How to Sort Out the Lead Management Supplier Ecosystem

If you are like most sales and marketing professionals I know, every day you are besieged with companies selling products and services that pertain to lead generation, CRM systems, cultivating leads for conversion to sales and many other aspects of managing the Sales Funnel.  Here are just a few of the many types of companies and services I’m sure you’ve encountered:

  • List brokers and other list sources
  • CRM software companies
  • Email software companies
  • Lead management service bureaus
  • Lead generation sources – industry websites and search engines
  • Lead generation sources – media
  • Lead generation sources – list companies
  • Telemarketers
  • Email appenders

Most companies have been focused on their favorite lead generation methods, or have been actively implementing their CRM system (sometimes for a matter of years).  Therefore, they have not had the time to study and understand all aspects of this supply ecosystem.  So let me break down the industry into a few simplified process functions from the customer’s (your) viewpoint.

  1. Lead Generation – you have to engage in this activity in order to fill your sales funnel.  This activity requires the following:
    1. Content Marketing & Offer Strategies – producing white papers, webinars, podcasts, case studies and other relevant material to help prospects guide their purchasing process and make supplier decisions; these should be engaging topics that will generate some response by the audience.
    2. Advertising – putting the offers in front of your prospects; this can be with PPC search ads (i.e., Google Adwords), online banner ads, email advertising, newsletters, direct mail, etc.
    3. Landing pages – needed to collect some basic contact information to add this to your prospect database or CRM; these can be stand-alone or on your website
  2. Lists – you can use your own lists, or you may need to rent or buy lists of contacts that represent your prospect base.  These can be used for email marketing, telemarketing, etc.  There are many list sources, so buy wisely.  Email appenders can help you add email addresses to your lists, if they are needed.
  3. Lead Cultivation – once respondents have interacted with a company, they are typically tagged as “prospects.”  These leads should become engaged in a lead cultivation or nurturing system in order to create multi-point touches with prospects over a period of time, until they are ready to buy.  This activity prepares prospects during the “pre-sale” period and warms them to favor your brand.  Note: it is generally accepted that 80% to 95% of business-to-business leads that are generated are not ready to buy at the moment, but most will over time.
  4. Sales Funnel Management – this is the most important part of the whole process, as it provides managers with oversight and the ability to make good decisions to improve the whole process over time.  It includes establishing and collecting metrics to monitor activity and progress, as well as reporting techniques and platforms, such as online dashboards.

Notice how the list of supplier types really does not match up with the functional process steps for lead management?  If you only paid attention to the supplier calls or emails you receive, it would be next to impossible to recognize the proper components and sequences for an effective lead management operation.  That’s simply because each supplier has its own product to sell and is really are not concerned with the overall effectiveness of your lead operations.

So how do you get good advice on system oversight?  Who can help you with the management of your lead system and operations?  Who can provide you with a process orientation to establish an effective system from A to Z?  Does anyone have skin in this game?

The answer is your “ad agency,” known today by many aliases: marketing communications firm, digital advertising agency, branding agency or consultancy, full service agency, engagement firm, web development company, and the list goes on and on.  Not all agencies can help you with the lead management process, though.  Agencies that spend a large portion of their professional effort and resources on lead generation not only have the wherewithal to deal with this aspect of the ecosystem and process, but they also have a vested interest in seeing these leads converted to sales.  

Some agencies today have a tremendous capability to help you with lead generation.  And some have professional expertise in email marketing, providing lists and robust platforms.  However, few have the ability to assist with lead cultivation.  And fewer yet have the ability to provide you with oversight of your sales funnel operations.  

So, instead of wasting time dealing with the purveyors of lead shtick in a confusing supply ecosystem, check out your agency partner and determine if they are experienced and well suited to take on the challenge of helping you manage this ecosystem, and improve your overall lead management system during the process.  They certainly have the motivation.  With the proper metrics and reporting in place, you should see improvements almost immediately.

For related information, see Adventive Marketing’s white paper on Lead Nurturing and the Role it Plays in Sales Development.


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