DM News Essential Guide to Lists and Databses: Essentials of Lead Management

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In today's age of enabling technology, too many organizations continue to do reactionary marketing. For inbound channels, they fulfill leads with just what's requested.

For prospecting, they acquire lists and blanket them with single offers - offers that aren't customized to the potential customer's needs.

The cure to this is lead management.

Lead management aims for effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness means knowing who your best customers or leads are and treating them according to their value. Efficiency is the opposite. Put another way, lead management aims to maximize your return on marketing investment. The majority of your marketing capital should be invested in customers/leads most likely to respond.

Lead management is not a destination. It's a process that, if handled well, grows increasingly effective and efficient. Here are the basic steps:

Focus on the customers/leads before products/services. Too many organizations start their marketing efforts with the product or service they wish to push. The other direction is to learn about customers' needs, then match them to your offerings. This greatly increases the probability of fit and response.

Isolate decision drivers. Determine what you should base your decisions on. It may be preferences (model, price range), situational data (demographics, purchase horizon) or marketing history (what have they responded to in the past?).

Qualification. Using the decision drivers, score each lead to divide them into broad classes. Use your common sense to start. You may not be quite right, but you have to start somewhere.

Differential treatment. The different qualifications represent classes of leads with some level of common needs. Modify your communication, offer and channel to match those classes. Again, you have start somewhere.

Measurement. Integrate any feedback to measure the results. What worked and what did not? You will draw conclusions faster than you think. You then create a cycle by going back to the "isolate decision drivers" step to make adjustments.

Segmentation. After a few iterations, you will find that your understanding surpasses your qualification logic. The next step is segmentation. It can take many forms, such as profiling your best customers to isolate those similar. Repeat the cycle.

Responsiveness. You now know how to match treatment to customers/leads. Your focus will shift to addressing opportunities in the market before your competition. Call this responsiveness. It has three major objectives:

· Compact inbound cycles: If a lead has indicated interest, get them the information as quickly as possible to move them along the purchase cycle. Today, some opportunities disappear in a matter of days.

· Maximum flexibility: If you determine that something is booming or failing, you need to adjust your treatment as soon as possible.

· Rapid implementation: If the opportunity requires an entirely new campaign, you can't afford to start from scratch. You have to be able to leverage what you already have in place. Taking weeks or months to launch a program is unacceptable.

Achieving these three objectives is not possible without knowing your customers/leads, isolating the key decision drivers and having clear metrics of success.

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