Marketing campaigns are most effective when they integrate different techniques to gather, qualify and convert customer data into potential new sales, according to this article by Simon Wajcenberg, CEO for UK-based online lead generation firm Clash-Media.
What this means is that marketers will increasingly need to combine offline, indirect methods (such as television advertisements) with online, direct tools (such as web banners and search engine optimisation).
The rise of online lead generation
Add to this mix the latest and fastest growing form of web-based direct marketing, Online Lead Generation, which is forecast by the company to double in its general usage over the next two years. More and more retailers - including the UK-based multichannel clothing retailer, Next - are using this new form of online marketing to gather better targeted and more timely customer information, and convert it into new leads (and ultimately new sales).
The internet is a critical part of multi-channel marketing. Businesses need direct marketing, and every organisation has to be in contact with its customers with a view to generating new sales. Direct marketing is targeted, easily measured and can often generate rapid results. Some forms of direct marketing such as postal and telephone campaigns have been around for many years but they also have limitations (most notably the preference services that automatically opt consumers out of uninvited contact).
A steady increase in broadband subscriptions means there are now more consumers on the internet than ever before, and online retailers are succeeding in taking business away from the High Street. In July 2007, online sales were 80% higher than the same month the previous year. This means that the web has become an ideal place to gather marketing data and capture leads.
The online lead generation industry is expected to double in size by 2009, and it is proving successful as it enables retailers to use the internet to contact consumers who express an interest in their product. It also enables them to set up and launch campaigns that quickly capture and qualify leads, so retailers achieve higher conversion rates compared to most other direct marketing activities as the advertiser can specify exactly what leads they wish to receive.
Combining internet channels
Many retailers are already harnessing the power of the internet in their B2C direct marketing campaigns. The internet has established itself as an effective marketing tool, and that is reflected by the fact that 71% of businesses have established multi-channel sales and marketing operations, using multiple forms of advertising and contact media. Of these multi-channel businesses, 74% gather online leads with the intent of converting them offline, according to recent research from E-Consultancy.
Search engine optimisation (SEA) is also a popular internet marketing tool, with over 70% of organisations using "Natural Search" or "Paid Search" techniques. Affiliate marketing is also a key online tactic for retailers as it enables them to market themselves through complementary sites in order to generate new sales, referring clicks, leads, or sales to the merchant (for example, Amazon.com).
How online lead generation works
Online lead generation uses a lead and data network of thousands of website publishers to host a consistent campaign across the internet. Each publisher has a stakeholder interest in each individual campaign. They generate the leads and then pass them back through the host's central system for cleansing, verification and forwarding to the client. And, instead of a database sitting at the back of a company's own website, collecting the data submitted by visitors, online lead generation actively and automatically captures consumer details, qualifies them and sends them through for sales agents to convert.
This approach also sends leads directly to a client's CRM system or contact centre where agents are ready to follow up with the customer within minutes of information submission. The lead is very hot when it is contacted, which enables retailers to increase their conversion rates, and subsequently the value of Online Lead Generation within the overall marketing budget.
Online lead generation effectively offers a "one stop shop" for the gathering and management of large volumes of B2C sales leads. The speed of setup and delivery means that such campaigns can be switched on or off very quickly, in line with a company's marketing budget.
These campaigns also tend to reach a wider audience without adding extra management or quality processes for the marketer. Each new lead is put through an unincentivised opt-in process, then pre-qualified for relevance, and automatic verification then ensures the information meets preset data quality guidelines.
Clash-Media has developed a process of online lead generation that uses unincentivised opt-in processes to capture consumer information. As a result the company gathers very reliable profiles of consumers with the suitability to buy specific products.
The delivery mechanisms for online lead generation, like the campaigns themselves, centre on speed and ease of use to help increase the opportunity for successful conversions. Clash-Media also helps retailers to be more mobile within the online community and to pick up on the latest consumer trends by building relationships with social networking sites and price comparison engines to optimise the capture of consumer data.
How Next approached it
The UK retailer, Next, uses online lead generation to boost sales for its popular Next Directory catalogue. Next operates one brand with three ways of shopping (460 high-street stores, a web site, and the Next Directory). Next already had a strategic direct marketing campaign in place, but approached Clash-Media to provide leads for its catalogue.
Using its online lead generation platform the company was able to target the Next campaign at the most responsive audience (in this case females), using only the latest registrations so that the data was as relevant and accurate as possible. All leads provided were fully opted-in and unincentivised, and executives from Clash-Media also advised Next on the creative side of the campaign to ensure maximum conversion rates.
The company is now working with Next on the launch of every directory, and has become a top lead generator for Next, having already generated almost 10,000 brochure requests in 2007 alone. Clash-Media has also generated "significant brochure requests" for Seat, VW, Isle of White, Visit England, and Toyota, all through e-mail marketing and lead generation.
Part of the marketing mix
No one marketing tool will ever be 100% efficient on its own. The way to achieve the best results is to realise that all methods have their own individual benefits, and that creating an effective mix will form a more successful marketing campaign.
Marketing campaigns become more effective the more they can integrate different techniques to gather, qualify and convert customer data. There are many different forms of direct marketing, and most will have merit for each marketing campaign. But the key is to find the right mix for the job.