As 2015 was fast receding, it was time for the crew at EPath Digital to put this year in the rear view mirror. As the proud CEO, I hosted everyone in my home for a Monte Carlo Night themed event. With chefs preparing amazing appetizers and gourmet sliders, and the bar pumping out shots and drinks (responsibly), everyone ate and drank their fill. Dressed up in all black for some holiday glam (it was great to see everyone get into the spirit), we had an absolute blast.
Since Monte Carlo was the name of the game, we rolled up our sleeves for a night of some serious (ok, not too serious) gambling. With many great prizes on the line, all proceeds bought raffle tickets to win items including the iPad Mini won by Chris Fangre and the Beats Studio Headphones won by Melanie Jarrett. As such, our crew and guests hit the blackjack, craps, and roulette tables hard, and the screams of the winners echoed across the back canyon. Everyone was a winner and the Craps table was running hot!
In all, it was a fun evening of food and entertainment, great company, many laughs and battle-hardened stories of victories won during the year, and the promise of an even better one to come in 2016.
Happy Holidays to all our employees, our families who support us, and our great clients who sustain us. We are truly grateful and look forward to many, many more good times to come.
See you next year!
(More party pics after the jump!)
I’m not saying you should stop buying leads altogether from lead generation companies – in fact, I sell leads myself. Buying leads typically allows advertisers both cost advantages and the ability to scale up quickly. However, if you are a lead buyer and have not (yet) invested resources to generate a large volume of leads internally, there are several reasons (including targeted leads for more profit) that you should seriously consider building this channel – sooner than later.
One huge reason is having the freedom to drive “free” inbound calls to your sales floor. Call-ins usually represent the low hanging fruit of the buyer base and are typically not a component of leads purchased from a third party. Obviously, there is a 100% contact ratio on call-ins (as long as someone answers the phone). Beyond that, the mindset of someone calling in is better because that person is reaching out to you. Therefore, the close ratio should be significantly higher on these calls and thus an added bonus to the online leads you are generating.
Not sure how to start? Here are 3 ways to drive inbounds as part of your lead generation campaigns:
- Offer an incentive on the confirmation page or “thank you page” for calling in rather than waiting for a call from you. This can be as simple as stating, on the page immediately following the submittal of the lead information, “Thank you, a representative will contact you within 48 hours. Or, to obtain your quote immediately, please call (800) 555-5555.” We once ran a campaign for satellite television where this strategy caused 10% of the leads to call in after they had submitted the lead. These call-ins closed at around 50%, which doubled the performance of the campaign as a whole.
- Put the phone number in a shadow box upon the exit of the landing page. If worded correctly, the exit shadow box can draw on a powerful principal of influence that social psychologist Robert Cialdini calls “rejection then retreat”. Simply stated, when the consumer chooses to the leave the page he/she is rejecting our request to complete the lead form. When we then ask the consumer to please call us instead, we are “retreating” to a lesser request. There is an ingrained societal obligation to comply with the second request. Or maybe some people just want to call instead – I don’t really know. I do know this though: doing this will drive inbound calls and help you monetize traffic that was falling off the page anyway.
For the second year, Epath Digital was proud to be a Silver Sponsor of the 2015 annual NRMLA Reverse Mortgage industry conference. San Francisco is always a great town for a conference as the food, sights, and night life make for a great destination. The well attended conference was held at the famous and historic Palace Hotel, whose stunning architecture complimented the event.
Displaying at Booth 13 next to Urban Financial, EPD had the opportunity to meet with and speak with the majority of our lender clients, as well as many new to the industry or our company. We learned a lot, shared a lot, but more importantly, had a great opportunity to spend some social time with many of our valued clients. Breakout sessions included information on HECM counseling, loss mitigation options, consumer protections, origination, SAFE Act and financial assessment, and more.
The “Gala” was put on by the industry’s larger lenders including Urban Financial, Liberty Home Mortgage, RMS, and AAG and was an amazing night of food, music, networking, and charity giving. EPD stepped up to the plate with total donations of more than $2,000 to support the Curry Senior Center, a non-profit organization serving homeless and low-income seniors in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. We were happy to support this worthwhile organization as it strives to improve the lives of local residents.
All in all it was a great event to attend for anyone serious about the Reverse Mortgage industry, and EPD was delighted to offer our continued support.
After frankly discussing some misleading quotes from Consumer Advocacy I wanted to close out my notes on the recent Washington, D.C. FTC workshop I attended by looking towards the future. This is something I’m extremely passionate about, and one of the reasons I am honored to be a Board member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil (www.leadscouncil.com), whose goals are creating new strategies for upholding ethical values and compliance.
At the conference, protecting the consumer Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and distribution of that data was the subtext behind all of the panel discussions. Further, providing transparency on how many times the data will be distributed to the consumer through disclosures is key.
Proposed ways to further protect the consumer:
- Require all providers to meet Initial standards to deliver interested consumers to the client
- Set up disclaimers and privacy policies for the consumer to read and understand.
- Verification pop-ups
- Set up filters to eliminate non-qualified consumer or redirect them if not.
- Set up opportunities to not collect non-qualified leads.
- Set up better lead qualifiers as well as confirmations on submittals
- Verify data through a data clearing house to make sure information is accurate
- Auditing call centers
- Data gathering technology to go and find violators to protect the consumer
My overall impression of what’s to come from the FTC is that if you are…
It’s good to be home from an important recent FTC workshop on online lead generation, which I attended with my Chief Compliance Officer and panelists Greg Gragg and Michael Ferree, two fellow board members of our exciting new LeadsCouncil – that you are invited to join. As a compliance-focused member of the Digital Performance Marketing industry for the past two decades, I very much looked forward to this event. After first breaking down all of the lead generation players and detailing exactly what is important to whom, I turned my eye to some often-misleading quotes from the Consumer Advocacy side of things.
Who doesn’t find some frank feedback useful?
Some classic quotes (and my opinions on what they said) from the Consumer Advocates, many of whom paint the industry with the broad brush of misunderstanding or zealotry:
“If a prospective student submits a lead, they’ll get calls from 100s of schools”. – Not true…well most of the time.
David Halperin – Consumer Advocate Attorney
“In the for-profit school business, they use strippers as recruiters” & “If I were you, I would never enter my phone number anywhere on the Internet.” – I am sure a stripper got a job as an admission rep somewhere, but it is not the norm. Mr. Halperin appeared more interested in making a name for himself with his outrageous statements than finding workable solutions. (more…)
As both a Board member of the exciting new LeadsCouncil (www.leadscouncil.com) and a compliance-minded member of the Digital Performance Marketing industry for the past 20 years, I flew to Washington D.C. this week with my Chief Compliance Officer to attend an FTC workshop on lead generation. We had received notice that the FTC was going to hold a panel discussion on lead generation in the lending and education verticals, and we wanted to attend. LeadsCouncil Board members Greg Gragg and Michael Ferree were both panelists at the event, and the council was also indirectly represented by VP & Head of Compliance, John Henson from Tree.
These types of panels and acceptance of written comment are usually a precursor to enhanced enforcement efforts or proposing additional regulation. Discussions around these events focused on tools and processes that consumers and businesses could use to determine where and how their information was being used as well as the current disclosures, and whether they are enough to protect the consumer. The following is a summary of the topics and issues discussed and topics to think about to improve your business practices:
What is important to the consumer?
- Receiving reliable, accurate information on the products and services they requested.
- Competitively-priced options to ensure consumers get the best price for the best service.
- Expectation that their data and information will be protected.
- To control the flow of communication during the decision-making process.
- Personalized search options to only receive options that meet their criteria.
Once upon a time, before the National Do-Not-Call regulations and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 USC 227 and 47 CFR 64.1200, business were free to “cold call” consumers to introduce them to new products and services. Those days are long past, and more importantly, cold calling landline or mobile numbers on even your old leads can create tremendous liability for you and your company. Despite these regulations, I still find myself frequently the recipient of such cold calls regarding a mortgage, and when queried, the callers often have never even heard of TCPA. It’s mind boggling! Understanding these regulations are critical for anyone in business given the rash of Federal Class action lawsuits against corporations from professional litigants looking to extort your company.
Background on the TCPA
The TCPA and its implementing rules impose limitations on calls placed to both residential and wireless telephone numbers. The TCPA prohibits telemarketing calls made using an artificial or pre-recorded voice to residential phones, without prior express consent. The TCPA also prohibits making non-emergency calls using an automated telephone dialing system or artificial or pre-recorded voice to a wireless telephone number without prior express consent. If the call to the wireless number includes an advertisement or is considered telemarketing, the express consent must be in writing. Failure to comply with these rules results in automatic penalties ranging from $500 up to $1,500 per unsolicited call placed if you disregard TCPA compliance. Unlike DNC penalties, this is not a fine for the calls you made to the specific complainant, but rather EVERY call you made to anyone’s mobile number since TCPA was updated in Oct of 2013, if the Class is certified in litigation. Even if compliant, the costs of defense are enormous and litigants often file these as a way to extort $50,000 or more from companies, as judgments can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and take years in court. Calling under the pretext of a “survey” to generate a sales opportunity is also prohibited. TCPA includes uninvited text messages.
On July 17, 2015, the FCC issued new rules regarding TCPA in an attempt to clarify this area of law. While the new rule results in a number of changes to the TCPA, none is more significant than the broadening of the definition of an “automated telephone dialing system” (ATDS). In simplest terms, the FCC now defines an ATDS as any equipment that is actually or potentially able to dial random or sequential numbers – even if not actually used that way, and even if it must be altered in order to be capable of doing so. In essence, your iPhone can be considered an automated dialer in certain circumstances. Given the fact the US economy relies on consumer spending for 70% of total GDP, these laws are not only stifling our economy in my view, but placing undue burdens on legitimate businesses. Bottom feeding lawyers and professional litigants are clogging up the courts with these cases due to the extremely high value of potential judgments.
We’re headed down a brand-new path for our industry – and an especially exciting one. After nearly 20 years in online marketing without an industry advocacy and standards organization, I’m thrilled by the recent formation of the LeadsCouncil.
In effect, the LeadsCouncil symbol will be a seal of approval to help advertisers distinguish the industry leaders, from those other who are less concerned about upholding ethical values and compliance.
It’s a fascinating time to be involved in Digital Marketing.
I’m honored to have been asked to join as both a plank holder and participate on the Board of Directors to help create the policies and standards we hope to apply to all of the current and future members of LeadsCouncil. Our goal is to promote ethical policies and practices, protect consumer rights, advise and lobby the Federal regulatory agencies that police our industry, and develop a set of standards all LeadsCouncil members must adhere to for the benefit of our advertisers and our industry.
I liken it to the perception of the Better Business Bureau. It’s frankly nice to see our industry maturing!
I have always felt that it was important to be proactive in fighting for our rights. Sadly, so many in our industry would rather hide their head in the sand than participate in helping Federal Regulators form policy regarding marketing practices. As an industry, we must take steps to police the “bad actors” and protect the rights of consumers, or someone outside our industry will take steps to do it for us. (more…)
Unfortunately for those of us in email advertising, trying to work with top-tier performance email publishers is like trying to find a wife in Alaska. There are so many of us and so few of them, and they know it. So what happens? Only the most attractive offers survive. Those are the offers with no caps on traffic, no schedule restrictions, higher payouts, etc. If you won’t give it to them, they are on to the next offer, and very few offers can take uncapped traffic at a high payout with zero restrictions.
In an article titled “How to Negotiate with Powerful Suppliers” from the Harvard Business Review Magazine, this kind of difficulty in getting publishers to work with your needs is due to the fact that the good ones are scarce. There are only a handful of top-tier quality email publishers that can really drive traffic at scale at any given time. Therefore, their services are in high demand and they gravitate to the offers that make them the most money with the fewest headaches.
So then, as advertisers, are we totally powerless? No. Luckily this article is titled, “How to Negotiate with Powerful Suppliers.” We have four options:
- Consider playing hardball. Good luck with #1. Remember, these publishers have buyers lined up, and there is no leverage in trying to withhold your business. That just won’t work.
- Acquire an existing supplier or create a new one. That sounds great, but the hard part is that email publishers come and go. There are many stories in this industry of large purchases being made only to have the mailer’s IPs go down the next day. Creating one is probably a better idea, but no simple task. Hiring an expert to create one may be just as expensive and just as risky.
- Consider whether you can change how you buy. You could consider changing how you buy, but in our industry, you probably have already done this. Other forms of media, such as Search and Social, can produce great traffic. But most advertisers look to email traffic only after saturating other opportunities.
- See if you can help the publisher realize value in other contexts. Bingo! This is the strategy that has been extremely successful for me. If I have an offer that is limited because of restrictions on the amount of traffic it can take, days it can be run, etc., I know that the best way to overcome that is to build ancillary value for the publisher into the offer. This can mean different things in different situations, but an example may be to test creative extensively until the conversion ratios from the open of the email through the acquiring of the customer are at a level much higher than existing offers. With that accomplished, the offer will make the publishers more money per email drop, and they will be much more willing to adhere to my requests on volume on scheduling. Another example would be to test CPM mailings. This may take a good deal of trial and error, but the top mailers will usually be willing to mail any offer on a CPM basis because they are guaranteed to meet their revenue targets. As a result, the advertiser has control over the size and timing of the email drops.
It’s amazing how people disregard any leads that aren’t brand-spanking new. If treated right, they can lead to significant customer acquisition. But you can’t skip a single beat. Back to my favorite saying: It’s not the leads, it’s you. But don’t despair, follow this step-by-step guide for major results. It includes both email newsletter and calling (with my favorite strategy), because remember – email for show, dial for dough! Both are crucial components.
Working aged leads: trickle email marketing. Consumers will come to you in various stages of the buying cycle. Some will have noticed a few bullet points on an advertisement and want to learn more but are not in a position to move forward, while others will have done their research and be ready to transact.
- I like Constant Contact for these campaigns.
- Only email to leads you purchased or generated. Review the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. Avoid spam complaints at all costs by following the FTC’s guide on the CAN-SPAM act.
- Never give sales people authority to send bulk emails, or you will become the biggest SPAMMER on the web! Have a dedicated admin manage all campaigns.
- Ideal email creative would be stories on how a reverse mortgage changed a borrower’s life. Think real testimonial stories, educational material, articles.
- Frequency: weekly or bi-weekly. Goal is to not be identified as SPAM, and over-delivery is a common error.
- Be consistently in front of the prospect, so when they decide it’s the right time, you are the lender who earns their business. You will generate business from leads that are even years old over time.