This is our first guest blog post written by a consulting partner to Silverpop -- what we hope will become a more-regular feature. Through these special blog postings, our goal is to offer advice and insights from top B2B marketing strategists working on the front line of lead management, content marketing and marketing automation. It is therefore our pleasure to introduce you to Carlos Hidalgo, president of The Annuitas Group. Carlos' experience includes overseeing all aspects of small and medium-size business (SMB) marketing for companies including BMC Software and McAfee. He has also worked with Avnet, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft to deliver strategic marketing, lead management and database development programs. Carlos also will be presenting at the upcominb B2B Marketing University in Washington, D.C., this week, as well as at other stops on the tour this Spring. Welcome, Carlos. ~ABN
The changing B2B buyer, scores of marketing automation vendors and the advent of social marketing have created a perfect storm resulting in confusion about lead management. Not only have I done a lot of writing and speaking on the topic of lead management over the last decade, but I’ve also helped many companies successfully develop their lead management framework. Over the years, I have seen a common thread running through most companies’ lead management woes, and that is this: Most companies do not have a comprehensive view or understanding with regard to all of the lead management issues they face. As a result, many marketing and sales executives take a narrow-viewed approach. They fix only on the areas that their myopic view allows them to see as defective. But like any framework, if the whole is not attended to, the parts will not be effective.
I’m often asked by marketing and sales executives, “What do I need to do to get started in the development of a lead management process framework?”
The answer is simple:
- Define the lead management framework. Then…
- Find out what you don’t know about your current lead management process.
Several months ago on our company blog, I began to define the lead management framework. In a series of posts, we break down each lead management component and discuss their significance. This understanding of lead management in its totality is really the first step in developing a lead management process. To help develop an understanding for what lead management is, it is also helpful to know what it is NOT.
Lead management is not:
- Just lead scoring and lead nurturing. These are part of the overall lead management process, but not lead management alone.
- A marketing automation solution. So many vendors are out there claiming they now provide lead management via their solution (as a matter of fact, some have begun calling marketing automation “lead management automation”). Lead management is a process. It’s not software.
- A set of individual siloed programs.
So what is Lead Management? Lead Management IS:
- A process framework made up of the following areas:
- Lead Planning
- Lead Qualification (including scoring)
- Lead Routing
- Lead Nurturing
- Process that serves as the foundation for and governs how marketing automation is used.
If one considers the components listed above that make up the lead management process (data, lead planning, etc.), it should be apparent that they are indeed connected, and significantly affect each other. A fundamental understanding of this definition should be the basis for reviewing a company’s existing lead management process.
With the framework defined, the next step is to fully understand where a company is with regard to the lead management process. The best and only way to do this is to undergo an in-depth review of all the areas and resources that are involved with lead generation/management programs. This may include reviewing:
- Customer support
- Marketing and sales database(s)
- Use of CRM and automation technologies
- Company website
- Web analytics tools
The audit is a simple fact finding mission with the goal of identifying gaps in the current process. However, just because it is simple, doesn’t mean it will be easy. To be effective, all participants must be willing and honest. There can be no turf guarding. It will help if participants can be assured that the audit is not a witch-hunt or an attempt to assign blame for various issues.
It is also vital to keep in mind that for the audit to be successful it must be a joint effort where sales and marketing are working together. One group performing the audit in isolation will only produce a one-sided view of the issues. The findings will most likely be rejected by the non-participating group. Once the audit is complete, the findings should be reviewed, revised and finalized by marketing and sales together. Only then should the step for developing a plan for fixing the gaps begin.
Marketers who want to create best-in-class effectiveness in lead management should avoid being guilty of putting the technology cart before the horse. Instead, they should seek to define lead management holistically (and get their teams to do so as well), then conduct a thorough, honest assessment of their company’s process. Doing this has shown that they will be better poised for successful, long term process improvement, as well as effective technology implementations.