Unlocking the Secrets of Co-Reg

Back in the day, co-registration was just that – when Internet users signed up for a mailing list or bought a product, they were given the opportunity to also register with companies that shared some degree of affinity with the original site. Hence, co-reg.

And, back in the day, it was a pretty effective tool for marketers to acquire new customers to their lists. E-mail address quality was very good, often additional data (e.g. name, address, gender) were appended, and the consumers’ interests aligned directly to the site with which the marketer was partnering.

Then things began to change. Media technology companies reinvented co-reg. What was a pretty informal way for like companies to partner with each other became a huge and mostly misunderstood channel for acquiring massive quantities of leads. You’ve all seen the ads – and probably didn’t even know what was behind the click. Tempted by offers to win a free iPod? A Red Lobster gift card? A plasma TV? These offers are heavily funded by powerful co-reg platforms. Users navigate through several of pages of free offers (co-reg) before getting to sponsored offers where they have to pull out their credit cards and purchase.

Not all co-registration is packaged within these incentive-based promotions – Q Interactive and Aptimus are two advertising platforms that are not as promotionally focused, but much of the lead volume originates with these offers.

Despite the promotional orientation, co-registration (increasingly referred to now as “lead generation”) can be a powerful and profitable channel for building your e-mail marketing lists. Hundreds of top advertisers are proving just how productive it can be by shifting even more of their acquisition dollars this way.

The key, as with any acquisition channel, is to know and manage the keys to success before blowing your entire interactive budget.

Follow-up. Converting a lead is up to you. Whether selling a product or service or attaining double opt-in e-mail permission, a lead is just a lead. Your success depends on your ability to reiterate your offer effectively and generate response.

Real-time technologies. Lead conversion is highly tied to your ability to effectively market the consumer directly. Without immediate response to your leads, you dramatically decrease the likelihood of conversion. With that caveat, if you are not able to interact with co-reg partners with a real-time API and e-mail engine, think long and hard before investing in co-reg.

Pricing. Co-reg pricing is notoriously elusive – by design. Most platforms display ads based on two factors: price per lead generated and take rate. Like Google, they want to balance user relevance with revenue, so even if you are willing to pay significantly more for a lead, if no one is willing to opt in to your offer, you will find yourself falling off the top or even the page. Solution – ask around, particularly with experienced buyers to get a sense of current rates for similar products. And, be willing to drop your offer in order to measure the impact of fewer leads.

Lead quantity. There is no better channel for receiving thousands of leads per day than co-reg. Co-reg providers are among the largest media buyers on the internet and interact with hundreds of thousands of users per day. But how can you best tap into that potential? Testing your offer – typically a small graphic and 30 or so characters of text – can have dramatic effect on volume.

Lead quality. Unfortunately, you have limited ability to determine where your ad is placed and who sees it. Be sure however to build into your pricing non-payment for names already in your database and for undeliverable names. Not surprising, people will put nonsense names into incentive offers just to see what’s behind the curtain. You are already taking a risk by e-mailing them back, don’t add to the pain by paying for the lead.

Another approach increasingly being offered is a lightly qualified lead product. With this product, a user is asked to complete two or three questions that you specify before the lead is sent along. So if you only want women of a certain demographic or even with a specific willingness to purchase, then it’s worth testing this approach. The cost per lead will be dramatically higher (based on the narrowness of your criteria), but your ultimate cost per acquisition may be lower in the long run.

Performance measurement. Don’t guess at what you are ultimately getting. The price per lead may be very straight forward, but the price to your business is far more complex. At a minimum know the fully-loaded cost per acquisition, i.e. the conversion rate applied to the cost per lead. As an end goal, be able to project a lifetime value based on 30 days of interaction – the channel is notorious for huge variances in long-term performance. In between, be able to tie other performance indicators to different lead sources, e.g., unsubscribe rates, e-mail response rates, site log-on and visitation.

When it comes to volume, there is no stronger channel than co-registration. Many marketers have shown how productive it can be, but others have failed to make it work. By focusing on these keys to success, you’ll significantly increase your odds of success.

David Rosen is senior vice president of Loyalty Lab (www.loyaltylab.com), a San Francisco-based developer of customer loyalty programs for the retail industry.

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