By Shahnaz Mahmud.
Marketing compliance can be difficult to master in today’s digital environment. There’s a perceived lack of transparency within the lead generation space that is otherwise marked by vigorous regulation. Where this leaves lead gen remains an open question as a call for tighter controls pushes into a landscape that is ever-evolving. Of late, it’s the misleading practices within the industry that have been put into the spotlight, attracting the attention of federal and state consumer protection regulators.
Many of these issues will be discussed at the upcoming LeadsCon Las Vegas Conference in mid-March at a panel called “Navigating Consumer Protection, Complaints and Regulatory Oversight.”
Last July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) blogged about a petition filed by a lead generator, SellingSource, requesting to set aside the civil investigative demand (CID) it had been slapped with, or at least to have it modified. The company argued its necessity because it is neither a “service provider” nor “covered person.” SellingSource also argues against being called a “covered person” because it does not offer or provide a “financial product or service” as defined in Dodd-Frank, among other reasonings.
Further, the petition expressed that lead generators are more akin to advertising agencies, public relations firms, marketing consultants and others of that ilk and have nothing to do with “core financial services functions.”
The petition was subsequently denied, due in part to the petitioner’s failure to understand the role of the Bureau, and stipulated as such in the decision.
Confusion in the Industry
This highlights some of the confusion taking place within the industry. But strides are being made to untangle the gray areas. In July, the Federal Trade Commission held a workshop in Washington D.C., “Follow the Lead: An FTC Workshop About Online Lead Generation,” which included industry representatives, consumer advocates and government regulators. The gathering focused on consumer protection issues raised by lead generation industry practices, such as what types of conduct may be unlawful under the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices.
The problem for consumers is the dupe factor, as expressed time and again in the press. What does that mean for the lead generation industry?
What Lead Gen Can Do
Now more than ever, working with a trusted partner is critical – that goes both ways. As Silicon Valley-based Chief Marketing Officer Karen Hayward outlined in a blog post for Chief Outsiders, she says lead generators align their sales goals with the company they are working with.
“You won’t achieve the desired results if the sales team isn’t onboard with the approach, process and lead definition,” she says in the post. “Developing a shared vision and buy-in to the program from sales leadership is critical. This way, when a lead is sent from marketing to sales, it is treated with professionalism, a tremendous sense of urgency, perseverance and appreciation. Gaining buy-in with the sales organization on lead attribute definitions is crucial – even if it means fewer but better-qualified leads.”
And reporting remains uber-important. Hayward indicates lead generators might be well-served to supply their client with a “synopsis of all conversations, whether they resulted in a qualified lead or not – they are a tremendous source of market insight as well as potential coaching on objection handling for the team,” she says.
Managing the partnership on both sides can only bode for success in working together, she also advises.
Speaking of partnerships, you may see more formal alliances being created to cater to the growing regulatory environment. Last March, PerformLine and LeadiD partnered to offer their clients a solution intended to ensure that their marketing programs are highly transparent and compliant with regulation.
“With the stakes so high in today’s regulatory environment, managing marketing compliance risk has become a business-critical priority,” said Ross Shanken, LeadiD CEO, in a press release. “Linking PerformLine and LeadiD creates a more holistic, powerful combination for brand marketing, brand guidelines and federal regulations compliance at a lead level.”
“Compliance and lead verification are critical tools for marketers looking to control the many threats that can tarnish their brands, distract management and ultimately harm their bottom line,” stated Alex Baydin, CEO and Founder of PerformLine in the release. “Both PerformLine and LeadiD have led the industry in the common goal of greater transparency and accountability. With this partnership, marketers will now benefit from this end-to-end, proactive approach.” Baydin will be speaking at LeadsCon Las Vegas as part of the panel addressing “Navigating Consumer Protection, Complaints and Regulatory Oversight.”
Click here to register for LeadsCon Las Vegas 2016.