Marketers Have a Right to Know Where Their Leads are Sourced From

Steve Niemiec
Steve Niemiec

SVP of Sales

Do you know where your leads are?

Does anyone remember those PSAs that used to run before the news – “Its, ten o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” Well, I had a discussion with an agency contact of mine who recently left a big US agency that prompted me to wonder whether we should be creating PSAs for marketers asking: “Do you know where your leads are?”

You may have read my blog about the ‘myth’ of online lead marketplaces. Anyway, my client shared some very troubling information that brings me to write the below:

Apparently, unbeknownst to their clients, certain publishers are contracting under the table with marketplaces to fulfill against program volume goals. The simplest explanation for what’s transpiring is that they’re buying leads from outside networks and plugging these leads into their distribution files and passing them off as their own, all at the higher cost their clients are paying them. As I mentioned in my earlier post there is some value in online lead marketplaces as a direct source of lead generation, but these are bargain basement leads and have no business in publisher campaigns.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m definitely not the “holier than thou” type, but integrity and business ethics stand for something and in the complicated world of online delivery enough is enough.

Let’s take a look at how this plays out

The publisher takes on a lead goal of 200 leads well knowing that they don’t have the ability to deliver. From their own network, they can only deliver 100 leads against the guarantee. Still interested in the full budget, they contract with marketplaces to deliver on the other 100 leads, unannounced to their clients. More troubling than the non-disclosure is that the publisher is incentivized to buy the cheapest leads and the lowest quality in order to maximize their “mark-up”.

So, if they’re doing this unannounced to their so called vendor ‘partners’ do you really think they have the clients best interest at heart to purchase the best leads on their behalf? I’ll answer this for you – no. You might be paying $65 dollars for a lead thinking that it came from a publisher’s own in-house network, when in reality the marketplace and offering has said it’s only worth $20. If this were my marketing dollars at work, I’d be very upset.

Satisfying a guarantee at the expense of delivering qualified prospects

Its one thing to satisfy leads through a low cost network and pass a higher cost on to your customers. In addition, think about the kind of lead that is being delivered through these tactics. We recently had a client share feedback on one of our competitors who fulfills lead guarantees through a network offering. They agreed to take on a 300 lead guarantee program to be delivered over 10 days (red flag) which included 2 custom questions at a premium CPL.

  • Of the 300 leads not one said they had downloaded the client’s content when contacted by their ISRs. The client expected going into the campaign that a certain percentage of leads would be unqualified, but was dumbfounded that even with two custom questions not one single lead confirmed to have downloaded content.
  • When the client confronted the publisher about how they were generating the leads and the lead sources, they refused to tell him.

Considering that 70% of B2B marketers say that lead quality is their top priority, it goes without saying that it should be publishers #1 priority to make sure they are delivering the type of leads that help companies drive sales revenue, not just satisfying a number.

Hold your publisher to a higher standard

Certain publishers are not being up-front with you and if you don’t ask for confirmation on lead sources for every lead it’s only going to continue. And if my so called ‘media partner’ was doing this unannounced to me I’d think really hard about if this is someone I should be doing business with. We have created a pledge to make sure our customers know exactly where we are coming from and you should demand this of others that you partner with.

It’s time to start asking your publishers and agency representation the hard questions you deserve the answers to. I think you’ll be very surprised with the answers you get and the information they don’t share can equally be as telling.

If you are interested in continuing the conversation on this topic, feel free to leave a comment below or connect with me on LinkedIn.

business ethics, lead marketplaces, lead sources, marketing ethics, Marketing ROI, media buyers, online lead marketplaces, pledge, publisher tactics

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