How to Build an Effective Lead Management System
Lead management is an emerging trend in B2B marketing and sales — and it’s not hard to see why. Companies that have long defined success through traditional Marketing and Sales activities are exploring a whole new set of methodologies for achieving revenue growth — thanks to technologies that can provide increasingly detailed insights on buyer behavior and trigger an appropriate response . Through lead management, companies can systematically analyze interaction outcomes to improve customer experience and conversions through the funnel. In effect, applying A/B testing and improving methodologies continuously to the funnel, optimizing the work of sales reps and marketers.
So what exactly is lead management, and how can you build it into your business? Lead management is the practice of pursuing maximum conversions through the funnel using the right blend of automation, data, and governance. Lead management aims to increase the consistency of individual performance by reinforcing actions that drive results.
Adopting lead management into your marketing activities may seem an easy choice in today’s digital marketplace. The idea of using new technologies to track, nurture, and identify sales-ready leads is incredibly alluring in a world where buyers interact with an array of channels, people, and touchpoints before making a decision. Building an effective lead management system, however, goes far beyond implementing a new technology or process. It means breaking from the status quo of Sales-driven revenue, collapsing the traditionally siloed efforts of Marketing and Sales, and introducing fiscal predictability and accountability where there was previously very little. A solid lead management system ensures that marketers need not work harder, but smarter.
Lead management is transformational and disruptive. While it may sound daunting to implement, it does not have to be. Your company can start building a sustainable lead management framework by first setting a foundation for change management, then focusing on the core elements of lead qualification, lead routing, lead nurturing, and proactive content.
Let’s explore these elements in more detail so we can move closer to an understanding of what it takes to build a strong lead management system.
Setting the Foundation
To get lead management off on the right footing, you will need to set the stage for change by focusing on the people in your organization. Change management aims at circumventing the resistance staff may have when faced with new challenges; planning consists of capturing the current state of your funnel and understanding the upcoming changes for the people and processes that impact your organization’s lead flow.
Prepare for Change Management
Establishing a change management framework is vital to achieving lead management success. To ensure the long term adoption of lead management, you’ll need to motivate meaningful change. We begin by defining the scope of our problem, intentions, and the coalition. Before thinking in terms of projects, we think in terms of people.
- Communicate the vision to all stakeholders
- Create a climate for change
- Create urgency
- Unify people around the vision — both executive buy-in and commitment
To aim for a possible future — a better way of working — begin by capturing the current reality.
Where do we excel? Where do opportunities drop off? Where is friction getting in the way of success for Marketing and Sales?
- Define what makes a good lead and what makes a junk lead
- Examine and define marketing and sales funnels as they currently exist, from first-outreach to closed deal
- Catalog all touchpoints, key interactions, and communication modes
- Inventory how the current process nurtures leads at each funnel stage
- Set key performance indicators (KPIs) for lead management, including conversion, velocity, and attribution
- Create an implementation timeline incorporating key wins at regular intervals
Building the Core of Lead Management: Qualification and Routing
Lead qualification and lead routing form the thrust of lead management — what counts as a good lead, and who will be accountable for picking up leads as they move through the funnel. In lead qualification, Sales and Marketing teams collaborate to identify what constitutes a lead across the entirety of the funnel; in lead routing, teams determine how leads will be passed from team-to-team with timely follow up.
Now we begin to design the concept and process of ‘demand’. How does Sales define a sales-ready lead? How does Marketing? How do both teams perceive the optimal moment, mode, or best route for lead handoff?
- Define lead criteria for each stage of the funnel: how Sales + Marketing identify when a lead is ready to be moved to the next stage, and what kind of treatment they should be given through the funnel
- Define the ideal prospect profile at every stage
- Identify automation technology that can evaluate, categorize, and route leads based on qualification and funnel stage
- Define metrics for measuring success
We have consensus around what makes an ideal lead — and at what point that lead is ‘warm’ enough to send over to Sales — so now, it’s time to consider how we follow up and respond at each stage.
- Chart the whole upper (marketing) and lower (sales) funnel
- Catalogue all lead sources (channels of entry), with data requirements and processing needs for each channel
- Define best practices for data requirements, roles, responsibilities, and SLAs (service level agreements)
- Map routing for each entry source
- Detail escalation rules
Driving Leads into the Funnel: Lead Nurturing and Proactive Content
Now that we have established much of what happens at the lower part of our marketing funnel — what qualifies as a lead, and the mapping and routing of leads prior to a Sales handoff — we need to focus on attracting and driving good leads into the funnel. In lead nurturing, marketers build trust with leads and make leads ready for conversations with sales; through proactive content, marketers populate the revenue funnel with targeted content.
Nurturing comprises the best practices, automation, campaigns, and structure that turns qualified leads from ‘curious’ into ready-to-buy.
- From the prospect point of view, consider common questions, hesitations, or information gaps that can be proactively addressed
- Examine the funnel for patterns of critical drop-off points / opportunities for escalation
- Feedback mechanism for ongoing improvement
Content is the heart and soul of any effective lead management initiative. The right substance will connect unmet needs to your brand, surfacing the appeal and trust to draw more qualified prospects along.
- Identify buyer roles and their involvement in the purchase making decision
- Based on role and stage in the buyer journey, identify and create content to assist and inform at the right moment
- Inventory existing content to identify gaps and repurposing opportunities
- Prioritize new content creation based on most desirable personas and current gaps
Reporting for Lead Management Optimization
Once you have established a foundation for organizational change, identified criteria and routing for sales-ready leads, and have a plan for driving new leads into your funnel, your team can focus on continually improving and fine-tuning your lead management system. Evaluate the effectiveness of your lead management efforts by reporting on key components. Ask each department — from inside and field sales to social media, brand managers, and campaign managers on the marketing side — to define success parameters and KPIs. Integrate technologies that can help make reporting insight easy, and use your reports to identify which marketing activities are working — and which are not.
Learn More about Lead Management
Building a solid lead management system can help your company attain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace of informed buyers. By focusing on the basic elements — change management, planning, lead qualification, lead routing, lead nurturing, proactive content, and metrics — your team can implement a lead management framework that is transformative and sustainable.
Learn more about the elements of Lead Management by downloading our e-book, Lead Management: The Framework for Transformation. In this e-book, you’ll get a closer, comprehensive look at best practices for implementing lead management in your company, to-do lists and helpful graphics for every phase of implementation, key metrics for understanding performance, and easy-to-read explanations about everything from change managing your teams to attribution reporting. It’s the perfect resource and reference guide to get you started on your journey toward reinventing your revenue funnel.