You've probably heard that joke before, right? People comparing lead gen to the Wild West? Chaos, lawlessness? Sure, it's a joke, but where does it come from? Why does that perception exist? Is it fair? We try and answer these questions now:
This article is adapted from latest episode of the B2C Lead Generation Podcast. Be sure to check out the full monty! - Links at the bottom of the page.
Where does this idea of lead gen being like the wild west actually come from?
The perception of lead gen being like the wild west is fundamentally driven by leads - or data - being an intangible product. You can’t touch it. You can’t feel it. You can’t hold it in your hands. Oftentimes it’s almost as if you don’t know if it’s good or bad until after the fact. You’ve tried to market to it and you realise you’ve been screwed over.
These are all aspects which drive the perception. There is a tendency to think of data as names and numbers on a list, so to make sense of that can be quite difficult. A lack of control and confidence naturally follows on from this. And from there comes the idea you can be easily screwed over because you’re dealing with something intangible.
So, is there any truth in it?
Unfortunately there is truth in it. Of course it isn’t true that everyone in lead gen is like that! But there is some truth that stems from a few key factors:
1 - There is an extremely low barrier to entry when it comes to lead generation. Anyone can knock up a landing page in a certain vertical and drive traffic there.
2 - For the middlemen - agencies or brokers - it is incredibly easy to buy data. You then don’t need to even generate it. You just have to find a seller and a buyer and move it on.
So, the individuals that act in an untoward way and ultimately create this perception are able to enter the space fairly easily.
It’s also worth pointing out here that it can work the other way around. Lead buyers can screw good lead generators over. You see it occur when big orders are made and upon delivery the lead buyer’s company folds or disappears.
All these things, in their entirety, do drive this perception of a lawless and chaotic space like the wild west. So yes, there is truth. But as in any industry there are both good and bad people.
We often hear lead gen referred to as the wild west in the past tense. Are things changing?
You can absolutely pinpoint a shift with GDPR. A lot or brands, especially, that are serious about the leads they are buying are carrying out due diligence and are ensuring they remain on the right side of the ICO.
GDPR stopped a few of the bad actors in their tracks. It’s ended a few of the suspicious practices that they used to carry out.
Things are changing. People are more aware of the differences between consent and intent. The bad actors are being routed out and stopped in their tracks. But that is not to say it doesn’t still happen! If anything it has given rise to more sophisticated types of fraud.
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