Tree.com Climbs to New Heights1 Nov, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response
Since 1998, LendingTree has facilitated more than 23 million loan requests and $185 billion in closed transactions. Over the years, the company added such brands and businesses as LendingTree Loans, HomeLoanCenter.com, LendingTree QuickMatch, GetSmart, RealEstate.com, REALTORS®, iNest and Domania.com, expanding its core business into real estate and other areas of financial services.
Some of those businesses were added between 2003-2007, when LendingTree was part of IAC. "We sold the business to IAC for $720 million, and I began there running the financial services and real estate businesses," Lebda says. In 2005, he moved to New York when IAC named him president and chief operating officer.
But when LendingTree and its associated businesses were announced as part of IAC's spin-off plan in 2007, Lebda saw a new opportunity with his original business. And a major opportunity it is, as the brands and businesses that now comprise Tree.com Inc. combined for nearly $350 million in revenue in 2007.
Planting a New Sapling in an Old Grove
"When I took stock of what was going to become the Tree.com business, I saw some real strengths," Lebda says about his decision to return full-time to his original brainchild. "LendingTree is a great brand, with a great and deep customer relationship. Millions have trusted us with the most crucial financial transaction in their lives."
Lebda also calls the company's online marketing group "one of the best anywhere," and adds, "In today's market, having a business model where a consumer can enter the information they need to find what they are looking for, and then have suppliers compete over them is a very good position. Marketing is becoming more and more consumer driven, and the LendingTree model is very relevant in that space."
He points to the fact that, since its founding, LendingTree had expanded into a number of different financial services areas, and saw the opportunity to expand the LendingTree model into areas that are "even more valuable to the consumer."
"When I decided to return, it was really about how compelling our model is, our unique assets that are leverage-able across categories, and our experience with our advertising partners," Lebda says. "In today's market, you have to use direct response via the Internet to reach consumers and we have a built-in engine that's extremely capable of doing that."
LendingTree s online campaigns are often fronted by massive spending on banner and button ads like this one. The company has found that a multi-channel method across the Web drives the best response to its strong brand.
This is not the first or last time that Lebda mentions the company's relationship with its partners. "Our relations with our lending partners are very close," he adds. "We share information very openly, and we are as focused on their economics as they are. It's a very symbiotic relationship, which is crucial when it comes to media spending and lead generation through our direct response methods."