Episode 15: Debbie Conrad

Episode 15: Debbie Conrad Featured Image

When it comes to lead generation, where is the balance between quality and volume? In this episode of ’73 and Sunny’, we’re joined by Debbie Conrad, head of new business development for The Lead Group and founding member and advisory board member for Link Unite. Debbie shares her experiences in the affiliate marketing and lead generation space, as well as thoughts on making and maintaining authentic professional connections.




Damien: Hello, and welcome to 73 and sunny

The podcast about the journey of getting things just right. We talked to tech sales and marketing leaders about how they’re growing, dialing in best practices and getting closer to that sweet spot. Today, we’re very happy to have Debbie Conrad join us. Debbie is the head of new business development for the lead group, and is also a founding member and advisory board member for link unite.

Welcome to 73 Sunny, Debbie. 

Debbie: Thank you very much. Excited to be here. 

Damien: Well, we’re excited to have you. So, I know that this weekend was Mother’s Day and I know that you’re a a mother. So, thank you very much for all the great work that you and all mothers out there do. And happy Mother’s Day.

Happy belated Mother’s Day to you. 

Debbie: Thank you very much. I have two kids. So, one just came home from college on Friday. And then I have a 16 year old daughter who’s very active in track, lacrosse, and upcoming, in finishing her sophomore year. So very busy times right now. 

Damien: Very busy times. My wife and I, we have four kids, and one of our daughters plays lacrosse, and she just came home from college, junior year in college on Saturday.

So it was good to have. Nice. Good to have a full house, so. For sure. It you know, it’s great to have everyone home, but it’s also, you know, there’s, there’s different dynamics, right different dynamics with having all the, all the kids home and, and, and I’m sure that also changes things in terms of you know, moms who are also professionals and, and I know that, you know, You know, there’s that, that’s one of the, the things that that link unite is, was actually created for.

And, and I’d love to, to know a little bit more about link unite and, you know, how they support women in the performance and digital marketing space. 

Debbie: Sure. So link unite was basically founded when we were at leads con in Boston, probably about seven years ago, Amanda. Ferris Ceremelo and myself, we were sitting after one day at the show and just realizing how important it is to have a connection.

So when you travel and you are away from your. Real life world and you’re trying to make sense of what’s going on and actually get a productive conference out You need to find people who you’re gonna relate to and make sure that they’re gonna be there for you and kind of be a tribe Not necessarily to help bounce ideas off of they can tell you like who you should maybe work with or who you should connect with But also just in case you need someone to be with, you know It’s just I traveled quite a bit by myself And so I find myself for the lead group going to various shows.

And when Link Unite started and has been around the last two plus years, it’s been very, very helpful for, I know, for myself and other women that when you go somewhere that you can reach out and you always have someone that can be in a room if you don’t know anyone. It’s just super helpful. Makes you feel safe and comfortable.

And also you, I get excited. I mean, I’m, it’s, it’s not only work, but also now we’ve made friends. And lifelong friends that will be there for you and also help you grow in your career. 

Damien: That that’s fantastic. And, and I unfortunately I just haven’t even thought about that. I haven’t, I haven’t even thought about it probably because, you know, I’m, I’m just another you know, one of these these guys in a polo shirt or in a, you know, in a, in a puffer vest or whatever.

And I haven’t even thought about that. What are and I’m, I’m so glad that now, now there’s a forum in LinkUnite for for ladies and, and women, you know, all over to be able to, to unite and, and to have this this group. Tell me a little bit more about you know, some of the benefits that, that LinkUnite can, can provide to to some of its members.

Debbie: Sure. So we, there’s a various programs right now. One of the big programs that we’re doing right now is mentor program. So it partners up someone within our industry with another woman who’s been around a little bit longer, maybe, or has more skillset that they can offer to them. And it goes through just various you know, they work one on one to help grow the woman to help her get the skills that she needs to advance in her career, another part of link unite, which is great is if someone is maybe looking for a new role.

Or wants to grow in her company. We have various people that can help to help show them or advise them on what the next steps are, or even give them a new job too. It’s very exciting. And you know, when someone does jump to somewhere else or they’re out of a job and they land a role within Lake Unite, it’s pretty special.

Damien: That is a fantastic. And you had mentioned a new role you know, helping helping women with new roles. So I know that You, you’ve been in the lead space for the better part of a decade, but you transitioned to that from you know, from the, the buyer side, from basically from you know, the, the, the retail buyer side, which is a huge transition.

So, you know, tell me a little bit about that. Tell me what advice you would have for people who are. Looking at making a big leap or a big change in, in what they’re doing for work. 

Debbie: Yeah. So my world was completely different. Like you said, I was a buyer for target headquarters for a while. And then I also was a buyer for like a jewelry company out of Kansas city.

So when I, when the company closed, actually everyone has always said that I should be in sales and which is kind of a scary position because you never know exactly like what you’re going to be, you know, you could be straight commission. You don’t know what everything’s going to happen. So, you know, they very politely has said that I have a good way to.

Get people to not, to basically maybe do what I want in a very nice effective manner. So I was like, all right, I will try to make the jump. So coming from the other side though too, I know what people are looking for, you know, and it’s like everyone, everyone, even in my retail world and now in this affiliate marketing and on my lead group side, we all, there’s so many people that are doing the same thing.

And so it’s very important that you find relationships or clients that are going to work with you, be transparent, honest, and, and are going to be there to help figure out ways to grow your business together. So I think that’s one of the big things of, you know, of making my job is that, and, and for where I find that I kept strong partnerships that have been able to stick around, which I love.

Damien: So, so how, what, what are some some strategies that, that, that you’ve had in terms of You know, having those partnerships last for, for, for the better part of seven, eight years, what, what are some of the, the, the trick tips or tricks that you might have for people? 

Debbie: Well, I mean, I think it’s very important to not just consider someone as like publisher ABC, you know?

I mean, I can tell you yesterday I had three or four of my publishers reach out to tell me happy mother’s day, which really meant a lot, you know? So I think it’s about getting to know the person because, you know, that’s who’s, that’s what kind of matters more than you know, I mean, of course we all want to grow revenue and things like that as well.

But it’s also helpful if you can be like, hello you know, John, it’s great that you’re in, you know, the chiefs are playing this, you know, the chargers next week, let’s place a little bet on it or something like that, you know, but then everyone’s trying to get, you know, I’m trying to get as much traffic as we can.

I’m trying to get as many, you know, strong partnerships, but as long as you have some kind of. Connection is very helpful. It’s also good, I believe, to meet in person if you can once or twice a year. I feel like once you get that in person connection, It just really matters more than when you’re just you know, emailing or skyping or slacking or whatever you’re doing to try to to, you know, keep in touch.

I feel like communication over the internet may not be always the most effective way to do things. 

Damien: I totally agree. I think there’s a lot of misinterpretation, especially over email communication or, or any written. Type of communication. We’re not great at, at that. So to be able to, to connect with people live, or even, you know, this is, you know, the zoom culture that we are in the zoom age, I think but it’s, it’s really not, it’s not the same as sitting down, meeting with someone, being able to, to shake hands or have lunch and break bread with someone.

And you know, having those connections are, are, are built on those personal. Touches, you know, whether it’s, you know, you know, reaching out saying happy mother’s day or talking about the, I’m not going to even talk about the chiefs. I was born and raised in San Francisco, born and raised in San Francisco, and I’m a 49ers fan.

I’m, I’m hurt. I’m, I’m still hurt. So we’re not even going to, we’re not even going to talk about that. So. But I, I totally get it. It’s having, you know it’s, it, people do business, right? It’s, it’s it’s about the people and having that sweet spot. So we all know that we, you know, Hey, we have to do, you know businesses are, are who we have to go after in terms of, you know, funding and, and, you know, opportunities.

But it’s the people that make that happen. And I think that’s, that’s a huge, that’s a huge piece of that. I think that sometimes we miss. And I think that we’ve gotten away from since, since COVID. Right. I think that people are very, 

Debbie: the other thing I always say too, which is kind of funny is I’m always like, Oh, you know, if I someone’s running traffic one day and are all of a sudden they stop.

I’m like, my boyfriend broke up with me, you know, like, Oh gosh, I got to get him back. You know? And I’m like, okay, whatever it takes, you know, I got to write letters, send flowers, whatever you got to see where they’re going to come. You know, it’s an interesting world. We work with our competitors too, you know, so competitor can also be one of your accounts and which kind of makes it interesting because not other industries I feel like don’t have the same aspect, but I’m a big believer in if you are, you know, if you are doing things the right way, if you are doing things transparently, if you are.

Meeting with your publishers or your buyers or once, you know, once or twice a month and actually looking at data and different ways that you can increase your business. Or if there’s other things that there might be doing with someone else and they bring up to you, that would work. That’s very beneficial.

Damien: I completely agree with that. And just, it’s, it’s not only starting those relationships and getting those relationships, but it’s about. It is maintaining those in growing those, which is, which is tough because then you’re, you’re, you’re trying to kind of, you know, push people, Hey, listen, how you, you had mentioned sales is scary.

And that, that reminded me of a, of an axiom that I was told a long time ago, it’s a, you know, how can I help you by getting what I want, you know? And it, it’s like a, it’s, it’s, Hey, I’m helping you, but I’m also getting what I want. So you have to weave, you know, you have to, you know, kind of weave that thread to be able to say.

What is beneficial to you and what has been beneficial to your, your customer client. In terms of, of the growth mindset in terms of, you know, growing customers, because we all know that getting new customers is so difficult today and once you get a customer to be able to, to, to hold onto that is so much more cost effective and so much more beneficial than, than spending resources, getting more customers.

You know, what is some advice that, that you might have in terms of you know, maintaining and, and growing your customers maybe outside of, you know, lunching or, or, or meeting twice a year? 

Debbie: So I feel like as long as you work together to find out for sure, like what, what’s their expected EPC, you know, what are some other sources based off their other sub IDs that we can maximize sales really is beneficial.

Damien: I’m, I’m, I’m sorry, Debbie, for people that don’t know, EPC. 

Debbie: Yes. 

Damien: Thanks. 

Debbie: Yeah. So, and then of course, you know, like it’s, you may have 40 different accounts, but it’s usually the top 10 that are the ones that are driving most of the revenue. So, and it is hard to find new accounts that are going to stay. And be solid and not just disappear.

So I, you know, or make sure that it’s valid. Make sure it’s valid traffic. Make sure it’s a valid person. You know, you get, I get so many Skypes or that are coming out there where you don’t, you never know sometimes. So it’s, you know, having the correct vetting process, making sure when someone starts at my team is ready, that we’ve got, we’re optimizing correctly on the back end, we’re aware of the KPIs that are going to make this account work and stick.

Damien: love that. Love that advice is, and. Do you feel, I know that you’ve, you’ve been in the space for, for quite some time. In, in your tenure, both, both on the, the, the buyer side for, for Target and, and then on the the lead generation side, what have you seen change? What, what have you seen? Because I mean, there’s, it’s supply and demand, but you know, I, I don’t know if we’ve had this type of these walls up like we, we do today.

Like what, what have you seen change from maybe even like, let’s just say pre, pre pandemic and you know you know, 2018, 2019, what, what have you seen change even from, from that time? I 

Debbie: mean, I think before COVID people were a little bit more lenient on certain aspects of working together. I feel like after COVID now there’s not as much now you have to really try whatever you can to make sure that you’re getting the correct clients, even though you were before, but there may not be as many options.

Damien: And what do you think is why do you think that is, is it just because there’s so many companies that, that add to shutter during COVID or, or is it just the dynamics of dealing with salespeople and dealing and trying to understand customers who are now, I think I just saw something that you know, that the, the decision of a buyer it’s now up to like 90, 90 something percent before they even actually even want to talk to To a seller.

Debbie: I know. Well, also, I think a lot right now, especially I think everything is so expensive. So I feel like you know, you maybe had people who were trying to start their own things or, you know, pre COVID or, you know, and then unfortunately may you had to close down. You know, I think no matter where you go, I know fast food prices are up, grocery, you know, groceries are up, gas is up, you know, everything is, it’s very hard for the average consumer to spend their money.

And so they’re going to find, you know, the best cheap, not necessarily cheapest, but I would say. You know, wherever they’re going to use their dollar, it’s going to be more thought out than it was before. 

Damien: I, I’m seeing that all the time. I’m seeing that not only professionally, but personally as well. I mean everything is Getting a lot more expensive.

So especially with two kids or four kids. It is just 

Debbie: college. Yes, for sure. Very 

Damien: college. College and high school. Everything. Yes. It’s, it’s, it’s getting very very expensive. So Debbie, you were talking about, you know, how, how to to grow accounts and how to make accounts. You know, how to personalize relationships and how to make sure that, that you’re on top of things.

What’s the best customer experience or client relationship that you’ve ever had where you were the client, what, and what, what made it so special? 

Debbie: Well, I can tell you, like when I first started I, you know, my, I can remember my very first phone call and it was with myself and one of our owners and another client.

And so I remember getting off the phone call and being like, I have no idea what that was about, you know, and then and then so he actually took the time the client did to call me back and he, you know, his name is Guy Solomon and he’s still one of my, like, we don’t work together directly anymore, but we still are very good friends.

And we help each other out very much still moving forward. So, he basically took the time to call me back and explain kind of what was happening and what, you know, is to show me in my world now what I need to do to be effective. And I’ve used his, like, his, you know, his advice. And also we, I will reach out or he’ll reach out if I’m asking about someone or he’s asking about someone or if there’s just any questions I might have, he might know an answer or at least direct me to someone who does, you know, which is very helpful.

So yeah. Because even though we’re not necessarily working together in a relationship right now, we still always are there to like bounce ideas. And if we are at a conference, we try to make a point to always see each other too, which is very nice. 

Damien: Yeah. Going back to the the conference piece that you just brought up.

I was listening to, to, to someone just in the last week who was talking about, hey, if you’re going to these, these conferences what’s the best place to to, to be like, where, you know, where should you place yourself? Because you know, these, a lot of these are pretty uncomfortable, especially if you don’t know people.

And Debbie, you were saying that you you’re, you’re there alone most of the time, and, and, you know, I travel to conferences alone as well, it’s not, it’s no fun or you’re, you know, you’re, you’re having to start up a conversation and, and it was interesting, they said they did mapping for a conference and they did actually work place where people were having conversations, the duration of those.

Conversations, the quality of those conversations with surveys afterwards. And a lot of people who are uncomfortable in some of these conferences will stand by the entrance to say, I’m going to talk to all these people that are, that are coming in. But apparently that’s the worst place where you could stand because people right when they’re walking in, they’re wanting to understand their eyes widen, and they’re trying to look and trying to see everything and like, Oh my goodness, you know, where’s the food where my vendors, where my partners, where my, where’s my competition, where’s all these.

And then if you’re at the front of this, it is a, it was the shortest conversations where, where at the the entrance to these conversation to these conferences. It is. Where they found that the best and and deepest and most successful conversations were at the exit of the bar, because a lot of other people were, were coming in.

They wanted to get their bearings straight. They’re not comfortable and they’re just doing the, huh. And they’re kind of looking past you trying to see if they know anyone else there, well, Hey, nice, nice connecting. I got to go get a drink. And people, once they get a drink, then you are basically the, the savior, because now you have a drink in your hand and people are looking around and they’re like, I’d now I need now I’m ready for a conversation and if you can find people right after that, it’s just an interesting tip that I found you know, that I’d never even, never even thought of in terms of, you know, conference, you know, placement and, and, you know, how to make the most out of some of these conversations.

Debbie: No, I agree. I mean, if you know, we are, we’re all a little sick of Vegas, I think for sure, but and that, you know, the chandelier bar, but you know, in any time you’re there and if it does help, if you, if you have something in your hand anytime, I think it’s always kind of, you know, it makes you a little less uncomfortable, but yeah, I, and I’m at the booth a lot.

So you know, being at a booth too is where I am a big believer on, you have to be out front of your booth because no one’s going to stop if you’re, you know, like, Not paying attention and you’re you know sitting or you know not really looking at the person who’s walking by so that part of it’s great I also believe what you say too about like going to the bar area and there’s always people there but it’s you would just have to put yourself out there because There’s always going to be someone that you can talk to, and there’s always going to be someone that is hopefully going to be able to help you, and you know, there’s, it’s, you meet the most exciting, smartest people I’ve ever met in my whole entire life in this industry, and it’s just really fun, and I love it.

Damien: I have been to a couple of leads conferences, and it is, they are, they’re, they’re great, they’re great, they’re a little crazy, like, and they’re very, very crazy. Very frenetic. But, but they’re great. And so I’m, I’m glad that you were able to to get with some people after one of these conferences and, and kind of start link unite.

So that’s great. Let’s maybe take a, a transition from, you know, from the, the, the goodness of, of, of the space and, you know, some of the great things that, that you’ve been doing with the lead group and with link unite. And let’s talk about some of the things that people should be aware of. And because I think that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there’s a lot of fraud.

There’s a lot of fraud in this space. And I’m sure that you deal with your clients all the time trying to combat this, what advice do you have for, for, you know, for people or just actually let’s, let’s start with the space. What, what are you seeing in terms of fraud in this space today? 

Debbie: There’s quite a bit of fraud going on, unfortunately, still.

So you know, we take time that you have to make sure that you actually get on a phone call with someone. You know, they can Skype you or they can reach out via LinkedIn, but they could, you know, be very much invalid traffic. So that’s my first step is just to make sure that they actually get on a phone call.

And if they say they can’t get on a phone call, that’s a big red flag. So, yeah. Or another one too is some Gmail addresses or, you know, just making sure they actually have a company address that you can look up and see if it’s And then once you do go through the whole vetting process, you know, we’ve got a vetting process on our end.

But once someone starts, it’s just literally hopping on the phone. Or, we, we, actually, just to make sure the leads are actually valid, so, you know, you might pick up, we might have our legal team pick up the phone and call, or you might have you know, checking on, make sure that there’s applications actually being filled out, or, you know, that it’s not 100 percent desktop traffic.

There’s certain things that you can look at in your end beforehand just to, or right when someone starts to make sure that it’s not all fraud. Because, you know, when the publisher starts and it could be fraud, it also affects our buyers too. So it trump, you know, it flows all the way down to not just, you know, right away when someone starts with invalid traffic.

Damien: It’s a great point. And I know a lot of companies are struggling that trying to get the sweet spot 73 and sunny trying to get to that sweet spot of like getting capturing as many leads as possible. But also, you know, it’s, it’s a volume versus quality, right? It’s the, Hey, I want as much volume as possible.

So. Maybe I do want to capture some of those Gmails, Yahoo’s, AOL’s, whatever it might be. But I want to up the quality of those. And I know that there’s, you know, a form filled. There’s, there’s some rules that you can have that if you have a Gmail domain or something like that, then you can ask for secondary or tertiary questions.

What advice do you have for companies that are, that are struggling right now? As we said, there’s a lot of companies that are, you know, struggling to get new logos. And, and how do you, how do you, how do you weigh that? How do you, how do you help them get the most of those new logos while at the same time, not constricting the, the pipeline so much where they’re, they’re getting choked?

Debbie: What are you, sorry? What do you mean by logos? Exactly. 

Damien: So, so, so new, so new customers, new, new new business opportunities. If you’re getting an opportunity but someone is putting in that it’s a Gmail or a Yahoo, whereas, you know, you know, instead of a business, you know, 

Debbie: Yeah, sorry. I meant more like when the person, the publisher actually wants to sign up and they don’t have a company.

Like, it’s like, were there like john at gmail. com is trying to sign up. So that’s where I’m saying. Yes. 

Damien: Right. Right. And so people are trying to get the john at gmail. com because quote unquote, it’s a lead and I don’t want to turn as a, you know, as a performance marketer, I don’t want to turn away any leads because I want to show that I have, you know, I’ve generated all these leads.

But then I look at them and none of them have converted or like a high percentage have dropped out or, or have no showed or, you know, as you said, like, if you can’t get them on the phone, it’s not a real lead, they’re, they’re not going to be buying something. So, so what is the, what’s the balance there?

How do you, how do you try to try to get as much as possible, but then also, you know, be the bouncer at the club at the, or the chandelier bar, as you said, and say, no, we’re not going to let you in because you have a, a Gmail address. 

Debbie: Well, that’s not necessarily, we will, we take time and we make sure that we say that, you know, it’s going to take four to five business days to even get any true data in to get a good read on it.

You know, so, you know, so it does take time. It works for both, both of us, for the publisher and for us to work together when it starts and to know that it’s not just going to be one drop. You just don’t want some email, email account to, you know, do one drop and then stop the next day. You know, it’s based on, we need at least a week or two weeks to, to really get things to work.

Damien: Right. And then what, is there, are there follow ups that, that you would, that you would recommend in terms of, I know you, you had mentioned calls, but is there any cadence or anything that, that you, you know, are there playbooks for, for follow ups with these instead of just, you know, awaiting some people are more patient, some people are, are less patient in terms of these?

Debbie: Yeah. So you can tell, like I said, you can go tell if the applications are actually getting filled out, you know, that’s another good indicator. You know, you can tell if it’s what, what type of traffic it is. If it’s a hundred percent desktop, that’s usually a good indicator. There’s other certain areas that we look at on our side to find out when someone starts, if it is going to be valid and, and you know, what’s, what’s, what’s.

Which, which category we put them in. You know, we have different ones where it could be our top tier, middle tier. It all just very, varies on what, what’s running. 

Damien: But I totally, totally get that. And it’s it, it’s always, this is the, this is the tough space. This is why we’re, we’re having these conversations is because there’s no.

You know, one, one formula, one silver bullet that that works for for anyone you know, all the time. So Debbie, any other, any other advice, any other learnings that you would like to share with our audience? 

Debbie: I mean, I would also just say like when someone does start, you know, and they, they want to like that all of a sudden they send like thousands of Records on the first day.

That is another thing to pay attention to. You know, normally that does not going to work. You know, you need to kind of limit it for the first week or so until you work. It’s backing out for both them and for yourself. So I think that’s super important as well. 

Damien: It is absolutely important. So thank you for joining.

Debbie: I just want to say, sorry, real quick. I just want to say is as being a woman and being, I’ve gotten a lot of energy and I love this space, but like if anyone ever has any questions or wants to reach out or is at a show by themselves. I’m usually always there or else I know someone who’s there and a very helpful and I would love to be able to connect them if I’m not there or at least meet them and say hello to because I, it is scary and as you know, just starting out, it’s a little overwhelming and you know, it’s a, it’s a big chaotic industry, but I’m very happy to be a proud of it and I part of it and I love it.

Damien: Debbie, very much. That’s very generous of you. And thank you very much for for joining us today. And again, if any of our listeners have any needs, not only at shows or connecting with people or any needs in the lead generation affiliate marketed and affiliate marketing or, or FinTech partnership space, feel free to con connect with Debbie on LinkedIn or check out the lead group.

com Debbie. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much for joining us today. Thank you.