What About Lead Management?

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a director of marketing about a demand generation program he was getting ready to launch for his company. He had formulated some aggressive objectives for this program, and he was covering all the bases during one of our meetings. When I asked about lead follow up, he brought up the fact that his sales team had only followed up on 11% of the leads marketing had sent them the year before. I said, “You know, you really don’t need to develop any new programs.  If sales just doubled their follow up rate to 22%, you’d meet your numbers”.

Of course, I was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but there was a certain truth to my comments. When it comes to being a “revenue generating marketer”, I find that many marketers are looking for the next “silver bullet”, the latest and greatest solution to their lead and revenue generation challenges.  But in so doing, they often forget the “tried and true”, the things that work every time they are tried.  Lead management is one of those things.

So, what exactly is lead management? In short, it’s seven distinct, but interdependent processes that are used to manage the receiving, qualifying, routing, nurturing and closing of sales leads.

Lead management is not a technology (although it’s almost impossible to maintain proper lead management without marketing technology). It’s not a program – programs usually have an end date.  To think lead management, one needs to think “process”.  Or maybe, “framework”.  And a proper lead management process or framework consists of…

  • A Data Process
    A defined process that provides oversight for how marketing and sales data is used, accessed, stored and kept current.

  • A Lead Planning Process
    A documented “quota”, developed and agreed to by marketing and sales, for how many qualified leads marketing will deliver to sales. This quota is based on the revenue goals for which marketing is held accountable.

  • A Lead Qualification Process
    This consists of written definitions for every stage in the lead funnel or waterfall (terms such as inquiry, lead, qualified lead, etc.); criteria used for determining those definitions; and lead scoring, which is  a numerical ranking of leads in the qualification model.

  • A Lead Routing Process
    This is a mapping to show how qualified leads will be routed to sales, how non-sales ready leads will be nurtured, and how sales will send not-ready-to-buy leads back to marketing.

  • A Lead Nurturing Process
    Through the use of marketing campaigns, this process is where leads are regularly provided information, based on their wants/needs.  This process keeps them conversing, moves them further down the buying cycle, and creates favor to company.

  • A Content Development Process
    You can’t have an effective lead nurturing process if you don’t have a process for creating content. This process is for creating marketing content that is relevant to your audience, and moves them further along the buying process.

  • A Metrics Process
    A process that dictates what will be measured, who is responsible for the measurement, and (perhaps most importantly) how the analysis of the measurements will be used for future demand generation programs.

Let’s face it, lead management is the boring part of marketing.  It’s process oriented, left brain work. However, it’s a foundational piece that will elevate marketing and sales effectiveness to much higher levels.  Investing the necessary time, money and resources into establishing a lead management process will yield substantial increase on the return of marketing and sales programs. It may not be new or shiny.  But it works….every time it’s tried.