No Leads get Left Behind

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.