Pop Quiz: Name your most important job as a marketer. Yes, creating brand awareness is important. Building brand loyalty is up there, too. And yes, you oversee ad development, PR, and customer satisfaction surveys, to name just a few things on your "To Do" list. But in the end, whether yours is a retail shop where customers walk in and pick goods up off store shelves or it's a business-to-business entity with a much longer sales cycle, generating and managing leads —fresh blood, so to speak—is the main focus of any business and no doubt, your #1 job.

Without careful attention to lead management, sooner rather than later, every business will fizzle and die.

Digital media, social media, mobile, and all the traditional marketing channels vie for your and consumers’ attention now. Consequently, generating and managing leads has become increasingly complex, diverse, and critical for a CMO’s success. Get it right, and you’re the company hero (unsung, of course). Get it wrong, and everyone from Sales to Finance to the Executive Office is ready to point out where the Exit sign is.

They already told you what to do in business school. So unless you’re some kind of marketing masochist who likes shooting yourself in the foot, here are 9 things to do when it comes to lead management if you truly want to suck at your job.

1. Don’t implement a comprehensive lead management platform .                    

With leads coming in from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, your website, your mobile website, your blog, email campaigns, SMS campaigns, geo-social services, and oh yeah, maybe print, broadcast, direct mail, and phone too, the fastest way to kill leads is to lose track of them, fail to pass them along to Sales, fail to follow through with lead nurturing , or fail to integrate leads with your customer relationship management (CRM) application. The margin for error narrows every day, and it doesn’t take many lost leads to break the bottom line.

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2. Don’t develop a lead management strategy.

If you’re generating thousands or even tens of thousands of leads per month, good for you! Congratulations! But failing to plan for those leads and how they will be nurtured and guided through the sales funnel once you have them is a surefire way to squander all the effort and resources you put into generating those leads.

3. Don’t analyze your results.            

When you’re swimming in leads, it’s easy to overlook the post-mortem part of your job. After all, if leads are coming in by the boatload, nothing else matters, right? Wrong. If you aren’t using your lead management system to track which channels are generating the most leads and customers , you’re leaving money on the table and/or flushing it down the toilet. Consumers research, shop, and buy in hypertime today. It’s essential that you put your budget where it’s doing the most good and pulling back on those campaigns and channels that aren’t delivering the warm bodies.

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4. Don’t define what a good lead looks like.

On the surface, all leads may look alike, but in reality, some leads are better than others. Why? Because some leads come with a history that tells you more about that prospect than others. A lead from a prospect that has downloaded a whitepaper is better than one who has only visited your website. A lead that has purchased from you before is hotter than a cold lead just testing the waters. A lead that came to you via a recommendation from a social network is more valuable than someone following a Google search link. Use your lead management system to define, score, and segment your leads . Then, work with Sales to determine how they get passed along.

5. Don’t bother with social media.                  

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn -- they’re all just passing fads, right? Maybe, but an awful lot of people are passing by in those fads. Too many to ignore. With 800 million-plus people on Facebook, with billions of tweets each week, and with the time consumers spend social networking, ignore the leads you could be generating from social media at your own peril.

6. Don’t make assumptions.     

A lead is not a customer. A lead is not a slam-dunk. A lead is an opportunity to share the benefits and advantages of doing business with you with someone who has expressed an interest in your goods or services. Use your lead management system to demonstrate how well you will treat someone who has graciously considered becoming your customer.

7. Don’t align with Sales.     

One of the most common traps marketers fall into is letting Marketing remain a silo separate from Sales. The closer Marketing is aligned with Sales, the more the two departments work together to develop and execute lead management strategies—from the top of the sales funnel, through the middle, and out the bottom end—the more effective lead management becomes.

8. Don’t circle back.

If you’re really successful at generating leads, it’s easy to overlook those leads that didn’t instantly move through the sales funnel and close a deal. But, by circling back to leads that have shown more than just a passing interest—in a timely and efficient manner—you start to harvest the second tier of low-hanging fruit. A good lead management platform, properly used, is invaluable in helping you cull these leads and finding out what prevented you from making the sale so you can overcome it.

9. Don’t clean up your database.  

An extra bit or byte in the database may not use much capacity or cost much to maintain. But the time lost following a duplicate lead or chasing bad leads who have gone stale over time does impact costs, it does affect productivity. Routine maintenance of your customer lead database is one of the easiest ways to incrementally improve productivity for Sales and Marketing.

How much is a lead worth? That varies from business to business.

How much does a mismanaged lead cost? Maybe the whole business, because there’s never just one mismanaged lead; where there’s one, there are bound to be many, many more.

Whether your leads cost a few cents each or a few hundred dollars is irrelevant. Your company’s net worth is invested in every single one of them. Treat them that way.


Originally published Jan 17, 2012 1:30:00 PM, updated October 20 2017


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