a structure will need to emerge for this. A real market that charges for ‘exclusive’ and 7 day aged, and 30 day aged – transparently – will only help us establish a more efficient pipe. To track this in the first place, some automotive CRMs are starting to notify their customers when multiple of them get the same lead. That tracking is necessary for the development of the market.
  4. Buyer/seller UI for the purpose of pushing out the ‘middle’ man that currently has held back the system with layers of technological complexity for technological complexity’s sake.
  5. After segmenting out our real leads from our fake data, real, actionable intent data can provide a large quality differentiation. Which leads are premium and which are super premium? This is where Targus, eBureau, and everyone else in that space has to go.
  6. Anonymized performance tracking can provide a significant depth of data to all involved, and reward the winners and punish the losers. This is what capitalism is all about, and this is why we’re here.

We believe that these are the components to the new era of lead generation. There’s still great data out there, and we’re driving extensive commerce around the world, but there’s undoubtedly more work to do. As we drive back towards reality, we make it more and more transparent; we keep our clients happy, consumers happy, and in the long run keep ourselves in business.

The Real Leads are on their way.