The direct hit. This is the ultimate lead. Someone has typed in your Web-site address because another person has referred them, they were drawn by advertising, or they are a current customer heading to your site because they have previous brick-and-mortar experience with you.
We are developing ways to get real people -- not just staff and relatives -- to refer our sites to other people. This will start to generate the direct hits we want. I will expand on these ideas in future columns, but you can get started by thinking of ways to get people to send others to your site. The best leads are direct referrals! Think of community leaders, a pastor, or anyone else with influence over a large audience.
There are B2B Web sites that can help drive this traffic to your site. In the online world, affiliate programs can achieve the same effect as a good reference from a well-connected member of the community. Affiliate programs (also called associate programs, referral programs, pay-per-lead, or pay-per-click programs) are performance-based marketing tools. With affiliates, you pay for results.
Here are a few affiliate programs: Commission Junction,
Refer-It.com, Associates.com, and CashPile.com.
There are several affiliate guide sites that can help explain the benefits and pitfalls, AffiliatesDirectory.com, AffiliateGuide.com, and 2-Tier Affiliate Program Directory.
The drive-by hit. While there are many search engines, only a few really count. For my money, Yahoo, AltaVista, MSN, AOLNetFind, Dogpile, iwon, Netscape, and Lycos have proven to be the best "real traffic" sites. Real traffic is a potential customer actually searching for your product or service. GOTO is a pay-per-click site that also has brought real traffic. We pay sharpnetsolutions.com to get our sites ranked on these search engines. This can cost as little as $250 per month or more than $1,000, depending on how complicated your needs are.
Search-engine traffic is OK, but it is not as good as direct referrals. A customer is less likely to buy from a site that he or she has not heard about before, either through mass media publicity or from an acquaintance who has tried it. We certainly wouldn't discourage traffic from a search engine, but it has produced a lower percentage of sales than direct hits.
Opt-in traffic is another way to get traffic directed to your site, people who are actually interested in your product or service. We partner with a site that attracts potential customers with humor, sports, and entertainment e-mails. When someone signs up to receive the site's e-zines, they are asked if they want to receive more information about a variety of topics, including moving. If so, we get the details. This traffic costs 30 cents to 50 cents per name. The great thing about opt-in leads is that you retain the customer's e-mail address and information so you can contact them again.
The hit-and-run. Opt-out leads represent the shotgun approach. These leads are gathered like the opt-in leads -- but with a major difference: a potential customer is presented with a list of subjects and services on which information is available. Unless the visitor unchecks the box for a particular option, they will receive information.
A lot of these leads are hit-and-runs -- the sort that don't hang around to sign up for business. We have found this to be the case with pay-per-click sites like NetFlip.com and SearchCactus.com. You might get a lot of traffic from these sites, but our experience has been that it is unlikely to generate many sales.
With all of that said, our Web site is a very specific destination. It is aimed at people who are moving. You might have better luck if your product or service is something more general, something everyone needs -- something they need now!
Our own solution. We looked into ad campaigns on Web sites directly related to our service -- move.com and other high profile sites -- as a way to promote www.dickerabid.com. They wanted $10,000-15,000 per month. But there were no guarantees and their traffic was going to consist only of casual referrals.
Instead, I came up an idea for a site that would generate leads, and maybe make a profit by selling opt-in advertising. So we produced a site called MoveRaffle.com. What we do is raffle off free moving supplies on an hourly basis. To apply, customers must fill out a form on which we ask for personal details. We can then use this data to market DickerABid.com to them. So far, we have received over 1,500 sign ups -- and that is after only a single week of holding raffles. Incidentally, that traffic was generated by putting a notice about MoveRaffle.com on just two freebie sites.
GAME PLAN. Can you come up with a lead-generating site to drive traffic to your site without paying $10,000 to $15,000 per month? Probably. The great part about MoveRaffle.com is that I sold opt-in advertising on the site. Whenever someone clicks to learn more about low-cost term life insurance, a free alarm system, or some other product, we get paid! The raffle prizes cost about $3,000 per month to send out, but we have made $3,000 from opt-in advertising.
I hope this inspires you to create your own bird-dog site for flushing out leads. Why pay for advertising if you can come up with an idea that generates your own leads -- and get paid for it at the same time? Bret Lamperes is an
entrepreneur in Northern Colorado. He owns Dandelion Moving &
Storage, Dandelion Mini-Storage, and DickerABid.com