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Media Leads: The Ups and Downs

20 Dec, 2005 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

Media Leads: The Ups and Downs

Whenever I visit a new
prospect, I always try to determine their overall business objectives along with
the results expected from my agency’s efforts. Although many have similar
business objectives, like growing market share and achieving a particular net
profit percentage, when it comes time to discuss what’s expected from the
advertising there are numerous responses.

Some want to have an impact on motivating their sales force. Others want name
recognition when their salespeople walk through the door. But the one common
denominator is they all want leads.

What’s interesting about that request is that a number of existing clients don’t
want their media-driven lead activity to increase. They believe it makes their
salespeople lazy and don’t go after their territories aggressively. Some
companies even pay a lower commission for inbound telephone lead-generated

Additionally, business that comes from media-driven leads usually isn’t the
greatest potential customer. They’re generally “shoppers,” which means two
things: competitors will be in on the deal, so margins will be skinny, and once
a shopper always a shopper. Even if you give these shoppers superior service,
odds are they’re going to shop you next time around.


Office technology products are still relatively new to the human race. And when
you represent something new that provides significant value, such as a copier or
a fax machine, you want to be first to market. When this new market gets a
handful of competitors, you want to be the biggest and the loudest because that
equates to being the best.

A parallel to what has happened in the office technology industry over the past
30 years is the eye care field with Lasik eye surgery. The first Lasik surgeons
to market did exceptionally well because similar to copiers in the 70s, the
product or procedure was being hailed as a miracle. Then, using the media, the
biggest and loudest took over. Most of the dealerships that now have IKON in
their neighborhood did a good job during this stage.

The difference in this case is as the industry matured, Lasik surgeons started
running out of patients that could afford the cost of the procedure. Some of
these ophthalmologists turned to price. Now you’re seeing ads touting $499 per
eye when two years ago these surgeons were commanding $4,500 per patient. I’m
fortunate that I don’t have any vision problems yet. However, if I did, and
decided to correct it with Lasik, I don’t think I’d trust my eyes to the

Remember this, as an industry matures, buyers aren’t impressed by who was the
first to market or who’s the biggest and the loudest. They have a better
understanding of the product, the vendors, and what’s required. They’ve probably
had a chance to judge these companies firsthand or at least have some grapevine
information on them.

This is especially true with the larger accounts. They will know the players in
their market and chances are a full-page Yellow Page ad, a fancy billboard, or a
clever television commercial will have little impact on these savvy purchasers.

Don’t get me wrong. As president of an advertising agency that specializes in
office technology clients, I strongly believe advertising impacts buyers. It’s
just not going to be in the form of an out-of-the-blue phone call requesting an
appointment to discuss their $125,000 worth of equipment needs.

Lead Junkies

When advertising does its job, salespeople become lead junkies and get hooked.
However, they begin to worry about the effectiveness of the advertising when
leads stop increasing at an exponential rate.

The problem is the growth of leads generated by your advertising can’t continue
unless you decide to become the promotion king or the leading discounter in your
market. And, there’s nothing wrong with either if that’s your business objective
and you’re prepared to run your company that way.

I have sveral non-office technology clients that live and die monthly based on
leads. They understand the lead and know to the mille-cent the level of
advertising dollars required to produce a certain amount of revenue. If it’s the
message, we can tell immediately and make appropriate adjustments. To them it’s
a science because it’s their livelihood.

If you make the decision to use your lead count as the ultimate advertising ROI
factor, you better be prepared to treat the lead like one of your offspring.
From the moment the phone rings, you need to know the source, understand the
motivation for the call, and then track it through completion. Plus, you need to
have more than a minimum wage employee answering the phone, and you need to hold
your salespeople accountable for why they won or lost.

Advertising will produce leads, but you have to understand their value. If you
want your business to be perceived as upscale and one that caters to major
account customers, your advertising should reflect it in both message and
execution. If you feel compelled to measure the advertising’s ROI, look past the
lead count and see what impact you’re having on the major account customers.

If leads are still all you want from advertising, buckle up and be prepared to
come up with promotion after promotion. Also, be prepared to have more of a
sales type answering the phone and make sure every single lead is tracked to its
conclusion. If you fail to do either of these steps, don’t blame your
advertising agency or your in-house marketing people if leads aren’t being
converted to sales at the level you expect.

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