Archive for June, 2011

Google wants to help you with your finances

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Check out the latest article by Justin Rees for Econsultancy. To read the original, click here.

After announcing the launch of Google Advisor in the US in May, is Google already planning to replicate the service in the UK?

About a month ago, Google announced in the US that it had officially entered the financial products comparison market with the launch of the imaginatively titled Google Advisor.

As noted in a post by Socaltech.com this has traditionally been the preserve of Southern Californian startups but lead generation and specifically financial services lead generation has taken a pretty significant trip north up the Pacific Coast.

While the announcement only seemed to include the US, it seems that something similar has also arrived on this side of the Atlantic.

A quick search for “mortgage” or similar upper funnel mortgage keywords on Google UK reveals an interesting appearance on the results page.

Taking pride of place at the top of the paid results is a Google comparison ad for mortgage comparison, inviting the consumer to “Compare mortgage deals”. The ad placement is listed as a ‘Comparison Ad’.

Clicking through takes you to a branded lead generation style page with various lender details and consumers can enter their specific mortgage requirements to see what deals are on offer.

They then have the option to either call a Google number which will connect them to the specific lender of their choosing or request a call back which effectively creates a lead.

The service looks almost identical to Google Advisor in the US which is multi-product taking in savings accounts, current accounts and the hugely lucrative credit cards market.

We shouldn’t really be surprised by this move, after all Google did pay almost £40m for BeatThatQuote.com in March this year so they are obviously looking very seriously at the UK personal finance market.

Only time will tell how successful this service will be and what other products will be arriving in the UK. It will also be interesting to see how many of the direct marketers that spend millions of pounds each year generating financial services leads through Google react to this latest development.

Whatever happens, it is going to be an interesting year for online financial services lead generation.

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Business rebounds in May

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

The following article was written by Justin Rees for Mortgage Solutions. To read the original, click here.

After a slow end to April, May saw a return to normal levels of business and this was reflected in the mortgage lead market with overall volumes of enquiries back up to just under March levels.

There was again a slight shift in the pattern of enquires.

Remortgages were up again in May compared to the previous month as a proportion of total mortgage enquiries to 55% of leads submitted.

First-time buyer enquiries dropped to just over 20% of all enquiries, while home movers also fell to around 15% of enquires and buy-to-let leads again brought up the rear, but with an increased share to more than 9%.

Focusing on regional variations in homemover enquiries there were some interesting trends around the UK.

To put the findings into context, across the UK, the average LTV for homemovers in May was 65.2% with an average loan value of £153,500.

Across all homemover enquiries, just under 76% were from prime consumers, with 10% sub prime and a further 14% looking to self-certify their incomes. The average age of applicants was 41, which was fairly constant across the UK.

Like many lead providers, we group the 124 postal areas into 13 separate regions – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, North East, North West, Midlands, East Anglia, Home Counties, London, South, South West, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

In terms of lead volumes, the most popular areas for homemover enquiries were the Home Counties with 19.5% of enquiries.

Next was the North West with 17.5% of enquiries followed by the Midlands with just under 15% and then the South West with 11% of enquires.

Only 5.8% of enquiries were in the London region.

Looking at average loan values across the UK, the area with the highest average loan value by a long way was London at almost £231,000.

The next highest was the Home Counties with an average loan size of £185,600, followed by the South with £155,200. The region with the lowest loan values was the Midlands with average loan values of £131,500.

Analysing consumer credit grades across the UK, the highest number of prime consumers as a proportion of leads was Scotland where just under 79% of all homemover enquiries were from prime consumers.

This was followed by the South and then the North East with 77%.

The area with the most sub prime customers was Northern Ireland, followed by East Anglia and then the North West.

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Quality should be the focus of lead buying

Monday, June 13th, 2011

This article was written by Justin Rees for Mortgage Strategy. To read the original, click here.

Lead generation was in the news recently for the wrong reasons. With the Office of Fair Trading closing 19 unlicensed lead generation websites in April, it will probably make many advisers think twice before buying leads.

While these sites were shut down due to regulatory breaches it is worth looking at the wider issue of lead quality. Irrespective of the rules, lead suppliers live and die by the quality of leads they provide.

A few years ago when the mortgage market was buoyant and advisers were in abundance perhaps firms could afford to sell leads regardless of quality and move on to the next buyer.

But in today’s market, lead suppliers need high customer retention to remain profitable and this can only happen if buyers generate healthy returns on their investment.

Lead quality is one of many factors affecting a lead generation campaign, which is in part determined by the websites and marketing used to generate leads.

If consumers are tricked into leaving their details or don’t know what they are applying for, when they are contacted by the lead buyers they will not be interested in the products and conversion rates will be low or non-existent.

As a result, brokers will stop buying leads and the provider will run out of customers. It won’t take long for a poor quality supplier to be exposed.

Lead providers interested in building a successful business must focus on lead quality above all else.

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A fistful of lead tips

Monday, June 13th, 2011

This article was written by Justin Rees for BestAdvice. To read the original, click here.

There are currently three main types of businesses in the financial services industry that use lead generation. The first type are the large regional and nation brokerages, often with telephone based models that buy leads because they need a steady stream of quality enquiries. Next are the medium sized firms, usually with five or more advisers that use lead generation as a significant new business tool as well as enabling them to recruit new advisers and grow. The third type are the sole practitioners and small firms that might use lead generation occasionally to “top up” on new business but there are also many firms of this size that use lead generation as their main source of finding new prospects.

Whichever category you fall into, there are a few tips that can help you get more from lead generation and increase your return on investment. Here are five of the most useful.

“Callers aren’t necessarily closers”

To paraphrase an American expression “callers aren’t necessarily closers” which is really just a simple way of recognising that different people have different skill sets within an organisation and nowhere is this more important to consider than when buying leads. If you are paying for every enquiry then you need to make sure you have the right people doing the right things to maximise the outcome of every lead.

The most successful lead buyers will often break up the “calling” and the “closing” so there are different people doing each task. From a purely economic perspective, if on average you have to make four or five calls to get through to each consumer then it often makes sense to give this task to somebody more junior in the organisation. Once the consumer has been reached and their interest has been verified they can be handed over to an adviser. Even for small companies, shifting to this approach can make a material difference to what you get out of lead generation.

Contact is king

An extensive study in the US last year proved beyond any doubt that the speed of contact is the main determinant of lead performance compared to any other single variable. The study was conducted on millions of online generated leads and found that leads called in under 60 seconds converted almost four times more than the average.

The moral of the story is, you can find the best source of leads but if you don’t follow up quickly then you are missing out.

Of course for smaller firms it is harder to dedicate the resources to follow this process for every lead but there are a few simple things you can do to help achieve this. Firstly, make sure if you have an active lead order to receive leads that there is somebody to make that call if you are busy. Whoever this is in your company it is crucial to establish that first contact. The other thing to remember is that many lead providers offer a free SMS alert system so even if you are out of the office you can be alerted when the lead arrives so you have time to react within that one minute window.

Pay what you can afford

Success from lead generation should be measured like any marketing activity, i.e. by return on investment (ROI). To increase the performance of your lead campaigns you can either try to generate more revenue from these campaigns and/or lower your lead acquisition costs.

Lead providers should be able to give you a clear indication of what you need to pay for a given number of leads that meet your criteria. There is no point in paying over the odds for leads but remember, the more filtered your criteria the more you will have to pay as there will be fewer leads available. One option for mortgage lead buyers is to broaden your criteria to get a better price, whether this is to increase your maximum LTV cap or postcode areas.

Do more with what you have

The fact is that lead generation is a powerful marketing tool but it is also imperfect. What every lead supplier is trying to do is find a balance between collecting enough information from the consumer to make it useful for the lead buyer but not ask too many questions or go into too much detail which will put people off from filling in forms and drive up the lead prices.

The resulting situation is that often you will speak to consumers which at face value have nice and straightforward cases that should be placeable but when you get into the details things crop up that can’t be captured on a lead form.

The good news for lead buyers is that there are still many ways to monetise these leads and a great deal of this can be done through referral partnerships. Whether it is through your network or an introduction you have found yourself there are many companies that you can refer these leads to that will help turn them into revenue while at the same time allowing you to maintain the customer relationship. Whether this is for consumers in debt, looking for a secured loan or even short term asset finance there are lots of options in the market and every extra piece of revenue generated should be tracked back to the original source of the lead.

CRM

In the current market, while many firms still buy hundreds of leads, the fact is that conversion rates are lower than they were three or four years ago. However, this is more to do with market conditions rather than lead quality. Even if as a lead buyer you convert 20% of your leads and generate a healthy ROI, that’s still 80% of leads that you have paid for that are being wasted – unless you do something with them. Even if you only buy 20 leads per month that’s over 200 opportunities per year that have the potential to generate revenue at some point whether that’s next week or next year.

For just a few pounds per month there are plenty of software solutions available that allow you to keep in regular contact with all your leads and send them automated updates and offers. Over time this will drive people back to your business and generate incremental conversions and revenues that should all be tracked back to the initial source of the leads.

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Out of office?

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

The following article was written by Justin Rees for MyIntroducer. To read the original, click here.

One thing we are always telling our lead buyers is that the quicker you contact a lead, the more likely it is to convert into business.

With any lead provider that offers real-time leads, if you call the consumer straight away, they may often still be sitting at their computer having literally just pressed submit.

This will often produce what we call the “wow” factor, which is when a consumer is so impressed by the speed of contact that they are immediately in a positive frame of mind about the that has contacted them.

Consumers will be going online filling in forms throughout the working day and when they submit their information then lead buyers can easily follow these up immediately. But what about those consumers who go online out of office hours?

A consumer might have limited access to the internet during the day as their work might prohibit them from visiting certain sites. Therefore there will be a certain percentage of consumers who will only be able to submit their information in the evening or at the weekend.

These leads will still be delivered in real-time but as a lead buyer does this put you at a disadvantage? The answer to this question is no.

Apart from the fact that these consumers are genuine potential customers with a need for your product or service, by looking at the time these leads were submitted you can actually gain an insight into the mindset of the consumer that you may not have had from the leads bought during office hours.

For example, if you are a buying debt leads and you go into work on a Tuesday morning to find a lead that was submitted at 1am then this could very well reveal that the consumer is worried about their debt but perhaps doesn’t want to fully acknowledge the scale of their problem.

As a lead buyer, you will be able to consider this when you attempt to make first contact. You can then direct the conversation in a way that will be most suitable to this consumer. The more you know about the consumer and the better you are equipped to deal with them, the higher your conversion rate will be.

So next time you call a lead, check when they submitted their information and give yourself an even better chance of converting them into business.

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