April 18, 2015

LeadsCon Recap: Is ‘Lead’ a Bad Word?

LeadsCon, a lead-generation conference, wrapped up its West Coast show in Las Vegas last week. On the first day of the event, March 18, the Buyers Summit was held. This summit offered 11 presentations and talks for those in the business of buying and closing leads.


The panel discussion of the day was titled, “What’s in a Name: Is ‘Lead’ a Bad Word?” Keith Moore, President and COO of AcademixDirect, moderated the following panelists:

  • Antonio Franzese, CEO and co-founder of Precise Leads
  • Paul Rhyu, managing director of Rooster Media Services
  • Joeri Weyenberg, vice president of marketing for Kaplan University

Here are the highlights from the panel discussion:

Education companies are looking to steer away from lead generators because of risks to brand reputation and fixed costs, according to Weyenberg. He added that the word “lead” is being banned and replaced in the education industry.

LeadsCon - lead bad word

From left to right: Franzese, Rhyu, Weyenberg, Moore

“It’s not that there’s a choice,” Weyenberg said. “At the end of the day, there’s diminishing returns in the lead-gen space.”

Weyenberg added that leads are records and that you can only ask a person so many times if they want to go back to school, a statement that got some laughs in the room. He said the world of selling “merely records” to customers is gone.

“As more schools do their own media buying, affiliates have to step up,” Rhyu said. Later on, he added, “The stuff that the big schools do on their own is much more compliant than a lot of the other stuff.”

Quality of the user experience
Rhyu noted that if a conversion rate falls below a certain mark, “I don’t care how cheap it is – the user experience up front is crap” and probably involves bait and switch.

Franzese wondered aloud whether “we should be working to build a better user experience” and improve communication throughout the funnel.

Buyers’ burden
So where does the burden for cleaning things up lie? On the buyers, according to the panelists.

The barriers to entry on the sell side are low, so “it’s on the buy side to raise the barrier,” according to Rhyu. He noted that the pervasion of “co-regification” in 2003-04 and the spread of “call centerification” in 2009-11 left a lot of obfuscation in the ecosystem. The evolution to hope for, Rhyu said, is that “better players do better over time.”

LeadsCon logoWeyenberg said that while companies are willing to pay premiums for a good lead, they’re not willing to pay more to reject bad leads.

He added that people often confuse trust and transparency for balance. While trust and transparency are crucial, Weyenberg said that balance is different – it’s making the customer king. “In the lead-gen space, we often forget that,” Weyenberg said. He added that it’s up to buyers (e.g., schools) to dictate the standards of acceptability.

Is ‘lead’ a bad word?
The crux of the conversation was, of course, whether “lead” is a bad word or not.

“’Lead’ is a bad word because there’s a challenge associated with it,” according to Franzese, who noted that the challenge is a lack of control in the industry. However, Franzese said that “lead” ultimately isn’t a bad word, joking that if it were he’d have to change his company’s name. He said that it’s a perception game.

“’Lead’ is a bad word in the education industry,” said Weyenberg, adding that the word is being taken out of the industry’s vocabulary.

Rhyu agreed that “lead” is a bad word and that it’s not exclusive to the education industry. “It’s somewhere between bad and confusing in a lot of worlds.”

To resolve this, Rhyu said he would change the way success is defined and the language used in the industry. “It’s too much of a front-end, machine-driven industry.”

If you missed out on LeadsCon in Las Vegas, don’t worry – LeadsCon will be taking place in New York from Aug.14-15. Join the interest list here.

By Jason Hahn

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