Monday, August 14, 2017

The Truth about Lead Programs

This morning, I was thinking about the many jobs I had in the past.  As I was remembering each position at these companies, one position, rather two struck me and made me wonder why I did ever decide to accept these positions.
Photo by P.Lynne Designs
 As you see by the title, one of the positions was a sales rep for a lead company, and if you never had a chance (and I hope you never do) work for one, it is an interesting experience, to say the least.  
To protect the innocent employees of the company, I will call my former employer, New Leads for Me.  Like I said, New Leads for Me works pretty much like that other company, Welcome Wagon, in which businesses get leads based on new residents and homeowners.  These are not people who move into an apartment complex, but people who have bought a home.  Companies like New Leads and Welcome Wagon, bank on the idea that new residents do not know the area, and they will need some type of service (carpet cleaning, hair salon, etc.…) The businesses, introduce themselves to these new residents before they start calling around looking for services.  
So, if you have recently moved, and you get a welcome to the neighborhood package of some sort, chances are that the business card you are holding used a company like “New Leads for Me”, and you may get a phone call about their services.

My day to day work schedule….

This was my last job before working for a Temporary Worker company, then Archiver’s, a Memory Store (which the online store shut down in March 2017), but in my head, I can still hear the motivator (I guess that what he called himself) as he bellows out the words, “GOOD MORNING, NEW LEADS”.   (at which I and the other employees are to clap and cheer that we were happy to be here).  This guy makes the announcements, sets a goal for the newbies, and tells everyone to have a great selling day.
Next, if you are a being trained, you go to your training room, everyone else goes to their cubbies. You put on your headset and start calling.  There is a regular customer service area, as well as a quality assurance area.  Customer service is for people who are having problems with their accounts, while Quality Assurance made sure everyone from the two departments was in compliance with the company and national government policies.  As you can tell by now, I was on the sales floor.  I do not want to bore you with the other day to day operations, except to say, when you are cold calling a company, and you get a sale, they celebrate it, and you get your commission in your next two-week check.
I hated it, and I was plotting to get away from New Leads, but they beat me to it.  I got home one day, after a long day of work, received a phone call from my supervisor, Stephanie, and she thanked me for being part of the team.  After she told me what was going on with my employment, I let her have it, with all the anger I had in me about this company, and what I hated about the position I was about to lose anyway.  Forget about the good reference I should get from her.  This is how you do not get your next position with a new company.  I do not recommend it.
I also do not recommend working for this type of company.  This leads to my title, but first, you may be wondering why I am talking about it now in 2017, instead of 2002 when I was let go?  First, blogging was not really a thing back then. Second, writing was not my thing back in 2002.  I was a happy person looking for her next 9-5 job.  Last, I was finishing my marketing degree at Franklin University, which I graduated from in 2003.

What are lead programs are to the customer?

I explained briefly what is a lead program.  My example is this: You are a new company looking for customers.  I will use my businesses, P. Lynne Designs, and Longaberger as an example. (Because I have shortcuts in MS. Word to type the company names faster and I will not get complaints if I use another company, LOL)
I may not need a lead program like New Leads for neither company.  Longaberger has a lead program for consultants if they need new customers, and since New Leads only provide leads from new residents and P. Lynne Designs is looking for brides (although I will accept anyone), it may not be the service for me.  Let just say for now that I need them.
(c) 2017 P.Lynne Designs
First, I am on their calling list.  There is a website for people to use.  There is an 800 number for companies to call, and you cannot apply on the website.  By the way, they have moved from their former location and is now called New Leads Communications, but they pride themselves of cold calling your company. I will concentrate on the cold calling aspect of the sales floor.
They will ask for the owner or CEO of the company, and the rep introduces themselves and who they represent.  At this point, I can turn them down, but I need leads (customers), so I continue with the call.  The rep asks what does my company do, and I explain that Longaberger sells home goods of baskets and pottery to people who like to organize and entertain, and P. Lynne Designs sells stationery goods like invitations, note cards, scrapbooks, and freelance writing.  At this point, the rep (who is now Mandy), asks what areas of the country would I like to concentrate on to get my new customers.  I would tell her something in the Columbus, Ohio 43215 area.  This is downtown, and I can attract residents as well as other business who may be looking to collaborate with me and bring customers over to my businesses, and I would do the same for them.
Mandy goes into the database of new residents and pull several names and gives me a quote.  At the time when I was a customer (which was for 6 months), I was quoted a price of $7.50 per month, which is not bad if you have the budget for it, but some lead name list can grow to as much as $200 or more.  This is the first thing you need to watch for because it can add up quickly, especially if you are starting out in a business of any kind. 
What can you do with leads?

Some ideas for leads:

·         New campaigns
·         Mailing list
·         Offer coupons and other discounts for a first order
·         Recruiting for a new team* (*Longaberger and other Direct Selling companies), although it is not recommended that you use the leads list for that purpose by any reparable direct selling company, your products should speak for themselves at your parties and through your hostess and your presentations.
·         Wedding, baby, and new home registries.
·         When a customer only wants one type of product in your line.  This is mostly for businesses who have collections.  The customer does not have to be on your main list, but a more specialized list.  For instance, I have a customer on my Longaberger mailing list who only buys the baskets.  She does not want to know about the pottery or even anything from my other business.  She loves the Horizon of Hope Collection specifically.  So, when a new piece comes up, I let her know about it.

Why am I against lead companies?

I am not totally against lead companies.  They can be quite helpful if you are willing to pay a one-time fee for it.  Most companies like New Leads, however, do not want a one-time commitment.  I am letting you know now, but there is a way to do this without paying the monthly fees.   It is called “try it before you commit to it”.  This is not getting out of paying for the list.  I do not condone that move at all.  You pay for the one list, but before your next list comes, and it will say it on the invoice when the next shipment of names is coming, at least it should, you cancel the account.  You need to do a little research, like reading the website first.  There may be some hidden costs behind getting your first list.  You may have to commit to the first 4 lists, for example, before canceling the contract.  If you are not willing to pay those costs, do not call, and do not buy when prompt. I am letting you know up front that this may happen.  These companies already know what might happen, and they may talk you out of canceling. Be firm and give the reason, that it is not working out for you.

There is a total out for lead companies….

Put a contact list on your website or blog if you have one.   It is as simple as “If you find my information helpful, and you would like to know more, feel free to sign-up for my mailing list.  I will send you a newsletter and other goodies to your inbox”.

Tip-feel free to use that wording too. 

I use MailChimp for this, but there are many services out there for you to collect names. You can also use MS. Excel or MS. Access for this task as well.  Keep in mind of the last two, unless you are a programmer, they will not automatically send out the materials, however, you can still start out in these programs (and others like them), and when you are able to include an online program like MailChimp in your budget, you can download your current mailing list into MailChimp without having to reenter every name in manually. 

Tip:  When I set up my mailing list for the first time, I used the wording, “I dislike spam as much as you do.  I will not send your name to any third-party companies.”  This assures the new customer that you will not be sending your mailing lists to anyone, and their name and information are secure in your database.

What does that mean for writers….
Many of the tips work perfectly for you, especially if you have a freelance business, and write and publish books.  It works for bloggers as well, especially if you want repeat customers.

Takeaway for you:  I am not totally against these companies, but you do have to watch them.  Many of these companies can and have been scam companies whose sole purpose is to collect and sell information.  Read all information on any company especially if that company is exclusively online.  Check consumer reports, reviews, everything before committing to a lead company.  Create your own mailing lists.  If you do not have the time, hire someone to do it for you (a senior, teen, or virtual assistant).  They can also maintain it for you as well. This post is for anyone who reads it, and I am no expert on the subject.  I am a person who had a couple of experiences with these companies, both as an employee and a customer.  If you must hire a lead company (and that is what you are doing when you receive leads each month), take it slow and find a way out if it is not working out for you.