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I just got back from LeadsCon Las Vegas, the conference for online lead generation.  My quick observations from this year’s show:

  • Lead gen has arrived. Holy crap, there were around 2000 people at LeadsCon, quite an increase from the “mere” 600 people who showed up back in 2008. There were plenty of VCs and investors hunting for deals, foreign lead gen’ers (I personally met people from Israel, the UK, Australia, and Germany), and people like me a/k/a vendors looking to swoop up a few new deals. The arc of LeadsCon’s growth reminds me of the way Search Engine Strategies (SES) grew. When I first went to SES in 2002, there were maybe 500 people and 90% of the attendees were search nerds. Today, SES has shows around the globe and has tens of thousands of attendees, and has competition from Search Marketing Expo (SMX) and PPC Summit, among others. I could definitely see LeadsCon having 5-6 shows a year around the world – the demand for online lead gen related content is now that strong.
  • Great conferences don’t really need content. The sessions I sat in on at LeadsCon were great, don’t get me wrong. But I firmly believe that the true value of LeadsCon is in networking and meeting opportunities. LeadsCon is one of the few conferences out there were you can walk up to random attendee and probably come away with a great business opportunity. The panel I moderated (does affiliate marketing in lead gen make sense?) was great in terms of content, but attendance was so-so. Why? Because we were the last panel of the day – we started at 4:30 and by then most people were drinking beer and doing deals. LeadsCon could end at 3pm every day and the attendees would still get immense value out of the show.
  • Quality still matters and lead gen is still metaphorically dead. I said this after LeadsCon 1.0 in 2008 – lead gen is no longer about “leads”, its about “revenue.” “Lead quality” is just a metaphor for “revenue from leads.” In EDU buyers talk about “cost per enrollment” as their primary metric, in consumer finance, its “cost per funded loan”. How is this really any different from paying out based on the actual revenue the buyer ends up receiving?
  • The LeadCouncil is a great idea. The concept of having a trade association for online lead gen is way past due. Again, not to toot my own horn, but I’ve written about this numerous times: if online advertisers (and perhaps especially lead generators) don’t find a way to regulate and certify their own industry, other people will. Those “other” people might be Google 0r they might be the FTC, but this a scenario that is worth avoiding at all costs (insofar as it can at this point). Better late than never, so kudos to LeadCouncil for taking this first important step.
  • Diversification is vital in lead gen. From my buddy Saar throwing my entire profession under the bus by calling PPC “stale”, to ever-present questions of lead quality from incentivized marketing, or CAN-SPAM and email, its clear that successful lead gen companies cannot be one-trick ponies when it comes to sourcing leads. Those 100,000 leads you get from virtual currency deals can be gone in a moment – you’d better have a good back-up source ready!
  • I didn’t deserve to lose the poker tourney. The 2nd annual LeadCritic/Geary/Leads360/Online Lead Generation LinkedIn group poker tourney had 100 attendees, each ponying up around $100 each for the $5K first place prize. Mike Ferree once again did a great job in organizing the tournament, but how can a guy with 6-7 suited call my “all-in” pre-flop with two fives win the hand? Gimme a break!
  • Nice guys sometimes finish first. Last but not least, I just want to say how happy I am that LeadsCon founder Jay Weintraub has had such incredible success with LeadsCon. Jay is about the nicest, most humble, personable guy you will meet and you can just see all the attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors rooting for him to succeed. On top of that, he actually delivers great content and a great event, so this is truly a  win-win for all involved!