Demand Generation

5 Reasons Why Lead Management is more than Lead Nurturing and Scoring

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I think one mistake many marketers make is to think of their lead management requirements too narrowly — and to be honest, quite a few demand generation vendors make this mistake as well.

As I wrote back in December, 2006, the fact that today's buyers take control of their buying processes using search, social media, and other online tools means that marketers need to move away from a mindset of "generating leads" and towards a model of "managing leads". Done well, this unlocks serious revenue growth. At Marketo, our lead management system helps our sales team to be 40% more productive than comparable SaaS companies, and allows my demand generation team to generate 50% more qualified, sales-ready leads per month at 33% lower cost per lead.

No doubt, two of the most important components of any lead management solution are:

  • Lead nurturing to educate buyers about the space and establishing that your company understands their problems and knows how to solve them, and
  • Lead scoring to know when to pass leads to the sales team – and when to keep them in marketing for further nurturing.

Most B2B marketing automation solutions provide at least some form of these capabilities, though it's worth digging into the details; for example, best practices for both nurturing and scoring require the ability to trigger actions based on complex customer behaviors, which is not available in every solution.

However, achieving the full benefit of lead management requires much more than just nurturing and scoring. Those are necessary but not sufficient components of a complete solution; by themselves they don't automate many of the marketing processes, especially the key interfaces to and from marketing and sales, that are necessary to really unlock growth.

The problem is that as more and more vendors enter the lead management space, it's becoming harder than ever to determine what's right for your company. Sure, I have my biases, but here are my top five lead management best practices that go beyond lead nurturing and lead scoring. These are proven methods to drive revenue growth, and in my opinion a complete marketing automation solution needs to support these processes.

  1. Be everywhere. Cast your marketing net wide so customers will find you no matter where they are searching. As a corollary to this, focus heavily on best practices and thought leadership so prospects will find you even before they are looking for a solution. And, once they do get to your site, be sure you've optimized your landing pages so you maximize your chances of converting the traffic into engaged prospects; landing page testing is a key part of this.
  2. Build prospect profiles. Create a lead database to manage and store all your leads, and then make sure you have a strategy in place to keep that database clean (e.g. lead deduplication). Collect information from your prospects over time (e.g. progressive profiling) and even more importantly build a profile of their interests and engagement by tracking their behaviors: what web pages they visit, what content they download, and so on. This will allow you to segment your leads to precisely target them with the right content.
  3. Automate lead handoffs. When a lead becomes sales ready, you want to get it to the right sales channel with as minimal impact to the sales team's current processes and workflows. For example, make sure to define different lead status values to indicate whether someone is a "qualified prospect but still nurturing" or a true "sales ready lead". When the conditions that define when a prospect becomes a lead are met, update the lead status inside the CRM system and tag the date you made that change. If necessary, change the owner of the lead (again, inside the CRM system) to assign it to the right rep or lead queue. Also, depending on your sales team's processes, send the appropriate sales rep an alert and/or create a task inside their task list for them to follow-up. Don't fall into the trap of trying to do these critical steps manually; only by automating these capabilities with lead management workflows will you be able to keep up with the lead volumes.
  4. Provide sales lead insight. It's not enough just to let the sales rep know they have a new lead. You also need to give them the history and insight about the interesting moments that caused that person to become a lead. And, once sales is engaged with an opportunity, you should continue to provide information that helps them sell better and move the deal along faster. Remember, the "human conversation" is just as (if not more) important a part of the dialogue with prospects as marketing's emails.
  5. Recycle leads as necessary. There are two forms of lead recycling. The first is when you assign a lead to a particular sales rep or partner and for some reason they don't or can't follow-up in a timely fashion. (This is not always the rep's fault. For example, we have a policy that a certain category of leads get a five minute follow-up. But, if the assigned rep is in a meeting, it may not be possible to call right away.) In this case, make sure you can track when sales acts on a lead, and have a process in place to reassign the lead or escalate the issue in a timely fashion if your ‘service level agreement' is not met. (Hint: Waiting until tomorrow is not fast enough.) Second, there will be times when a sales rep cannot connect with a prospect, or the customer is not yet ready to enter into active buying discussions. Without the right lead management processes, reps will "hang on" to these leads, creating a black hole where leads aren't being nurtured yet sales cannot proactively engage. Be sure your have the ability for reps to recycle leads, and to specify the timeframe when they want that lead to come back around to them.

As you evaluate marketing automation software, be sure to take into account all the workflows and processes you'll need to manage your leads, not just lead nurturing and lead scoring. Your sales team will be glad you did.