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What Is A Ping Tree?

A ping tree is a type of lead distribution software that is used in the online lead generation industry.  Ping tree software distributes and sells leads to buyers from different companies as opposed to allocating leads to different sales agents the way that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software does for a single organization.  Ping trees can be used when leads can be sold more than once to different buyers as well as when leads are exclusive and only sold once.

In the simplest model a lead generator will post leads to its buyers in order of the price its buyers are willing to pay.  In very simple cases all it takes is passing a set of filters before the lead is considered to be bought by a given lead buyer.  In verticals such as payday or other such financial niches however it is common practice for the lead buyer to also have the opportunity to peek at some or all of the data fields and answer with an accept or decline with reason.  The automotive vertical goes one step further and conducts real-time simultaneous auctions to find buyers.  In all verticals the lead generator's software will only wait for some short amount of time for responses before moving on.

Experienced online lead generators will go beyond this simple model for ping tree software, for example:

Validate lead quality before entering the ping tree.  Apply some filter rules before bothering any of your lead buyers with obvious junk.  Is the supplied email address even in a valid format?  Is there an MX record supporting it (i.e. does the domain of the email address publish to the world that it does in fact receive email for its users)?  Is the phone number or ZIP code or State valid?  These are just a few examples.
Keep up with duplicates.  Don't bother your lead buyers with leads they have already seen recently.
Honor schedules.  Don't bother your lead buyers with leads on days and times when they are not able to work them.
Honor capacities.  If your lead buyer will only take so many leads per day then stop posting to them after you reach that limit.
Automatically disable a misbehaving lead buyer interface.  If a lead buyer response is not formatted as you expect, or it fails to return a redirect URL, or the dynamic price is out of range with your agreement, then automatically shut it down.
Block bad IP addresses and networks.  Do you think a quality lead for your lead buyers will come from an IP address in Taiwan?  No?  Then block that country's entire set of IP addresses.
Learn and continually revise filters for each lead buyer.  Find out what your lead buyers want and don't want and don't post leads to them that fail these filters.  Routinely question whether the filters are true by temporarily relaxing them and observing what happens.  Take notice of 100% declines for certain lead buyers and lead characteristics and ask whether a new filter should be added.
Score validated leads before entering the ping tree.  After the fast and free validation rules have passed and you've screened for duplicates you may want to pay an outside service to score your leads and/or weed out fraudulent leads.  This is important if your lead buyers are trusting you to do this sort of screening in advance.  If the score is weak then skip your premium lead buyers that will be upset to see poor quality leads and try the ones that just want a warm body to show up at their website, e.g.
Don't just post in order of price -- the "champagne" model.  This creates risk and instability in your ping tree.  Instead spread your "first looks" around a bit.  Distribute your leads on a tier basis, from premium down to thrift, and within each tier randomize your first looks on a weighted basis.  Where two lead buyers promise the same revenue give them the same weight and put them to the test to see which one is really better.
Manage time wisely.  Never forget that you have a live lead waiting on the other end to be connected with your lead buyers.  Do all of the above to eliminate even pinging your lead buyers in the first place because pinging and waiting for a response is the most time consuming activity within a ping tree.  You've done that?  Great!  Now take it a step further.  Put timeouts all over the place.  Only allow the ping tree to run for so long overall.  Only allow a lead buyer so much time to respond.  Only allow a tier in your ping tree to run for so long until you drop down to the next tier - the reasoning here is that once you've spent a certain amount of time pinging your premium lead buyers and they've all declined thus far then odds are none of your premium lead buyers will accept so try the next tier before this lead decides to give up waiting for a response.

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