LeadsCon: Lead Generation Conference Feb 28th-29th in Las Vegas

LeadsCon Conference

We interviewed entrepreneur, Jay Weintraub about his upcoming conference…

LeadsCon is a pioneering conference and expo dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of those operating in the online lead generation industry

LeadsCon provides a unique and collaborative environment designed for networking and sharing. Meet the people, gather the knowledge, and get the tools to gain the edge in the ever evolving online lead generation space.

LeadsCon offers access to key decision makers and top executives from the must know companies in the lead generation space. The LeadsCon audience consists of lead buyers, lead sellers, technology solution providers, and investment professionals from more than 1100 different companies including those from a variety of different verticals from B2C to B2B lead generation. These include online education, insurance, credit cards, mortgage, home improvement, senior housing, health care, and many more.

Our Interview With Leadscon Producer, Jay Weintraub…



MA.com – We’re conducting this interview in preparation for Leadscon. I don’t think we’ll need a lot of your time. Your web site has much of the information we needed. But I thought it would make my “pre-article” a little more interesting if I got to ask you a few questions and do this interview.

So let’s start by letting you give us a general overview of Leadscon and what people can expect there.

Jay: I almost wish you would have asked something much more specific because in a case like this what you’ve said is like, tell us about your business, anything you want.

MA.Com: We like to start with an open ended question.

Jay: Well I’ll start a sort of context which will hopefully help. We’re entering the 5th year that we’re doing the Las Vegas show and we’ve been very fortunate to become the definitive summit for the online lead generation area. We began our first show in early 2008. At that time I was an operator in a lead gen business and I sort of wondered why there wasn’t any place of gathering for people like me. There were certainly some very large conferences focused on Internet advertising and advertising technology. Many of my peers would exhibit there and sponsor there. But there weren’t any specific sessions on the topics.

I’m not saying that talks about lead generation are the most exciting thing but I’m a huge proponent of thought leadership and making sure that the companies who are doing innovative things have a chance to sort of discuss them and that the industry as a whole has a chance to air its issues. It really needed a dedicated forum to make sure it was on the right track and that it dictated it’s own future instead of somebody else doing so.

This was around the same time that a company called Value Click was being investigated by the FTC for their lead generation practices. And what was interesting was that the FTC’s inquiry tended to say, you know, “lead generation” and “investigating for lead generation”… and for people who were in the field, what they were looking at was not lead generation in the way that someone like me would define lead generation. At the time… this was mid 2007. I don’t know if like me, you are addicted to or how much you follow and pay attention to the banners that are running.

MA.Com: I do. I don’t think I’m addicted but I do follow them.

Jay: Well I probably shouldn’t have admitted that I’m addicted to them. But when you think about distribution and how you get traffic and sort of… I guess you spend more time than you should trying to make sense of what’s going on. Well what happened around 2007, before the financial crisis, when it was still an era of… Well the Iphone had just come out but there was no app store. Myspace was peaking. Facebook was in existence but it wasn’t open to the public. There really wasn’t the same innovation that is happening today. Brands and other advertisers were just getting back to their budgets online… and so we were still in kind of a sense of recovery. And a lot of the performance advertisers were the biggest spenders on display at the time. And this was before there were ad exchanges… before this sort of new audience targeted, connected consumer universe that we live in today.

One of the biggest advertisers, or most prevalent then was the free Ipod offers. I don’t know if you followed that.

MA.Com: Yeah I recall seeing those.

Jay: In a way it was a precursor to Groupon because what they were really saying was here’s a banner ad. We want you to enter in your email address, and then we’re going to try to make money off of you to try and compensate for the cost of the banner. Unlike Groupon, where they send you banners that are somewhat unique and deal driven, the free Ipod model was sort of “let me ram you through this never ending funnel of yes, no, this, that… hoping that you kind of forget what’s going on. It wasn’t really a good user experience but the companies that were doing it were making significant revenues. But because the process was so onerous and there weren’t a lot of disclosures to let people know what they had to do and what they didn’t have to do, and this word, “free”, so the FTC started to crack down.

And that really isn’t… Well when you think of a company like say Service Magic or a consumer brand like Zillow. and think of the big vertical media properties that help to connect consumers with industry professionals, that’s lead gen to me, not the idea of a free Ipod.

MA.Com: I agree. I mean the free Ipod thing worked and companies made big money doing it but I think that it remains a scar on the industry especially from a user experience perspective. Is that what you’re saying?

Jay: Absolutely, you said it amazingly. And this was also at the time that mortgage was still, in 2007, you know, mortgage professionals were still relying very heavily on lead generation to fill their pipelines and so to me, this was still when the banks were still in existence… That to me, was much more about lead generation.

I was always that guy who said, “Wait a second… I don’t like that this is what may get construed as lead gen”. So I wanted us to have a place where we could think about lead gen or where we could go and experience lead gen in person and go, “Wow, there are actually some good companies… I can get business done… and I could learn something.

MA.Com: Right to connect buyers and sellers.

Jay: Right, and hopefully to show that there is a professional community involved in this sector.

MA.Com: Yeah that is important and that brings me to another question… I see other shows coming around. What’s the difference between Leadscon and say Pubcon or say the Affiliate Summits?

Jay: That’s a question I think about all the time. That’s because I see these shows as competitive and we want to offer value and we want to have a distinct value proposition for our users. And in this case, when I think about Affiliate Summit, the emphasis is that there is another customer acquisition show. They tend to be more in the transaction based world. It’s a world of merchants, of comparison shopping, of credit card transactions that consumers undertake. So that’s the big difference.

In the lead generation world you’re really talking about an online to offline type of.. and when I say online to offline, it’s not to say you’re going to show up at a physical location but you will do the research online and then often times you want to talk to somebody before doing a deal. So it’s a much more kind of intent… you’re out there to try and capture intent and then facilitate with the people who can actually help the consumer… you know, connect those two.

MA.Com: One of the things on the LeadCon site…Your site talks about leads for mortgage, credit, insurance, & education but you often hear online marketers talk about finding niche markets. What’s the truth about this and what does your experience suggest for people who are interested in making money developing leads for sale or for affiliate marketers interested in lead generation?

Jay : This is one of those questions that sounds specific but it’s easy to drag out into a long answer. I’m going to try my best to not do what I’ve been doing. We’re going to start like any completely ambiguous answer with “it depends”. And when I say it depends, it means it depends on what any specific person’s skills and preferences are. Let’s say you are an amazing search marketer. I wouldn’t suggest a true niche. I’d suggest an area that has “Lead Liquidity” where if you are able to generate a lead there’s a good chance you can find a buyer for it. In the early days of paid search, imagine back in 2001 or 2002, you type in steel thermos. Nobody is going to be bidding on that except another search engine looking to pick up the default clicks. But if you would have typed in back then something like say, new cars, you might have found enough advertisers to fill out a few slots. So lead generation is still behind paid search in that every vertical you can think of out there doesn’t have active lead buyers in every single one.

So let’s say that someone is very good at finding traffic on the consumer side, they shouldn’t go into a niche. But if they are more content focused and they have an industry expertise and they are looking for a way to leverage that industry expertise… maybe they have great knowledge on a niche medical field or a certain type of accounting service expertise. I think especially in the quasi B2B world, I think I talked to somebody who has sites around certain types of compliance in the hedge fund world. There’s not a lot of existing buyers and so in that case, the person is sort of getting in deep, understanding the market, and there is a lot of room for them to be the dominant niche player there.

And the big thing is that a lot of these potential buyers don’t even know what buying a lead means. So there is also some education that has to happen where you help them understand, this is what a lead is. It’s not the same as a referral. You have to understand what your conversion rates are and you have to understand how to think of it in this modern ecosystem. It’s the same thing with clicks. There is always an education process in there.

To answer your question.. I think there is a lot of room in niches. It requires a lot of education because the buyers aren’t in there yet. I’d recommend that you take areas where both you have a modest interest in and where the eventual transaction has some value. So, I’m looking around the office here and thinking of something that is sort of low value.

MA.Com: Yes, there has to be some money in the conversion to make it worth your time to develop your leads and there has to be value to the lead buyer. And you have to know where those buyers are at. I think your term “lead liquidity” made a lot of sense.

Thanks for that. I did notice that your major sponsors are lead buyers. Where do lead generators fit in and are there vendors of great lead gen online marketing tools in the expo? Understanding that you have to be careful of showing bias, but do you have any examples of tools or ideas that will be available this year that you think are worth mentioning?

Jay: Well what you’ve just said is that you have 1200 companies coming in and 150 sponsors and exhibitors, let me draw a name out of a hat. I’m going to ask you if you could narrow it down a little bit.

MA.Com: For example, if someone was interested in building a lead generation business, are there sponsors or expo exhibitors with tools or ideas for those people… who are interested in building lead generation websites for example?

Jay: I think that we have a handful of… well to avoid naming too many names and at the risk of not naming enough… The areas of interest to me are companies who will help you to create a back end. For example if you want to build a site, how do you put a form up on your site, or if you wanted to let a buyer sign up to become a buyer. Or if you wanted to come up with a lead gen site around marketing automation and if your content is great and you find buyers who say, alright I’d like to spend some money with you. There are some companies who can help you with that. There are some companies who can help you for example with your own service, if you want to manage your own leads, there are some companies who build almost like a Salesforce.com product except tailored towards a lead gen thing. Let’s say that you had a high volume site and you need help in getting hold of people, we have companies who can help you to dial those prospects and qualify them further… and then they can either hand you back data or transfer those calls to you.

MA.Com: OK, that is interesting. So you say those are some of the types of exhibitors who will be there…

Jay: Yes, and we have a lot of exhibitors on the other end of the spectrum. Let’s say you are a publisher and you want to work with someone who can help you make money off that site, there are companies there who can help you to make money off the traffic that you have. And we also certainly have some people who, let’s say you need additional eyeballs, they specialize in advertising networks and partners there who can help you to drive more volume to your actual site if that’s what you wanted as well.

MA.Com: Jay, You mentioned in an email to me that you would like to expand your content to focus more on b2b in the future. What do you have in mind?

Jay: A lot! It’s one of the areas that we’re most excited about. I think you’ll notice today that we get some players from the B2B world. We get an occasional big brand.. a company like Hubspot or Pitney Bowes who really wants to meet obviously a bunch of small or mid-sized companies as their targets. But we’ve deliberately kept it as a very business to consumer focused event and part of that is my belief that the two sides of the, you know. If you look at the vocabulary.. You’re marketing automation.. Demand generation, you don’t tend to use the word leads because the word tends to imply a less worked up consumer.

Where it is sort of a difficult to articulate thing but you know it when you feel it. The vocabulary is different and the sales process is different. When you think of someone who is getting a mortgage, home services, education, health.. it is still a service and a purchase but there are a lesser number of decision makers. There are a larger pool of people but there are lesser amounts of people that need to be worked through and the actual conversion can take place in a quicker process. And there really is less long term nurturing and you get consumers who have a need and who fill out a form or who have a need and pick up the phone.

When I think of the business side, it’s very different. They have a need but they have more people involved. They may have and RFP process. It’s a longer sales process.

So we’ve tried to avoid putting the two in the same room where they’ll feel like, “I don’t understand.” So in the summer of 2012 in New York City, we are going to have an event within an event with an expanded focus on the B2B world. I think there is a lot we can learn from each other. There are more nurturing and analytics that go on in the B2b World. It’s immense. So I think we can both learn from each other. There is a lot of cross pollination of best practices and that is what we’re going to try to do.

But to make it in such a way that each have their own environment and allow them to walk across to the other if they want to.

MA.Com: I think you’re on to something because they are different processes and different kinds of sales and you might lose something if they were too mixed. I get it. Hey, I wanted to ask next… How did you get started in the lead gen business yourself?

Jay : I’m afraid that it is not that interesting. I wish I had a story. I remember a guy who I knew who’s dad had a coffee business and who needed some business so he got onto the web and got into it this way. I was more of a guy who got out of college with a decent idea but not the operational chops who could make it happen. I wasn’t sure anyone would hire me besides… Ahh an Internet company! That’s really all there was too it.

MA.com: Well it looks like you put together a nice show. By the way, are you Digital Moses?

Jay : Well yes and no. It’s funny you say that. I’m not Digital Moses. There is a publication called DMConfidential and I’ve been known to publish articles there from time to time. We are planing to take it over and to remake it. My best friend is the one who started it and it sounded like a great name to him in 2001 or 2002,

MA.Com: Well I ran across it while reading your blog so I was just curious.

Jay: Well I’m totally guilty!

MA.Com: Jay, thanks for your time. So Leadscon Los Vegas happens on February 28th and 29th at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. We’re going to encourage anyone that reads our blog to go there and I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Jay: It’s been fun and I’m going to be tapping your mind about B2b soon too.

I want to mention that online registration closes on Friday so if someone is interested in attending, I highly encourage them to sign up before the end of the day Friday.

You can register on the site at http://www.leadscon.com.

Joe Martinico is a business consultant and trainer. He helps businesses to grow through best practices in sales and marketing automation. Mr. Martinico developed and teaches, Succeeding Online, a small business workshop sponsored by the Small Business Development Centers and the SBA.

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