Changing Trends and Methodologies in Modern Prospect Generation

Changing Trends and Methodologies in Modern Prospect Generation

Author: Chris Hornbeck, CEO, Resort Insiders

Published: RCI Ventures Latin America

The myriad benefits of permission-based, client-friendly marketing methods are changing the way many vacation ownership companies are approaching their lead generation activities

As changing technological and cultural trends demand that the vacation ownership industry continue to diversify its lead generation activities, the space where the most attractive growth potential exists is in permission-based marketing. Marketing methods in the vacation ownership industry have traditionally relied heavily on initiating contact with the customer, either by phone, mail, or in person, and are by and large becoming less effective and legally compliant over time.

Direct marketers in many industries are shifting their resources more and more towards permission-based/consent-based marketing to meet these challenges and diversify their client generation portfolios to help drive new business and manage marketing risk.

The basic concept of consent-based marketing is to gain a potential customer's attention through the provision of education, content, and implied value such that a voluntary communication is created between the marketer and the customer. That communication can be either "inbound" (initiated by the customer), "outbound" (initiated at the request of the customer), or even face-to-face, but the keyword is "voluntary".

When a customer contacts a company because of interest in their value proposition, or leaves his number to be called about an offer, they have effectively become a "warm" lead. The beneficial marketing atmosphere created by this type of voluntary communication leads to lower labor costs, higher conversion rates, and overall higher sales efficiencies.

Legal compliance issues, advertising churn, and the rising costs of "cold" marketing methods are driving the accelerated adoption of permission-based marketing in the vacation ownership industry. Far less compliance restrictions (and thereby risk) exist with the use of these techniques and the use of fresher, more customer-friendly communication methods make for happier, easier-to-sell customers, which generate far less complaints than traditional marketing methods, like "cold call" telemarketing and OPC.

Permission-based marketing methodology is based on looking for responders, people who see and are interested in a value proposition and give express permission to speak with them about it. This permission can be granted in many ways; through an inbound call, a written lead that can be followed up on, or perhaps a physical visit.

To find these responders, value propositions are placed in different advertising channels that may feature things like discounted resort stay packages or lead generation offers based on a popular premium or service that may be related to a specific resort location. Value propositions can even be in the form of informational or educational content.

The importance of an honest, high-quality value proposition cannot be understated. In this age of highly-educated consumers and comparison shopping, the value proposition must be competitive, well-considered, and beneficial to the end user to maximize conversion. The key to an effective value proposition is to meet the end user's needs, wants, and intentions in such a way as to motivate the customer to seek out and/or expect communication with the marketer.

Advertising placement for permission-based lead generation can be targeted either by unambiguous explicit variables, like demographic characteristics, used to target those who fit the profile of a potential buyer, or intent, an implicit variable, which targets those who have expressed some propensity towards conversion through their actions.

Permission-based marketing can be accomplished through traditional media and face-to-face interaction as well as the internet, but the exponential growth and diversity of online marketing platforms and the relative ease with which low-cost, incremental testing can be accomplished in this space have pushed marketing budgets further and further in the direction of e-commerce.

Advertising methods such as search engine advertising and affiliate marketing are fantastic for targeting implicit user intent, while outlets such as social media or traditional magazine advertising provide an increasingly enhanced ability to target by demographic characteristics.

An example of targeting by intent would be to advertise on a location-specific travel site. There is a high degree of likelihood that a person visiting a website offering travel to Mexico is interested in traveling to Mexico. By having visited this site, the user has expressed intent. If we can produce and present to the customer a value proposition or information that matches his intentions, the opportunity to open a voluntary line of communication with that customer can be created.

With demographic targeting, likely customers are targeted based on identifiable characteristics. A value proposition is still used to convert them to a permission-based lead, but the method by which the customer is sought out is different, relying on characteristics such as age, income, or physical location, rather than customer intent. The value proposition and messaging usually varies to best match each customer segment.

An example of demographic lead targeting would be to use social media advertising tools to advertise to a customer segment that is known to be high-converting. For instance, if married women aged 35-44 from Arizona happen to be a company's highest converting customers, ads can be placed on a social media outlet, like Facebook, that can laser-target advertising to that particular demographic. Traditional advertising methods, such as print, radio, and television, also generally fall under this category of targeting.

By nature, demographically-targeted leads are generally harder to convert in the travel industry than intent-based, as the latter has usually already made the decision to travel. This decision/ lack of objection makes a big difference when it comes to eventual conversion rates and costs, though both methods are important to a healthy marketing mix.

"Customer-initiated" marketing methodology is also having noticeable impact in the face- to-face marketing world. Situations where contact is generally initiated with a previously uninterested customer by an agent of the company, either in an on-site lead generation or an OPC atmosphere, are producing declining sales efficiencies in many cases and are running into legal trouble in many locations.

These traditional methods of in-person contact are giving way to information kiosks, interactive electronic displays, and even unique methods, like video games, that attract customers on their own volition to be presented with the desired marketing message. This psychological difference, where the customer feels like they have chosen to initiate the interaction on their own, rather than being coerced to do so, makes a major difference in conversion and eventual sales efficiencies.

The obvious benefit of shifting marketing and lead generation spend towards permission- based marketing is that marketing risk, both legal and financial, is diminished through increased compliance, diversification of lead portfolios, and increased lead conversion, but the eventual effect on important bottom-line metrics such as retention, sales conversion, and portfolio performance is also of great significance. A customer who is educated, aware, and involved throughout the entire marketing process is the most likely to keep the product and continue payment after they purchase.

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