No Leads get Left Behind

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The folks at Bulldog Solutions compiled the Q&A session from a live Webinar I did last week with them called “A Case Study: Improving Lead Quality and Quantity” with the American Marketing Association.

Lead nurturing is something I am very passionate about and feel marketers need to start embracing more. A recent Forrester study cited over 50% of B2B marketers rated Lead Quality as their TOP concern. The antidote to this stay awake issue is clearly a well defined process for nurturing those leads so no lead gets left behind. I hope you enjoy the Q&A session below and feel free to reach out or comment on a question you might have regarding lead nurturing.

Q: What would my first step in starting a lead nurturing process like the one described in the Webinar?

Paul: Sit down with Sales and explain what you are doing. Then hammer out a common definition of what it means to be a “Sales Ready Lead” and what the attributes of this lead would be, such as company size, geographic location, etc.

Rob: That alignment with Sales is critical, absolutely. If there is not agreement– preferably backed up with data from closed deals and current clients showing that everyone’s impressions of what makes a good lead are correct—then the entire exercise is just academic.

Q: How do you begin to get support and buy-in from your IT partners?

Paul: We didn’t use IT to bring this in. We bought an ASP software, and we brought it in through the interactive marketing group. They essentially are the caretaker of this system. Naturally there is an IT person that takes part in the interactive group, and they are aware of it, but they are not involved in the care and feeding of this in the way the interactive group is.

Rob: We see this a lot: When it becomes an IT initiative, it can get mucked up quickly because you begin to lose sight of what it’s for. This really needs to be a marketing initiative. What’s good about that is that the tools don’t necessarily require a lot of horsepower on the front end. I should also point out that when you do it right, there are a lot of dividends for everyone. Not just marketing and sales, but it makes the database management so much cleaner, it has spillover effects to IT.

Q: It seems to me that one of the difficult steps is getting your database in order. This seems to be the holly grail to build your nurturing processes.

Paul: And you are right, it totally is. I redid my database three times before I had it perfect. Put extra effort into this step. We started by grabbing every conceivable list of opt-in contacts we could find and putting them all in Excel. Then we de-duped and made sure company names were consistent (for example, Amex vs. American Express). Then we tagged them with the industry and the solution they expressed interest in before we attempted any remarketing efforts.

Q: What percentage of lead nurturing falls under Sales’ responsibility vs. Marketing’s?

Paul: In our organization, field marketing reports to sales, so it’s seen as 100% sales focused. But I’d say lead nurturing is a marketing responsibility versus a sales responsibility.

Q: How does Sales help in updating lead status? Do they literally go into the system and update?

Paul: It depends on where it is in the selling stage. When it’s in the marketing funnel we have the inside sales team go in and update the status after any contact. They also add any other feedback they might have. Once they find they have interest and they can set an appointment with the prospect, the contact is moved over to the sales person, and then it becomes the domain of the sales person.

Rob: Leads may move from hot to cold and back to hot again, and many of the technology tools have real-time notification that helps with the process of communicating with them at the right time. For example, if all of a sudden I see that someone has downloaded my white papers and is forwarding them to colleagues, it’s time for me to step back in and connect with them.

Q: What are some ways you would score if your call to action just brought them to a splash page enabling them to have a rep call them? Not all of us have the ability to offer up to 5-6 touches. Could you score by feedback rep received during follow-up call?

Paul: Absolutely! Keep in mind the “Gold Standard” of qualifying leads is still the phone. If you can afford to do that, please do. My flow is too much to qualify each one with the phone until they are done with enough “self qualification.”

Q: How do you assign “credit” to the channel that generated the sale when it’s likely that there were several activities that lead to the sale?

Paul: I am not foolish enough to believe that marketing is a straight shot – meaning you do one event and you have tons of qualified leads. In fact I think you need an average of five to nine touches (depending on the lead) before they are really qualified. But having said that, when you know which channel was the last touch (which we do) you can do that type of scoring. The magic there is you can start to look for “unique combinations,” which is something I am just beginning to do.

Q: How can one tell how long to hold onto a lead, and work it thoroughly, before giving up on it as unusable?

Paul: In this system, I’m not giving up on anybody unless they change jobs and I lose their e-mail contact. But I know the tolerance on the sales side is much less than that! Sales is quarterly driven, they have their own specific goals. But if you look at how many touches it takes to get through to a CEO, that number of touches is in the 15-20 zone. So if a sales person gives up after five, they’re only a third of the way there.

This type of system can help, because you’re passing something along to sales that’s already been qualified, and it behooves them to work it thoroughly.

Q: What should the expectations be for rejected/returned prospects?

Paul: Simply that we put them back into the funnel for more nurturing AND we know what the issue was, so perhaps we can evolve the system. Again, whatever your vision is for your own lead nurturing system, I guarantee it will change. So you must stay committed to constant improvement.

13 comments to No Leads get Left Behind

  • Chelle Parmele

    Hi Paul,

    This comment is a little off topic from your post, I apologize.

    I read your blog via my Google Reader and noticed in the “by” field it said “by noreply @ blogger.com” is that something you’ve done on purpose or is it a default setting on blogger? I’m curious because I’m noticing more and more bloggers are avoiding leaving email addresses available on their sites.

  • Paul Dunay

    Wow I had no idea

    thanks for telling me – It must be a default setting that I will figure out how to fix

    thanks for the heads up

  • Chelle Parmele

    No problem. It does have your name in brackets {Paul Dunay}, so that’s something.

    And here I thought it was some clever marketing ploy I would need to study. ;)

  • Amy Bills

    Thanks for posting the Q&A, Paul. The audience questions on this Webinar were so insightful, I was disappointed when I noticed the clock running out on us. I’m glad we got to respond to these in a different format. We’ll also post them later this month in the Bulldog newsletter, Marketing Watchdog Journal.

  • Brock Butler

    Paul,
    I have the highest regard for the work you’ve done in Buzz Marketing. Commenting on your post is like telling Elvis he is a little off key.

    But, here goes – you are a little off key. When all you own is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Marketers tend to squeeze everything into conventions that they know and understand… like “leads”, “lead nurturing”, “sales ready lead”, etc. Salespeople live in the real world. All they care about is who’s my prospect, what is his pain or opportunity, where is he in his buying process and how do I persuade him to move through his buying process and select my solution?

    If my well-traveled memory serves me, the 2008 McKinsey research indicated that marketing is generating 30% of the deals that close. That means that the salespeople are generating 70% of the business. Why is this so disproportionate?

    Could it be that while marketers are generating, qualifying and nurturing leads, the sales professionals are busy a) prospecting to ideal prospect companies, b) developing prospects into opportunities, and c) closing those opportunities? If there is one customer buying process how can you have two selling processes? And which one is more in alignment with your customer? More productive?

    The thought leaders in sales, and sales executives in leading B2B companies, are wrestling with a dramatically different selling landscape. To risk a well used cliché – the internet changed everything. Much of your prospect’s buying process now occurs on the web … long before they ever speak with a salesperson. As a marketer, you can treat them like a generic lead until they are “sales ready” (code for “are you ready to buy?”), but then you are too late. Some other, more aggressive, sales person has already engaged with your prospect and built a trusted advisors relationship. You are what we call “column fodder” in a pre-decided evaluation.

    Or, you can recognize that your prospective customer is engaged in a buying process and out-dated marketing concepts are no longer useful. The new reality is a one-to-one, relationship based “prospect development” selling model. CSO Insights does a good job of investigating and documenting these changes.

    So, what can a marketer do to avoid becoming irrelevant to sales? For starters, forget about leads and think about sales opportunities. Focus on developing a community of ideal prospective customers. Then reach out and build relationships. When an ideal prospective customer shows interest, give your salespeople the automation tools to engage with their prospects early and develop them into opportunities. Track the entire integrated revenue generation process via conversion metrics. The interactive analytics-based technology required to do this is available and it is cheap. What is missing is the shift to Web 2.0 and Sales 2.0 thinking – building personal 1-to-1 relationships, as opposed to nurturing generic “leads” until they ready to buy.

    Please excuse my presumption in correcting such uniformly accepted terminology. However, if we don’t change our language we won’t change our thinking. In thirty-five years of professional sales and marketing I have never seen a bigger disconnect between our customers buying process and how we serve them.
    Brock

  • Suzanne Obermire

    Thanks for sharing this interview. Great stuff! I like how your sales and marketing teams are so aligned, and even report up through the same organization. Sadly, this isn’t the case in many large organizations. Sometimes the biggest hurdle to overcome is to get sales and marketing to communicate–to change the perception that the leads that marketing has generated are junk–and to change marketing’s perceptions that the sales folks are too lazy to work all of their leads.

    When sales and marketing are both in the loop and both taking the appropriate responsibility for lead nurturing (meaning in most cases that marketing nurtures the lead until that prospect is just about ready to buy), then you have a winning program.

  • Troy Bingham

    this is good stuff. I have been preaching the same thing for quite some time.

    lrmguru.blogspot.com

  • Paul Dunay

    Troy – would love to interview you for my podcast series please reach out to me

  • Paul Dunay

    Brock

    Well – first I would like to thank you for your comment – I had to read it several times today to make sure I internalized all the great points you made so sorry for my delay in responding.

    You raise some extremely valid points that I totally agree with:

    1) the disproportion of leads between sales and marketing
    2) having 2 selling processes and only one buying process
    3) Nurturing while other more aggressive sales people are in working the account

    But where I think we are in violent agreement is in (using your words) ” creating a community of ideal prospective customers and reaching out to engage with them “

    To a large extend this is the way we approaching lead nurturing.

    I am not sure we are that far off so the only point I would highlight on top of what you said was this:

    It needs to be a 3 tier approach
    - Sales on the front lines
    - backed up by Marketing
    - and underpinning it all is the lead nurturing system that is taking all the leads that would normally “die on the vine” and making them come to life

    thats where I think this fits into the selling process as a single unified process to match the buyers buying process.

    Cost of sales is also an SG&A item (along with marketing) and if a system link this can surface some good leads it pays for itself – so why wouldn’t you have it running in the background?

  • Andy VanAkin

    interseting. This is a arena that seems to get overlooked. Lead nurturing seems to ba a growing trend

  • Troy Bingham - lead nurturing

    Paul, email me the details at tbingham@insidesales.com. It sounds fun.

  • Biotonico

    I think the Q & A touches on some very important points that we cannot forget when learning how to do good marketing and nurture leads, thanks

  • calypsoramesh

    By this marketing we can get so many products in the market
    calypsoramesh
    ======================================
    Social Media Marketing

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