Planning for a winter 'lead gen' slow down

Alain Desmier, managing director at Contact State, explains why lead generation buyers need a clear plan of action to mitigate a market slow down as the year ends.

The article was first published by Cover Magazine, here

Market turbulence caused by the pandemic has produced an unexpected and unpredictable year for protection lead generation and for telephone-based life insurance firms that rely on online leads, with marketing firms experiencing Covid-19 influenced ‘boom and bust' levels of consumer interest.

If you work with lead generation firms to acquire new customers, now is the moment to stop and think about your longer-term strategy: What are you trying to achieve with your lead generation budget?  How can you manage your resources and capacity to succeed in 2022? There are challenges ahead for lead buyers in 2022, but there are also many opportunities.

Working with lead buyers and sellers, Contact State tracks advertising, regulatory and consumer trends so that we're able to guide both sides of the market. Focusing on the protection industry, we confidently predict a return to the calendar ‘business as usual', protection advertising cycle. This means the lead market is about to slow down.

The annual lead generation slowdown, which starts in the week of Black Friday (today) and continues through to Boxing Day, comes on the back of an already tight customer acquisition environment,  with a shortage of leads over the last six months.

So, what is going on?

The three factors that have caused a ‘shortage' of life insurance leads:

  1. Consumer interest was artificially heightened during lockdown; some lead generators generated higher volumes of leads than their adverts and creativity deserved. The reality is the same number of consumers have sought life insurance products online in 2021 as previous years, just over shorter bursts. This effect favoured larger firms that were able to deal with unpredictable influxes of volume.
  2. A tightening regulatory environment is affecting lead flow, price point and lead production. On top of growing FCA pressure on Google, the ASA's ruling on native led ‘benefit' life insurance advertising[1] is squeezing the market. The tightening of regulation will be beneficial over the longer term but as with so much regulatory intervention, it's happening 6-12 months too late. Firms that relied on ‘native' lead generation adverts are flooding the market looking for alternatives and putting additional pressure on lead supply.
  3. At least two large lead producers have become life distributors during Covid-19, which has removed existing lead supply from the market. Many lead generators have tried and failed to do this in the past, learning painfully that being good at generating leads does not equate to managing cancellations. However, this time these specific lead generation sites are becoming established brands backed by product providers and there is permanent realignment going on.

Planning your lead budget for the winter and 2022

With fewer leads available over the next few weeks due to seasonal and industry factors, intermediaries that rely on leads to power their business will have to make decisions about where they place their budget and how they use levels of staffing and resources.

There are some key things that all firms can do now that will make for a successful new year:

Focus on outcome rather than lead volume - It's absolutely vital to make a plan now that factors in a declining pre-Christmas contact rate and level of customer intent and engagement. From Monday 22nd November onwards, customer interest in life insurance will decrease, week on week. Consumers won't stop filling in forms, they'll just stop making purchasing decisions. Don't throw good marketing budget away just to get ‘lead volume' in.

Build a solid plan with your lead partners - Lead generators also hate December. Their own media costs go up, they come under increasing pressure from lead buyers to deliver volume and they know they will get blamed for ‘poor lead performance'. Get ahead of this discussion by focusing on plans for January and lock in levels of supply for the year ahead. Buying a guaranteed 10 more leads per day in January will be a lot more profitable than doing the same in December.

Focus on enrichment, staff training and company strategy - What else could you be doing in December? Some of the most successful financial lead buying firms use December as a chance to revisit previous customer enquiries and focus on staff development. It's also a great chance also to think strategically about planning lead generation budgets and holiday planning. Life Insurance customer intention is artificially higher between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve.  Does it make sense to close before Christmas and open during this period?

The most important investment a lead buyer can make in December is to think strategically about the coming year. Lock in lead providers that work well, arrange trials with firms whose quality and marketing you can certify and look for niche advantages over your competitors.

For example, customer intention is always very high on Saturday mornings in January;  swapping Friday budget for Saturday budget can often result in a much higher income per lead.

Thinking about your lead budget as a quarterly budget, rather than trying to squeeze the same exact lead volume into each month will result in a much happier Christmas and prosperous new year.

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