Within the performance marketing industry, there is a small set of advertisers, publishers, agencies, and service providers who consistently outperform all the rest. These are the players I like to call ‘high-performance’ performance marketers. To put this in perspective, let me give an analogy: a ‘“performance’” automobile might go from 0-60 in 6 six seconds, while a ‘“high-performance’” car will do it in three. Do these three seconds really make a difference in our daily lives? No. So why do so many designers, marketers, and buyers obsess about that 0-60 measurement? Because it’s a useful KPI.

KPIs, or key performance indicators, are simple measurements that let us track progress in key areas, but as any manager can attest, KPIs give insight into far more than ‘leads generated this month’ or ‘sales closed YTD.’ As a CEO, when I review KPIs with my management staff, I can see trends and patterns; I can spot emerging superstars as well as those who need to put in additional effort. In other words, I know what’s going on behind the scenes to make that number possible. The record-breaking 2.2 second 0-60 KPI put up by Porsche’s 918 this year, for example, is more than a number on a stopwatch; it points to Porsche’s meticulous attention to detail and impressively skilled team.

To relate this back to performance marketing, I’m a proponent of the 0-10,000 KPI, which measures how long it takes to scale an offer from zero leads to 10,000. It’s a quick way to gauge the potential returns of an offer over the long term. For example, when a lender came to me earlier this year looking for home refinancing leads, I’ll admit I was apprehensive. They were targeting a very specific set of consumers and were asking for a lot of qualifiers before they would pay out on a lead. When that campaign reached 11,586 leads in its first month – with a payout approaching $200K – I realized that my worries were unfounded and that we’d found a winner.

Ten thousand leads in a quarter is considered a strong pace for performance marketing lead generation. Ten thousand leads in the first month of launching a campaign, on the other hand, puts an agency among the elite – the world of high-performance marketing. Like 0-60 in the automotive world, the acceleration doesn’t have a tremendous effect on our daily lives, but it speaks to the preparations, capabilities, and resources of the advertiser and the agency they choose to work with.

To those who still question whether it’s possible to launch a brand new campaign and hit 10,000 leads in the first month, my answer is a resounding yes. In addition to the home refinance campaign I already mentioned, this time last year, we started running an offer from a major computer security software vendor that generated 10,000 sales in its first week. Results were so rapid that the advertiser actually paused us until they could figure out how we were doing things so quickly. When they saw that the chargeback rates was one of the lowest they had ever seen, they quickly put us back to work and that offer continues to perform nearly a year later.  
Now, don’t get me wrong, this level of success will not happen every time, but what I am saying is that with the right preparation and a strong offer – meaning one with that has a a compelling value proposition, and an aggressive payout – and  and the right partner, it is possible. Here are four tips that will help you make the jump from performance marketing to high-performance marketing:

  1. Partner With the Right People
    As an advertiser, the chance of having a database at your disposal that can take a brand-new offer from 0 to 10,000  in a month is slim to none. Maybe a few of the Fortune 500 companies have enough data on hand to make this work, but for almost everyone else, you’re going to have to partner with a lead generation scalable consumer acquisition expert that has considerable resources.Do your homework, have they taken a client from 0-10,000 before? How long did it take? Do they have a good reputation in the industry? Ask about their scaling process and their feedback and optimization loop.If you’re an agency, you better have very strong relationships with a proven network of publishers who not only will put your offer out there, but help you target and optimize it. Your network has to be both broad and deep to enable rapid scaling of this magnitude.
  2. Prepare Well
    High-performance marketing thrives on strong, click-worthy brands. If you’ve put in the the time and effort to ensure your brand is valued and trusted, you must also ensure that the agency or network you choose maintains the highest levels of ethics and compliance to ensure that their efforts do not tarnish your brand’s hard-earned reputation.To ensure your ads are delivered and displayed properly (and in compliance with all state and federal laws), pick a network with proven resources and strong reputation.

Networks, do everything you can to build and maintain your IP reputation to ensure messages are delivered and not flagged as junk. Also ensure that you’re using the best analytics system you can find. A strong advertiser will have well-defined target audiences and being able to match those with existing segments of your database will be fundamental to your early success.
  3. Optimize Rapidly
    Once an offer is performing strongly, I ask advertisers for updated creatives about once per month in order to keep things fresh. But in those first few weeks as we ramp an offer from 0-10,000, sometimes we have to go through several iterations to optimize response rates. Advertisers that cling to their existing creatives and refuse to even consider modifying their campaign usually see average results at best. To really succeed, advertisers need to get the right message to the right person at the right time; this is done by listening to the real-time results we’re getting back from our trusted partners in the publishing world and constantly honing messaging, timing, and design, until that sweet spot is identified – and then you dramatically increase scale. The engaged consumers targeted in this way typically deliver a much higher lifetime value than those contacted at random through less-targeted methods.Networks, be sure your optimization process is clearly defined and setting expectations are discussed in advance so that your publishers and advertisers know that early optimization is a priority that may require some quick turnarounds.
  4. Enjoy the Results
    When you hit that 10,000 leads in a month mark of performance, you want to be able to sit back and enjoy it. In order to do that, you have to be sure your business is ready for that kind of traffic increase. If your fulfillment team can only handle 1,000 orders per week and you start generating 1,000 sales per day, it’s going to cause stress and friction.If you go through the process of setting up a great promotion and then ask your partners and publishers to put in the effort to help you perfect it, you don’t want to have to go back and ask them to slow down (or worse yet, to pause altogether). Be sure that you’re perfectly clear about any caps up front. A 2,500-lead-per-week cap will still get you to 10,000 in a month, but it won’t excite publishers the way an unrestricted offer might. If you can handle unlimited traffic, and you trust your traffic sources, let the leads flow and watch the profits soar.

Taking a campaign from its infancy to its first 10,000 leads in less than thirty days is absolutely possible. It requires hard work, choosing the right team, having the best possible value proposition for your target audience, and committing to continually improve, but I have seen a great many advertisers enjoy these results and you can, too. The only question is, are you ready to jump into the world of high-performance marketing?