The 5 Most Important Lead Management Automation Tools
- The purpose of lead management is to get qualified sales leads to the salesforce as fast as possible. It's a goal that is aided with marketing technology.
- Lead management automation brings process consistency, repeatability and scale to sales lead progression and conversions.
- There are dozens of marketing lead management automation tools. But there is a shortlist of 5 apps that are by far the most effective in increasing the volume of lead acquisitions and the speed of lead conversions.
Lead Management Automation
Lead management automation brings consistency and scale to the eight integrated processes that convert leads into sale opportunities. Those processes generally include acquiring, enriching, scoring, qualifying, nurturing, routing, responding and analyzing sales leads.
You might think of the lead management process as starting when the lead is acquired and finishing when it is transferred to sales.
Sales lead conversion rates and velocity are dramatically improved when these processes are integrated and automated. But with a glut of marketing technologies to consider it can be confusing to figure out which are the most effective.
The Top 5 Lead Management Automation Apps
Marketing Automation Platform
Marketing automation software (MAS), sometimes called marketing automation platforms or marketing clouds, are the most used lead management automation tool by far.
This type of marketing software brings precision, process, scale and analysis to lead generation campaigns and lead distribution processes. Or more specifically, these marketing applications track, acquire, score, nurture and route sales-ready leads to the salesforce.
Market leaders for this type of marketing software include Adobe Experience Cloud and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Also, recognize the MAS does not run in isolation but is tightly integrated with CRM software. The two systems go hand in glove and are easily integrated. However, consideration must be given for things like survivorship rules.
For example, if a salesperson updates a prospect's telephone number in the CRM system, and the MAP later imports a list with a different phone number for the same prospect, which phone number survives? There are dozens of these system update scenarios that must be governed.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
As mentioned, there is a symbiotic relationship between MAS and CRM software. MAS manages the lead from acquisition to transfer to the salesforce.
Once a sales lead is routed to the salesforce, all sales activities will be managed in CRM. Once the lead becomes a customer, all customer service activities will be managed in CRM.
This doesn't mean marketing software ceases to be used. Marketing campaigns may still be directed to leads or sale opportunities being worked by the salesforce (especially for opportunities that stall) and to existing customers to promote increased customer share.
The point is that CRM is the customer system of record and all customer interactions from MAS or any other application should be integrated with CRM. Only then can a single system deliver accurate and timely customer reporting, such as customer profitability, customer lifetime value, customer retention and a 360 degree customer view.
Market leaders for this type of software include Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. SAP CRM and various Oracle CRM solutions are popular for customers that use those vendors ERP systems but are seldom considered otherwise.
Customer Data Platform
CDP software consolidates customer data from multiple locations and then dedupes, cleanses, enriches and unifies the data to achieve a central lead or customer profile record. That record is then used for reporting and shared with other systems.
CDP software has the tools to harvest customer data from a variety of sources, convert disparate data into a standardized record and then append the customer record for a much richer profile.
It's that richer profile that improves marketing lead conversions. It's a simple fact that sales lead conversions increase when nurture campaign or other interactions increase their relevance and personalization. CDP is the marketing software tool to deliver personalization at scale.
A CSO Insights Sales Optimization Study cited another benefit of richer lead and account records. They found that 20 percent of a salesperson's week, one full day, is spent researching new leads. If marketers can deliver more intelligence with their leads, using CDP data enrichment techniques, they can empower salespeople with more time for selling.
The CDP may be part of your CRM software or a separate but integrated application. Market leaders include the Adobe Experience Platform, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights and Salesforce Data Cloud.
Conversational Marketing Software
This marketing technology uses a suite of automation tools, such as chatbots, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, to engage online visitors in one-on-one conversations.
Marketers can configure bots with intelligent response flows that operate across digital channels. These bots can guide online visitors through education, evaluation, purchase and other dialogues. Conversational marketing software is effective in engaging digital buyers during their self-education and online research and generating real-time sales leads.
In fact, companies that understand sales lead response management know that the faster you respond to a lead, the more likely you will contact and qualify that lead. Conversational marketing software captures the lead in real-time and avoids all the back and forth of following up with a lead form submission after the fact.
Market leaders in this category include Drift, HubSpot Marketing Hub and Microsoft Power Virtual Agents. It's important that the interaction history be appended to the lead record when transferred to the CRM system so that it's available for salesperson review.
Dashboards and Analytics
Sales lead dashboards bring real-time visibility to each of the sales lead processes steps and show what's working and what needs to be fixed or improved.
It's helpful if your marketing software or CRM system can create effective lead dashboards, but many cannot.
Beyond lead dashboards, sales lead intelligence from a closed loop reporting system is essential to measure what matters and pursue continuous process improvement. Several marketing automation and CRM systems have the capability to tie every lead, customer and revenue dollar back to the marketing campaign that sourced them. That's needed to track ROI by program and shift the marketing budget for increased return on marketing investment (ROMI).
However, getting effective lead management reporting is not easy.
Accurate marketing lead attribution is a struggle, most MAS and CRM systems deliver the KPIs that are easy but not important, and almost no marketing automation or CRM software captures marketing costs (which often reside in financial or ERP software). That makes key metrics such as campaign ROI and ROMI elusive.
While the challenges are real, they are not insurmountable. And beyond the ability to use information reporting to adjust and improve your lead processes, there's another strategic benefit.
It's not uncommon that the head of marketing doesn't possess the same clout as the head of sales in the eyes of the executive team. This often occurs because the head of sales regularly projects revenues to the company and is therefore associated with revenue generation. In contrast, the head of marketing all too often fails to be accountable for revenue contribution and is therefore associated with costs. According to Forrester, 76 percent of B2B marketing professionals agree or strongly agree that their "ability to track marketing ROI gives marketing more respect."
There is an overwhelming body of knowledge and lead management best practices that show these top 5 technologies collectively deliver significant and sustained ROI.
A Forrester lead-to-revenue study found that marketers who had implemented marketing automation software sourced 44 percent of their company's sales pipeline, compared to marketers without marketing software who contributed only 34 percent.
Aberdeen research reported that companies who use marketing automation software integrated with CRM software see 53 percent higher lead conversion rates and 3.1 percent higher annual revenue rates than do non-adopters. And Gartner advises that companies that automate sales lead processes see a 10 percent or greater increase in revenue in 6 to 9 months.