Lead management is at the heart of marketing automation. Without a proper lead management process, the campaigns and content you develop might not translate into revenue or fulfill your larger business goals. There are many ways to properly develop a sound lead management strategy, and plenty of resources to tell you how to do it. This article takes a slightly different approach by highlighting 10 of the biggest pitfalls to avoid when establishing a lead management program for long-term success.
Not Assigning Ownership of the Lead Management Process
It’s critical to have an internal resource to not only drive the development of your lead management program, but also oversee it in the following months and years. All too often, supervision and maintenance of lead management is shared among people or departments, and clear responsibilities are not defined. It is important to ensure that someone is designated to oversee the program development across capabilities, including lead nurturing, lead flow, lead scoring, lead management, and so on.
Equally important is defining accountability for these various components over time. Who will manage the processes short- and long-term? Who will conduct ongoing updates? Who will troubleshoot issues? Who will continue to refine and extend the program? Having clear roles and responsibilities upfront will set a foundation for long-term success.
Not Having a Dedicated Project Manager
Creating a lead management process involves many departments, capabilities, and users. The effort requires multiple phases and includes lots of milestones and varying levels of responsibility. Sometimes external agencies are involved. There is a lot of coordination required to ensure the right people are included, tasks are completed on time, and project plans are progress on schedule. Sometimes project management can fall on the shoulders of the internal champion or manager of the process, but in many cases, this person does not have the time or training required for success. It is always best to have a strong project manager at the helm.
Not Defining Clear Lead Funnel Stages Across the Organization
At the heart of most successful lead management systems is a unified definition of the target buyer’s journey. Marketers generally see the buyer’s journey in terms of the customer’s buying stages, while sales considers stages of the selling process. Although there may be some overlap, these two visions are typically not the same. To have a holistic lead management program where marketing and sales work together, one funnel needs to be defined. Funnel stage terminology, responsibility, and actions should be discussed, agreed upon, and operationalized across all functions. A single view of the buyer’s journey is essential to ensure everyone is working from the same page.
Not Including Sales in the Discussion
As you define your lead management process, craft your unified funnel stages, and begin to develop nurturing programs, you need to involve more than just the marketing team. It is equally important to include sales in your planning – not just because they are a wealth of knowledge about customers and their behaviors, but also because their buy-in is critical.
Sales makes up half of the lead management process – they need to have a stake in the plan. They need to be part of the development process to ensure their ideas, needs, and concerns are addressed. Most important, sales has firsthand knowledge about the customer, their habits, and their key buying indicators, all of which are critical to lead management.
Not Drafting a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
Putting together a service level agreement between marketing and sales can seem like a a daunting task. It’s often pushed aside for as long as possible or, if done, stripped down to “just the basics.” However, the SLA is critical for training, understanding, accountability, and long-term success.
A proper SLA clearly defines the buying stages, sales and marketing responsibilities across these stages, and rules and processes at each stage. It is the blueprint to your lead management process, allowing sales and marketing to hold each other accountable. A good SLA allows for ongoing maintenance and augmentation. It also serves as the jumping-off point for your analytics. Although arduous to draft, service level agreements are more than worth the investment. Without them, rules and regulations can slowly start to fade.
Not Defining Meaningful Lead Scoring Criteria
Lead scoring is typically an area that gets lots of attention – and for good reason. In many cases, scoring defines the hand-off between marketing and sales, which can make or break your lead nurturing efforts. However, if done incorrectly, lead scoring can result in too many unqualified leads, which will disappoint and eventually disengage your sales team.
Again, it’s critical to include sales and marketing in lead scoring development. Together, you can define the proper criteria for both profile and engagement metrics. Your sales team can provide insight on key buying indicators, which are critical in determining a lead’s readiness for sales. Establishing the right definitions for MQLs is an iterative process, but one that deserves time and attention in the short and long term.
Not Including Marketing Operations and CRM Administrators
This one may seem obvious, but in some cases, those with the greatest knowledge about the technical aspects of your marketing tech stack are not included in the lead management discussion until the very end. It’s important to ensure representation from the people and teams that manage your marketing automation platform and integration, as well as those that have expertise in your CRM system, its functionality, and its architecture, specifically as it relates to sales workflows and data.
Once the lead management process has been defined, these processes need to be implemented in your marketing technology stack. It’s important to know upfront the requirements and limitations of your systems. It’s also important to include anyone on these teams whose roles might eventually include management and/or maintenance of these programs.
Not Developing a Strategic Approach to Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing and lead management are not always planned and managed by the same team. Often, lead nurturing falls to the marketing and/or demand generation teams, while lead management falls to those focused on marketing operations. However, these two capabilities go hand-in-hand.
Depending on the focus of your organization, demand generation can bring in the majority of leads. Lead nurturing, done properly, ensures the right content reaches the right people at the right time, warming them to the point of a marketing qualified lead. However, all too often, lead nurturing campaigns are built without proper strategic planning. Truly understanding your buyers – and their needs, questions, and pain points along their buying journey – is critical to ensure your content resonates with your audience.
Journey mapping is also critical. Although we know buyers don’t follow a linear path to purchase, it is still important to understand the various stages, what they need at each stage, and what signals they give at each stage so your content is timely and relevant. Proper lead nurturing, based on strategic customer insight, whether through a series of automated campaigns or real-time personalization, is imperative for a successful lead management program.
Not Defining Your Key Performance Indicators
Data analysis is critical, but in the scramble to stand up a new program, it can be an afterthought. Lead management encompasses so many functions that analytics might not come up until the process is live. However, like any good program, objectives should be defined in the beginning. Clear metrics should be established, specifically citing goals for each stage of the buying funnel. Reports and dashboards should be dedicated to the key performance indicators identified in the planning process.
Ongoing monitoring of these metrics is essential to not only ensure that programs are working as intended, but also to aid in the continual refinement of your campaigns, lead scoring, and processes. Those responsible for reporting should be involved from the start so there is coordination among your teams on the data and architecture required to meet your analytics requirements.
Not Focusing on Change Management and Organizational Readiness
In many cases, the need for change management blindsides marketers. They are so focused on the processes that they forget the importance of ensuring organizational readiness once these programs are ready for rollout. It’s critical to plan for change management upfront.
Consider the stakeholders who will be affected by your lead management programs. How will their roles and responsibilities change? How does this benefit them and the organization? All of these questions need to be answered in a timely fashion and over an extended period. You need to plan a strong communication strategy as well as an ongoing training program to ensure everyone knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
In some cases, certification programs may be appropriate. In other cases, informal training sessions will work. Regardless, communicating change, expressing passion for the change, and training everyone on the change is critical for success.
Configuring a sound lead management process is no small task. It requires significant upfront planning, extensive coordination, collaboration among various teams, and training throughout your company. However, the rewards of a well-built program far outweigh the difficulty of its implementation. A proper lead management process aligns sales and marketing, boosts your lead nurturing efforts, and, most important, increases the return on investment. This is the ultimate definition of revenue marketing.