How frustrating is it for marketing that 50 to 70 percent of leads sent from marketing to sales never receive sales follow-up? This is a well-researched statistic that has not improved for the last five years. As a result, the time, money and effort applied to generate sales-ready leads are often much more impressive than the actual revenue results realized from this activity.
From a marketing operations perspective, this common scenario represents a massive failure. Today’s marketing operations organization is about more than implementing and optimizing the right technology and ensuring data quality. Their charter is to enable marketing achievement of revenue goals. With this charter, marketing operations must embrace, drive and optimize an end-to-end lead management process. To build this essential process, marketing operations must change perceptions, provide leadership for change and execute with precision.
The role of marketing operations in perception, leadership and execution
Perception: Lead management is NOT a marketing only initiative to create new leads. If this is the perception, I can guarantee a rough road to implementation at best and a failed project at worst. Lead management is a cross-functional initiative encompassing the entire customer life cycle. To build a successful lead management process that results in revenue, perceptions of lead management in terms of what it is and how it creates business value must be re-oriented and embraced. Marketing operations are perfectly positioned to change this perception.
Leadership: Lead management done well IS a change management initiative. It involves new actions, new behaviors, new processes and new technology. For all affected stakeholders in the lead management process, beginning with a common vision and specific benefits for each group requires leadership from marketing operations. So, brush up on your communication, collaboration and leadership skills!
Execute: Most marketers treat lead management as a series of ad-hoc, poorly coordinated marketing activities rather than an intentional, cross-functional business practice. Sales treats it the same way. The perception of what lead management is, informs how execution is done. As the marketing operations organization, you need to lead the definition of lead management and then orchestrate a cross-functional set of processes, data and systems to be successful.
Defining lead management
Let’s begin by establishing a working definition of lead management. Lead management is both a methodology and capability. The methodology describes the process of marketing generating qualified leads, passing them seamlessly and efficiently to tele-sales or sales, and sales/marketing processing them through to close. Getting this process right and working to continuously optimize it is critical to marketing achieving revenue goals.
Lead management is also a competitive capability.
- Lead management is a capability that is run like a practice.
- A capability is a combination of people, process and technology driven by a goal that produces tangible, measurable business results.
- Lead management is a shared capability for marketing ops, marketing and sales – and perhaps other groups.
- Lead management as a capability and as a process applies to both prospects and customers.
- Anytime you are looking to build a competitive capability and run it like a practice, change management is essential.
The role of marketing operations
The Lead Management Framework (LMF) below details the six key areas of an effective lead management practice. Taken together, these six elements create a holistic and inter-related framework that form the foundation for a lead management practice.
Establishing metrics, tracking and reporting
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. –Peter Drucker
Let’s begin by admitting if we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it. Taking the time to develop a set of performance key performance indicators (KPIs) for lead management is a key step to creating a practice that results in predictable revenue. A KPI is a value you choose to measure. It might be tactical (measures the effectiveness of your marketing activities), operational (measures the efficiencies in your processes) or revenue related (measures attribution, pipeline and revenue).
Examples of tactical KPIs might include the number of newly engaged leads added to the database or volume of marketing sourced in a period. Examples of operational KPIs might include funnel performance or funnel velocity. Examples of revenue KPIs might include the number of sales-ready leads or percentage contribution to sales pipeline. Tie a bow around this by adding dashboards for your selected KPIs.
Marketing operations are absolutely critical to establishing, tracking and reporting metrics. In marketing organizations that do not have a dedicated marketing operations organization, metrics are often challenging. Without this capability, marketing can never prove its impact on revenue and growth.
Defining a sales-ready lead
Step 2 in the Lead Management Framework is to carefully define a sales-ready lead WITH SALES. This key activity begins to define a common language used by marketing and sales and presents the ideal opportunity to begin a business collaboration with sales. A sales-ready lead is determined using demographic data (size of company or title) and digital body language (online behavior). The value of digital body language is continuous in that it helps score a lead (part of defining sales ready) and provides on-going insights for better informing sales pursuit decisions. The definition of a sales-ready lead should be updated at least twice a year.
The role of marketing operations at the beginning of this process is to ensure that the right systems and the right data are available to define a sales-ready lead. The more important role for marketing operations is to constantly analyze results based on defined data parameters and to update marketing and sales as changes happen
Creating one common lead funnel with stages and statuses
Step 3 in the Lead Management Framework uses the common language established in Step 2 and common marketing and sales goals to create one common funnel. In this common funnel, both marketing and sales have unique and cross-coordinating responsibilities. Multiple technologies enable managing one funnel. For example, the marketing automation system provides lead stages and the CRM provides lead statuses. What is important is to have ONE funnel with assigned responsibilities and outcomes enabled by these two different technologies.
Step 3 is clearly a marketing operations responsibility. When marketing does not have a marketing operations group, getting the required changes in CRM is often a monumental challenge. Without those changes, marketing’s view of revenue does not exist.
Architecting lead processing and routing
Step 4 in the Lead Management Framework depicts the detailed flow of how a lead is processed (people, process and technology) and routed. The development of the flows should involve sales input and be optimized through technology. This is an especially important step when an organization is using any kind of tele-sales or tele-qualification team – whether sourced internally or externally. I see many leads lost when this team is added and what I should be seeing is a set of greatly improved results.
Step 4 involves the ability of marketing operations to define and operationalize key lead processing and routing flows. This step also represents the key role in architecting process that today’s marketing operations function must embrace.
Developing lead scoring
Step 5 in the Lead Management Framework is to develop the lead score for a sales-ready lead. This is a MUST to do with full involvement of the sales group. After all, they are the consumer for the leads that you will produce and if they do not perceive value in the lead, they will not follow up. The lead score for a sales-ready lead is determined using demographic data (size of company or title) and digital body language (online actions). The lead score is not a “set it and forget it” exercise. It needs continuous review and optimization.
Step 5 requires the unique data knowledge of the marketing operations team. Too often, sales and marketing guess on the lead scoring parameters rather than using data to build the initial lead scoring program. Also, sales and marketing are not prepared to review lead scoring performance and adjust based on data. This is the role of marketing operations.
Implementing Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
The final step in the Lead Management Framework is to develop SLAs. This document describes the roles, responsibilities and KPIs for marketing, tele-sales and sales. Jointly developed with sales and tele-sales, getting buy-in and behavior change around this document is often quite challenging for marketing.
The role of marketing operations in Step 5 is to ensure that the lead management program is based on data and can deliver the stated KPIs. With this assurance and oversight, there is a higher probability that all parties will adhere to the SLAs.
I’ve seen the same sad story in many companies. Marketing is diligently working to produce sales ready leads and they spend large amounts of time, money and resources to do so. Yet, over 50 percent of leads given to sales receive no follow-up. Or, sales says, “We have it – we know all of our customers!” – Both cases represent unnecessary costs to the company and lost opportunities. It also ensures marketing loses business credibility and is seen as a cost center. It is up to marketing operations to connect the dots and go the last mile with leadership in process, technology, data and functional alignment for marketing to realize an appropriate return on investment. Bottomline: Lead management is the single most critical role in marketing operations today.
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