Eight Steps to a Better Lead Development Process

Lead Development Process

More and more B2B marketers are using technology to automate their lead nurturing process and enhance their demand generation efforts. Automated campaigns control and streamline prospect interactions, strategically offering relevant content and positioning your firm as a trusted resource until the target customer is ready to buy. But the best marketing automation system on the planet won’t provide the results you expect unless you evaluate and adjust internal processes first, and doing so will require total collaboration and cooperation between sales and marketing.

In a recent study conducted by Forrester Research among senior-level marketing executives using lead management automation, 6 out of 15 respondents indicated that focusing on process was a necessary first step. When asked what key lessons were learned along the way, fully one-third of the respondents urged getting sales and executive buy-in early. The top pain points they experienced involved lead scoring/qualification and better alignment with sales. If the goal of any lead nurturing program is to develop a bigger, stronger and more highly qualified sales funnel, defining the buying stages within that funnel and potential obstacles and/or informational needs that occur at each stage is a necessary first step. To do this without input from the sales team is to invite failure. What group understands the sales process and customer needs better than sales? And without their input and buy-in, any marketing-generated lead nurturing program will not only be flawed, it will also be ignored.

Here are eight steps toward a more fully integrated and effective lead management, qualification and nurturing process:

  1. Establish a lead management team consisting of people from sales and marketing. Assign one or two team leaders and make them both responsible and accountable for the programs success.
  2. Work with sales to clearly define the characteristics of a fully-qualified, sales-ready lead.
  3. Develop a lead scoring system to evaluate lead quality. Select the criteria (e.g., budget, buying authority, need and timeline), assign values to each and run trials on how values can change based on individual lead parameters and responses.
  4. Determine who your best customers are and evaluate their buying habits. Learn how they buy from you and uncover any patterns in their behavior. Profile their buying team and consider what goes through each member’s mind as they move through the buying cycle. Are they aware they have a problem? How will your product, service or technology help their company?
  5. Take what you’ve learned to establish a “typical” buying process. Define the steps most customers take as they move from their initial interest and research stages, to evaluation and testing, and finally to a purchase. Map the informational needs of each member of their buying team at each stage of the process.
  6. Create a content development plan that mirrors the buying process. Evaluate the content you currently have and determine what gaps exist. Brainstorm methods of teaching the prospect in a manner that builds credibility while highlighting your strengths. Don’t be afraid to challenge their assumptions.
  7. Reach consensus on how leads will flow through the process and at what point(s) a personal contact will be made by telemarketing and/or sales. Include feedback mechanisms for sales to report back on lead quality and progress.
  8. Agree upon the metrics you will use to measure the program’s success and ROI. On the front end, these might include things like response rate, leads generated, click-thru rates (CTR) and cost per lead (CPL). On the back end, you should be looking at total qualified leads, cost per qualified lead, qualified lead percentage, pipeline thickness, and ultimately bid-to-close ratios, average deal size and lead-to-sales revenue.

These few steps will help you get your demand generation efforts rolling.  To learn more about creating a highly-tuned lead development process and the content that will help you drive it, download our free white paper, Lead Nurturing and the Role it Plays in Sales Development.

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