Archive for March 3rd, 2011

Day 2 – Leads Con, Las Vegas – March 2nd

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Alain Desmier, Director of Business Development at LeadPoint UK, reports from LeadsCon.

Despite the parties, cocktails and fortunes won and lost on the Vegas casino floor the previous night, day two started as promptly as day one with standing room only for a 9am session about “the many sizes and shapes of M&A”. If the theme of day 1 was a broad look at the world of online advertising, day 2 was focused on Lead Generation exits, the role of social and mobile in lead gen and an examination of “what the buyers want to know”.

Nick Chapman - Managing Director of LeadPoint UK - in front of the LeadPoint stand at LeadsCon, the world's biggest Lead Generation conference in Las Vegas.

Bruce Eatroff of Halyward Capital introduced his panel discussion about acquisitions in the lead generation space and started his presentation with a a bleak warning, “there’s only a few chairs left and the music is about to stop”. His argument, shared by other members of the panel was that the years of double digit growth are over and if lead generation companies are going to be successful, they are going to need to stand out from a space crowded with providers. The lead generation ‘pendulum’ has begun to swing towards content led lead gen sites, the panel argued, with the AOL acquisition of The Huffington Post, evidence of the move. Eatroff argued that “if you can build a relationships with the consumer, as a company you are far more valuable to a possible suitor”.

A theme that ran throughout the previous day and continued to be highlighted by numerous panelists on day 2 is that “leads” have become a dirty word in the wider advertising community because of the connotations of uninterested, misled consumers.  In the “what buyers want to know” session, Lisa Iannuzzelli of Devry Inc told the conference hall that she has banned the word “leads” amongst her team, and only works (and pays) for enquiries. It’s not enough for sellers to provide pieces of data, the most successful sellers in the EDU US lead gen space, she argued, have a relationship with the consumer and are “handing them off to an advertiser with gained permission”.

Introducing the second session Leads Con organiser , Jay Weintraub noted that nearly all of the 16 sessions the previous day had touched on the role of the future of social (and specifically facebook) and mobile advertising and the opportunity this provided lead generators. It was therefore no surprise that “Getting Social and Mobile” was packed to the rafters to hear Dan Martell from Flowtown inc and panel discuss the topic.

The panel came to a consenus early on that marketers needed to understand the difference between “Lead generation vs Like generation” in social media . Martell asked the panel, “How do you define the media spend and ROI from a follower of a fan page, a like or a visit? I don’t think we know yet”. Most lively on the panel was Jesse Pujji of Ampush Media who noted that Facebook have been hiring specifically “adsense” staff from Google, rather than “adwords” specialists. The ambition from Facebook is clearly to build a highly targeted and efficient adnetwork that will allow marketers to target consumers based on their own interests and status updates.

Pujji dismissed the notion that Facebook advertising doesn’t working by using the example of Zeus.com “which grew to be the same size as match.com in just one year predominantly through cracking Facebook advertising”. For social media to work, the panel argued, the adverts, the apps and corresponding landing pages need to be “inherently social”. www.etsy.com have recently launched an application through Facebook Connect which allows users to search a friends activities and likes to recommend a product on Etsy.com, an example the panel held up as a company that “gets it”.

Mobile (disconcertingly pronounced “mobil” in the US) advertising “will work when they have proximity and relevance to a consumers daily life” argued the panel, “right now mobile advertising is too intrusive” Martell highlighted a new application by the US bank Chase Templton that allows businesses to scan cheques via a smart phone rather than deposit them in a branch as a step in the right direction for corporates trying to make mobile applications relevant to small businesses.

Pujji finished the morning session on a hopeful note “In 1998 everyone knew the internet was going to be huge but no-one knew how to define and monetize what was coming. Mobile and social media in 2011 is exactly the same”.

After lunch the sponsored sessions offered little more than a series of pitches and some fairly average presenting with most focused on the free cocktails at 4pm which brought an end to a thoroughly interesting conference.

Lead Generation is at a cross road, that much is clear from the numerous experts, sellers and buyers obsessively focusing their 2011 efforts on innovation rather than just scale.

A speaker estimated that during 98-2001 pre bubble period, $300 million of capital was wasted on projects that stood no hope of ever being successful. In much the same way, lead generation has had its bubble, and in the UK and the US companies without sound business models and a loyal customer base who “need and rely” on them, are being found out and going bust.

The challenge for all companies in the lead generation industry is do more than just arbitrage media against a submit button, do more than just spam email a consumer with another lead gen offer two weeks after they submit their first enquiry and do more to build a connection between the consumers initial interest in a product to the point where a advertiser first picks up the phone.

An industry analyst I spoke to in the bar on the first evening rattled off a list of names of US lead generation companies who will go bust in the next five years because “they essentially don’t get what a buyer or a consumer needs from the lead generation sales funnel process”.

Evolve or face extinction is the message from Vegas…

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