I’ve heard plenty of negative things about some of the major residential lead generation services. They will be unnamed here in line of my policy never to report negatively on individual businesses and organizations in this blog. But I’m sure you’ve heard the stories: About overpriced “leads” that don’t generally pan out (and are sold to your direct competitors at the same time) or, even worse, where your search engine rankings/position are hijacked by the lead generation business, with calls routed to their call centre — and worse, to your competitors, especially if for any reason you decide to pull the plug on the money drain with these organizations.
At Construct Canada, lead generation service provider Todd Bairstow provided a different perspective on lead generation services as he described the five “personas” of potential residential service provider.
One of the five categories — the “straight arrow,” he said, describes himself.
“They’re great prospects,” he said. “Offline marketing drives them directly to your website. Speed and convenience are the key.”
Bairstow, whose business is based in Waltham, MA (about 30 minutes from Boston) operates a call centre which converts leads generated by paid search ads (primarily from Google). The client companies pay an agreed-on budget for the online advertising, and a fee per lead.
The difference between this type of lead generation service and some of the others is, as far as I can tell, Barstow’s business doesn’t play games with organic search results. You’ll still want your own really effective and well designed website and solid SEO to draw traffic that way. The advantage of Bairstow’s service is that you can turn the tap on or off and measure your results quickly.
Of course you don’t need an intermediary to place your own keyword ads and if your systems are set up right, you should be able to handle and process the leads you generate from them internally. But if you want to leave that work to others and you make sure your back-end works properly (Bairstow says he can’t do much for you if you don’t pick up your phone or respond to the leads his service generates) the service may make sense — especially since the initial inquiries will be properly handled and managed and, again, not shared with your competitors.
Bairstow of course used one of the most effective business development models; speaking at conferences.
He said the other personas include:
The reputation detective.
These are people looking for “dirt” and who will use services such as ripoffreport.com to determine bad stuff before signing up. He Bairstow said your marketing will be ineffective if you have a seriously negative online reputation. He suggests the cure to this problem is to “plant” positive reviews. (I think this is easier to say than to do because of the online review services’ increasing watch for fake positive reviews. A far better solution in my opinion would be to ensure you deliver really good quality and earn the positive reviews!)
However, from his perspective, the reputation management websites can be good places to place targeted advertising — because the potential clients are well down the funnel in purchase decision-making.
The product geek
These are potential clients interested in the technical details and nitty-gritty. They can drive you nuts with their knowledge and questions. you need qualified “design consultants” (rather than sales representatives) to answer their questions, in their homes. Bairstow says his call centre representatives deflect the technical questions by saying these can be answered by the client company’s representatives, and then use that opportunity to set the appointment.
The price monster
Obviously, these are the “cheaper are better” prospects. Maybe you don’t want their business. Or maybe you can offer “deals” or “special offers” — and these increase overall response to any advertising campaign.
The wired homeowner
Bairstow says these prospects are generally under 35 and make extensive use of social/online media. They’ll validate and make their decisions largely online. It is important to be connected.
I haven’t been enthusiastic about most lead generation services, based on their terrible reputation. Bairstow’s Keyword Connects seems different, in part because it operates more like an online advertising brokerage system, with the middle-stage (converting through the phone with live clients) lead management system built into the process. If your back-end delivery processes are good, you can effectively budget your work, funnel your leads and maintain your pipeline, without (as far as I can tell) selling your soul to the devil. As you grow, and improve your website (an important aspect of managing the lead conversion process), you may well be able to take the service Bairstow provides in-house. In fact, and perhaps ironically, the better you are able to use/benefit from his service, the more likely you would be able to do it yourself. But you might not want/need to bother. He provides convenience and management control. You just pay to keep the advertising (and leads) flowing.