Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Give me your data! Why data sharing is such a hot topic in the lead industry.

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Few subjects have given me more heartburn over the past year than data sharing. Not because I oppose sharing data, quite the opposite, but because my company has lots of it, probably more, useful data than any other company in the industry. Everyone, especially lead generators, want to get access to the data and they want to get it in as raw a form as possible. The heartburn comes from managing the diverse interests of my customers, my partners, the company I work for and the industry at large.


To put a little more flesh on the discussion let me explain, for those that don’t know, that I work for Leads360, the market leading software solution for managing leads. We have in our live database many millions of leads and the milestones associated with whether the lead was contacted, if it was qualified and whether it converted or not. Beyond the size of the data set what makes this data very enticing is that it comes from over one thousand lead sources and aggregates the outcomes of leads being worked by over three thousand lead buying companies. No other data set of its kind is as comprehensive. The other thing that you should know is that contractually my company has the right, to share the dataset I mention in aggregate form for commercial purposes.


The dilemma for our company has been several fold. First, who should we share the data with? Leads360’s first duty is to our customers, and so one thing that Leads360 is crystal clear on is that we won’t share customers data, even at a depersonalized level without the data owner’s permission. Beyond that, Leads360 wants to play a role that ensures that our customers continue to be more successful than any lead buyer out there not using our system. To this extent we have a duty to continue to deliver market-leading analytical tools to our client base. However, lead providers are very important partners to Leads360 and they can make very immediate use of any data we could share with them. That being said, if we give data to lead providers will they figure out which leads they can charge our customers more money for or will they use the data to improve the quality of their leads thus benefiting our customers?


Another question we have struggled with is that if we do share data how much should we charge? Leads360 spent thousands of man-hours last year cleaning the data in order to make sure, for example, that one company’s definition of qualification was the same as another’s.  It would be commercially na├»ve not to recoup and profit from that investment in one form or another.


So we have wrestled with all these questions and I think we have a very well thought through strategy for data sharing. Unfortunately, I can’t share every detail yet. What I can say is that Leads360 continues to focus on the needs of our customers. We will bring to market products that simply can’t be replicated by anyone else that continue to make using our product a practical necessity for lead buyers. Beyond that we do want to help lead providers do two things; first we want to provide sufficient data to enable lead providers to coach our clients on how to be more successful with their leads, that is important and helps our customer, our partner and us so it’s a no-brainer. Second, we want to provide our closest partners with the ability to be self-analytical enough to drive towards a better product. That way we ensure that we continue to remain close with the best lead providers and they continue to have an edge by being close and exclusive with us. I am quite excited because over the next few weeks there will be announcements that are much more specific about what we are doing with data. I think it will begin to transform the industry.

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