The lead generation industry has matured and is now reaching an inflection point. While some companies will fall by the wayside, it represents a positive change and will create many new opportunities.

The good news is that “Online Darwinism,” for lack of a better term, has effectively eliminated many companies that refused to adhere to the basic values that once made them successful.

The great news is that new service and marketing channels continue to arise to support the marketplace.

And the best news? The future offers endless possibilities for those companies that operate in an ethical manner and add value for their partners.

Lead generation is growing up. Advertisers want strategic partners to provide true performance marketing, which includes lead generation and lead nurturing to a sale. They need expert guidance to develop proper technology and intelligent media plans rather than short-term profit taking.

Technology platforms are getting more robust, lead quality can now be monitored on the front- and backend, and marketers are graded more extensively on consumer engagement. A full suite of products is available to anyone wanting to engage in online marketing and will help drive marketing efforts through the next decade.

There are four main drivers of change in the lead generation marketplace:

Lead Tracking Platforms
Once owned entirely by DirectTrack, the lead tracking platform marketplace continues to grow. DirectTrack seems to have lost market share with Cake the current leader in the space while other solid platforms like Hitpath, Linktrust, Effectus, Impact Radius and HasOffers continue to compete.

Whether the client is an affiliate network or an advertiser, users want close to 24/7 customer support, along with near perfect uptime. These platforms have been designed with the end user in mind, and can support pixel and server-toserver tracking, as well as many different tracking events. The need for marketers to build their own lead-tracking technology diminishes every day.

Compliance Monitoring
Ensuring quality leads and compliance from affiliates is critical to networks and advertisers. There will soon come a point when these services become a mandatory component for all businesses in the industry. As such, a marketplace of lead monitoring has spawned, with companies such as CPA Detective, Scrubkit and FraudLogix at the forefront of the movement.

Leads being generated are scored based on the digital footprints of millions of leads, which helps eradicate bad quality in near real time. Specific to email traffic, Optizmo has emerged as the clear leader in suppression file management. Lashback and Email Analyst also are great tools to monitor creative and consumer feedback.

Consumer Engagement
Media channels are focusing strongly on consumer engagement as a signifier of acceptable marketing techniques. Facebook has banned affiliate marketing almost entirely given allegedly poor user experience. Email Service Providers are keenly focused on feedback loops to make the ISPs happy with email marketers. Even co-registration efforts have begun to focus on the consumer with a cascade of emails to ensure interest level after an opt-in.

It is more about the consumer and less about obtaining an email address for mass marketing. Google is tightening the leash with its latest changes by blocking many low quality (“thin”) SEM sites and delisting pages that have paid links for SEO rankings.

For consumer engagement in the performance marketing space, the focus is finally moving toward where it should be: getting consumer’s attention when and where they are available.

Affiliate Networks — Only the Wise Will Survive
Many major affiliate networks have closed their doors or are having significant issues. Companies like Epic Advertising and COPEAC may be seen to have suffered from possibly taking too many risks, engagement in poor marketing practices or were the victims of poor cash management.

Any way you slice it, many affiliate networks that hit problems had the potential to be great companies but they failed to provide the value and guidance their partners needed. The great value of “survival of the fittest” is that the process of evolution opens the door for others to capitalize on the void left behind.