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A few years ago I drove down to the Googleplex on a mission: convince the Google Quality Score team that there was a difference between “affiliate marketing” and “lead generation.” I opened up a PowerPoint deck and showed the team a graph plotting the continuum of Google advertisers. At one end were parked domains and “made for AdSense” or MFA sites. A few inches to the right were affiliate marketers. Next on the list were lead generation companies. And at the far right were the big brands and retailers.
I made several arguments to the Google folks that I thought clearly demonstrated the value of lead generation companies, ranging from multi-leading (more choice for consumers), lead quality management (better experience for consumers and merchants), and expertise in marketing and user experience (resulting in the ability to pay higher CPCs and hence more revenue for Google). In all, I argued that lead generation was a win-win-win for consumers, merchants, and Google, and that Google should treat lead generation companies differently than your run-of-the-mill affiliates.
Well, suffice to say, the Google team smiled and nodded politely, but my arguments didn’t have much of an impact. While there are still plenty of opportunities for lead generation companies to advertise on Google, Quality Score has definitely had a significant and detrimental impact on the lead generation industry, and it’s unclear to me that many people inside Google really understand that there is a difference between lead generation and affiliate marketing.
I use this anecdote as a (very roundabout) way of supporting the inaugural LeadsCon conference, premiering in early April at the Palms in Las Vegas. While it’s true that you can go to an affiliate conference and find a few sessions about lead generation, and lead generators will also get thrown a few bones at Search Engine Strategies or PubCon, this is first event where the focus is all lead gen, all the time.
The list of sessions should make most lead generators’ mouths water. There’s discussions of legal issues, incentivized marketing (appropriately titled “more harm than good?”), lead quality, technology, and distribution channels. The mere fact that words like “hot transfer” and “lead quality” are showing up as entire sessions tells you that this conference is by and for lead generation professionals.
Full disclosure here: the conference is being organized by my friend Jay Weintraub. But here’s some more full disclosure: if anyone should be organizing this conference, it should be Jay – he’s been around the lead generation industry for years, he knows everyone, and he is intimately familiar with the issues that lead generators face everyday.
One final postscript related to my anecdote about Quality Score. A few months after my Google meeting, I ran into an ex-Googler at a conference. I told him about my Quality Score discussion, and he shared his viewpoint. In sum, he told me that had the lead generation industry “self-regulated” itself (i.e., restricted incentivized marketing, banned advertisement of multiple Web sites from the same company on the same keyword, and so on), Google might not have applied Quality Score so harshly to so many lead generators.
Getting leading lead generators in the same room isn’t going to solve world peace, and I don’t expect to a conference to bring about a revolution in self-regulation. But you gotta start somewhere. The simple fact that there is now a conference for lead generation is a meaningful step forward for the industry. Here’s hoping that the discussions and ideas that come out of the conference are yet another.
See you in Vegas in April!