ICS Magazine

Online Lead Generation Services

January 11, 2005


Prospecting and generating new leads is essential to maintaining and growing a successful company. Traditional methods such as direct mailers and fliers may (or may not) have worked in the past, but as consumers become more reliant on the Internet, many local cleaning businesses are finding the Web to be a more cost-effective way to target consumers in their area. To maximize efficiency, reduce costs and maintain a steady flow of new customers, many cleaning businesses are turning to online lead generation services to give them instant access to a rapidly growing group of customers looking for a cleaning company online.

Consumers turn to these types of services in an effort to limit the time and stress associated with finding professionals for specific projects. Many consumers have gotten used to finding everything they need online. Why would they treat their search for a cleaning professional any differently? For local businesses, online lead generation services do the legwork of connecting them with targeted, online consumers looking to fill a need the business provides.

With several available online lead resources, it can be difficult to compare and choose the one that is the most cost-effective and produces the highest return on investment. Selecting the wrong method can result in wasted time and money.

Fees vary among online lead generation services. Some services require member businesses to pay an annual or monthly membership fee as well as a fee for each lead they are sent. Other services may only charge members a lead fee or a per visitor click fee. A business needs to identify all the monthly charges it will incur from an online lead generation service to ensure it is comparing apples-to-apples. It is important to try to understand the expected win rate for each service so a business can determine their expected monthly return on investment. In the end, what matters most is how much you will end up paying for each new customer you acquire.

Some online advertising options allow more targeting than others. While some services limit your choices to broad job categories and geographies, some services profile member businesses at a much more granular level (specific types of cleaning services, specific locations down to a zip-code match) and match consumer service requests to them based on these attributes. The amount of information gathered for the profile varies for each service.

Filtering is one of the keys to success when using an online lead generation service as some companies have better systems for vetting bogus leads to ensure high quality. It is extremely important to confirm the leads are actually targeted based on a business' individual filters, otherwise they will see limited return on investment as you pay for leads you can't service. Find a service that filters leads to ensure the consumers contact information and service request are valid.

Additionally, businesses should note how the service obtains leads. Are they sold lists? Do they have consumers come to them? How "hot" are the leads? Since leads must be purchased, it is best to ensure they are coming from interested consumers within minutes of their request and not simply a list of consumers who expressed interest in finding a cleaning service at one point or another.

Look for a service that allows members to choose how they wish to receive leads (e-mail, cell-text messaging, phone, fax or pager). Prompt response to a customer is essential to winning their business. Most Internet users expect a quick, if not an immediate, response from a cleaning service when they submit a lead with an online service. Remember, online customers receive information with a simple click, so why should the response time be any different when they're looking for a cleaning service on the Web? With this in mind, it's very important to receive leads via communication mechanisms that allow a business to respond promptly while matching its individual business practice.

It is important to know how many other businesses receive the same lead to ensure appropriate levels of competition. While some services will send out leads to an unlimited number of businesses, others limit competition to as few as three. Note that limiting to fewer than three only means that consumers will look elsewhere to create choice and competition for their service needs.

Businesses should look for online lead generation services that have a diverse offering and have built a good base of repeat customers. Find out how many unique monthly visitors the service has to its Web site and how many result in consumer service requests (too high of a conversion rate likely means lower quality leads). Repeat customers, regular Web site traffic and quality consumer demand will ensure the online lead generation service is still around in a few years and that is has quality customers.

Look for services that have proven success as this will ultimately impact the success you will experience. It is important to understand the background of the provider, how long it has been in business, the nature of its financial backing and how many other service professionals use it.

Businesses should also ask to see past customer testimonials. Gaining first hand knowledge about how the service has impacted someone else's business will provide a level of confidence in ones selection. Bottom line: stick to the services that have proven success.

Consumers want to have someone else tell them about their experience with a particular cleaning service. Few online lead generation services give member businesses the opportunity to collect third party feedback from the customers they obtain through their leads. The customer feedback helps businesses establish significant credibility with prospective customers and provides critical decision-making information for the consumer.

Selecting an online lead generating service doesn't have to be overwhelming. Follow these tips to identify a service that works for you and you'll soon reap the rewards of targeted online marketing.