7 High Impact Lead Management Best Practices
- The purpose of lead management is to systemically and predictably advance sales leads through the revenue funnel.
- There are two overarching goals. First, to engage, educate and help buyers throughout their purchase journey. Second, to increase lead conversions, decrease lead leakage and maximize revenues. The two goals are symbiotic.
- Lead management best practices share lessons that save time, reduce risk and improve results. They show what actions deliver lead conversion results and which don't. They help focus on what to do and can be equally helpful in determining what not to do.
Marketing Lead Management Best Practices
There is no single method to manage sales leads. But there are lead management best practices that share valuable lessons of what works, what doesn't and how to maximize your lead conversion results. Here are seven of those lessons.
Start at the Beginning
There are eight integrated processes that systemically convert leads into sale opportunities. Those processes include acquiring, enriching, scoring, qualifying, nurturing, routing, and analyzing sales leads.
It's important to start at the beginning when designing or implementing your lead management program.
That's because integrated processes build upon each other so a weakness in an early step will degrade one or more downstream steps. For example, poor lead enrichment will degrade lead scoring. Poor lead scoring will degrade lead assignment to sales.
Also, because each step in the process yields a smaller number of leads than the prior, simple math shows that improvements to the early steps are far more influential than comparable improvements later in the funnel.
More Integrated Processes = More ROI
Managing leads is a high transaction volume activity. So, to achieve efficiency and scalability the eight processes referenced above must be integrated, automated, measured and in a state of continuous improvement.
Research published in the Marketing Transformation Report demonstrated that marketers who implemented seven or more of the integrated processes achieved an impressive 211 percent ROI from their sales lead program. That was about twice as high as the average and three times higher than respondents who operated six or fewer processes.
And the benefit doesn't end with ROI. End-to-end process automation maximizes lead conversions, accelerates sales cycle velocity, and minimizes lead leakage, all of which collectively drive revenue growth.
Nurture Marketing Doubles Qualified Leads
The research referenced above also found that only 26 percent of new leads are sales-ready when acquired. The majority of acquired leads are not yet ready to buy.
Passing unqualified leads to the salesforce wastes their time, lowers their productivity, and exacerbates the perennial and often hidden problem of lead leakage.
The better approach is to nurture leads until they demonstrate buy signals and then pass them to the salesforce.
The research also found that nurture campaigns ultimately converted 72 percent of the not yet sales-ready leads into qualified leads in 6 to 11 months, on average.
When you extrapolate these results, the data shows that effective nurture campaigns can produce more leads from the not-yet-qualified volume than were obtained in the initially qualified group.
That doubles the number of total leads sent to the salesforce and cuts the cost per lead in half. It also creates a high impact revenue growth opportunity that goes untapped by most companies.
Benchmarks Prioritize Improvements
Marketers often struggle to know which lead program or process improvement will deliver the biggest revenue uplift.
Using performance benchmarks can help.
Benchmarks provide a measurable industry comparison for each step in the process.
Normally, focusing on the most under-performing steps will deliver the biggest improvements.
And the upside potential can be forecasted.
For example, when filtering the monthly lead database conversions by industry and extrapolating, marketers can calculate how improvements to nurture marketing campaigns impact the volume of qualified leads sent to the salesforce.
Many of our clients like to apply benchmarks with pro forma models to show how a 1 percent improvement in any sales lead process impacts conversions and revenues.
Others with performance levels below the industry median may prefer to see the revenue and profit impact by improving their performance to the median score. Knowing the financial upside impact allows them to know how much they should invest to achieve that upside.
Governance is Essential
Lead generation is a team effort. Marketing acquires, vets, scores, nurtures and transfers leads to the salesforce. Sales then gets them to closure.
Marketing's goal is to convert leads into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). And sales goal is to convert SQLs into revenue.
Designing, implementing and optimizing lead management processes is the first step. Applying governance to ensure those processes work as designed is the second.
Governance is a two-step process that starts with Sales and Marketing Alignment and is made operational with a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
The SLA manages sales leads at every stage of the funnel so start by defining how leads traverse the pipeline.
SLAs define mutual expectations for the nurturing, vetting, transfer and follow-through of sales leads at each step in the funnel.
These expectations are memorialized in an agreement with defined responsibilities, actions, timeframes and escalations. The SLA document ensures each team is accountable for their portion of a mutual goal.
For example, the SLA will spell out the actions to ensure all sales leads are properly qualified by marketing before being routed to sales. It also advises that all leads transferred to sales are properly followed-up and followed-through within prescribed timelines.
A good SLA also anticipates areas of risk and mitigates those problems before they happen.
If you do not yet have an SLA, consider our sales and marketing service level agreement design guide, template and dashboard to jump start your effort.
Dashboards and Analytics
Reporting measures each of the steps in the processes, individually and end-to-end. It shows how to fix leaks or make improvements that increase the volume and speed of lead conversions.
Most reports display only historical data. The best reports use dashboards to deliver real-time insights and shift from lagging to leading indicators.
And the very best reporting consists of interactive dashboard analytics, so marketers can perform What-If modeling and pro-forma scenario planning.
But to leverage dashboards you need know the most important key performance indicators, which include the following:
- Lead leakage – this shows your single biggest revenue uplift opportunity
- Stalled leads – this is one of two factors that most contribute to lead leakage
- SLA variances – resolving these quickly ensures you achieve your SLA goals
- Lead funnel stage to stage conversions
- The lead-to-revenue conversion
- The number and percentage of leads nurtured to sales-ready status each month
- Program ROI
Below is an example of how we deliver KPIs in a dashboard.
Technology for Automation
Technology is needed to achieve process automation, information reporting and scale.
Marketing automation platforms (MAP), such as Adobe and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, along with CRM software, can bring automation to all the lead steps and processes.
The previously referred to research found that while MAPs have become pervasive, they are dramatically underused.
For example, most respondents have only one nurture campaign and use only 1 lead scoring rule. That suggests that all leads have the same interests and pursue the same purchase journey. And that of course is naïve thinking that will crash your lead conversions.
The research also found that about half of all respondents use marketing software for nothing more than landing pages and email distributions. These two capabilities account for about 10 percent of the technology's capability.
This is a missed opportunity to apply an existing technology for far greater impact. The lead management best practice here is to tap into your MAP capabilities and get more utilization and payback from an existing investment.