Matchpoint Makes a Play for Local Lead-Gen

matchpoint

Lead generation has been around in the local space for years, in particular in the real estate (HomeGain, HouseValues) and autos segments. ServiceMagic has also built a fairly successful business around it. Respond.com, years, ago promised to transform yellow pages. However it hasn’t exactly caught fire with consumers. And somewhat counter-intuitively, lead-gen has also been slow to catch on with local businesses as well.

For example, in the second quarter of 2007 real-estate news site Inman News conducted an online survey of 770 U.S. local realtors. This population of Inman News readers/subscribers is typically more “Web-savvy” than the overall U.S. realtor population. Yet the survey found the following:

“While 64% of respondents overall said they planned to spend at least some money on keyword [PPC] advertising in the next year, only 17% percent said they would buy online leads, though another 17 percent said they hadn’t decided yet whether they would buy online leads.”

One would expect the entire local market to be moving toward CPA or some form of lead-gen (PPCall) for almost self-evident reasons. However, the uneven quality of leads, the reselling of leads and the generally questionable reputation of the larger lead-gen sector have stymied growth in many respects.

At last year’s SMX Local-Mobile conference I ran a panel that addressed the question of whether CPA could become the dominant model in the local space:

The Ultimate Local Ad Model
Local businesses want leads and customers, not clicks. Although pay-per-click and pay-per-call are the two prevalent ad models to reach local searchers, will other models like CPA/PPA ultimately be more effective?

It was one of the most interesting panels of the show but the consensus among the speakers was “no.”

Now Matchpoint (great URL) has emerged to take another crack at local lead-gen. I spoke with president Peter Adams last week about the new site (which reportedly acquired a similar service GetVendors), the outlook for local lead-gen and Matchpoint in particular.

Adams knows the local space well (having been CTO at Looksmart) and lead-gen (having been CTO at NetBlue). He’s very familiar with the myriad challenges. He’s got an aggressive syndication/widget plan to push the site’s brand and content out beyond the confines of the destination as well as other thoughtful approaches to long-standing local challenges.

For example, the site attempts to solve the vendor/provider side of the local “chicken and egg problem” by using a local commercial database (to ensure critical mass) and reaching out to any relevant businesses, not just advertisers. Leads are free (to start). The company is also “cleaning” the database by verifying and keeping track of local businesses that respond to inquiries (like FastCall411).

From a consumer standpoint the service is fairly simple and straightforward – and less onerous than the ServiceMagic questionnaire. Search or browse for a category, fill out a form and receive an email notifying you of five relevant providers. Here are a few screens:

form

Email response (received in less than a minute):

Email

Provider list (via email):

Email responses

You get to see the five on the site and in email before receiving calls, which Adams believes is important (I agree). Currently, however, the data surrounding those providers is fairly thin and doesn’t convey much. Reviews and other “context” will need to be integrated.

Adams believes not enough content is precisely the problem with most local sites today, even sites such as Yelp that have lots of reviews. Adams argues they don’t provide consumers with enough relevant information to help them make a decision, which may be very specific in a given case. Adams also doesn’t believe that businesses and consumers will provide this level of detailed information to conventional local sites, in the form of reviews or enhanced profiles.

To address this perceived problem, Matchpoint leverages the phone, both by notifying local merchants that they have prospects/leads and then allowing them to provide detailed responses to the specific requests of consumers, which will theoretically elicit much more information from the local business and lead to a better decision-making process for consumers. Matchpoint initially mediates the contact between the merchant and consumer, shielding the consumer with anonymity.

Leads are free for local businesses, which helps with merchant awareness and sales channel issues (the leads do the prospecting; calls are automated with human follow-up if necessary). Advertisers get more complete profiles, priority in results and additional services. They bid for leads at the category level, to simplify the process and to create more competition for Matchpoint inventory.

The approach that Matchpoint has taken is smart and reflective of a deep understanding of the local market. The out-of-the-gate syndication strategy is also smart. One version of that strategy seeks to match vertical slices of the database with third-party sites that offer related content (e.g., home improvement site offers contractor leads form/directory).

Despite my praise, Matchpoint has a tough road ahead to build consumer awareness and usage. On the sales side it’s perhaps a bit easier and the site will potentially also be able to tap into all the local SEM firms out there now bundling clicks and calls. But Respond has been toiling in the space for at least eight years and was largely unknown to the Matchpoint folks themselves. That illustrates the problem they face.

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Peter Krasilovsky and SiliconValleyWatcher have some additional factual background and information.

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5 Responses to “Matchpoint Makes a Play for Local Lead-Gen”

  1. troy Says:

    This guys seem to be reselling ServiceMagic. I just tried them and ServiceMagic is powering it.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    That’s strange, given that they favorably differentiated themselves from ServiceMagic. Perhaps that’s an interim move. Or perhaps they see themselves as a meta-aggregator of local lead-gen.

  3. troy Says:

    Greg, you are right. Like most start ups, they are trying to seed it with something and hope they can obtain the critical mass organically. Not to be mean but I think they will flame out.

  4. Peter Adams Says:

    We are definitely trying to build an open marketplace.

    ServiceMagic, other lead generators, and local SEM agencies can all use Matchpoint to advertise on behalf of themselves or their services providers – just like they do in the search and yellow page marketplaces.

    Matchpoint is appealing to these companies because the introductions that we make are highly qualified and therefor convert into business at high rates.

    However, a big difference with Matchpoint is we also contact local businesses (in 2,000 categories) directly via the phone so that consumer has a wider choice.

  5. New Services Directory: GenieTown « Screenwerk Says:

    […] New Services Directory: GenieTown I’m not posting much ’cause I’m buried in work and sick to boot. But I noticed on TechCrunch that a new “services directory” GenieTown had launched. This is a lead-gen site like ServiceMagic, Respond.com or the recently launched Matchpoint. […]

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