Advertiser Was Even Encouraging Us To Do Just That

When I started in the advertising business about 25 years ago, industrial advertising agencies (as we were referred to then) were very concerned with generating large numbers of leads for our clients.The star of the lead generating system was and still is the Reader Service Card.

When a person wanted more information about a product he had seen advertised, he simply circled the “reader service number” (included at the bottom of the ad) on the Reader Service Card (or Bingo Card as it has been called) in the back of the publication.Once the leads were “processed” by a third party lead processing house, the now luke warm leads were sent back to the advertiser who, in turn, finally mailed the now ice cold information to the person who had inquired weeks ago.


Despite this imperfect system, it was “the way business was done” for many years. For many sales managers, their bonuses or sometimes even salaries were dependent upon the size of the stack of leads developed each month or year.

Early in the 90’s, a strange thing happened. Reader Service Lead numbers started dropping at an alarming rate. The reason? Now, in addition to the fax and the 800 # which had become common place, we had all entered cyberspace with the ability to e-mail for information or – best yet – check a company’s web site almost anonymously to learn more about the advertised product. In fact, the

The magazines, many of whom sold space on the merits of their lead numbers, were very reluctant to quit the Reader Service game, so they introduced a new lead system to invigorate their wilting lead numbers.

This new device was the “general” lead or “category” lead. Whereas before, the only leads an advertiser would receive were from respondents who actually requested information on his product, these new “general” leads were garnered from anybody who had an interest in the general category that included the advertiser’s product. If an advertiser manufactured a conveyor system, the general lead category might be “material handling products.”

This broad category would provide great numbers of leads and all of a sudden, the magazine was once again able to boast about their great lead numbers. The fact that most of the leads came from the general leads was the industry’s little secret. In some cases, the “actual” leads and the “general” leads were barely distinguishable from each other.

There are many ways to count and weigh leads. Find out next month whether you are counting the right leads.
Watch next month for Part 2 of this series,
“Are You Sure You Are Counting The Right Leads?”

Last month, I discussed the onset of the “general” or “category” lead instituted by trade publications several years ago to beef up their lead numbers. Since this is Part II of that column, I recommend that you read Part I before starting Part II.

The only sure way to guarantee that the leads you receive are from your own ad or news release is to check the circle number under the ad or release that appeared in the publication. If the leads that you receive are tied to that circle number, they are the actual leads you generated from your ad or news release.

If, however, the circle number on your lead does not match, you have probably received a “category” lead. I don’t believe that you should completely ignore category leads. After all, they were checked off by people who did have an interest in the general category in which your product or service falls.

Nevertheless, I do not believe that you should respond to these leads in the same manner that you would for a lead from your own ad or release. Send a cover letter that outlines the specifics of your product line and include a simple business reply card addressed back to your company that allows the recipient to request specific literature.

That way, you will only be sending your expensive full color literature to people who have a legitimate interest in your products–not just the kind of products you manufacture.

Don’t forget–phone call leads are far hotter than reader service card leads.A phone call inquirer is ready to deal now or he/she would not subject himself/herself to the questions of a salesperson. A McGraw-Hill study several years ago indicated that you could place 10 times the importance on a phone call lead as opposed to a “bingo” lead.

Finally, the place where you may be receiving the lion’s share of your leads today is your web site. You are (or should be) directing people to your site in all of your ads, on your literature and direct mail and even your business card. Prospects can window shop anonymously and then contact you as an educated consumer.

Make sure you or your hosting company offer a web tracking service so you can have some idea who is “looking in your web window.” You may not be able to tie it to a specific name but you will be able to track the activity level on your web site and determine from where people are linking to your site.

Whatever you do, do not underestimate the importance of phone call and web leads. These are the future of lead generation.

Business Marketing