You see it everywhere: the house as a metaphor. Buy insurance because your family needs to be “sheltered” from risk. Make your kids drink milk so they will “build” strong “frames.” Explore the “many rooms” of your inner self. Maybe it’s overused, but that’s because it works!
So when I want to discuss how solid lead management infrastructure is critical for success, the first thing that comes to my mind is that house: especially the blueprint so you know what you are building, as well as the foundational projects that give you a solid basis on which to build.
The Lead Management Blueprint
In my lead management house, the foundation is technology and people—your marketing automation, CRM, and related systems, and the champions and stewards of those systems. The frame is data. Much in the way that no house can stand without being properly framed, many lead management programs won’t be successful without standardized data and a comprehensive data capture strategy in place. The utilities are lead management programs (taxonomy, scoring, nurturing), and the décor and style are persona development, content strategy, web presence, and branding.
Why is the blueprint so important? Because in order to construct a house that meets your global objective—which is linking the marketing spend for every lead to opportunity value—you need to have an idea of the stages you want to take your prospects through, and how you are going to measure those stages, before you even think about deploying campaigns to those contacts. You need to be thinking about some of the foundational aspects, before you think about the tactical aspects like nurturing programs and one-off campaigns.
The DemandGen blog has recently covered some of the key issues around data, so let’s skip right to the next element in the lead management architecture: the “utilities.”
The “Utilities”: Lead Management Programs
In my daily work with DemandGen clients, I help them develop the “utilities”: lead management processes for moving their prospects toward sales readiness. To move someone through the buying (or funnel) stages, you need to:
- understand the buying process of these individuals
- establish agreed-upon definitions for those stages
- define how those stages are measured
Here’s a critical point: “agreed-upon” is the most important part of that list! To create a lead management process that works, you have to have agreement and alignment between Sales and Marketing, as well as sponsorship at the executive level in your business, or you will have no consensus on what constitutes “success.”
When you think about creating a taxonomy for your prospects’ buying process, it’s critical to consider how the other lead management “utilities”—like scoring, nurturing, and persona definition—are going to work in this taxonomy. A great starting exercise for your team is to define the stages prior to a lead becoming “owned” by Marketing or Sales—and most importantly, to establish the points at which a lead transitions from being owned by Marketing to being owned by Sales. Only after you can agree on these definitions can you effectively deploy lead management processes to move individuals through those stages.
Let’s look at how the “utilities” fit into the design of your lead management house.
Lead scoring is a wonderful tool for two reasons. First, and most obviously, a good lead scoring system that involves both qualification and interest acts as a prioritization tool for Sales, as it shows a lead’s level of readiness to be contacted by Sales. It’s great for environments in which Sales has a high volume of leads that must be followed up.
But a second benefit—that’s often under-appreciated—is that lead scoring creates a nice framework for handling leads that aren’t ready. After you’ve gone through the exercise of identifying/defining the lead stages, you not only know what a qualified lead looks like but, by extension, you know what an unqualified lead looks like! A lead that is owned by marketing typically has at least one of three qualities: insufficient qualification, insufficient interest level, or an incomplete profile. This knowledge allows you to align these non-sales-ready leads to marketing stages of the funnel with very solid objectives for treatment.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you have an E-rated lead (a “suspect”), which is defined in your business as having low interest and an incomplete profile. To move this E-rated lead up to a D or above, you now know that you have to improve interest level and data completeness—giving you clear objectives for nurturing at this stage of the funnel.
Once your demand funnel is defined and in place, and you have aligned your lead scoring model with the marketing stages as I just mentioned, then the opportunities of nurturing become very obvious. I might not be a good fit for your product based on what you know about me, and you can’t change that, but through nurturing (coupled with scoring) you can find out what you don’t know. And of course, nurturing is the single most important tactic to improve interest levels. In a nutshell, once your lead scoring model is properly aligned with the marketing stages of the demand funnel, you don’t have to guess: you can KNOW where to plug in nurturing to help move leads along.
Nurturing is not a silver bullet; you’ll always have some leads in the funnel that aren’t ideal fits. But nurturing gives you a degree of control over what you CAN control, so that you don’t miss opportunities within the funnel.
Often when I talk with marketers about lead nurturing, the conversation naturally evolves to persona definition. Why is this so important? The answer lies in the objectives of nurturing. The most important advantage of nurturing is boosting interest, and you do that by getting individuals to react and engage with the content you send. The secret to creating relevant messaging that engages is understanding the buyer: understanding that person’s job function, role on the buying committee, key motivators, and pain points.
The exercise of defining buyer personas is an excellent way to learn about your prospects, and we’ve previously shared some tools for developing buyer personas. Also, I’ve recently been exploring “social listening” as a great tactic to get inside the mind of your prospects and find out what industry trends could be affecting your solutions. Social listening is the process of monitoring and assessing online discussions about your company or brand. Social listening tools like HubSpot, Oracle Social Cloud/Social Relationship Management (SRM Suite), and Salesforce Radian6 enable you to monitor your social media properties like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you have deployed social listening tools, you can learn what is keeping your prospects up at night—giving your personas even greater value as tools for informing your nurturing programs. (On our Guides and eBriefs page you’ll find a useful tool for helping to define buyer personas.)
Your Lead Management Dream Home
Like building a house, creating end-to-end demand management involves planning and tools. So to realize your ideal lead management vision—once you’ve purchased the technology and selected the motivated stakeholders to govern the technology—think about the important infrastructure programs that will streamline your lead management. Lead scoring can define clear objectives in the marketing stages of the funnel and crystallize measurable lead nurturing objectives. Defining a funnel taxonomy gives your business a shared language, and acts as a foundation for nurture segmentation as well as reporting. And selling the importance of focusing on these endeavors, FIRST to the stakeholders across your business who will be affected, affords you scalability: the ability to make easy modifications to core processes, and extend your lead management programs across your growing business.
Ashley Paris is Senior Consultant, Strategic Services, at DemandGen. A dynamic communicator who believes in the power of marketing automation, business process innovation, and data-driven marketing, Ashley is an Eloqua and Salesforce power user, and a Marketo certified business consultant. With her extensive knowledge and experience in such key areas as lead acquisition and scoring, demand funnel strategy and definition, nurturing and content strategy, and workflow automation, Ashley helps clients generate a solid return on marketing investment.