Monday, September 19, 2011

DIGITAL NEWS: Pre-Event Panelist Interview With Bob Girolamo

CIMA will be hosting an educational event, “Take Your Online Lead Generation to The Next Level,” this Thursday at the Merchandise Mart’s Holiday Inn (If you’ve yet to register, do it here).    There, you’ll be joining a panel of industry experts, including CoolSavings’ General Manager & Q Interactive’s Media Group SVP, Bob Girolamo.

In anticipation of the big day, we decided to get some conversations brewing with each of our panelists, starting with Bob Girolamo.  Bob, an expert and seasoned lead-gen veteran with over 14 years of experience in the space, was able to squeeze me in for this phone interview today in between meetings. 

What made you decide to participate in this upcoming panel?   
The event seemed to be a good fit for my background.  We [Q Interactive] started around 15 years ago with the lead generation business.  When I say the lead generation business, we’ve worked with our clients to drive their leads as well as going out and acquiring new customers for the CoolSavings side of the business.  We’ve had a strong focus on both and this event seemed like a good fit for both.

What do you hope CIMA attendees will gain from the event? 
A better understanding of the lead-generation space, and realizing that just buying leads, in itself, will not create a successful campaign.  It’s called a lead-gen campaign, but the reality is that it’s  the beginning of a much larger marketing process.  That’s the entrance of the funnel…The sources are as important as what you do with it once you start talking to that consumer.

As we look at the surfacing of new mediums and platforms in the lead-gen space, what NEW challenges do you foresee arising and what EXISTING issues do you foresee ‘sticking around’ or remaining unsolved? 
The new challenge will be centered on how to create a cost-effective lead, and because we’re going into uncharted territories, the metrics aren’t readily available. You need to learn how to manage and acquire Facebook and Twitter leads.  And, how do you use these different mediums to generate a lead cost effectively, then understand the value of it.  I think there are different valued consumers coming from each different source and so it’s a learning process.  Unfortunately, testing is the only real way to gain the appropriate education.  So, those are the new and upcoming challenges. 

I think the existing challenge, and one that’s not going to change, is understanding the fraud side of the business. That will pop up again.  Facebook is fresh.  It’s very clean, and it’s great data, but someone is going to figure out how to game the system and you’re going to end up buying the phonebook.  So, how do we get ahead of that? How do we keep an eye on the quality and take on a more white hat approach?   

Looking at the new lead-gen space and what it is today, what changes/improvements would you like to see moving into 2012 and beyond?
The innovation of using Facebook and generating a ‘LIKE’ as a LEAD.  How do we, as marketers, start managing that process effectively and how do we continue communicating with consumers the best way that they want.  As a marketer, one of your biggest hurdles is going to be talking to the 20 somethings.  It’s going to be a very different conversation than what you have with the 40 somethings.  It’s a different type of conversation in how they want to be addressed and communicated with.  The overwhelming message from the 20 somethings is that they don’t want to be marketed to.  So, how do we talk to them without ‘marketing to them’ or making it a blatant sales pitch?  Anyone with those answers…I’m happy to hear. 

What has made the greatest impact on your business with respect to lead-generation;  Mobile, Video, or Social? 
Social, specifically Facebook, has been the one we’ve embraced most aggressively.  We see Mobile as a huge piece of the market, but we’ve not completed any of the mobile implementations.  Our application of Facebook is two fold:

1.) With Cool Savings, it’s increasing traffic.  It’s talking to those Cool Savings consumers and it’s growing that audience.

2.) With our clients, it’s helping them to grow their Facebook audience and really helping them understand what that communication looks like once they do get that LIKE.  There’s a whole team here behind those Facebook communications alone. 

Even overall, I would say that Facebook has had the biggest impact for lead-generation as of today.  As we see growth with Smart Phones and an increase in penetration, you’re going to start to see that same impact from Mobile as well.

What’s your favorite CIMA event? 
The boat cruise each year is a favorite event.  It’s a great crowd, and any time you’re able to get out on the lake and see the city from that perspective it’s really cool.

Why is Chicago the best place to live and work? 
The ten minutes between weather changes!  Really, the innovation in Chicago is overlooked.  The people in Chicago are down to earth – it’s the Midwest values.  We have all the innovation and technologies of the coasts mixed with the excitement of the opportunity to work with good people with good values.

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