The other day I was talking with a school owner who proudly announced that “leads are up over 200% this year over last”.
“Great, what changed?” I asked.
“We made some changes to our website (that I had suggested) and we contracted with a lead generation portal. We are listed on their site and they are running a Google Adwords campaign for us.”
Something didn’t feel right. I got curious…
While we were talking I did a quick search on his school’s name. It turns out that the “great” Lead Generation Portal had in fact bought at least two domains using his school’s name. (This would be like me buying Coca Cola and buying www.Coke.com for myself).
In effect, what happened was a piece of marketing theft. Here’s why:
Some Lead Generation Portals are in the business of selling a “lead” as many times as possible. So that ‘great’ Google campaign that the portal is running “for him” is really being run for him AND his competitors. When a prospective student fills out the inquiry form, they are often prompted to fill out forms for other competing schools.
Tip: In your contract, look for something called a “co-registration clause”.
By advertising this way the school owner has also clumped his offering in with many others inside a directory, losing his competitive advantage and what we call Online Real Estate presence.
In the case of my friend, the School Owner, if he ever ends the relationship with the lead gen portal, this portal still owns the URL’s with his school’s name! The lead gen portal can potentially continue to sell leads to his competitors. It doesn’t make sense.
My friend had spent 20 years of sweat, hard work, risk and a huge sum of money building the name brand of his school and the lead gen portal has swooped in and used his brand overnight, to promote the business model of the portal!
What’s worse is unwittingly he is paying this guy to do so!
The scary truth is this seems to be a fairly common practice. Many schools have made the same mistake and are in the same boat. My personal opinion is that this business practice is unethical, dirty, and a terrible way to make a living. It’s also not needed, because there is a better way to do business.
Get better leads AND protect your brand…
There are three basic ways to increase leads without using portals –
1. Improve your website
2. Advertise on Google, Yahoo, etc; and
3. Combination of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and online PR
In my judgment, improving your website gives you the best bang for your buck, because the leads are essentially free and you are getting more from your EXISTING traffic.
Google/Yahoo/etc ads are second best, because when you run your own campaign these leads are “exclusive” and we know that research has shown conversion rates are much higher. Plus, they are measurable to a specific cost per lead so you can make informed budget decisions.
SEO/PR is third. While it would be awesome to come up on the 1st page in Google, it’s also a black art and impossible to guarantee a result, so it should ALWAYS be the 3rd tier in your strategy. Public Relations is great but the old adage “with Adverting you pay, PR you pray” still holds true.
Lead Gen Portals focus on building their own websites with all three of the above and then sell the leads to schools. Smart school marketers would learn from this in building their own campaigns.
Why not Build Your Very Own Lead Gen Portal?
Most schools don’t have the in-house expertise to pull it off. That’s where we come in…
We’ll build you your own Internet Marketing Machine and you pay us only if we succeed.
We work with a very SELECT group of schools. We’re very focused and choosy about the clients we take on. For these clients we work in all three of the above areas outlined to create a significant upward spike in your lead flow WITHOUT resorting to any of the “messy practices” caused by many portals.
….All leads generated are yours EXCLUSIVELY
…Improvements that create super charged lead flow are made to YOUR website
…PR and SEO improvements are created in YOUR site
…You OWN the campaigns, we are the hired guns that run it
And best of all, we charge on a PERFORMANCE basis. If we don’t succeed, you don’t pay us.
But as I said, we only work with select clients, so if you’d like to be considered or to learn about the particulars, you need to call Paul at 250-391-9494 or email email@example.com to schedule a time to talk with co-founder Gregg Meiklejohn or myself.
After giving you a complimentary assessment of your web and internet activities (we promise not to pull any punches in our assessment), we’ll be upfront about whether we can help. And we promise to give you some good advice, regardless of whether you become a client.
We look forward to hearing from you.