Lead Management: 67 tips from the biggest experts in the field

This has been a really cool exercise.  So, in preparation for the Virtual Summit on Mastering Lead Management on Tuesday, June 29th, I recently asked Focus Expert speakers and our sponsors to supply me with 4-6 tips each to post on this blog.

As you can see, we collected quite a few tips.  One thing I did not tell anyone is what to write or how to structure it, and the results are fun. The main thing is that lead management is absolutely essential to ROI-conscious marketing departments.  If you don’t have a lead management process, get one.  If you do have a lead management process, you should always be optimizing.  Enjoy the tips below and please join us Tuesday for the summit.

David Raab, Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems – Speaker

  1. Select the marketing automation system that fits your needs, not a generic “market leader”.  Your needs aren’t generic, are they?
  2. Define your needs by creating use cases that describe specific projects.  Then have marketing automation vendors demonstrate how their system would execute them.
  3. Price is only a tie-breaker.  Any significant differences in how well marketing automation systems fit your needs are much more important.
  4. Don’t assume there’s always a trade-off between power and ease of use.  Some powerful marketing automation systems can hide their advanced features until they’re needed.  Other powerful systems can’t.
  5. Pay close attention to the marketing automation vendor’s support capabilities, both internal and through business partners.  This is a really good question to explore with references.
  6. Howard Sewell, Spear Marketing – Speaker

  7. Get Sales involved in planning your lead nurturing strategy –  1) they’ll have a stake in the process, and 2) they know things you don’t.
  8. Start small.  There’s no sense in designing 18 email tracks only to discover people don’t respond to 16 of them.
  9. 80% of lead nurturing ROI is achieved through the first 20% of effort.
  10. Not every email needs to offer downloadable content; sometimes just a link to an article works too.
  11. Dump your newsletter.  Instead, push blog content out to the database via email.
  12. Don’t forget the “thank you” page.  It’s a great opportunity to continue the conversation.
  13. Maria Pergolino, Marketo – Sponsor

  14. Free your content so it can be shared in social media.  This type of lead nurturing is called seed nurturing and can be one of the most powerful ways to connect with prospective buyers.
  15. Identify the areas of your revenue cycle that need the most improvement (lead generation vs. nurturing vs. sales/marketing alignment) and prioritize your goals.
  16. Create marketing assets that will generate interest at every stage of the buying process (educational content at the beginning of the process vs. solution-oriented content for later).
  17. Make a list of routine marketing activities in which your company engages (e.g., auto-response emails) and automate these first so you can spend more time on more creative strategies.
  18. Evaluate your lead database and create segments based on lead source or profile information for your marketing campaigns.
  19. Ardath Albee, Marketing Interactions – Speaker

  20. Expand your content focus to address audiences beyond decision makers.
  21. Design content to meet prospect needs at each stage of the entire buying process.
  22. Understand how your buyers buy—it’s changing all the time, along with their needs.
  23. Use content to get your ideas shared in buyer conversations when you’re not in the room.
  24. Increase the value of your content as marketing currency to buy more attention and action.
  25. Carlos Hidalgo, Annuitas Group – Speaker

  26. Dream big, start small and scale appropriately.  Too many times organizations try to move from no process to full blown closed-loop lead management process and expect it to be completed in a short period of time.  Process change does not happen over night, it take time and patience.
  27. The development of process is not a marketing only exercise.  Marketing must work with sales in order for this approach to work.  The two groups working in unison will close the alignment gap and greatly improve an organizations demand generation results.
  28. A great place to start is with an internal audit of your current process.  Get an understanding of where you are as an organization and what needs improving.
  29. Lead management is more than just lead nurturing and scoring.  It is a holistic process of conjoined processes
  30. Technology alone is not the answer.  Process must come first and be enabled by the technology.  People, Process, then technology will lead to the improvement.  Technology alone will fail to yield the expected results.
  31. Brian Solis, Future-works – Speaker

  32. Over 70% of purchases are restricted to established vendors or are heavily dependent on Word of Mouth recommendations
  33. 85% of B2B buyers believe companies should not just present information via social media, but use it to interact and become more engaged with them
  34. Our actions equate to Social Currency
  35. Reputation, trust, and relationships are earned through our action and words
  36. Become the people we want to reach and win over
  37. Social Objects are the future of marketing and communications
  38. Mac McIntosh, Sales Lead Experts – Speaker

  39. See things from the sales point of view – join them on sales calls and tap them for buyer personas.
  40. Focus on the right prospects –start with prospects most similar to your recent buyers.
  41. Have offers for every stage in the buyer process.
  42. Use a mix of inbound and outbound marketing tactics for best  results.
  43. Use multi-touch campaigns to increase your chance of being in sight or in mind when your prospects are thinking about their problems or looking for your kinds of products or services.
  44. Mike Damphousse, Green Leads – Sponsor

  45. Leads have a shelf life, don’t let them get stale.  Establish an SLA with your sales team to ensure proper follow-up. Don’t miss opportunities by trying to apply the antiquated BANT criteria.  Come up with new ways to measure a sales ready lead.
  46. Measure twice, cut once.  Ok, that was my grandfather’s saying, but measure everything so you don’t make mistakes in the future. Know where your successes are from and where your failures breed.
  47. Know why you choose different lead gen programs.  Some situations require qualified lead gen, some require appointment setting, some require content syndication. Choose your tools accordingly.
  48. Inbound Marketing is all the rage, and it is an effective way to generate leads, but think of those leads as more of a “focused list”.  They did raise their hands, but you still need to engage with them.  Inbound Marketing never pays off until you feed the leads into an Outbound Marketing campaign to have a conversation.
  49. Anthony Carraturo, Merit Direct – Sponsor

  50. Focus your lead generation efforts to qualified and proven sources of prospects only.  If finding leads were as easy as picking up business cards at trade shows everyone would be doing it.  Use a source that represents your industry and provides valuable content, your audience will have a much better shot of using them as a resource too.
  51. Create a qualifying lead check list. “Weed your leads”, thus allowing for the valuable ones to grow strong and high above the rest.  This not only gives you the opportunity to assign the correct sales person/team/channel, offer the most appropriate product/service, but it also assures that you are in front of the strongest leads in a timely manner.
  52. Immediately sell to a “Hot” lead. You only have a small window of opportunity in most cases, so use it. If the lead is warm, start the nurturing process and get them “Hot” by offering up the information they need.
  53. Show your leads what’s behind curtain #1.  Once they are deemed qualified start showing them why you are better than your competition.  If they are truly looking to buy (today, tomorrow or next month) they can obviously use as much information and confidence building in your company/product/service/industry as possible.  Send them your e-newsletter, mail them a real, honest-to- goodness piece of paper marketing, and basically anticipate their every need or else someone else will.
  54. Keep your lead pipeline full. As long the pipeline does not lead to the sewer…if your pipeline is full your potential is great. If someone ever tells you they have too many leads to follow up on, guess what…”Hire more sales people!” Long story short, leads are sales waiting to happen and if the day comes when you have more sales than you can handle you’ll have a choice, rest on your laurels, expand, or apparently retire wealthy.
  55. Adam Needles, Silverpop – Sponsor

  56. Lead management starts with your buyer; you can’t develop internal marketing and sales processes for nurturing your buyer without understanding his/her process, first.
  57. Successful lead management strategies integrate both marketing and sales engagement with buyers and enable seamless nurturing and hand-offs of buyers throughout their entire buying process.
  58. Content is the ‘secret sauce’ in lead nurturing.  More than ever, upstream marketing dialogue with buyers is happening online and via content — not on the phone with a sales person — which means we must treat content differently than in the past.  Content must be approached substantively, not as something that is merely a tool for generating awareness or harvesting email addresses.  Content today is real dialogue with a Web 2.0-empowered buyer, and this dialogue is at the core of what we are creating when we develop a nurturing program.
  59. Email is a critical connective thread in lead nurturing.  It is not a medium through which you should repeatedly ask a buyer, “So are you ready to buy yet.”  Rather, it is the medium that enables us to serve up a stream of iterative, two-way interactions with buyers, where content offers are continually made and additional information collected.
  60. Process must come first in developing your lead management strategy; however, it’s impossible to nurture leads on a mass one-to-one basis via email without technology.  This is the critical role that marketing automation plays in modern lead management.
  61. Mark Feldman, Netprospex – Sponsor

  62. Start with quality data— Data quality diminishes at around 2% per month, so make sure you are using an internal source that is updated frequently, or an outside source that verifies it’s contacts and maintains high quality standards.
  63. Get targeted — Be extremely targeted in your lead criteria and also in your messaging outreach. If you send un-targeted information, it will be marked as Spam.
  64. Evolve your lead scoring — Use lead scoring to evaluate your leads based on criteria established.  Continuously work with sales to update the scoring methodology in order to deliver better leads.
  65. Nurture, rinse & repeat — Fill the holes in the funnel by nurturing leads who are not sales-ready and create programs and campaigns to address all buying stages of potential clients.
  66. Evaluate, measure, tweak — Keep an eye on performance of campaigns as it relates to conversion. Continue to monitor, tweak, and track results.
  67. Craig Stouffer, Pinpointe On-Demand – Sponsor

  68. Date Before you Propose. Avoid driving your marketing efforts around a series of disjoint, tactical offers. Plan your marketing like a courtship, not a 1 night stand.  You wouldn’t propose after a first date. Similarly, prospects aren’t going to make complex purchases based on a single ‘special offer’.
  69. Give, Don’t Take. Instead of ‘asking a customer for an order’ in a series of tactical outreach, give your recipient something of value – educational content to help get them up to speed on your market, company, product and specific solution.
  70. Short is Good. It is tempting to send email campaigns, for example, that are long and detailed.   The best performing B2B emails we’ve seen are 45 lines long with a subject line of 45 characters.
  71. Have Measurable and Meaningful Objectives. Understand what KPIs are important to your business. Set. Measure. Adjust.  Here’s how quotas are set for a new rep or territory.  Start with a guesstimate.  Set a number (quota).  Measure against it.  Adjust each quarter based on results (raise the quota ;-).  A quota is both measurable and for most businesses, very meaningful.
  72. Ready. Fire. Aim! [not]. Or, Test. Test. Test. Make the time to test your marketing message. For example, most email providers have split testing tools to test your campaigns. You wouldn’t pull the trigger before aiming a pistol.  Don’t push the send button without testing to ensure you message is on-target.
  73. Bonus. The Customer isn’t Always Right. However the right customer is always right. Marketers are often measured by the number of leads in the sales funnel. Have discipline. Know your ideal ‘customer-product’ match and optimize your business strategy around that ideal customer-product match.
  74. Parker Trewin, Genius – Sponsor

    Updated 6/28: Note from Parker – Since my expertise is marketing communications versus lead management I wanted to share what practitioners and experts from the Connected Marketer Community had to say on the subject. I’ve then commented on why I think it’s particularly good advice.

  75. Know your ideal prospect – Jep Castelein of LeadSloth. If you don’t know what you are looking for how will you ever find them?
  76. Make each engagement relevant – Paul Dunay of  Avaya. If the content doesn’t speak to your customer then it’s of little use. The beauty of social media is the opportunity for a personalized response. The downside of a one-size-fits-all newsletter is it’s easily trashed.  To breakthrough you have to be instantly meaningful.
  77. Develop a “Rule of 5” for content creation and marketing – Ardath Albee of MarketingInteractions.  For those of who’s adopted a publish or perish philosophy and have been asked to do more with less, Ardath’s mantra is an imperative.  Ardath also recommends establishing a “progression of content”. In other words, just creating a bunch of great content isn’t enough.  You need to keep them engaged, know where you’d like to take them, and them get them to take the next step.
  78. Leverage marketing automation and deliver upon their (marketer’s) their ultimate goal:  helping sales sell – Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch.  As our recent research has shown, marketers are getting religion around ROI and revenue as ultimate campaign success metrics.   If marketers are going to get increases their ability to prove their impact then ultimately we all must adopt more of a “sales focused” mentality.
  79. It’s all about connecting and providing the appropriate information at the right time, which many times is when they have taken a qualifying action and are thinking about the problem at hand. – Matt West, Director of Marketing Programs at Genius.com.  In this day and age of multitasking and web surfing, leads can go from red hot to ice cold in no time flat.  Two ways to look at this: strike while the iron is hot and give your customer’s the expected prompt service.  The first view is a win for sales and the second is a win for the customer.

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Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter