Want To Know Who Visits Your Site?

The answer to a single question has been the Holy Grail of marketing since the inception of the internet: “What if I could get the contact information of everyone who visits my website?” These would be incredibly valuable leads. After all, they already sought you out and spent time reading your information! These visitors are a sales manager’s dream come true, but they remain frustratingly anonymous.

Tech start-ups have been trying to solve this conundrum for years, and website lead tracking technology has been evolving for a while now. Here at Anchor, we’ve been watching it with measured curiosity because its results have always seemed a little spotty. However, we recently witnessed a situation that seemed to indicate that the process had finally matured. A few weeks ago, Anchor’s managing partner visited a company’s website, then left without filling out any forms or passing on any contact information. Minutes later he received an email from that same company. It was the connection we had all been waiting for! We immediately began to investigate, trying to determine what advancements had finally succeeded in identifying an anonymous web visitor (and even providing his email address!).

Let’s just say that our findings weren’t quite as miraculous as we had hoped. Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the latest advancements in the magic behind IP-based lead generation: it’s a combination of new fangled technology and old-fashioned data aggregation. And, in the case of “identifying” and emailing the managing partner here at Anchor, it still relies on a measure of calculated luck. Though each provider seems to go about it in a slightly different way, the process works roughly like this:

First, a website uses a tracking code to determine a visitor’s IP address (in general, each router or server on the internet has its own identifying address). That’s the science part.

Then, an algorithm attempts to connect that IP address with any other information on the internet associated with it in order to determine who owns or uses it. Sometimes, the process can look like this: Insurance Mart has forty employees. Because they are on the same network, they share an IP address (or set of IP addresses) as they exit their network to the rest of the internet. Mertle from Insurance Mart visits a site employing IP-lead tracking technology and it identifies her IP address, then immediately scours the internet and discovers that Lou, another of the agents at Insurance Mart, had filled out a form three years ago that included authorization to share his information. Ta da! The algorithm knows that Mertle is coming from the same IP as Lou, so it assumes that she is also from Insurance Mart. That’s the common sense part.

From there, unfortunately, you still rely on a little bit of luck. You see, the best you can do at that stage is search out and cross reference public information about the organization as a whole, using things like the “Contact Us” page from their website, or information from forms filled out by others sharing the same IP address. You can’t know for sure which of Insurance Mart’s forty employees visited your website, so you have to make some educated guesses. In the case of our managing partner here at Anchor, the marketing folks at the site he visited simply started at the top. They checked our website and emailed the lead dog because – why not? To quote the incomparable Don Dokken, they just got lucky.

If nobody from a company ever filled out an opt-in form or shared any information online, that IP address would remain relatively anonymous. Here at Anchor, we’ve been trying out some of the latest versions of this technology with the help of many of our clients across the Midwest, and while some appear to be an open book (we see lists of employees, etc.), others don’t seem to register at all. In addition, issues still remain with users who visit via the mobile web (rather than wi-fi). So it’s not perfect. The Holy Grail is still in Castle Aaarrghh, but we’re getting closer (we’re definitely on the bridge with that old guy and the riddles).

For some of our clients, just knowing that they received a visitor from Insurance Mart would be a huge head start. They would gladly follow up on the lead with some homework of their own, understanding that they might have to ask some questions and make a few educated guesses. Any way you look at it, it’s a good deal better than cold calling out of the phone book (remember those?). In the end, it really depends on the investment, I suppose. How much is it worth to you to broadly identify half of the visitors to your website? To some, nothing. To others, a lot.

Stand by on this one, and we’ll keep you posted as this technology continues to develop. Privacy is a real concern in modern marketing, but data mining is getting more and more valuable simply by getting better and better at automating “common sense” parts of the process. I’m excited to see where we go from here.