By: Ross Shanken, Founder & CEO, Lead Intelligence, Inc.
I believe that five years from now history will record that within the lead generation space a community of firms worked together, in collaboration, to solve for and defend against larger forces working against us. It is already happening. Like any revolution, it starts with a small spark. A thought or an idea matched with a small group of people who become so passionate about it, that their passion spreads to a larger group of people. The spark turns into a fire that begins to include powerful, influential people, and then turns into a wildfire that becomes impossible to stop.
Today we face serious threats to our lines of business and the longevity and health of our great industry. The root of these threats is that the fundamental problem within our space has not been solved, and cannot be solved, without collaboration. It is difficult to expect competitors to collaborate for the overall good, when the fundamental theme of competition is to advance your own cause. But we are at a time where the industry does not have a choice if it hopes to survive and thrive.
Buyers’ budgets are being cut or eliminated. Buyers are quickly losing the confidence, clarity, and trust in what they are buying, and it is only rational that they will stop spending, or reallocate those dollars. Legitimate sellers are scrambling for cover and working harder to find opportunities, which feel like they are shrinking. Illegitimate sellers gain power because there is little to stop them. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. This is our cycle. It is caused by each entity acting in its own best interest, which is expected, and can only be resolved with collaboration.
Beginning in 2011, the threats caused by each entity acting in its own interest began to outpace the overall opportunities by doing so. The revolution had begun. If you were really paying attention, the seeds were planted from the beginning. But up until 2011, it was a “Loud Silence”: Lots of ideas.
Lots of lip service. Considerable energy and discussion around the topics of transparency, trust, and collaboration. But nothing of consequence ever really happened. It wasn’t until last year that true change began to occur.
The revolution now includes firms near you, those across the country, and even a growing number
of international firms. A firm you saw as only a competitor now also needs to be considered as your collaborator. Not because you want to help your competitor. Not because you do business together. But because you are now united to ensure there is business to be done. You see the opportunity for your firm slipping away if you do not participate.
The only solution to our very legitimate and threatening problems of shrinking budgets, tightening margins, falling stock prices, government regulation, fraud, compliance risk, and negative consumer experience, will come from firms working together today and tomorrow, and within a standard way of doing business. Not hoping we can trust others, but rather having mechanisms and standards where trust is built into every business transaction, regardless of designation as a lead generator, lead aggregator, agency, call center, 3rd party technology or advertiser.
As much as we know this, we also know that each firm left to their own devices cannot be expected to act for the greater good, which is why another sea of change is a core part of this revolution. We need neutral third parties to ensure that each and every party is protected, and that the revolution is not only great for the industry, but also for the individual participants in it.
Every so often there is a moment. A point in time when forces align to produce an historic opportunity. We are in such a moment. We have very tangible threats motivating us to find successes together. And we are also surrounded by incredible access to intellectual and academic excellence within our own space.
The people in our space have already created multiple generations of next generation technology and marketing solutions the world had never before seen. We’ve built countless successful start-ups, roll-ups and exits. The professional, financial, business, retail, educational, high tech and investor prowess in our space rivals any in the international technology scene.
Though some may disagree, I believe it is a great time to be in the interactive markets within lead generation. Not because of yesterday, but because of what lies in front of us. If we take the right path forward. Together. And, capitalize on this historical moment.
All great industry success stories needed mentors, teachers, advisors, investors, friends, family, butchers, bakers, smartphone makers. Whether we look at the rise and stabilization of e-commerce, or much further back to the institution of the stock market. Great industries do not develop in a vacuum. They are the embodiment of collaboration, trust, and neutral third parties protecting us from ourselves.
We have the luxury of already knowing our industry. We have the vision of what we believe it can and should be. And yet after 10 years of trying we’re in the same place we started, but with outside forces now acting against us more than ever, and a revolution taking shape to counteract these forces. Many of us have now lived through the growth and death of lending to now see it slowly rebounding again. We have seen debt and loan modification boom and bust. We are currently witnessing the painful retraction
of insurance marketing spend due to our own vices as well as the very real volatilities of EDU marketing allocations, continuing into 2013. We are fighting battles to ensure the payday, legal, and automotive verticals can avoid some of the mistakes of their predecessors. We have survived and adapted. We have made concessions. We have made rationalizations. We have have made short term decisions against our better judgement. For the most part, we have done so individualistically, independently and as isolationists, which is expected, but puts us on a worse path – not better.
Our industry has its own mentors, teachers, advisors, investors, friends, family, butchers, bakers, cost- per-lead makers. But if we continue to operate solely for the good of ourselves, then our fates are sealed. We will have missed this historic opportunity to take our industry to the next level. History does repeat itself and already has in our case. We have to act accordingly.
All of us have an active part to play. All of us have a responsibility, an obligation, and an unbelievable opportunity to shape history. For remember, history will record that this industry, this community of firms not only took the higher, and harder road, but in solving the troubles of today we created a marketplace of stability, trust, continued innovation and incredible transactional flow for tomorrow. If successful, those following us will celebrate the tough choices we have made in order to save this goldmine of opportunity that we have all created.
This will be our legacy to those who come after us. This will be our proudest moment. Join The Revolution.
Throughout his career, Ross Shanken has been a thought leader & business-builder within the Information Services, Interactive Markets, Telecom/Cable, & Mobile markets. Ross was part of a 5-member Executive Management team that led TARGUSinfo from 1998 through 2010. During his tenure at TARGUSinfo, Ross witnessed firsthand the stresses that existed between Lead Sellers and Lead Buyers, and with the help of industry veterans, created a dialogue around the vision of LeadiD – which had the singular purpose of creating a trusted environment for Lead Sellers and Lead Buyers to operate. Upon leaving TARGUSinfo at the end of 2010, Ross started LeadiD, and is fully committed to its mission: To provide clarity, confidence, and trust into the lead generation space.