Jon Miller

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Lead Management Success Center

Lead management is the process by which marketing acquires, evaluates, nurtures and hands off leads to the sales team. Sounds simple enough, right?

Many companies have no standards in place for properly managing leads, so weeding out genuine buyers from those just poking around is difficult and time-intensive. Sales departments often receive weak leads, wasting more time and ultimately detracting from revenue. In fact, according to Gleanster Research, only 25% of leads in a given sales pipeline are legitimate prospects.

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Companies can significantly improve their sales pipeline by developing lead management strategies that incorporate lead nurturing, lead scoring and marketing automation.

Ready to dive in to lead nurturing? Set some time aside to study the Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing.

Define Sales-Ready Leads

Sales and marketing teams often have conflicting views of what constitutes a “qualified lead.” For instance, a marketer might consider any contact that responds to a marketing campaign to be a “lead,” but a sales representative might only care about leads that are ready to buy.

Sales and marketing must work together to clearly define what they think a lead is. Consider the following criteria when evaluating your leads for sales-readiness:

  • Demographics: Geographic location, company size, etc.
  • Lead source: PPC search ad, social media and the offer they responded to.
  • Behavioral information: Web page visits, content downloads, event attendance, etc.

Once lead criteria have been agreed upon, set up procedures and systems that enforce those criteria. Do leads that fit your criteria actually make a purchase? Ongoing measurement will allow you to use data to improve your definition of sales-ready leads over time.

CSO Insights conducts an annual study on the role marketing plays in delivering sales opportunities--it’s worth a read.

Nurture Sales Leads

Once you have defined a sales-ready lead, it’s time to nurture your lead pool to generate as many sales-ready leads as possible.

Lead nurturing is the process of delivering targeted, personalized resources and offers to your entire lead funnel to move prospects through the buying process. We have found that companies with excellent lead nurturing programs generate50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.

How does a company nurture leads until they’re ready to buy?

First, determine your prospects’ unique preferences. What topics interest them the most? What challenges are they wrestling with today? Do they respond better to emails, social media, webinars, or a mix of communication methods? Carefully evaluate which topics draw the most attention from individual prospects. An automated lead management tool will help track your customers’ likes and dislikes to coordinate the sophisticated communication strategy that lead nurturing requires.

"Lead nurturing is at its most powerful when messages to the prospects are triggered based upon their actions - thus enabling you to deliver more relevant content to them easily and cost effectively. Nurturing and nudging is crucial to relationship building as it gives the prospect an opportunity to evaluate your expertise as a company as well as psychologically making them feel somewhat indebted to you for providing such valuable information, so that when the time comes, they've already decided that you are the company they want to do business with".- Kath Pay (@kathpay), eCRM & Email Marketing Consultant & Trainer, Plan to Engage

The most important characteristic of effective lead nurturing campaigns is to consistently deliver highly valuable, relevant (and branded) content.

 "Give away content that people would pay for. Don't be stingy with the quality of content you share or the detail you provide. Give away your gold. You have a deep well; give away overflowing buckets of icy cool water, and people who are even remotely thirsty will come back to pay for the rest". - Joanna Wiebe (@copyhackers), cofounder of Copy Hackers

For a checklist of important things to know when it comes to lead nurturing, check out Marketo’s Lead Nurturing Cheat Sheet.

Improve Lead Management with Lead Scoring

Many businesses realize success by incorporating scoring methodologies into lead management, with the end goal of prioritizing leads for sales teams. According to a Customer Think survey, “Sixty-five percent of best-in-class companies define & execute multi-step lead nurturing processes, and 59 percent of these same organizations (vs. an industry average of 25 percent) utilize lead scoring to progress leads over time.”

"Today marketing is every bit a data-driven process as it is a creative exercise. The best lead scoring is only as good as the data behind it. Quality data and metrics includes demographic data (industry, company, title, geography), behavioral data (opens, clicks, searches, shares, views, purchase, AOV), and even operational data (bounces, complaints, growth, attrition)." - John A Caldwell (@jacaldwell), Principal, Red Pill Email

Why is lead scoring so effective?By tracking your prospect's behaviors and web activity, you determine not only their level of interest in your solution, but also your interest in them. This information will help your sales team spend their time on the leads that matter.

Any effective lead scoring model should take into account all available data including demographics and behaviors. Use this data to define lead scoring thresholds that indicate whether a prospect is "qualified but still nurturing" or a true “sales-ready lead."

More and more companies choose to invest in scoring technology to reduce the time and hassle of manually sorting through leads. Lead scoring software automatically assess opportunities and passes them on to sales the instant they are deemed sales-ready.

For a checklist of more than 250 B2B scoring rules, don’t miss The Big List of Lead Scoring Rules. And of course don’t forget the Definitive Guide to Lead Scoring.

Utilize Lead Management Software

According to an Aberdeen study, 71% of surveyed best-in-class companies said they utilized lead management technology. Automated lead management tools help companies monitor prospect behavior and engage in timely, individualized interactions more likely to generate revenue.

One of the biggest reasons companies leverage the power of technology for managing leads is the sheer volume. Managing thousands or even millions of leads at a time is an overwhelming task for nearly any organization. The best solution is to software-driven automation rules capable of processing leads at lightning speed, while also introducing best practices to ensure win-ready opportunities are quickly identified and sent to sales.

"Automating lead management can provide the opportunity for measurement and experimentation. For example, we found that packaging some related blog posts with live or on-demand content webinars have been effective, and we monitor conversions and key performance indicators accordingly. Lead nurturing allows you to focus your efforts on truly maximizing your engagement for optimum conversions, versus scrambling to get something together for the sake of just ‘touching base'". - Brooke Browne (@SmartMPM), Marketing Manager, SmartMPM, Smartbridge

Automation also enhances the quality of customer data by removing duplicates or merging customer data from disparate sources. This important functionality provides sales with a clean, up-to-date list to work with in order to help you win more business, faster.

We might be biased, but here’s some awesome lead management software to look into.

Measure Your Lead Management Efforts

Once you hammer down all the processes involved inacquiring and managing your leads, it’s time to evaluate your performance. Begin by assessing vital areas: the cost of acquiring or nurturing a lead, which marketing campaigns brought in the most prospects, and how long it took to convert leads to actual sales, among others. Tracking these types of metrics gives you insight into the efficiency and effectiveness of your lead management practices. It also provides perspective on how your marketing efforts are impacting your pipeline and your bottom line.

"Over 40% of the typical sales process is spent in pre-planning, which includes lead generation and qualification of prospects.  With such an emphasis on marketing resources, it makes sense to ensure that you have metrics in place to determine your lead generation ROI. Being able to identify strengths and weaknesses will help you significantly in maximizing ROI". - Willis Turner (@willisturner), President/CEO, Sales & Marketing Executives International, Inc.

By consistently monitoring the performance of your lead management activities, you will identify weaker activities and weed them out. You can also pinpoint those marketing activities which draw in the most business to create a culture of continuous optimization.

Need more lead management help? These success kit is a great place to start.

Conclusion: A Strategic Approach to Managing Leads

Having a strategic method in place for lead management is vital to the success of any marketing effort, and for ensuring that sales have “qualified leads” (and lots of them!). When done correctly, lead management creates more-educated buyers, helps you better understand their needs and, ultimately, generates more revenue, faster.

Ready for more? Check out these lead management techniques you probably aren’t using.

Additional Resources:

Marketing Research Chart: Messaging Tactics for Effective Lead Nurturing (MarketingSherpa)
Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management (Gartner)

Survey Questions:

1. How would you rate the effectiveness of your current B2B lead management practices?

A) Excellent         B) Good      C) Average      D) Needs work

2. Does your company incorporate scoring into lead management?

A) Yes     B) No

3. If so, do you utilize marketing software to help you score leads?

A) Yes     B) No

4. How often do you scrub your opportunity lists?

A) Frequently          B) Occasionally     C) Rarely     D) Never

5. Do you have practices in place to nurture leads that are not yet ready to buy?

A) Yes     B) No

 

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