Party Time, Excellent! Why Lead Lifecycles Should Be Modeled after Assembly Lines

waynes world


Posted: July 15, 2015 | Lifecycle Marketing

Recently, I was in the mood for some silly humor and watched Wayne’s World on Netflix. In the movie, two dimwits named Wayne and Garth work on a beer bottle assembly line before quitting to attend an Alice Cooper concert. Taking Wayne and Garth out of the equation, I got to thinking about the benefits of an assembly line.

It’s not a best practice to hire two dudes like Wayne and Garth, but why do companies roll out assembly lines?

  • Assembly lines are predictable: The manufacturer knows what goes in and what comes out.
  • Assembly lines provide great insights: Management can easily measure production levels to gain intelligence on what to build in the future.
  • Assembly lines are repeatable: Yes, they may take some time to build, but assembly lines bring massive long-term gain as they create efficiencies within the organization.

A lead lifecycle (aka the funnel) refers to how leads move from their creation through to revenue. An organization’s lead lifecycle is very similar to an assembly line, except that instead of an assembly line of goods, the lead lifecycle is an assembly line of leads. The goal is to develop a healthy funnel to optimize leads moving through the system in an efficient and timely fashion. Essentially, create an assembly line-like machine.

Five Prerequisites to Your Lead Assembly Line

Before manufacturers invest millions in their assembly line machines, they start with process definition—a measurable lead lifecycle is no different.

The hardest lead lifecycle work occurs during the early stages when organizations develop the processes and methodologies. Once those are established, automating the lead assembly line from a technology perspective becomes much easier.

In working this process numerous times, I’ve seen where many of the problems exist—you surely can’t take shortcuts. So before you build the lead lifecycle assembly line, here are five prerequisites to ensure long-term success:

1. Align Sales and Marketing

I have seen several instances where marketing attempts to define the methodologies without sales. Inevitably, that leads to failure down the road when it comes time for sales to adopt the processes. Don’t take this shortcut.

Like Beavis and Butthead, Starsky and Hutch, or our friends Wayne and Garth, marketing must have a buddy-buddy relationship with the sales team. Of course, sales and marketing will disagree on some issues, but in the end, a healthy relationship is required in order to achieve lead lifecycle success.

2. Develop Consistent Lifecycle Stages Definitions

Does sales and marketing speak the same language when it comes to the lead lifecycle? Building alignment is tough enough—you don’t need language to become a barrier, too.

If a sales rep thinks MQL stands for “More Qualified Lead”, then you have some work to do. Terminologies are key for getting sales and marketing on the same page and for measuring future success. Make sure your sales and marketing teams consistently answer terminology questions like these:

  • What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?
  • What is a sales accepted lead (SAL)?
  • What is a sales qualified lead (SQL)?
  • When do I convert a lead to an opportunity?

3. Establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

An SLA is an agreement between marketing and sales that a lead will receive the appropriate attention at the right time. Best practice organizations set SLAs to make sure leads move through the system in a timely fashion. Otherwise, leads have a tendency to stagnate in various stages. Below are a couple of examples to ensure that no lead is left behind.

  • MQL: Call within one business day to ensure a hot prospect is contacted quickly.
  • TAL: Call five times in two weeks to promote appropriate follow-up.

4. Agree on and Follow Process

Imagine trying to build an assembly line with bad processes. Probably the worst day dream you’ve ever had, right?! Automating bad processes is simply impossible.

Many times, sales and marketing leaders sit in a room to determine what the funnel processes should look like. “All the reps need to do is change the lead status from “marketing qualified” to “accepted” status.”

That process may sound easy, but agreeing on the process is only the first step. Having twenty reps follow that process consistently is critical to lead lifecycle success.

And expect to train regularly.

5. Get Management Onboard

Let’s get real: process changes can cause some pain. So, management must be on board to help smooth over those bumps and drive success.

In many cases, the executive team gets in a room upfront and agrees on a process. The team feels great that there is a check off that sales and marketing is aligned. But, I ask you, are the teams really aligned?

The hard work will come when the process changes arrive. Sales and marketing executives must stay on top of these tactical issues or risk losing the long-term vision. Inevitably, some sales reps will not follow a process. For example:

  • What happens when a quarter of the sales reps do not follow up on leads within the agreed upon SLA?
  • What happens when sales reps don’t want to adhere to process?
  • What happens when overdue alerts are ignored?

This is when the rubber meets the road for many organizations where management must step in to make process mandatory. Proactive organizations will anticipate these issues and make them just small speedbumps. Organizations without strong executive support tend to sweep these issues under the rug, putting the entire project at risk.

Final Thoughts

There are a few prerequisites to developing the assembly line and funnel. Sales and marketing alignment is one of these prerequisites. Agreeing on processes and terminology is another. And of course, management must buy in to the whole process to drive success.

Once the above hard work is put in, the easier part is building the assembly line itself in your marketing automation platform of choice.

If you are looking to learn more about developing a repeatable funnel, feel free to download my recently published ebook, Six Steps to Transform Your Lifecycle into a Revenue Machine, which outlines six best practices. Enjoy!

Jeff Coveney is the founder RevEngine Marketing and is the chief contributor to the RevEngine Insider blog. When he's not trying to solve digital technology problems, you can find him on the ski slopes with his family or following the Boston Red Sox. Jeff is a four-time Marketo Champion (2012-2015) and a graduate of Clark University (MBA).

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