Where Do Leads Come From?

By Justin Biggs

Author note: This is the first in a series of posts regarding demand generation and lead buying.  These posts will be written through the lens of the insurance industry but should be applicable to other industries as well.

A common question we receive is, “Where do these leads come from?”

There is no short answer but hopefully this post can fully answer that question.

To start, it’s easier to think of leads as people.  People usually request a quote in one of two ways online:

  1. By filling out a form on a website
  2. By calling a phone number they see online

There are several marketing channels where the prospect can be presented with advertisements which lead to those forms or phone numbers.  Here are the 5 most popular channels:

  1. Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) – People searching for insurance related keywords online will be shown both paid ads (PPC) and organic listings.  Leads coming from search engines will generally have higher buying intent than most of the other ad types below.  This makes search engine marketing (SEM) one of the best channels.
  2. Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) – People on social networks are not actively looking for insurance and thus have lower buying intent.  Still, social networks can be a good source of leads because the targeting options are so robust (you could target 35+ year old married males in the 43215 zip code).  In addition, social media has a MUCH larger scale than search engines.
  3. Email –  Email is a huge driver of insurance leads.  Most of the ways in which it is done make a lot of sense (sending an email to someone who has requested the price for a new car), but other ways could result in very low quality leads (spamming huge email lists).
  4. Banner ads – These are the “normal” ads you see on virtually every website you visit.  These ads can be displayed contextually (based on content of the web page), which can result in very high quality leads.
  5. Affiliates – This is where it gets tricky.  Lead sellers usually generate leads internally and also buy leads from third party affiliates.  Each affiliate will use his/her own advertising using any of the methods above to drive leads.  Affiliates are also a big part of a lead sellers “secret sauce,” and they will not disclose their affiliates.  They will, however, usually pass a unique ID for each affiliate with every lead.  This ID can help to determine which affiliates are driving qualified prospects versus affiliates that may be incentivizing leads (Free $50 Walmart gift cards are a popular one) or using ad copy that is too aggressive (promising specific premium amounts is a common way).

Here are some examples to illustrate what each ad type looks like:

Search Engines (Google)

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Social Media (Facebook)



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Banner Ads


Affiliates (Promising specific rate)


If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking, “I’ll only buy search engine leads”.  While this is a good idea in theory, many lead sellers can’t or won’t do this.  If they are willing, it could narrow the lead funnel too much and you won’t receive enough leads to meet your agency’s appetite.

Our recommendation is to buy all lead channels but also require the seller to send the sub-ID with each lead.  This will allow performance to be tracked.  Sub-IDs that do not result in newly bound business can be turned off.

Determining which sub-IDs are performing well can become cumbersome and time consuming.  To make this process dead simple, we have released Smart Workflow.  Smart Workflow combines the industry leading CRM (Salesforce) with a lead buying component that allows you to purchase from all the top lead sellers with volume pricing discounts.  To schedule a demo or find out more, click here.