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Dec 05, 2007
How To

How to Salvage a Lead-Gen Campaign Flooded With Incentive Seekers: 7 Damage-Control Tips

SUMMARY: What if the majority of business leads you worked so hard to collect are worthless because the incentive attracted attention from thousands of consumers looking for a handout.

See the damage control plan a technology firm launched to shut down the campaign and cut off the source of bogus leads. Includes seven steps for sorting the good leads from the bad and lessons learned to avoid future snafus.
A campaign that produces a flood of leads is usually a marketer’s dream. But for Phyllis Doran, Marketing Manager, Trimble Mobile Solutions, that scenario turned into a nightmare.

Earlier this year, Doran used an integrated email, direct mail and print advertising campaign to promote software that helps food and consumer packaged goods companies optimize their store delivery route planning. Shortly after sending an email to her prospect list, she was thrilled to see a spike in registrations for more information.

On closer inspection, however, many of the leads looked shaky. Most came from personal email addresses and seemed to have no connection to the target industries. “I went from king to goat inside of an hour,” says Doran.

The problem: Her campaign promising a free pedometer as an incentive for prospects to register online had fallen into the hands of a bargain-hunting, freebie-seeking online community. A link to the campaign landing page was posted on several message boards. Consumers began overwhelming her B-to-B campaign.

Doran had to perform instant damage control, and start weeks of sleuthing work to find and shut down the source of the bogus leads. She shares the seven steps she followed along with tips to prevent a similar occurrence:

-> Step #1. Examine leads closely

Doran expected the campaign to produce about 200 qualified leads, so she linked all new registrations directly to her email account. As the leads quickly shot up to more than a thousand, two clues signaled something was amiss:

- Most leads came from personal email accounts, such as Yahoo!, MSN, AOL and Hotmail. Only a handful appeared to come from well-known food or consumer packaged goods companies.

- The time stamp on many new registrations showed they came outside of normal business hours. Leads were pouring in “minute by minute,” says Doran, often very early in the morning or late at night.

-> Step #2. Temporarily take down page

As the number of leads topped 2,000 and overwhelmed her inbox, Doran made the tough decision to shut down her registration page and find out what had gone wrong. She had to make sure, though, that she wouldn’t lose legitimate leads generated by the campaign.

Ultimately, she took the registration page offline for about two days while she investigated further.

-> Step #3. Determine if spamming was source of bogus leads

Doran had supplemented her in-house prospect database with a rented email list. She immediately contacted the list provider to help solve the problem. Working with them, she implemented two tests to determine if her landing page was a victim of automated spamming programs:

- Analyze the number of bounce-backs from the registration’s automated thank-you note. All registrants received an email thanking them for their information. If the registrations had been generated by a spamming program, she could expect to see a high percentage of those notes returned as undeliverable.

Doran saw very few bounce-backs, though, indicating that the registrations had been submitted from legitimate -- if not qualified -- email addresses.

- Add a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) script to the landing page just to be safe. The program requires users to enter a special code on the registration form that computers can’t read.

-> Step #4. Require company email address

Those steps didn’t stop the flow of bad leads, however. So, Doran next required all users to enter a valid corporate email address, rather than a personal address.

If a user entered a personal URL on the registration page, the system would not let them submit their entry. Instead, it asked them to replace the address with a valid corporate URL. That tactic finally slowed down the number of new leads, buying Doran time to determine their source.

-> Step #5. Call requesters to ask where they saw the offer

About two weeks after the campaign launched, Doran and her sales representatives started receiving emails from individuals asking when they would receive their free pedometer. She enlisted these people in her investigation.

One email came from a woman who said she wanted the pedometers for her two young children. Doran emailed her, promising to provide the gifts, if she would tell her where she had seen the offer. The woman pointed her to an online forum dedicated to free samples.

-> Step #6. Contact webmasters to remove links from consumer sites

Thanks to the tip, Doran began searching for additional free-product websites and forums, and found her landing page linked in several other locations. “It was amazing to me that within a very small period of time these postings had gone up.”

She immediately contacted webmasters to ask that they remove the posting from their sites. Most complied quickly. One even pointed Doran to four other sites hosting a link to the landing page, helping her round up more sources of bad leads.

-> Step #7. Remove bad leads and follow up with prospects

With the consumer traffic shut down, Doran went back to the list of leads and deleted entries for non-qualified individuals. Then her telemarketing team contacted a representative sample from the remaining prospect list to qualify their registration.

Only then did she place the qualified names into the company’s CRM system.

“We did get some business out of it, but on some level it was market research for us also. We weren’t sure how big this market was, so we did the campaign to get a sense of how big the opportunities were.”

3 Tips to Prevent a Rush of Bad Leads
Painful as it was, the experience taught Doran several lessons about designing a campaign that safeguards against this kind of unwanted response. Besides adding a CAPTCHA and requiring a corporate email address on registration forms, she now takes three additional steps in her marketing campaigns:

-> Tip #1. Use unique landing pages for each channel of a campaign

Because the campaign was intended for both lead generation and market research, Doran didn’t spend much time up front thinking about analyzing responses by channel. She used the same landing page for both the email campaign and the print ads that ran in several different publications.

Her approach was simpler to implement, but it didn’t give her a clear indication of which channel was delivering the bad leads after the email and print ads were active.

Now, she uses a unique URL for each ad and email promotion in her campaigns, and is considering using personalized landing pages when emailing offers to her prospect database.

-> Tip #2. Look for full visibility of contacts when supplementing in-house database

Because Doran had rented an email list, she wasn’t able to see exactly who would receive her email promotion before sending it. She couldn’t set up PURLs for the email offer. Now, she’s more careful about considering sources for additional prospects in a B-to-B marketing campaign.

In some cases, she says, it might be better to invest in additional search marketing or other tactics, where she has more visibility into the sources of traffic to a landing page.

-> Tip #3. Think carefully about the use of incentives to encourage registration

Doran knows now about the community of Web users who jump on free offers. She says she will be more cautious about using a gift or incentive in future campaigns.

Although in this case the pedometer seemed like a good tie-in to the campaign’s creative and theme, she’s not sure it made that much of a difference to her B-to-B audience. In the future, she says, she’ll test the use of an incentive before including it in an entire campaign.

Doran didn’t fulfill requests for the pedometer from consumers, but their requests still cost her uncounted time and effort to get her campaign back on track. “In the end, it was definitely a lesson learned, and it made for interesting conversation, that’s for sure. Like I said, figuring out what the antidote was to stop the virus took a little while.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Trimble Mobile Solutions:

Trimble Mobile Solutions:

Forums and websites focused on free online offers -


See Also:

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