How do you attract and handle leads? It's a simple question, but few of the companies we talk to have a definitive answer. More often than not, there is no process in place for generating and managing leads from first conversion through sales closing. If a process exists, it's commonly a mix of manual sorting and inefficient communications that risk losing leads and the all-important timing between a bottom-funnel request and a sales response. Here are 10 steps you should take to improve your lead generation and management process.
#1 - Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Product Alignment
Lock your Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Product Development teams in a room and don't let them out until they come up with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that commits them (and Management) to:
- Agreement on definitions and criteria—what is a lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, sales accepted lead, opportunity, customer, upsell opportunity, retention opportunity, etc.
- Lead management process (have them bring this 10-step list to the locked-down meeting to guide them)
- KPIs, benchmarks and monthly, quarterly and annual goals for Sales, Marketing and Customer Service
- Reporting—dashboards and in-depth reports for each team and how they will be circulated to stakeholders
#2 - Marketing Automation and CRM Integration
You will need sales and marketing technology to put your process in place and get it running. As part of your alignment process, your teams need to agree on tools they will commit to using every day to capture and manage leads and customers. The best solutions are easy to use and incorporate every aspect of enterprise inbound marketing, including:
- Website content management system
- Content creation and promotion (blogs, social media)
- Lead conversion (landing pages, forms and calls-to-action)
- Lead nurturing (drip campaigns, personalized content)
- Marketing automation (email marketing, list segmentation, lead scoring, lead management workflows)
- CRM integration (seamless, bi-directional transfer of lead data, KPIs and communications)
- Enterprise application integration (customer service apps, e-commerce, business intelligence systems)
#3 - Lead Generation
Capture qualified sales leads through high quality content and targeted:
- Inbound marketing—blogging, guest blogging, blogger outreach, blog syndication, social media updates, social media engagement, SEO on-page optimization, premium content (eBooks, infographics, videos, webinars), calls-to-action, landing pages
- Demand generation—paid search (ppc), social media ads, banner ads, native ads, email marketing, direct mail, print ads, media ads, tradeshows, speaking engagements, personal networking
#4 - Lead Intelligence Gathering
Marketing works with Sales to establish key criteria for lead segmentation and scoring. Hopefully, you have already created a comprehensive list of buyer personas and a detailed buyer journey for each persona. If not, check out these resources. Now plan how you will capture this information through landing pages and forms, using a progressive profiling approach so that conversion rates are kept high. Identify relevant pages and events that, if visited or triggered, also allow you to update lead profiles during the buyer journey. Access LinkedIn, Data.com, Hoovers and other business data sites you can use to cross-reference leads and further develop their profiles. Some of these sources can be directly integrated through HubSpot and Salesforce apps and APIs.
#5 - Lead Segmentation
Set up marketing automation workflows to categorize leads and segment them into lists using criteria established in Step #1. Use these lists to nurture leads with relevant content and personalized email communications. Also use them for targeted campaigns, segmenting leads with a certain role or title or within a certain industry or market segment.
#6 - Lead Scoring
Set up lead scoring criteria and points-awarded system to update lead lifecycle stages, move leads to the CRM when the timing is right and trigger notifications using marketing automation workflows. Leads accumulate positive scores for behavior and demographics. For example:
- Persona—industry, title, role, company size, revenues
- Engagement—number of visits, unique page views, repeat visits, form conversions, email opens and clicks, blog comments, social media mentions, inbound links
- Buyer stage—clicks and conversions on specific content indicating a lead lifecycle change, such as mid-funnel and bottom-funnel offers
- Velocity—recency of engagement, volume and timing of events indicating an imminent intent to buy
Also, apply negative scoring for form answers or behaviors that designate a lead as a poor fit, for example: competitor company, low budget or non-company email address.
#7 - Lead Nurturing
Monitor and influence the progress of leads through the sales funnel by presenting them with relevant content based on buyer persona and content mapping. Content can be sent via personalized drip email campaigns or by direct integration using personalized content, for example website messaging that is tailored for lead segments or buyer personas. Apply lead scoring rules as leads consume your lead nurturing content and move them to different lifeycle stages and segments using marketing automation workflows.
#8 - Transfer and Assign Leads to the Sales Team
Automatically move inbound leads over to your CRM using marketing automation workflows and assign them to appropriate sales reps when they reach lead scoring thresholds and/or trigger specific behaviors, such as requesting a free trial or demonstration. Use segmentation rules to assign leads to an appropriate sales rep, for example by territory or industry. This process should be carefully planned in Step #1.
#9 - Sales Nurturing, Close and Customer Service
Following the alignment process (Step #1), every sales rep should understand how to use the CRM and other lead intelligence tools to be able to quickly evaluate sales qualified leads and reach out to them quickly. Lead intelligence will help reps formulate a strategy for engaging with their prospects, gain their interest and trust, and develop a relationship that leads to a closed sale. This process is called sales nurturing. Every rep needs to update the CRM following every communication to keep lead status up-to-date and make sure that Marketing doesn't step on the sales process with inappropriate content. Once a sale is consummated, Customer Service should be notified via the CRM and take over managing the account. Sales also needs to set up automated reminders for following up with their customers and setting the table for up-sells and retained services. Marketing and Product Development also need to stay in the loop to send supporting, customer-centric content that educates customers on best practices and upcoming releases.
#10 - Analytics and Reporting
None of this works, let alone improves, without closely monitoring the performance of every aspect of your lead generation and lead management process. Account Reps, Consultants and Technologists need to use analytics tools to optimize each step in the process and make strategic decisions to improve results. Each team needs to know how to generate the right reports from your Marketing, Sales and Customer Service systems in accordance with the SLA created in Step #1. Reports are shared with other teams and Management in order to ensure compliance with the SLA, to make better budgeting and staffing decisions and to allow senior managers to assess performance.
Boiling it Down
Companies that pay attention to each of these steps, especially in the early planning stages, and devote the right resources and budget, tend to perform better than the competition. The process isn't simple, and ignoring any of these steps can lead to poor outcomes. Building a killer process, on the other hand, leads to sustained growth and profitability.
Photo credit: dno1967b
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via Twitter, LinkedIn or Google Plus.