Why Transparency is the Future of the Lead-Generation Market

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard (right) and The North Face founder Doug Tompkins (left) on a climb.
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard (right) and The North Face founder Doug Tompkins (left) on a climb during the filming of the documentary “180 Degrees South” in Chile. Is your company this authentic?

By Zach Robbins

One needs only to go to the mall to witness how a greater customer demand for transparency is affecting industries. Trailblazers such as Patagonia and Chipotle continue to conquer the once-unthinkable by giving consumers detailed looks into their supply chains. This perceived risk has paid off — not only in consumer loyalty, but also in the priceless marketing value these companies have created through their roles as trendsetters.

The lead-generation market is in the midst of its own battle with transparency. Those companies that embrace, rather than fear, transparency will lead an industrywide revolution.

Turning problems into profit

What can the lead-generation industry learn from purveyors of tents and tacos? Quite a lot. Patagonia and Chipotle both identified an unmet need for consumers to know where the products they buy come from. That transparency helps consumers determine product quality and impact for a more informed purchasing decision. Lead generators are dealing with these same issues, and how they respond today will determine tomorrow’s industry leaders.

Every year, advertisers spend millions of dollars on leads that have little chance of converting into customers. In many instances, they acquire those leads via an application program interface, which (unless they are leveraging a third-party authentication service) offers no guarantee about the origin or intent of the lead. In addition, advertisers have to beware of deceptive companies that manipulate self-reported data.

The result of this subpar lead generation is a system in which advertisers are forced to be okay with undercut lead values and diminished conversion rates, making it difficult to garner any sort of return on investment. Through transparency, however, the industry can significantly increase conversion and profitability.

To demonstrate that they’re willing to be honest with their advertisers, lead generators need to reveal what they’re most afraid of sharing: the full lifecycle of a lead. But it doesn’t stop there. Advertisers need to do their parts by offering deeper intelligence on the last steps of the lead’s journey, to which only they have access.

The language of the lifecycle

Patagonia shows customers the full lifecycle of its garments — from the wool, down, and cotton sourcing to the textile mill and sewing factory. Chipotle offers in-depth information about the lifecycle of animals and other ingredients used in its food — even going so far as to publicly pull products when suppliers don’t meet its standards. In lead generation, transparency means providing deeper insight into each stage a lead passes through during its lifetime — from where it originates to what happens after it’s sold.

This information gives both the lead generator and the advertiser the data needed to improve practices and to help find and acquire leads. The more transparency, the stronger and more profitable lead generation relationships will be.

Transparency through technology

In the past, even reputable companies may not have had the proper resources to provide meaningful transparency in lead generation. But today’s technology is ready to bridge the gap.

Intelligence platforms exist that provide data — from origin to final conversion to customer profile — for a more detailed look into customer intent. At my company, we found the best route for turning the transparency challenges we face into opportunities for improvement was to build our own platform for evaluating web traffic.

It’s this sort of information-rich technology that will enable lead generation companies to educate first themselves, and then their advertisers, about their supply chain. The more transparency in the quality of the lead, the easier it becomes for the advertiser to differentiate between reputable companies and scams.

For now, increased transparency will give lead generators an upper hand in the marketplace — just as telling consumers where those carnitas came from has done for Chipotle. And in the future, lead transparency will be much more than just an attractive selling point — it will be an expected component of any reputable firm’s strategy.

Image credit: Jimmy Chin via Peter Stevens

Zach Robbins is the co-founder of Leadnomics, a Philadelphia-based digital marketing company that believes in the power of technology to transform lives and communities. Zach also recently founded Margo, an inventive insurance agency that promises to revolutionize the way people shop for insurance. Zach is an expert in performance marketing, website optimization, lead generation, and marketing technology. 

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