Web leads, telephone qualified leads and appointments

Best Advice

There are advantages and disadvantages with every type of lead, explains Justin Rees, director of marketing and partnerships for LeadPoint UK

Over the last year a whole range of new lead generation companies have appeared offering an array of different products and services for lead buyers to choose from. These companies can broadly be divided into those that provide web leads, those that provide telephone qualified leads and finally those that provide qualified appointments. For any lead buyer considering which is best for them it might help to take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The most basic form of lead is a web lead. As the name implies, web leads are generated from the internet. However, it is important to point out that any reputable lead provider should be doing a lot more than supplying a consumer’s details that has just opted in to be contacted.

A proper internet leads is where a consumer has responded to some form of marketing for a specific product or service and then completed an online form to be contacted about the specific product and service in question. For most financial services products these should be “long forms” so called because the lead supplier should capture up to 30 fields of information about the consumer. Not only does collecting more fields of information allow the lead buyer to filter down to their required type of customer but it also qualifies the degree of interest that the consumer has.

In addition to how the information is captured, any lead provider offering leads generated from the internet should have some kind of technology to validate the information in real-time (for example many providers check the phone numbers) but also deliver the leads to the buyer in real-time.

There are a few distinct advantages of web leads. Firstly, as the consumer information is passed to the lead buyer within seconds of the initial application online, the lead buyer captures the consumer while their interest is at its greatest. Secondly, as multiple fields of information are captured lead buyers are able to filter to a granular level, e.g. LTV maximums for mortgage leads. The other advantage is that the costs are relatively low for these lead types. 

The disadvantages of web leads for many lead buyers is that it is often hard to make contact with the consumer unless you have a very process driven methodology of working the leads such as a dedicated lead management system, a structured calling plan and so on and so forth. The other main issue with web leads is that for complex products like mortgages, many lead buyers find that when they do speak to consumers the reality of their circumstances might be different to what they put down on an online form.

This is usually down to genuine consumer error but also because the online forms are quite generic so they don’t always capture the exact circumstances of the consumer.

Despite these disadvantages, hundreds of advisers buy leads every day and generate a very good return on investment from web leads. Successful lead buyers work on a model that despite the fact they might not contact every consumer and they may get some consumer s they can’t help, the leads they buy are priced such that the return from those that do convert more than justifies purchasing web leads.

A number of lead providers have seen some of the weaknesses of the pure web lead model and tried to add an extra level of value to the process by offering qualified leads, sometimes called telephone verified leads or voice qualified leads. These types of leads usually come in two forms. Many companies provide a basic level of qualification where they effectively capture the same information as a web lead but rather than sell the lead in real-time they will call the consumer to check the enquiry is genuine and then pass this onto a lead buyer. Even this basic level of qualification can command a significant premium. There are also many companies that offer a much more detailed level of qualification for leads where every field of information will be confirmed with the consumer and extra information might be captured (for example consumer’s income). Again this extra level of qualification commands a premium price.

The advantages of these types of leads it that the skill of contacting a web lead and doing some kind of qualification can be extremely valuable, especially if as an adviser you don’t have the time or experience to do this effectively yourself. The downside is that even a telephone qualified lead can have consumer error and relies on the consumer answering truthfully. At the same time the increasing time period between the initial enquiry and when the consumer gets to speak to an adviser will have an effect on their level of interest in the product which will have a corresponding effect on conversion rates.  Just like web leads, although hoax enquiries, wrong numbers etc. are screened out so the overall quality should be better there is still no guarantee for lead buyers of contacting the consumers.

Just like the process of turning web leads into qualified prospects for advisers that do all their business face-to-face the process of taking a web lead and turning it into an appointment is another skill entirely.

For advisers buying web leads to turn into appointments for themselves, even with the ability to filter web leads by post code, there is no guarantee that although a consumer might be interested in getting your advice they might just want to do it over the phone. For these situations, there are companies that provide appointments to advisers that do all of this for you so rather than buy web leads or qualified leads you can pay a premium and go straight for appointments. While this is an extremely valuable service and many advisers swear by appointments rather than any other leads, it is useful to note that appointments leads are not immune to the same issues as other lead types such as accuracy of information. However, for a small adviser firm that specialises in face-to-face advice with no experience of working internet generated leads, the ability to buy appointments can be an invaluable option to have.

Ultimately, there is no magic trick to lead generation whether it is a web lead, a telephone qualified lead or an appointment. Companies that take web leads beyond an online enquiry and add extra levels of validation and information are effectively charging a premium on top of what a web lead would cost. What a lead buyer needs to work out is whether this extra qualification is worth paying for or doing yourself. Part of this comes down to your own resources and time but also whether the increase in initial outlay results in a more than proportionate increase in return on investment. For example, if it costs twice as much to buy a qualified first-time buyer lead compared to a web leads; will you generate enough extra revenue to justify this cost? Remember to factor in the time it takes to turn a web lead into a qualified prospect or appointment.

So how should advisers choose whether to go for web leads, telephone qualified leads or appointments?

Unfortunately this is not easy to answer and often it is not necessarily the type of lead that makes the difference but the company itself providing the leads. Advisers should certainly look at their own businesses to work out which type is more suitable for them but they should also look at things like the track record of the lead generation company, how much repeat business they have (a sure sign their leads are good), do they have a refund policy, what systems do they have for managing and monitoring lead generation activity etc. Often lead buyers will choose their provider on price but if budget wasn’t an issue the only real way to decide is to try all types and see which generates the best ROI.

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