Our Lead Success Formula
At DMG, we understand that the synergy of combining Technology, People and Process creates the most successful lead program. A technical foundation—which includes a marketing automation tool and healthy contact database—is enhanced by implementing processes based on proven methodology. Adding people, through a robust teleprospecting and telequalifying process, rounds out the formula resulting in an increased marketing contribution to revenue performance.
"Companies that have both marketing automation and lead management process will generate five times the revenue than those with neither." — SeriusDecisions
The Lead Lifecycle Imperative
The lead lifecycle model is an approach that fits the reality of B2B marketing in this digital age. It’s a comprehensive approach for marketing teams required to measure and improve their contributions to sales success.
The traditional model of marketing program silos has widened the chasm between marketing and sales teams, and between companies and the prospects and customers they hope to attract. The leads generated through these programs are rarely optimized for sales engagement, and marketing teams often move on to the next program before the leads are cultivated, nurtured and converted to sales engagements.
This trend is attracting comment from industry experts and analysts. Forrester Group believes “the sales funnel’s value as a framework is over, and a new model—the customer life cycle—provides a better fit with modern marketing as it puts the customer at the center of the effort, involves the entire brand experience, and describes an ongoing relationship.”
The Lead Lifecycle: Managing and Measuring the Sales Readiness of Leads
The traditional marketing program management model comes with several drawbacks. Because campaigns and lead generation tactics typically have distinct beginnings and end points, marketing organizations can get caught in an ongoing cycle of repetitive and redundant activities that have limited longevity and impact.
An email campaign offering a white paper, for example, produces a series of downloads.
Contacts who downloaded the white paper are often categorized as “warm” leads and tossed over the proverbial fence to the sales team, and those who didn’t respond are discarded. The results are predictable. The marketing team moves on to the next program, the sales team scoffs at the quality of the leads provided and the email campaign invariably has little direct impact on sales success.
Going from point A to point B and then starting over is also the Achilles heel of the traditional sales funnel. This linear, unidirectional model does not consider or leave flexibility for the true nature of buyers’ dynamic behaviors, desires and decision-making processes.
Instead of a model centered around programs—each with distinct goals, leads, management processes, supporting tools, evaluation criteria, etc.—marketing teams now have an opportunity to pursue a new model.
It requires a fundamental shift in what is managed and measured, and it starts with a renewed focus on prospects and customers.
The new marketing model is centered on lead lifecycle management rather than program management. This model considers the dynamic and ongoing status of prospects and customers. It tracks their behavior and continually measures their “sales readiness” across all programs and touch points, restoring marketing teams’ insight and influence over the decision-making process.
Lead lifecycle management requires subtle but important shifts. Instead of generating and dispersing leads on a campaign basis, leads are generated, tracked, nurtured and scored on a continual basis, spanning all programs and activities. And, instead of measuring success against program execution, success is measured by lead conversions—in relation to sales readiness—and how those conversions are impacting revenue goals.
The Six Stages of the Lead Lifecycle
While the six-stage lead lifecycle model is familiar, it is the completeness of the model and the criticality of each stage that represents a new imperative for marketers. Many marketing organizations produce a great number of leads that don’t produce sales. Other marketing organizations produce high quality leads in limited numbers. A dedicated focus on each stage of the lead lifecycle—with all activities driving lead conversions through the cycle—will ensure marketing teams produce an optimum number and quality of leads that directly impact revenue performance.
Stage 1: Database Building, Refinement and Maintenance
Establishing a common database of target contacts is the first step of any lead lifecycle model. Leads and contacts that were previously dispersed among multiple databases, software applications and program spreadsheets must be aligned so all marketing and sales teams share and access a common lead repository.
Next, the database should be populated with the entire universe of companies that match the profile of your ideal customer—also known as “target accounts”—with prioritization based on industry, company size, geography and other criteria. Within each company, you’ll need specific names of every person who could be involved in the buying decision, down to their title, contact information, responsibilities, role in the decision, previous interactions and so on.
This process of identifying target accounts and decision maker job titles requires buy-in from both sales and marketing teams. The goal is to build a robust database of companies and contacts that possess the highest probability of buying, and then append and maximize it over time. With data decaying by one to three percent every month on average, database cleansing and upkeep must become an ongoing investment.
With a robust database as the common foundation, organizations can begin to tap powerful marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools. These tools enable lead tracking, scoring and management across all sales and marketing programs at all stages, giving a deeper view of prospect and customer behaviors, preferences and sales readiness. Marketing investments can then be focused on the right people, with less waste and redundancy.
Stage 2: Lead Generation
Once a shared contact database has been established, you can work to create interest in your company, products and services. These lead generation efforts can be either promotional or educational, direct (i.e., email campaign) or indirect (i.e., online advertising, social marketing). The goal is to stimulate interactions between the leads and your organization, helping establish a rapport and giving you additional profile information about each individual.
Just like the contacts in the database, these efforts must be highly targeted if they are to produce high quality leads. This is purely dependent on the needs, characteristics and behavioral history of your targeted audience. The core tenets of marketing success still apply: you need to deliver the right content and make the right offer to the right person at the right time.
Stage 3: Lead Qualification
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2015 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, most marketers pass raw, unqualified leads to sales teams. It’s no wonder sales personnel continually complain about the poor quality of contacts they receive from their marketing counterparts. Lead qualification stands as the greatest area of opportunity for marketing teams hoping to improve their contribution to sales success.
It’s also much more cost effective than generating new leads. By actively qualifying leads—typically through telequalification and marketing automation tools—marketing teams can determine each lead’s BANT and readiness for sales engagement.
Lead qualification not only enables better understanding, scoring and nurturing of each contact, it also relieves sales personnel from chasing dead-end leads and supplies them with higher quality, sales-ready contacts.
Stage 4: Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing helps you turn unqualified leads into sales-ready leads over time. It is much less costly to nurture a lead than it is to generate a new one, and yet marketing teams continually embark on new campaigns in an effort to drum up new contacts. Tremendous sales opportunity lies within every contact database, and marketing teams need only cultivate and nurture those leads until they are ready for sales engagement. It requires patience and investment, but it’s a critical stage of the lead lifecycle and the resulting sales impact will be worth it.
Handled as silo programs, monthly newsletters, sporadic sales calls and disjointed campaigns are not effective lead nurturing tactics. Marketing and sales teams must build a consistent and relevant dialog with target prospects, regardless of their buying timeframe. This can be accomplished through a mix of automated and interpersonal interactions, with messages and offers that appeal to the targeted audience. Doing so will foster a trusted relationship, maintain mindshare and ensure your organization is present when customers and prospects are ready to buy.
Stage 5: Lead Opportunity/Sales Pipeline
Through multiple touches and continuous scoring, leads are generated, qualified and nurtured over time. Those that exhibit optimum BANT are considered sales-ready and passed to the sales team. This is when the true value of lead nurturing and qualification come to the fore. Instead of raw leads with questionable revenue potential, sales representatives receive high quality contacts that have been primed for sales engagement. In addition, they are armed with valuable information that aids the selling process, including the contact’s previous interactions with the company and qualification details. The ongoing learning process between sales and marketing teams continues, as sales personnel review how accurately the lead qualification and nurturing process delivers sales-ready leads. Marketing personnel, in turn, can fine-tune lead scoring criteria so that sales-ready leads mean just that: sales-ready.
With nurtured and qualified leads, sales teams become much more efficient and successful. In spending less time chasing dead leads and more time closing deals, sales cycles and costs decrease while revenue numbers increase.
Stage 6: Customer Up-Selling and Cross-Selling
After a deal has been closed or a sale has been made, the lead-turned customer often gets stashed in a land of wasted opportunity. Marketing teams no longer “own” the contact, and sales representatives have often moved on to the next deal.
Because the lead lifecycle is a never ending, cyclical model, leads and customers are never abandoned. They are continually scored, and then marketed and sold to accordingly. As such, a customer who recently purchased goes back into the nurturing and qualification pipeline for up-selling and cross-selling opportunities. At this point, your company already has an understanding of and relationship with the customer, and can use this information to adjust messaging, content and offers. Intimate knowledge of a customer’s business requirements further ease and expedite additional sales engagements.
The lead lifecycle model represents a new approach for marketing teams being asked to improve and validate their contributions to sales performance.
With a passion for improving outcomes, it’s been a logical step for Dunthorpe Marketing Group to adopt the ‘kaizen’ method of continuous improvement in helping our clients optimize their lead flow and marketing processes.
Target customers and the buyer journey are now understood, lead management processes and handoffs are now defined and content assets and technology tools are being augmented accordingly.