Research Shows How to Surge Lead Management ROI


  • Research published in the Marketing Transformation Report revealed that only 14 percent of respondents performed seven or more integrated lead management processes, such as lead scoring, lead enrichment, lead nurture programs, lead transfer to sales, and lead analytics. However, those marketers earned an impressive 211 percent program ROI, approximately 4 times higher than their peers with fewer integrated processes.
  • The research also found three lead processes that stood out for their disproportionately high ROI contribution. The respondents that performed regular lead scoring earned 5 times more ROI than those who didn't. Similarly, the respondents that performed regular lead enrichment and nurture programs earned 3.7 and 4.7 times more ROI, respectively, than those who did not.
  • While marketing automation software has become pervasive, the research found that it is dramatically underused. For example, most participants use only 1 lead scoring rule and only one nurture campaign. Approximately half of all respondents use marketing software to create landing pages and perform email distributions, which accounts for about 10 percent of the technology's capability.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Increasing the volume of quality leads is a marketing imperative. So, the Marketing Transformation Report nearly doubled the number of lead management questions in its most recent survey.

The survey measured adoption of lead management processes, including lead scoring, lead enrichment, lead qualification, lead nurture programs, lead distribution to sales, and lead analytics. The survey did not cover the lead acquisition process as that was covered in separate marketing campaign research.

Each of the processes were then individually and collectively correlated to show their contribution to the sales pipeline, sales forecast, earned revenues and marketing ROI.

Lead Management Defined

First, some context.

Lead management consists of up to eight integrated processes that include lead acquisition, lead scoring, lead enrichment, lead qualification, lead nurture programs, lead transfer to sales, lead governance and lead analytics.

Lead Management Loop

This marketing discipline is considered strategic, and delivers significantly higher lead conversions, when these processes are integrated, automated and in a state of continuous improvement.

The goal is to convert sales leads into sale opportunities. For many marketers, this means converting leads into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

You might think of lead management as everything from the point where the lead was acquired to the point where it is transferred to sales.

Lead Management Process Adoption

We first needed to understand adoption. We asked participants to identify which lead management processes they regularly perform. The data surfaced two findings. First, was adoption by process.

Lead Management Processes

The variant that stuck out was the extreme difference in process adoption between the Best-in-Class marketers and all others. For reference, the Best-in-Class archetype was ranked as the top 15 percent as measured by percent of total leads sourced by marketing, percent of sales pipeline value sourced by marketing and marketing ROI.)

On average, the Best-in-Class marketers' adoption of defined processes was more than double their lower performing peers. That magnitude of difference should not go unnoticed as it clearly suggests a significant revenue uplift opportunity for most marketers.

Second, we found that 14 percent of all respondents performed all 8 lead management processes. To better understand how that end-to-end adoption correlated to marketing performance results, we segmented that group by performance archetype.

We were not surprised the Best-in-Class marketers made up the largest segment. But we were a little surprised they made up an overwhelming 97 percent.

All Lead Management Processes

Return on Investment

We then wanted to measure payback. We asked the participants to report their lead management ROI, and provided the following calculation for reference:

ROI = (((Gain from lead management program – cost of lead program / (cost of program)) * 100)

Marketing Lead Management ROI

Something interesting happened when we analyzed the ROI data for just those respondents that engaged in seven or more integrated processes. Their results soared over all others.

Marketing Lead Management ROI

This figure was approximately 2 times higher than peers with fewer integrated processes.

Research shows that marketers who implemented 7 or more integrated lead management processes achieved a 211 percent ROI from their program. That was twice as high as the average respondent.

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The 3 Standout ROI Processes

We wanted to understand if certain processes delivered more ROI than others. So, we analyzed each of the processes by comparing the average ROI of participants that performed the process with participants that didn't. The three lead processes below stood out for their disproportionate ROI improvement.

Lead Management Processes ROI

If you think about the processes holistically the above three standout processes kind of make sense.

Every company acquires leads and forwards them to the salesforce. But fewer companies first measure the leads to determine which are sales-ready and should be immediately sent to sales reps and which are not yet sales-ready and should be held back and nurtured until they become so.

Lead scoring sends fewer but higher quality leads to the salesforce. That increases the likelihood leads are followed up and lead leakage is minimized.

Lead enrichment creates fuller lead profile records which enable more relevant, personalized and contextual engagement that increases nurture campaign conversions.

And lead nurture campaigns are the steady stream of communications that keep the company top of mind until the buyer is ready to make a purchase decision.

Nurture Campaign Results

We know lead nurture campaigns engage and advance leads until they become qualified or sales-ready. But that is a continuous process, so we wanted to know the yield by period. We asked participants what percent of the leads in their lead database convert to qualified leads (or MQLs) monthly.

Monthly Lead Conversions

An unsettling 33 percent did not know, and these responses were excluded from the above bar chart.

The average lead nurture conversion rate was 4 percent per month. However, that figure grew to 8.5 percent for the Best-in-Class marketers.

When unqualified leads get sent to sales reps, they normally get pushed to the side. Some may be later followed up when they become qualified, but most will be abandoned and slip through the cracks. Those lost leads are part of the lead leakage problem that degrades revenues. Nurture campaigns are one of the most important lead management best practices to reduce or eliminate this lead leakage.

Marketing Technology Utilization

The survey posed several questions about the lead management technology used to achieve process automation and information reporting. The most common application software is generally referred to as marketing automation software, a marketing automation platform or a marketing cloud.

The interesting discovery here wasn't how many participants used marketing automation software. Most do. It was how much of the marketing automation technology they actually use.

For example, most participants use only 1 lead scoring rule, and it only scores the contact. Scoring everyone with the same rule, irrespective of their product interest and other criteria, or scoring contacts but not the account, degrades lead score effectiveness. It's a missed opportunity as once lead score rules are configured they are completely automated.

Marketing Lead Score Calculations

Similarly, most respondents used only one nurture campaign. That suggests those marketers believe customers are homogenous (not true) and are treating every prospect the same. That's also unfortunate, as nurture campaign conversions go up when campaigns are relevant and personalized, and delineated by persona, customer segment, product interest, or other dimensions.

Marketing software provides the scheduling and automation to go beyond simple batch and blast email campaigns and step up to omni-channel or integrated marketing campaigns. These types of multi-flight, multi-channel campaigns achieve much higher conversions.

We also found most Medians and Laggards used few of the marketing software dashboards and analytics. That contrasted with the Best-in-Class marketers who not only used historical reporting, but also benefited from more precise campaign lead attribution for more accurate marketing reporting and predictive analytics.

Overall, when we measured even more marketing software capabilities, the differences in utilization became even more skewed.

Most participants indicated they use marketing software to create landing pages and perform email distributions. For most marketing applications, and pursuant to our measurement scale, that's about 10 percent of the technology's capability and a missed opportunity to apply an existing investment for much greater payback.