Since the dawn of eCommerce, there have been companies that have made it their business to generate leads to be purchased by other companies. It was a great model because the companies that sold products or services didn’t always have good websites that could get the visibility they needed. It was easier to buy leads than to generate a powerful web presence.
Today, most companies that rely on the internet at all have taken steps to create a better presence online. They use search marketing, social media marketing, and better websites that allow them to generate leads for themselves. Now, they’re often faced with competing with the very companies that once sold them leads (and in some cases, that still sell them leads today). That’s not to say that the lead-selling companies are obsolete, but do they need to rethink their business models for the sake of consumers?
A perfect example occurs in the automotive industry. Many of the third-party sites take inventory from car dealers, draw traffic to these inventory listings, and then try to capture lead information to sell to the dealers, the manufacturers, and even other lead providers. It once made perfect sense. Today, it adds a step to the process that may be unnecessary.
Traffic-generation company LotLinx takes a different approach. Rather than selling leads to dealers generated from third-party websites like AOL Autos, they drive visitors from these sites directly to the dealerships that have the inventory. When someone does a search and clicks on the listing, they go to the details page for the vehicle itself located on the dealer’s website. This “deeplinking” takes the visitor out of the lead-selling cycle and isolates them on the page that they would actually like to see.
For dealers, it’s a matter of protection. There are times when their inventory can generate a lead that is sold to other companies. This open marketplace model is often justified by saying that people should have more choices, but the thinking is flawed. The reality is that consumers who find a vehicle they want would rather be contacted by the dealership that has that vehicle rather than having their information sold to other companies that may or may not have the same vehicle. This makes it a better experience for the consumer and protects the dealership from missing out on sales that most would agree should have gone to them in the first place.
Perhaps the most important component is the transparency. In the direct-linking model, consumers can know that their information is only going to the entity that they’re requesting to contact. It may be up to the consumer to protect their information and carefully read the terms of service on these websites, but that doesn’t mean that they will. With companies like LotLinx, they’re getting what they expect without having their information sold to companies because of a legal loophole.
As internet technology continues to evolve, the need for third-party sites will likely continue. However, they should consider shifting to a better model that takes the middlemen out of the equation.
“Linking” image courtesy of Shutterstock.