Fantastic information in there that when used correctly, should reflect itself in your bottom line. I personally feel that the buying and selling of leads doesn't make sense - in most cases. UNLESS those leads are bought and sold within the first 5 minutes as you are 21x more likely to qualify a lead in that time frame.
The key problem that companies have with lead generation companies is simple; they don't think they're getting high enough conversions. If you want to provide a premium product (great leads) align your strategy around the data. Use common sense and simple technology (off the shelf stuff) to supply them with leads that have the best mathematical chance of converting. The numbers won't lie, and you'll be able to charge a premium for higher quality leads.
Depending on how you source your traffic, you may be well positioned to automate a lot of your lead generation processes. If you can control the top of the funnel in any given market - that's power, clearly, power is money. The types of businesses who are mortally afraid of the internet are most vulnerable to your eating their lunch. Plumbers are a great example. I'd recommend you aggregate as much of the traffic to your page and do the following:
- Set up an infrastructure whereby you can connect all of your clients with internet leads in 20 seconds or less. For instance, you can sign up 10 plumbers, and have lead 1 go to plumber A, lead 2 go to plumber B, and so on - round robin style.
- Route Mapping / Lead Qualification - What are you plumbers' criteria for knowing whether or not it's a good lead? Integrate their criterion so that time and money is not wasted on low intentioned browsers.
- Use a super simple IVR for call in leads - When a lead calls in, as opposed to entering information on a web form, make sure the number is local, and have the back-end processes set up to connect that caller round robin style yet again; (lead 1, plumber A, lead 2, plumber B)...
The cool thing is that you will have recordings (when set up correctly) of every phone call initiated. This is useful information you can put into action. By listening to the calls, you can spot common threads / trends and respond accordingly. If you hear the same question over and over again, perhaps using a video on your page to answer it pr-emptively will help drive conversions.
I'm pretty active in this area... happy to answer additional questions.