Modern demand marketers know there are many steps to building an effective outbound demand marketing program. Let’s focus on the start of the process, when you’re evaluating third-party lead generation partners to help augment your inbound demand generation programs.
Using third-party partners is a great way to increase overall lead flow and improve the predictability of lead volume coming into your marketing funnel and sales pipeline. By “third-party partner,” I mean an external partner who you pay to provide leads, or contact-level information, on prospective buyers, beyond the inbound leads you’re creating through your own website and landing pages.
These third-party leads are usually purchased on a CPL (cost per lead) basis. Whether you choose to outsource this negotiation to agency partners or prefer to maintain direct control over third-party lead partnerships, it’s important to understand techniques to push your external lead generation partners to the highest level of performance as part of your overall lead gen strategy.
Third-party-generated leads are usually higher in the funnel, perhaps having expressed buying awareness or interest. These leads will almost always need to be nurtured to get familiar with your product or service, often taking longer to convert than an inbound lead.
There’s a saying in real estate: profit is made on the purchase, not on the sale. Or in terms of the stock market: buy low, sell high. Similarly, when working with third-party lead gen partners, one of your best opportunities to impact the ROI of the purchase is before you ever accept an external lead into your funnel.
Here are ideas how you can negotiate with third-party lead providers to help ensure you set your lead gen program up for the strongest ROI:
Eight points to consider during the negotiation process:
- Lower rate for less data (i.e., fewer fields). This is the most obvious place to begin in the negotiation. If you’re confident in your team’s ability to nurture leads through marketing automation, you can accept leads at the very top of funnel, perhaps with a small amount of awareness or interest in the purchasing decision, then you nurture the names once you receive the lead.
Extra tip – Ask this question up front: What’s the price difference between collecting basic fields and custom fields? Don’t assume that because you’re capturing additional fields the cost will go up. Publishers and media partners often have data about users in their database that they can provide at no additional charge.
- Bonus leads (aka. value-adds). Most third-party providers are willing to give new customers or best customers some additional bonus leads. Ask for an additional 10-50% in bonus leads, especially when you’re testing a new provider or increasing budget commitments. Sometime partners will offer additional value-adds or not cap leads as they come in over the lead goal.
- Additional targets. Ask for additional demographic or geographic selections, without having to pay for the additional selects. This will provide you a lead with more information, lower in the funnel and will take less qualifying work on your part. Many providers will charge a base price per lead plus $5 per select on top of the base price, but may waive this fee if you ask for it.
- Pay more for qualifying questions. Many lead providers are also well-equipped to do inexpensive call-downs and deeper data collection, which means you can get a lead with more additional information that could be crucial to your buying process. It may be worth it for you to pay an extra $10 or even $50 per lead if the data point means they have a high likelihood of converting. I’ve seen marketers increase the ROI on their investment from 4x to 10x by adding qualifying questions. Modern marketers who know their key sales triggers can benefit from paying more for highly qualified leads.
- Longer promotional time. Will your partner promote your content assets beyond the agreed upon timeline and/or will they provide additional leads to you on an on-demand basis over time?
- Social amplification through their influencer network. Many media partners have an active influencer community. Ask if they’ll help socialize content assets on your behalf.
- Access to omni-channel distribution – such as email, web and events. Most partners have access to multiple distribution channels. Ask if they’ll publish your programs in their email newsletters or provide exposure at events. These groups often work in silos, so you may need to specifically ask for the exposure you’re seeking.
- Advice with content creation. Lead gen partners are often immersed in the communities you’re trying to reach, so they have the vantage point of seeing what works with your audience. Ask for their recommendations on how to make your content more appealing to your target audience. Partners can help you build stronger content and conversion pages to help improve your lead generation programs.
Back to Lead Gen Basics
The following are very basic points of agreement between a demand marketer and a third-party lead provider, but areas where I’ve seen communication gaps cause problems down the line if they’re not clearly understood by both parties. Be sure you have agreement and understanding of common terms and timelines before you enter into a lead generation agreement.
- Definition of duplicates. Be sure both parties understand the definition of a duplicate, and what will be done when they’re encountered.
- Suppression files. You should have the ability to reject certain names and get them replaced with names not on the list. This includes a suppression list for your competition or companies you don’t want in your funnel – you don’t want to pay for leads that you can’t market.
- Timely fulfillment of commitments. Get agreement on the length of the program and cadence (lead pacing) with which leads will be supplied. Some partners can provide almost instant transfer of leads; others will provide weekly pushes. If a provider is unable to keep up with your frequency requirements, find a different provider who will match your cadence.
- Data in your necessary format. This is a very basic requirement, but not to be overlooked. Make sure all third-party lead providers understand the format requirements for data transfer.
Note: much of the this – lead duplicate replacement, lead suppression, data formatting, lead pacing – can be automated and controlled with demand orchestration software.
In addition to these negotiation points and basic agreements, it’s important to continually test and monitor best performing partners. The best demand marketers are constantly looking to improve their funnel through internal and external sources, culling out the underperforming sources and re-investing in partners who exceed requirements and timelines.