Lead-management tactics that get results

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Increase in e-mail frequency a potentially risky endeavor
Increase in e-mail frequency a potentially risky endeavor

When it comes to lead management, you can't just roll the dice and expect to be successful. Even with today's powerful marketing automation technologies, process and strategy are essential to developing a strong lead-management program. To win big, you need planning, creativity and technology working in close concert with one another. Here are some key tactics that will help you engage prospects, move them through the pipeline and ensure that you beat out the competition.

Scope Out the Game

Before you start forging a new path, you'll need to do your homework. That means figuring out what your baseline is. For starters, identify the key end goals you're trying to achieve through your lead-management program. Perhaps you need to boost revenue, increase efficiency or improve customer retention. Keep these targets in mind as you're planning the rest of your lead-management process.

Next, evaluate your current processes. Review each phase, asking yourself what works and what doesn't. Include key stakeholders in the discussion, especially sales and members of the C-suite. Topics you should discuss include the metrics you're using, how you're qualifying leads and nurturing them, and what role different messages and media are playing in raising prospects' interest levels.

To raise your lead-management game to the next level, you'll need the right mix of technologies and planning. So, spend some time evaluating what combination of technical products and strategic processes will give you visibility into the whole lead lifecycle.

Know Your Numbers

Traditionally, many marketers have had difficulty quantifying the various aspects of B2B marketing, from choosing the right metrics to accurately scoring leads to effectively gauging campaign results. But considering that this sort of number-crunching can help you better engage prospects and improve revenue, it's imperative that you address the issue.

For starters, work with sales to develop a lead-scoring system. Discuss what constitutes a qualified lead, how salespeople know a prospect is someone they want to talk to, and which criteria should be weighed more heavily than others.

Once your campaigns are rolling, don't make the mistake of analyzing prospect interactions in a vacuum. As you build dialogues with prospective buyers, certain messages and marketing channels may appear to influence a lead's interest more than others. Avoid simply calculating the impact of the original lead source and track each marketing interaction so you can understand the critical path that sales leads are likely to follow.

To better focus on lead quality over lead quantity and maximize ROI, use cost per opportunity as your core metric. By looking at the costs required to generate a sales opportunity, rather than the cost to get someone to download a white paper or drop a business card at a tradeshow booth, you can better evaluate marketing approaches that drive revenue.

Make sure to educate salespeople and other key stakeholders on upstream conversion metrics. By communicating with them regarding the data you use to bring leads to a marketing-qualified level, you'll help build understanding and transparency into what marketing is doing and how it impacts sales activities.

Play Smart

Today's competitive marketplace requires that you keep prospects engaged in productive dialogue. One of the first steps toward long-term interaction between your organization and a prospective buyer is collecting implicit data (i.e. actions a prospect takes). Research has shown that self-supplied explicit data can be overinflated or understated, so implicit data is essential for calculating accurate lead scores. Think about the best ways for you to monitor prospect behavior—via Web-site visits, white paper downloads or email opens and clicks—and incorporate those insights into your lead-management process.

When engaging prospects, let their preferences be your guide for how you connect with them. If some of your leads prefer traditional media, consider reaching out to them through paid print ads, newsletters, byline articles or press releases. If online is the preference, place messaging in banner ads, blogs and social networks. And spiff up your Web site, making sure it's easy to navigate and content-rich.

Also, make sure to map your lead-nurturing programs to the buying cycle. In early stages, educational materials and best practices such as white papers and Webinars are a smart choice.  As a prospect gets further into the evaluation process, case studies and product/service data sheets help supply them with needed information. And when a prospect begins to narrow the choices, pricing comparisons, testimonials and demos should be key elements of your communications.

To account for a range of buyer segments, scenarios and prospect actions and non-actions, create dynamic, buyer-centric campaigns that have numerous branches. By doing so, you'll ensure you're in the perfect position to nurture interest and dialogue to build momentum.

Finally, remember to periodically re-evaluate your metrics, evaluating the campaign data you've generated to spot what's working and where there are opportunities for improvement. You can use this information to optimize campaigns and ensure they're supporting overall business goals.

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