The One Red Bird Guide to B2B Lead Management.


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Finding leads, contacting them, and turning them into customers is the goal of business. That’s no different than it’s ever been. What has changed is the process and the potential benefits, which are greater than ever.

In the One Red Bird Guide to B2B Lead Management, we give you the skinny on how modern B2Bs are implementing lead management systems and tools including:

Lead definition
Lead nurturing
Lead scoring
Lead recycling

After reading this eBook you will be able to better define your lead management flow and how to identify and drive leads through to sales for conversion into revenue.

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The One Red Bird Guide to B2B Lead Management.

  2. 2. P 2 In this black-and-white distant past (well, OK, 15 years ago), B2B marketing consisted of advertising and branding. Sales meant finding leads and closing deals. Especially in young, growing companies, marketing was nice, but sales were essential. In today’s kaleidoscopic B2B communication environment, those distinctions have blurred amidst a rainbow of color. The old order has been replaced by a quickly evolving new reality in which marketing and sales must integrate their efforts. Lead management is where this integration occurs—or at least where it should. Without it, the new way of doing things is mostly just a pain in the ass. With it, a fertile land of business growth awaits. Back in the Dark Ages before Google, social media and click-through—the role of marketing was to support sales, which were hallowed as the vital engine that drove revenue. Can you Google light bulb? No Jerry. I can’t.
  3. 3. P 3 SIMPLE IDEA, COMPLEX PROCESS Lead management at its essence is simply finding leads, contacting them, and turning them into customers. That’s no different than it’s ever been. What has changed is not the purpose of lead management but the process and the potential benefits, which are greater than ever. Lead management must be consistent and on-point throughout the process. Your lead management flow should be well-defined, and it must be followed. There should be clear responsibility for lead tracking at all stages. Marketing should identify and drive leads through to sales for conversion into revenue. Throughout the process, there needs to be “closed-loop” feedback—marketing must communicate with sales which must communicate back with sales and so on. Mutual support and constant, quantifiable measurement of what works are the goals of this bidirectional interaction. But while this all sounds straightforward enough, in the age of the Internet and computer automation, designing and implementing an effective lead manage- ment system can seem overwhelming. There are so many lead management tools now available that it can be difficult to know where to begin. The following One Red Bird guide to lead management strategies starts at the initiation of the process and follows through to the close.
  4. 4. P 4 WHAT ISALEAD? The first thing to do is to define exactly what a B2B lead is for your company. Is a lead simply someone you have made contact with or is it someone who has been qualified in some way, such as by having a certain amount of purchasing authority? Is a lead someone who seeks you out or does it include people you’ve initiated contact with but who have yet to respond? Perhaps a lead isn’t even someone you’ve made contact with but who possesses characteristics that make for a prime target? It’s important for marketing and sales to work in conjunction to come up with the best definition of what a lead is for your company’s purposes. Without this clarification, there’s no consistent cue to start the lead management process, and there is no solid formulation of where you need to focus lead management resources. This is the starting point for the cooperation between sales and marketing— without real buy-in from both groups on what constitutes a legitimate lead, the lead management process is off to an awfully shaky start. It’s like beginning a three-legged race with the partners not in synch about which foot to lead with. Both partners are going to end up eating dirt. 10 lb
  5. 5. P 5 SO NOWTHATYOU’VE DEFINED WHAT ALEAD IS, HOWDOYOU GETTHEM? Once you’ve identified what you consider to be leads, you need a plan for how to generate them. This is where technology has altered the landscape dramatically. Once upon a time, broadcast, print, and direct-mail advertising were the meat of the marketing effort. But one of the fallacies of the old way of B2B lead management was that marketing activities such as these were not gathering relevant information that could be distributed to the appropriate people. Potential customers may have had their interest piqued by an ad or may have had a positive reaction to your brand, but you didn’t know it and so couldn’t do anything about it. It was left up to salespeople to generate actual leads— a practice that’s inefficient and not effectively scalable as a business grows. Some traditional marketing techniques—such as phone calls or tradeshow booths—have done a better job of collecting information to determine legiti- mate leads. And broadcast, print, and direct-mail advertising CAN be effective in generating specific B2B leads if they prompt people to visit your website, sign up for more information, or make contact in some other way. But while traditional marketing techniques shouldn’t be abandoned by any means, they are hardly enough in an age of information overload. The challenge now is not just to get people to buy into your message. The challenge begins with getting them to pay attention at all. The times demand a multifaceted plan of different marketing approaches, combining traditional methods with the new digital marketing possibilities. These days, you can get your message heard through: • your Website • Blogs • White papers • Internet landing pages to direct customers to take a specific action • E-newsletters • Direct mailings • Cold calling • Tradeshow booths • Brochures • Specialized periodicals • Professional speaking engagements • Social media • Website FAQs • Webinars • Anything else you can think of to make yourself heard above all the chatter. Notice how the new technological marketing avenues mix in this list with the traditional ones. This is important—both the new and the old techniques should be integrated into a consistent, unified, and focused marketing message and strategy. Although there is certainly specific knowledge related to the digital realm—such as familiarity with search engine optimization (SEO) techniques—there should be no wall between the new technologies and the traditional methods. The purpose is still the same—to attract leads and to get them to do business with you.
  6. 6. P 6 WHAT SHOULDTHE MESSAGE BE? You can achieve the cohesive marketing effort you need through a content marketing strategy. Essentially, content marketing is steadily providing free educational resources through the many marketing channels mentioned above to establish your company as a thought leader and ingrain the points you will eventually sell your leads on. This isn’t about blatantly advertising—it’s about gently educating your potential customers, earning their respect and appreciation, and setting yourself up as an expert in the areas where you want to eventually sell. This last point is critical and is once again an area where marketing and sales must be in lock-step. In takes input from both groups to formulate a consistent and effective message that suits your company’s unique market-positioning goals. The marketing department must understand what will benefit the sales team, and sales needs to appreciate how the marketing can be put to the best advantage. Your content marketing strategy will work only if the marketing sets your company up as a thought leader in a way that the sales team can leverage into more customers. Needless to say, it’s crucial that the content you provide to leads is quality content that truly does offer expert advice. If you’re not really providing a service to leads—if you’re just putting out thinly disguised advertisements— your efforts are largely wasted. SCORING LEADS As leads move through the buying process, you can increase the frequency and selling intensity of your messages, but don’t push too soon. With the growth of the Internet, potential customers are increasingly using web searches and your online presence to explore your company—and your competitors—long before they’re actually ready to buy. They’re engaging your marketing effort earlier than ever. A central characteristic of content marketing is that it is not hard-selling. It is about relationship building in preparation for sales. However, this doesn’t mean that you just passively wait for leads to become sales-ready. Even though you’re being careful to let them move toward you at a pace that’s comfortable for them, at each stage of the lead management process be specific about the actions you want leads to take—such as opting in for email updates, visiting your website, or taking a survey. Focus your content on getting them to take those actions. This nudging of leads not only gets them closer to buying, the way in which they respond to your prompting provides a means of measurement that is crucial to any lead management system. Salespeople aren’t just looking for a large volume of leads—they want leads that are qualified and worth an investment of time. Quantifiable measurements of a lead’s interest in your company saves sales- people much wasted effort. A 10% increase in lead quality can easily result in a 40% increase in sales productivity, so it’s critical that you have a system to filter out the low-quality leads and funnel the hot leads to your sales team. Today’s technology can do that. Software programs can prioritize leads through analytical scoring metrics to gauge a lead’s level of interest.
  7. 7. P 7 So how can this work? First of all, determine areas you need to track to learn how interested a lead is. Some things to look at include: • Registration and survey data that you capture through your website (What level of interest did they express? How much of a need for your product did they reveal? What is their perception of your brand?) • Web interaction history (How often do they visit? Do they go to your blog? Do they go to your products page? Do they download white papers or sign up for e-newsletters?) • Response to emails you send (Do they click on links? Do they respond to questionnaires? ) • Phone interactions (Have they called you? Do they take or return your calls if you call?) • Company interest (Do you have other leads in their company? Have you done business with their company before?) • Length of time since last activity (You might want to deduct from a lead’s score if they haven’t had any activity for a certain period of time.) Develop a quantified scoring system for each metric you choose to track, then enter the scores into a database with a scoring matrix that’s accessible to both marketing and sales. With this information you can determine how close each lead is to being sales- ready and you can set an exact point when a lead is funneled to sales. You also have a method for adjusting for changes in a lead’s situation (e.g., change in budget or management) in a quantifiable way. SEEKINGTHE IDEAL CUSTOMER Scoring works both ways. Not every lead is of equal interest to you. Marketing and sales should work together to develop an ideal-customer profile, and all leads should be measured against this standard. When developing this profile, look at your existing customers. This is the down-and-dirty of prioritizing leads. Determine which existing customers are most profitable to you, analyze their characteristics, and use those characteristics to help develop your lead scoring matrix. The closer a lead resembles what has worked before, the higher they are scored. When looking at your existing customers, consider factors such as: • Size (revenue, number of employees, locations) • Scope (local, regional, national, or international) • Line of business • Type of business (e.g., public or private, number of owners) • Corporate culture • Company leadership • Business situation (i.e., is growth likely or are they struggling). With this general idea of how desirable a lead is, you can then begin to prioritize based on specific traits of your leads. As with a lead’s interest level, these metrics can be tracked on an ongoing basis and adjusted in your scoring matrix, so that you’re always alert to increasing or decreasing lead desirability.
  8. 8. P 8 Metrics you can continually monitor include: • The company’s budget for the relevant project or projects • The lead’s purchasing authority or other role in a buying decision (e.g., “champion,” influencer, or user) • The level of the lead’s need • The timeframe the lead is working on—immediate, short-term or way down the road • Any changes in the company’s demographics (size, market position, growth prospects, leadership, etc.) There’s an abundance of analytical lead management software with scoring capabilities to automatically perform these tasks. Consulting firms such as One Red Bird can help you select your best targets, establish proper scoring metrics for tracking them, and select the software solution that’s best for you. HOWTO NURTUREALEAD Once a lead has been established, the next step is to nurture the lead, to bring it along to the point where it’s ready to be sold. This is where the dance be- tween marketing and sales really gets hot. Both sides have to have their moves coordinated just right. In the nurturing stage, sales and marketing must agree and take action on questions such as: • What problems does the lead have ? • What is the lead’s top priority? • What is the lead’s greatest fear? • What are the lead’s pain points? • What message should we present? • What are the best vehicles for delivering this message? • What exactly are we trying to sell the lead? • How can we nudge the lead along toward a sale? • Should we offer incentives? • When and how often should we make contact? When it comes to making contact, the direct, personal approach is still essen- tial at the right time, either through phone calls, personalized emails, good-old letters, or face-to-face meetings. But today’s technology allows much contact to be automated through electronic communications such as opt-in e-newslet- ters and social media postings. When utilizing automated nurturing, the concept of “permission marketing” is important to understand. You want to get potential customers’ permission to receive communications from you. So don’t try to trick them into registering for your email list or bombard them with unwanted mailings. 10 lb
  9. 9. P 9 Just because they indicate they want to learn about you once doesn’t mean they want to keep being contacted by you, and you risk alienating them forever if you are too aggressive. Ask them to explicitly request ongoing information. You can build trust, appre- ciation, and a sense of partnership by allowing leads to customize the types of contact they have with you. Perhaps they want email reminders only. Or maybe they may want a daily newsletter. They might want occasional phone calls. Find out what aspects of your products and services they are interested in. Give them what they want now so you can begin building a relationship. The idea is that as they learn more about you and become more comfortable with you, they will want more and more from you until they are eventually sales-ready. This self-customizing approach also focuses your marketing. You’re not wasting resources trying to sell a product to a lead who doesn’t care at all about that specific product and will never buy it. Instead, you’re delivering the marketing message they do care about and that has a real chance of resulting in sales. Especially in cases where a lead isn’t ready to directly work with your business yet—when sales efforts might actually drive them away—these ongoing automated contacts can nurture the relationship until the potential customer is ready to engage you directly. Salespeople are skilled at closing sales. They may or may not be good at nurturing. By establishing upfront what the expectations are for a qualified, sales-ready lead, a potential customer can be sent to sales at just the right moment. On the other hand, if a lead meets predetermined, automatically flagged criteria for being a hot lead, there needs to be a clear process of moving them into a more-aggressive, fast-track approach toward sales. It’s vital in the nurturing stage to rely on your lead management database. As control of a lead passes from one person to the next, the database ensures that all the relevant information is located in a centralized place and not lost or ignored. You should always keep your database functioning, up-to-date, and clean of extraneous information. And, of upmost importance, you must make sure everyone uses it and buys into its worth! It’s should be a dynamic driver of action, not a data-entry chore. And don’t forget that it’s not only new leads that need attention. The leads already in your database are a rich source of potential sales—they may just not have been nurtured to that point yet. Leads should never be allowed to sit idle in one spot in your lead management system. There should be mechanisms in place to move them at set periods of time into appropriate stages to spur their interest. …as they learn more about you and become more comfortable with you, they will want more and more…“
  10. 10. P 10 LEADRECYCLING— DON’TDROPTHEBALL Sometimes leads that are passed on to sales in the lead management process may not be adequately engaged by sales in a timely fashion. Perhaps the sales team determines they aren’t actually ready to be sold. Or maybe their lead scores change and they are automatically returned to marketing. Or maybe the sales team is inundated with hot leads and has to prioritize. In situations such as this, it’s crucial that the lead not slip through the cracks. Any effective lead management system must also have a predetermined lead recycling protocol. Marketing and sales must mutually determine in what time frame a lead is either properly pursued by sales or returned to marketing—and also when the lead is then recycled back to sales. Automatic mechanisms are essential in managing lead recycling. But there also must be communication between sales and marketing to allow for flexibility. Don’t let your scoring system become irrelevant, but also don’t let it override common sense. In many recycling cases, the sales team does manage to have some interaction with the lead before they are returned to marketing. The good news is that this contact isn’t wasted if its helps build the relationship, and this preliminary sales contact should be factored into a lead’s score. MEASURINGYOUR LEAD MANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS One of the most frightening aspects of the new world of B2B lead management for marketers and salespeople is that the technology that allows for greater access to leads also makes it possible to more accurately track the effectiveness of the lead management process. There’s more accountability than ever. That’s a good thing for your company, but it can scare the hell out of people who are used to fuzzy evaluation. They’re going to have to get used to it. The analytical metrics that lead management software can provide—measuring lead management’s return on investment (ROI) at key points throughout the process—are highly valuable to the management team in improving overall company productivity. B2B lead management has often been conducted based on the experience of a few key people, not on quantitative data. While experience is good, it pays to examine exactly how you market and sell and what is proven to work. This leads to greater efficiency and helps defend the lead management budget to people inside the company who may underappreciate its value. This is the rubber-meets-the-road stage of the lead management process. It’s essential that you are able to tie each stage of the process to an actual impact on the bottom line. You should develop a matrix that tracks conversion rates, costs, and revenue impact for all movement between the stages in your lead management campaign. Then compare those results with leads that haven’t been nurtured through the process. This comparison will show you the tangible benefit of your endeavors. Let’s consider specifically how this can be done. First, define the lead management stages that you wish to measure. You can include as many stages as necessary, but as always, marketing and sales must coordinate to define the stages.
  11. 11. P 11 For example, you may determine that you want your first stage to include each potential lead even if they have not been qualified in any way. (This goes back to your definition of what a lead is. You may call people at this stage “pros- pects” rather than “leads,” but the terminology is not what’s important—it’s the mutual consensus of how people in this stage should be approached.) The next stage could be when your scoring system identifies leads as fitting the profile of a lead worth pursuing. The third stage could be when a lead who meets the scoring profile has also shown interest in some measurable way. A fourth stage could be when the lead is turned over to sales. At each stage of this process, track the conversion rates from one stage to the next, and then compare the conversion rates for leads who are nurtured to those who aren’t. You can do this by comparing historical conversion rates for a given period (say a month) with conversion rates under your new lead management program for a similar period of time. So, for example, let’s say you are considering movement into the sales-read- iness stage from the preceding stage. If you had 10,000 leads in the preced- ing stage at the beginning of a month when you didn’t nurture, and 50 were converted to sales-readiness, while in the month with nurturing in place you converted 100 from the same number, you would have a pre-nurturing conversion rate of 0.5% compared to a post-nurturing rate of 1.0%. You now have a measure of how effective your lead management program is working between those two stages. This measurement can be correlated with any increased expenses (which should be relatively negligible) associated with the nurturing effort. It also can be correlated with the average revenue generated by a lead’s movement from the preceding stage to the sales-readiness stage— a calculation that can be readily done with the right software and a careful analysis of how the movement between stages contributes to eventual actual sales. This process will give you a meaningful ROI number for any benefits (return) and expenses (investment) associated with movement between the stages. (You can increase the accuracy of this measurement by considering more periods of time and averaging the results.) Now go through this process with each stage you have defined as important to track, and you will have a precise idea of how your bottom line is affected at each key point in the lead management life cycle For another ROI measurement, extend the time period, perhaps to a year, and calculate movement from the very first stage to sales-readiness. Eliminate leads that were converted to sales-readiness in less than month. The point here is to measure lead nurturing’s effectiveness at bringing along slow-moving leads and also to gauge the strength of your lead recycling program. Follow the same process, comparing the results for the same amount of time without nurturing versus with nurturing, and then correlating to cost and revenue. Your proficiency at lead management should improve over time, so it’s impor- tant to continue to recalculate ROI to measure your increased success. Any new expenditures related to lead management can also be evaluated using this process of comparing new results to previous results. Each company should develop its own comparison mechanisms to fit their specific situations. The important thing is to have a quantifiable way to track how your lead management program is working so you can make needed improvements and know that it’s worthwhile. Whatever measurement system you use, the metrics can easily be tracked and calculated by lead management software. This is extremely valuable information just waiting to be harvested.
  12. 12. P 12 DON’T NEGLECTTHE PERSONAL TOUCH As you can see, the Internet age has introduced many new challenges, but also a bevy of opportunities. Successful companies in this new world must face these challenges and seize these opportunities, and it often pays to seek expert assistance on exactly how to do that. Consulting firms such as One Red Bird can help you develop a lead management strategy to navigate through the new B2B sales and marketing environment toward increased revenue and profitability. But with all this talk of technology, be sure not to fall into the trap of thinking that lead management has become a machine-oriented process only. Technology can make your lead management efforts more productive, but it’s not the end all to end all. It doesn’t eliminate the need for a personal customer experience. Technology is only a tool—it only sets the stage for your salespeople to step into the role of trusted advisor, reliable partner and the go-to person when the customer needs to buy. Don’t lose sight of the goal of lead management—to detect, qualify, attract, and nurture leads to the point that your sales force builds a lasting human relationship. After all, companies don’t decide to buy, people do. B2B lead management is about finding out what people need that you can sell them, and them convincing them that you’re the best choice to provide it, now and in the future. At One Red Bird, we know that’s something that will never change. How’s your mother?
  13. 13. ABOUT ONE RED BIRD One Red Bird is a marketing services firm that transforms how B2B marketing can be used to drive revenue performance and fuel business growth. With deep expertise in marketing automation, content creation and marketing strategy, One Red Bird can develop, streamline, and resource your demand generation program. Contact Us One Red Bird Marketing Inc. 905 510 9194 ONEREDBIRD.CA INFO@ONEREDBIRD.CA T E W T E W About US