This is a guest post written by Pam Sahota . Pam is a marketing communications/social media manager and freelance blogger who loves Boston, photography, charity events, sushi, wine, and the Red Sox.
Lead management bridges the gap between marketing and sales. It’s a customer acquisition process which identifies potential buyers (leads), educates them, engages with them, and when the leads are considered qualified, get passed from marketing to sales.
Is your business following an organized and effective lead management process? Doing so can improve the results of your lead generation efforts and ultimately contribute to more sales.
If your business is lacking a solid system for managing leads, the following five steps will help you create and implement a successful and efficient lead management process from start to finish.
Step 1: Identify and Understand Your Leads
This initial step is crucial to the success of each of the others. You need to determine first and foremost who your potential buyers are to develop a process that will enable you to identify in which part of the sales process these prospects stand.
First, your marketing team should identify buyer types and what their personas are . This will help you identify your ideal lead picture for your product or service. This persona can be carved out by identifying the following:
- Demographics: Where do your ideal customers live? What’s the size of the company they work for? What industry market are they in? What are their problems, wants, and needs?
- Behavior: Are they reading blogs, whitepapers, or just searching via Google to find the information they're looking for?
- Lead Source: How do your best leads typically find you? Do they come from direct traffic to your website, did they read an article mentioning you, did they see one of your tweets?
You should also dig deeper by trying to understand the mindset of your ideal customer. Is he/she the business owner, the VP, the tech guy? Determine where he or she lives, what he or she reads, and how he or she visited your site.
Step 2: Generate & Collect Intelligence About Your Leads
The sales cycle has been extended because the lead process begins in marketing where the marketing team figures out where the first point of contact was with the potential lead. The key to generating leads and knowing their source is to create and track content.
- Place your premium content offers like whitepapers and webinars behind a lead-capture form to generate leads and gather critical lead intelligence information about them that can be used during the lead management process.
- Add a tracking token to links you share in social media and through email marketing to help you identify leads' behavior and interaction with your content.
- Use your marketing analytics to determine how people are coming to your website or blog and where they are clicking. This will inform you which types of content leads are looking at and help you understand what their interests, needs, and wants are.
Capturing this information about your leads is critical for step four, lead nurturing.
Step 3: Score Your Leads
Lead scoring is a key part of the lead management process in order to determine the lead’s potential interest in your product or service. Potential factors for determining a lead's score include demographic information and behavioral activity. This information is important and useful to the efficiency of passing off qualified leads because:
- The higher the score, the larger the chance the lead is likely to convert.
- Time sensitivity is key, because scores are normally determined by when items are acted upon by the lead. In short, the score may be reduced by inactivity (such as not clicking on email links or blog posts).
- Unqualified or cold leads can go through lead nurturing.
- The sales team can prioritize calls (for example, by the level of activity from the lead).
Your business' leads scoring schema should depend on a variety of factors that need to be determined depending on your business' individual criteria. Spend some time to figure out which factors are important to your business and come up with a lead scoring process that's right for you.
Step 4: Nurture Your Leads
Next, use the information you captured in the first three steps to identify different segments of leads based on their interests and likely position in the sales cycle. Did they convert on a middle-of-the-funnel offer such as a free trial or have they converted on more top-of-the-funnel offers such as educational ebooks, indicating they are closer to the top of the funnel?
For the leads that are not quite ready to pass off to sales, enter them into an appropriate lead nurturing campaign . Many of these leads will still be in the research or awareness phase, figuring out if your product will solve their pain points. This is where you need to educate these leads and demonstrate through more valuable content, promotional offers, etc. that your products/services are right for them, propelling them through the sales cycle.
Here are some tips for creating an effective lead nurturing campaign:
- Utilize a content map to determine what type of content you should provide to each type of lead.
- Be personal in your email and social media communications in order to continue building the lead relationship.
- Include relevant calls-to-action on all sources of content.
- Continue the relationship from first contact until the lead is ready to pass off to sales, offering targeted content to push them along.
Step 5: Pass Off Your Leads to Sales
Be sure your lead is ready to pass off to sales and not pre-mature. Sales team members are normally lead-hungry and will not be happy campers if they receive leads that aren't quite sales-ready. Lead scoring can help in order to ensure this and make sure each lead is qualified. When you do pass off the lead, do so strategically...
- Score carefully and correctly based on the activity a lead acts upon in order to ensure the lead is not in need of further nurturing.
- Ensure the marketing team provides proper and extensive information on the lead’s activity and background that they gathered during the lead generation and nurturing processes.
- Ensure the sales team also researches the lead in order to gather as much lead intelligence information from both marketing and the internet in order to know as much about the lead as possible before contacting. This can include: business structure, current products/services, revenue model, and key decision makers.
- Require that each lead has an immediate initial contact in order to avoid lapsing back into nurturing.
- Consider providing incentives for the sales team to encourage them to pursue more heavily and follow-up more strategically.
- There should always be at least a minimal level of follow-up in order to keep on the radar of the prospect before potential conversion.
Step 6: Track and Measure Your Leads
As all marketers know, we need to track, measure, and track and measure some more. So while your leads may have been handed off, be sure to evaluate all leads with the sales team and continue to refine, score, and evaluate as needed. The key is to make sure the lead keeps moving through the sales cycle without being lost or sent back to marketing for more nurturing.
- Track and measure throughout the entire sales cycle.
- Measure sales performance.
- Measure marketing and sales ROI.
Last but not least, continue evaluating throughout the process to identify what works (and what doesn't work) for your business and your lead management process. It will take some time for your business to work out the kinks, but ultimately, you'll end up with a seamless lead management process that generates better business results.
Image Credit: Mick Lobb