Tag Archives: data

"TLA engages with audiences when they're at the point of consideration, providing a wealth of information and knowledge via their content and websites, to help the consumer navigate the uncertainty and disruption within the car industry."

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and how you came to be at Performics.

I’m originally from Sweden, I grew up and went to university there. After working in Sweden for a year post-university, I decided I wanted to live abroad and try something new. I packed a bag and moved to London to try it out, 10 years later, here I am.

I joined Performics in 2016, starting out as an account manager. Now, I lead the affiliate team at Performics and look after activations, such as affiliates, influencers, and lead generation activity. That’s how I came into contact with TLA, I’ve had a relationship with them pretty much from the start.

How did you come to work with TLA?

When I first started, we had just onboarded the FCA Group as a new client. I had recently transitioned to an account director role and was overseeing a smaller team. The FCA Group fell under one of the account managers that was reporting to me, which initiated conversations with our main automotive providers, TLA being one of them.

It also helped that our previous head of team had a great working relationship with Anton, which meant I was quickly introduced to him and involved with TLA. We got along well, and I believed in the product.

What products and projects do you work on with TLA on day-to-day stuff?

Pre-Ukraine war and pre-chip shortage, and all the other fun stuff we’ve been dealing with throughout 2021 – 2022, our focus was very much on test drive activity. Essentially getting leads passed on to dealers to follow up and conduct test drives, with the ultimate aim to sell more vehicles.

Recently, there’s also been a bit of a shift relating to the challenges that the industry is facing, where test drives aren’t necessarily the main KPI that clients are looking to engage in. It’s also unlocked a lot of other challenges, whether that’s budget uncertainty, or even the reduced production of cars, which has naturally taken the industry down a path of more used versus new cars, which again can be quite challenging from a marketing perspective.

The channel is quite misunderstood, affiliate or lead generation, sometimes isn’t as appreciated as it should be, in my opinion. TLA engages with audiences when they’re at the point of consideration, providing a wealth of information and knowledge via their content and websites, to help the consumer navigate the uncertainty and disruption within the car industry. I see this playing out in a way where these types of publishers are playing a bigger role and have increased presence within clients’ media budgets, as impartial advice becomes more crucial to determine what vehicle to purchase.

10 years ago, the decision-making process was a lot simpler, where the main consideration was centred around which car to buy. Whereas in the future, there are more variables to consider – particularly as the industry shifts towards electrification and EVs. For instance, there’s a lot of range anxiety amongst consumers when considering an electric vehicle and independent third parties are better placed to help consumers navigate this, compared to manufacturers.

Is your relationship typical of a client-supplier relationship?

I would like to think that I am quite a personal individual. This is what I enjoy about affiliate marketing, it’s quite a personal media channel, where you’re not just inserting numbers into a Google or Facebook bidding platform with minimal personal input, you’re building a relationship and a partnership. This is how you unlock the biggest benefit for your clients, for yourself, and also, for the partner.

There’s very much a symbiotic relationship that takes place with the relationship at the centre of it, but I would also say that, as you engage in manners more personally, you do end up crossing paths with people that you might connect with more in other areas. That’s where I would categorise Anton and his team. They’re very open in terms of engaging their partners in different ways. I took part in the recent London to Brighton cycle, and a few years back, I took part in a charity game, where we went up to Liverpool to play at Anfield stadium.

So, I wouldn’t say typical, because they do go above and beyond in terms of creating positivity in the industry and give back, whilst creating a forum to bring people together from different walks of life and different areas within the industry to listen, but more importantly, keep strong relationships with whoever they’re working with.

Has there been a big evolution in the way you work over the past couple of years?

The pandemic and challenges experienced throughout the industry since then have changed how we operate. It’s mainly manifested in our attempt to help our clients navigate the uncertainty that we’re all experiencing, whilst realising that no one has all the answers and no crystal ball to see what the future holds. We’ve been able to come together and look at what we can see across our partners, publishers, and clients, to get a broader understanding of the market and determine how to tackle what might lay ahead. I don’t necessarily believe that our role has changed, but conversations have certainly shifted to cover larger, structural issues within the industry, rather than focusing on campaign optimisations and how to best position our clients in front of consumers.

What opportunities or challenges do you see over the next 12 months?

It’s clear that there’s a huge emphasis on EVs and a shift towards green energy. Particularly as legislation is also starting to point the industry in that direction, to the point that that’s now a given, in my opinion. Instead, I believe the challenges for the industry are more centred around tightening the macroeconomic landscape, urbanisation, and declining rates of car ownership overall. Even though consumers will still want to own a car, and will continue to do so to various degrees, dampened wage growth, in real terms, could prohibit the ability of car ownership – particularly for younger demographics. I envision this causing a move towards subscription-based services and OEMs trying to penetrate the sharing economy, causing car-sharing services to eat a larger chunk of the pie, at the expense of individual car ownership.

Urbanisation could also decrease the need for individual car ownership and cause an uplift in micro-transportation services such as e-scooters rental schemes, as consumers need to travel shorter distances and where a car would be more inconvenient than other forms of transportation. I could envision this being another shift taking place in the coming five to ten years, which will challenge the industry but also create some opportunities.

Press release: HonestJohn.co.uk and The Lead Agency form exclusive partnership

Online publisher HonestJohn.co.uk and customer acquisition specialist The Lead Agency (TLA) have formed an exclusive partnership that will allow automotive brands to reach more in-market car buyers as they research their next vehicle.

Consumers browse HonestJohn.co.uk’s range of impartial and quality reviews and guides to inform their future purchase. TLA’s custom-built, relevant and timely engagement tools will capture their interest and showcase the options available to them.

The agreement will give TLA clients access to more in-market consumers earlier in the buying funnel, while enriching the HonestJohn.co.uk visitor experience.

Research shows that 80 per cent of consumers visit a third-party website during the research phase of a purchase, with 65 per cent using them to start their journey. HonestJohn.co.uk fits that category as one UK’s most popular websites for car buyers and enthusiasts, and winner of the Newspress Website of the Year accolade for an unprecedented three consecutive years (2016, 2017 and 2018).

TLA, meanwhile, has 18 years’ experience in the automotive sector, connecting audiences with brands such as BMW, VW Group, Ford and Mercedes-Benz to provide a source of incremental sales. Its blockchain based, GDPR-compliant tech platform and FCA permissions allow the business to simplify and accelerate a consumer’s car buying journey.

‘Exciting partnership’

HonestJohn.co.uk’s Managing Editor Dan Powell said: “TLA’s industry experience and specialist tools complement our existing content to enrich the visitor experience and help consumers make the most informed decision when it comes to choosing their next car. This exciting partnership will bring significant benefits to HonestJohn.co.uk’s visitors as well as TLA and its clients.”

TLA CEO Anton Hanley added: “We’re proud to have formed this partnership with HonestJohn.co.uk. Its website is a trusted source of high-quality information for car buyers and enthusiasts throughout the country. Combining their excellent content and extensive audience with our technology and processes will allow us to create even more quality opportunities for our clients to connect with hard-to-reach consumers and increase sales.”

As part of the partnership, TLA will take responsibility for lead generation from HonestJohn.co.uk’s social channels, representing an opportunity to combine a powerful consumer-focused brand with engagement, validation and qualification technology.

For more information, contact the team.

Five minutes with… TLA Head of Quality and Compliance Kathy Fleming

Following on from our Celebrating Women in Tech and Marketing round-table, we sat down with head of quality and compliance Kathy Fleming for a quick-fire Q&A session.

What’s your role and the role of your department at TLA?

Head of Quality & Compliance (including responsibility as the Data Protection Officer). The department is responsible for call monitoring and coaching. I have overall responsibility for FCA Compliance and one of the leads for the ISO27001 certification.

What do you believe has been the most important change to this industry over the last 5 years and why?

The new data protection law has undoubtedly had an impact on how consumer data is handled. Working with high profile clients puts us in a position of trust and it’s our responsibility to demonstrate our commitment to GDPR compliance. We must be able to demonstrate transparency and integrity in what we do, putting customers information rights at the heart of the service we are providing.

What changes do you think we’ll see in the next 5 years and what long-term impact will they have?

Better use of intelligent data (tracking data) which will help inform us and provide insights into consumer behaviour. Whilst this data will be valuable, there are certainly some compliance considerations that must be at the forefront of this activity.

What excites you most about the industry?

The development of systems to enhance what we already do – in particular the way in which TLA can evolve to become more diverse.

What aspect of your work or profession are you particularly passionate about?

Making sure that we operate with integrity in all of our interactions with customers – a DPO should act as the conscience of the organisation.

Where do you go for inspiration or to learn?

I attend a quarterly data protection networking meetings which is a great forum for sharing good practice with people in similar roles across different sectors.

Which entrepreneurs do you admire and why?

Our CEO Anton Hanley – because of his passion and tenacity.

What advice can you offer the next generation of women considering their future career?

Believe in yourself, have confidence in your ability and use every opportunity to improve and gain experience.

If you’ve got a question for the TLA team or want to know more about what makes us tick, why not get in touch?

5 lead handling steps to conversion success: turn more third-party leads into new customer sales

A proactive approach to lead handling and lead nurturing can have a drastic impact on lead-to-sale conversions, removing frustration and maximising your commercial performance.

Last month, we won Best Lead Generation Campaign alongside clients Mindshare, GTB and Ford at the Performance Marketing Awards. Drawing upon the success of that campaign and our 17-year heritage in the industry, we’ve compiled five steps that can help you and your sales to get the most out of the leads you buy – whether it’s from TLA or another third-party company.

1. Provide context

Not all leads are generated equally. If you’re working with a reputable lead generation partner that goes to great lengths to ensure quality, communicating how these leads are different to the sales staff that receive them can have a huge impact.

By providing the context behind the lead – where it originated from, how it has been qualified, what information the consumer provided, what opt-in procedures were used and more – sales staff understand the quality of the opportunity they have. That ultimately means they can dedicate the appropriate time and energy towards engaging the consumer and converting the sale.

There are a number of ways this communication can be done, from presentations to brochures to videos. It will be down to you and your lead generation partner to discuss and agree on what works for you and the sales teams you need to engage.

2. Be quick

Leads cool quickly. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that qualification rates drop by as much as 400% when consumers are contacted after 10 minutes of submitting an enquiry compared to 5 minutes. Now imagine if they haven’t been contacted for more than 24 hours. The impact of response time on conversions cannot be underestimated.

Our in-house team contacts consumers who have made an enquiry as soon as they’re received. If they are qualified as a lead and distributed to your CRM, we recommend that they are contacted at the earliest possible moment to ensure the lead stays hot.

3. Be persistent

The same Harvard study also concluded that by attempting to contact a consumer six times, contact rates increase by 70%. A qualified lead puts your sales teams in the driving seat to engage and convert a new customer. By allowing a lead to spoil, your sales teams could effectively be handing over the impetus to a competitor.

A qualified lead for us is someone who has arrived by way of an inbound enquiry and has double opted in to be contacted by our client’s team. In short, they’re expecting the call. So, if for some reason they can’t answer straight away, be persistent and keep trying!

4. Remain adaptable

Most third-party leads are consumers who enquire as part of their research and comparison journey – a journey they remain in right up until the purchase takes place.

While they may have expressed a clear interest in one particular product or service, it’s important to acknowledge that they could still making up their mind and remain open to different options. It therefore makes sense for your sales team to do the same.

They could arrive one of your products but now want to discuss other options you provide. Or perhaps they’ve had their head turned by one of your competitors. By staying open to different possibilities, your sales teams give themselves the greatest scope for providing what they want and need. Lead nurturing doesn’t end until the sale is complete.

5. Repeat and clarify

Don’t assume that because the script used as part of the qualification process has covered the key features or benefits of your product or service that the consumer doesn’t want more before committing to a purchase.

We go to great lengths to make sure the information shared with a consumer is understood, but it never hurts for sales teams to repeat and reinforce the message when first contact is made. Likewise, there is only so much information a consumer wants to hear or is able to take in on a qualification call or via a digital qualification.Having opted in to be contacted by your sales team, that consumer is now primed for more granular detail about what you can offer that others can’t.

In our experience, following these five steps can help you and your sales teams to get more out of the leads you buy and maximise your potential for conversion. If you’d like more information on any of the above, drop us a line and we’ll arrange a follow-up call.

TLA awarded with ISO 27001 certification

We are proud to have been awarded with ISO 27001:2013 certification, the internationally-recognised Information Security Management Standard that demonstrates our commitment to the security of all stakeholder information.

ISO 27001 is a viewed globally as a benchmark for trust, reliability and integrity – something we believe is fundamental for the future of customer acquisition and lead generation.

Above all, it demonstrates that we have identified risks and put in place systemised controls to protect the business and our employees, along with our clients, partners and consumers.

TLA has always committed to working to the highest standards across all parts of the business. But over the last two years, following the announcement of GDPR, we have moved to put in place more structured processes and policies to ensure we are leading the way within the lead generation space. ISO 27001, along with our award-nominated GDPR Programme, are great examples of how we have enhanced our approach.

To receive ISO 27001 certification, we were required to pass an in-depth assessment carried out by an independent auditor (accredited by UKAS) who reviewed all types of information that are received, managed and distributed by the business.

What does ISO 27001 mean for TLA and our clients?

One of the most significant benefits of meeting ISO 27001 standards is that other organisations – such as other lead generation partners or data enrichment companies – can input their data into Platform X with complete confidence that it will be handled and processed to the highest-possible standards.

This means you can…

  • Reach more in-market consumers by receiving leads from a broader range of sources
  • Enhance quality across all lead generation activity by qualifying and enriching leads to the same exceptional standards
  • Save time and energy by using one customer acquisition platform for all your leads
  • Gain peace of mind from knowing all your leads are GDPR-compliant and managed to ISO 27001
  • Have the confidence of knowing TLA is always identifying ways to improve and enhance its services

If you’d like more information about the ISO accreditation, contact us today.

GDPR in lead generation – how TLA’s proactive approach earned industry and award recognition

A recent study found that only 20% of companies believe they are GDPR compliant, whilst 53% are in the implementation phase. When it comes to working with a lead generation partner, it’s vital that you have confidence and trust in the service you’re receiving.

At TLA, our implementation phase is complete (although we remain committed to making further enhancements on an ongoing basis). We are confident that our services are not only compliant with the new regulation but go far beyond its requirements. And, crucially, we’ve been able to give peace of mind to our clients.

Jess Douce, Jaguar Land Rover: “The Lead Agency is a trusted partner. They’re not only great to work with but they believe in doing things the right way. They provide the highest-quality GDPR compliant client portal that I have used, which helps us to send more leads to our retailers.”

Danielle Hollis, Hyundai: “The Lead Agency team are a long serving partner of Hyundai. They provide good quality GDPR compliant enquiries at scale, which means we sell more cars which helps us to achieve our targets.”

Alban Treglohan, PHD: “TLA delivers transparency, professionalism and obsessive high standards. It’s this excellent service and quality that has furthered our partnership as well as our relationship with our clients.” 

A proactive approach to GDPR

We had a great foundation to start from. We’ve always taken our responsibility to consumers seriously and adhered fully with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. This made our transition to GDPR compliance far smoother than many other businesses in our industry and beyond.

But that’s not to say GDPR didn’t represent a challenge. The new regulation is a landmark moment for all companies, let alone a data company such as ours, so it required a full and comprehensive programme to ensure we were prepared.

Our strategy was to focus on gaining an in-depth understanding of GDPR, be proactive in our approach, take decisive action wherever we could and do everything possible to give consumers and clients peace of mind.

Early activity

Two of the most important steps we took during the planning stage were the appointment of our first dedicated compliance manager; and forming a steering group that involved people from all across the business – including our CEO and CTO.

This buy-in from the very top of the business was particularly important for making GDPR a priority.And having someone dedicated to leading the programme would ensure we never lost focus of what we wanted to do.

We also mapped our current processes and services against the requirements of GDPR to identify areas that needed to be addressed and how we could take TLA to the next level.From there we created an 18-month, action-orientated GDPR programme that detailed enhancements to our policies, technologies and services.

Compliance Portal

The most significant enhancement was building a Compliance Portal – a place where clients could have access to a full and documented audit trail of every step a consumer takes from their initial enquiry through to the lead being delivered directly into their CRM.

This approach not only addressed the need for accountability – one of the new principles of GDPR – but it went far beyond those requirements by offering complete transparency for clients.

Working with clients

Another fundamental step was engaging clients throughout the process – from the planning stage through to progress made with key actions. We consulted a number of clients on the development of the Compliance Portal to make sure it met their core needs as well as adding value to the service we provide.

We also used our website, social channels and email to create content for our clients and partners that broke down some of the key features of GDPR and what actions they could or should be making in preparation.

Independent assessment

With the exception of the regulator, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), there are no official auditors for GDPR compliance. But we wanted to put our programme to the test and make sure it delivered what we wanted it to.

We invited ASE Global, a company that has provided a range of services to the automotive industry for more than 40 years, to conduct an independent GDPR Readiness Assessment.

The result was a glowing endorsement for TLA’s GDPR Programme. Here are some of the key excerpts from ASE’s report:

“There is a clear ‘top-down’ commitment to compliance which drives all associated activities. Internal focus has been on compliance. However, this has been conducted with an eye on the customer, to keep them informed and up to date in as transparent a manner as possible.”

“What’s particularly impressive is that the work undertaken by The Lead Agency goes far beyond what the new legislation requires.”

“Internally, The Lead Agency’s policies are sound, staff are appropriately trained and there is commitment to ensure compliance does not suffer over time. Externally, customers can provide their personal data to the business confident that the processing it is subject to will be compliant.”

Award nomination

This brings us to our recent news. Our GDPR programme has earned us a nomination for Data Pioneer of the Year at the inaugural UK Business Tech Awards.

This is a proud piece of recognition for the commitment we’ve shown and enhancements we’ve made to go beyond GDPR’s requirements and provide consumers and clients with peace of mind.

To maximise your sales performance with a GDPR-compliant service, contact us today.

TLA’s GDPR programme shortlisted for Data Pioneer of the Year

TLA has been named on a five-company shortlist for Data Pioneer of the Year at the inaugural UK Business Tech Awards.

UK BIZ TECH 2018The nomination is for our comprehensive GDPR programme and the steps taken to strengthen our processes ahead of the new regulations coming into effect in May.

Taking place in London on 20th November, the awards will celebrate the UK’s finest tech businesses and reward innovative and exceptional application of technology to transform and grow businesses.

While we’ve long advocated and practised a responsible approach to consumer data, our programme – led by our in-house compliance manager – focused on updates to policies, technology and services that would ensure compliance with the new regulation and offer peace of mind to clients and customers.

Earlier this year, we received an independent endorsement for our GDPR programme when automotive specialist ASE Global completed a GDPR Readiness Assessment.

In the resulting report, ASE Global’s Data Protection and Compliance Officer, Kevin Symm, said: “The right attitude is evident from the top-down at The Lead Agency. It’s clear that there is a real and determined commitment to GDPR and how it can be used to make the business better.”

Life at The Lead Agency: Meet Software Developer Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller joined The Lead Agency four years ago, whilst completing her studies at Liverpool John Moores University, before joining us full-time as a Software Developer.

Here, she gives us an insight into her time at The Lead Agency so far…

What lead you to your role here at The Lead Agency?

I first started working here during my placement year whilst I was studying Software Development. Having spent a whole year in a corporate environment, it meant that I had a great advantage going into my final year at University as I had lots of new skills and a real understanding of software development.

What sort of responsibilities are involved in your role?

I work in the platform team, so our responsibilities are mainly to do with improving and maintaining the back-end systems, such as dealing with the call centre systems, and CRM amongst many other responsibilities.

How would you describe working within the platform team?

Everyone is super helpful – if you’ve got any questions people are more than willing to help you out.

We dedicate lots of our time to making sure that things are done properly and on-time. Everything we work on is vital to the smooth-running of our business, so the pressure is on to minimise risks. There’s some late nights and early mornings to do that but there’s always someone on-hand to help you out, even from out of office!

What project(s) are you currently working on?

At this moment, I’m working on the CRM which will be used across the entire company, from field sales down in London, to campaigns, processing and the call centre. Working on the CRM system has been one of our key focal points recently as it’s the main central system that the company is looking to use.

How would you describe the culture at TLA?

Even though we are busy, there’s always a nice and relaxed atmosphere. There’s also a great social side within the company, especially when we finish on a Friday.

I get involved in the free personal training sessions every Tuesday and there’s always other fun activities going on, such as Cake Friday at the end of the month and various charity events!

Which aspects of your role, or working at TLA, in general do you love the most?

Within our team, the day-to-day work is always different – one minute we might be working on a project and then fixing bugs the next. We have so many systems that we’re constantly switching between, so it makes my role extremely varied and fun.

There’s always new technology coming out that we’re open to trying and so we’re always learning new skills. If there’s something that you specifically want to work on, our managers are always willing to help us learn and incorporate the new technology to improve our current systems.

How would you sum up your experience at TLA so far?

Really positive! I’ve learnt mostly everything I know about software development from working at The Lead Agency and made some great friends along the way too.

Would you have any advice for someone who is starting their career as a developer?

Just be open to trying new things. When I first arrived at TLA I was expecting to become a web developer, but I ended up working on different projects and embraced the challenges and opportunities that I was given, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

We’re hiring! To find out more about our career opportunities, visit our careers page.

The Age of Transparency: How consumer attitudes have changed, and why brands must do the same

From GDPR to social media, the world of information has changed. And so too have consumer attitudes, with increased awareness and interest in data protection, ethical behaviour and transparency.

GDPR, the most recent and highly-publicised change, has perforated the public consciousness as well as the business community. Consumers are now more aware and therefore more cautious over how their data is being used than ever before.

The new regulation was put in place to ensure a higher standard of consumer consent. Yet, despite the heavily publicised lead up, it was reported that 60% of EU businesses were still unprepared for GDPR when it came into effect on 25th May.

However, the shift in consumer attitudes goes far beyond GDPR compliance. Consumers now want and even expect businesses to be transparent about their intentions across the full spectrum of business activities.

Transparency, consent, authenticity and trust are central to affirming all-important long-lasting brand relationships but they remain a challenge for many organisations. A study carried out by measurement and analytics firm Integral Ad Science (IAS) revealed that 56% of senior marketing professionals cite transparency as a key concern in their advertising.

Transparency in marketing

There are many customer touchpoints throughout a consumer’s buying journey. Understanding and improving the points can enhance user and customer journey mapping. Yet, each one brings about greater risks for businesses if their intentions are unclear.

As our head of performance marketing Paul Court argues, “understanding all customer touchpoints and ensuring that compliant and transparent activity is consistently demonstrated will lead to stronger results”.

Social media is a great example with sites such as Instagram and Twitter allowing for direct contact to be made between a consumer and a company. Consumers can even go so far as connecting with company directors (if they so wish), thus demonstrating an even higher level of openness, transparency and cultural awareness.

Transparency in culture

But transparency is not a tactic to help companies attract consumers. Authenticity is key and that must ultimately come from within – a company’s core values and culture.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey, only 51% of respondents feel their values match their employer. Failure to be clear and ethical in business proceedings has a negative effect on staff, leading to decision-making that can damage the external brand image.

A company’s core values should be in harmony with not only their staff but with their consumers’ attitudes, cementing a clear and mutual understanding of honest and ethical proceedings.

Transparency in data

Considering all of this, GDPR should not be viewed as a blocker, but as an opportunity to affirm the relationship between your brand and your consumers. Transparent companies will be able to disclose the fair and ethical reasons behind their regulatory processes, building trust in the process.

Research carried out by Forbes showed that when a company uses data in a relevant way and can be trusted, the customer is more willing to share their data. Offering reassurance and providing customers with the real reasons behind information requests online will therefore nurture the brand-customer relationship.

The assistance of third-party companies in that endeavour, whether that be in lead generation or other parts of the business, must be founded upon responsible and ethical practices. Partners must be committed to putting transparency at the forefront of their business proceedings to ensure that the delicate trust between brand and consumer can be strengthened even further.

To learn more about our transparent approach, read what ASE Global had to say about our GDPR compliant leads.

Leveraging the latest tech for digital customer acquisition

The digital marketing world evolves at a fantastic rate with new concepts and ideas appearing every month from established players and start-ups.

The proliferation of software as a service (SAAS) tooling has enabled non-technical staff to quickly establish live digital campaigns and acquire customers for your business – but this only touches the surface of what is possible.

The evolution of SAAS

For, behind the scenes, the world of technical development is also changing just as rapidly. There has been a gradual split in recent years with large tech-focused corporates like IBM, Microsoft, Google et al. accelerating away from the rest of the field in terms of newer technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence etc. Smaller companies could never hope to keep up with the levels of focused resource these businesses are able to throw at such major challenges.

But do they need to? The mighty tech giants provide access to all this technology via APIs, with microservices providing specific elements ready for the developer to build with.

This is the evolution of SAAS in that rather than taking a fixed system as a service, developers can take every micro-function as a service and simply pay as they go for what they consume.

Combining the building blocks

This approach spans across a range of fields so includes future giants like Twilio who provide use of multichannel contact functionality via API.

As a developer, you can now quickly create a system that takes in a message from phone, SMS, Facebook messenger and so on, understands the semantics of that message using AI natural language processing engines and then elicits a response based upon your own business logic. Just for good measure, you could throw in calls to a machine learning service to have the system learn how to do a better job next time around!

So, developers are being provided with ever more complex building blocks and their job is to combine these in unique ways with their own business specific code to create something new. This evolution has been ongoing for many years, starting with development of reusable components then through a proliferation of more complete development frameworks, which saved ‘rebuilding the wheel’ and allowed more focus on bespoke elements.

These more recent and highly-advanced service-based components are a game changer though, providing access to highly complex functionality your average developer or dev team could never build.

Advancing targeting intelligence

These advances break down barriers and create massive opportunity for those that have development resource that can make use of them. At the Lead Agency, we are focused on just this and have a long list of R&D projects continuously running alongside the ‘business as usual’ to look at how we can adapt such advances into our world.

It is such projects that give us the edge in digital customer acquisition. They allow us to target consumers in ever more intelligent ways, ensuring we present them with the right message at the right time in their buying journey. They help us find consumers in places others might not select for targeting and then change the ways we engage with them.

It is the use and shaping of such technology that provides us with the ability to create campaigns you can’t run through ‘off-the-shelf’ marketing tools.

Evolution of customer acquisition

There are numerous examples of TLA projects run over the past 12 months that have utilised these technological advances to change the way we work.

We’ve always run our own independent websites which allow us to target and attract in-market consumers using a variety of approaches. This year saw a significant addition to our capability with the launch of our publisher performance marketing system – a tool that enables us to run our performance-based marketing campaigns on third-party publisher websites, bringing a new revenue stream to them and allowing us to increase our consumer reach.

Our technology captures page context and, using our specific vertical knowledge, converts this into product data, thereby gaining product-based page context rather than simply keyword level data. With this level of understanding we can then utilise both our own and additional datasets to understand the type of consumer we are dealing with, the competitor model set, product options and current sales trends.

We then anonymously attempt to track the consumer across website pages, building a picture of their product interest which we use to determine buying cycle stage.

For instance, in the automotive space, if a consumer is reading reviews on a range of vehicles within the same sector, we will most likely consider them to be early in the buying cycle and therefore most likely to engage with a car brochure call to action. As they progress on their journey, the range of vehicles would be expected to decrease and this information can determine when best to target them with test drives or price-based adverts.

The ultimate aim is to ensure we present a consumer with the right message at the right time, adapting the wording and approach based on the consumer, website they are visiting and product of interest.

Working across a network of mainstream publishers, we are able to reach more consumers and, combined with intelligent targeting, generate incremental consumer enquiries.  Our internal validation and qualification processes then convert the most relevant consumer enquiries into sales leads for our clients.

This system currently uses a range of API-based software products to enhance its function and we are currently setting up a project with a technology-focused University to advance the machine learning aspect within it.

Bots and further automation

Another technology we’ve invested in is automated bots; our hypothesis being that if we can engage consumers in online conversation, we believe we can do a better job of converting them into an enquiry.

It is still early days for bot technology and we’re not quite at the point of allowing free-flow conversation, but the bot approach does open up opportunities and leads us towards speech-based interaction in future. Our existing bots are powered with vehicle, pricing and dealership datasets and able to offer a range of services to our consumers using a more engaging approach. Again, these rely on AI natural language processing (NLP) services provided by the likes of Microsoft and IBM.

We also utilise third-party software services within internal and client facing systems, whether for data validation, provision of our contact centre technology or even our client facing systems that provide real-time data insights and lead audit capability – all part of our customer acquisition platform.

So, what’s next? Well, for The Lead Agency and other tech-focused businesses: fantastic opportunities to combine the latest building blocks with business specific expertise and data to create more industry leading technology. Welcome to the world of XAAS (Everything as a service)!

Written by Ed Clark, chief technology officer at The Lead Agency

Contact us to discuss how your customer acquisition campaigns can benefit from new technology.