Lead Management

6. Manage leads – don’t generate demand

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Forrester recently published research titled “How Mature Is B2B Lead Management?” in which they claim that B2B marketers who shift their focus from “demand generation” to “lead management” are twice as productive.

As Kristin Zhivago points out, one reason for this is because the term “demand generation” implies an outdated mindset where the company is in control of the buying process. In reality, B2B buyers don’t “demand” anything (though they do have needs) and few marketers can create demand, even with the most clever campaigns.

Even though today’s customer controls the buying process, B2B marketers can still guide and assist customers as they move down the marketing funnel.

  • Understand buyers to ensure your solution meets their needs.
  • Help buyers understand that you offer a solution that may meet their needs (this can be a challenge since buyers don’t want to be interrupted, so you need to practice attention marketing).
  • Educate buyers about the space and your offerings in it, establishing your brand as a company that understands their problems and knows how to solve them.
  • Understand when the customer has moved through the buying process and is ready to engage with sales.
  • Pass the customer to the right sales channel at the right time. Be ready to recycle the customer back into marketing if necessary.

From the perspective of B2B marketing, these best practices have common names. Helping early-stage buyers find you is Lead Acquisition; educating buyers is Lead Nurturing; understanding when prospects are sales-ready is Lead Scoring; and delivering leads to the right sales channel at the right time is Lead Routing.

Together, Lead Acquisition, Lead Scoring, Lead Nurturing, and Lead Routing make up the discipline of Lead Management (I’m excluding “understanding buyer needs”, since that falls more traditionally in Product Management). As the Forrester report demonstrates, companies that excel at Lead Management increase the percent of marketing-generated leads that sales acts on, shorten sales cycles, and perhaps most importantly raise the number of marketing-generated leads that result in a sale (from an average of 4% to as high as 10%).

I’ll continue to write about Lead Management topics. In particular, stay tuned for Best Practice #7, in which I’ll cover the concept of Lead Nurturing in greater detail.