Will 2010 be the year the lead management automation market takes off? Early indications show that the automation market ended on a high note in Q4 2009 as marketers turned to technology to help generate and manage demand more effectively. While technology alone does not guarantee healthy pipelines, automation can help most firms hand better qualified leads over to sales. So when Silverpop engaged Forrester last year to research the top issues marketers face when generating demand and which approaches deliver the best results, I quickly agreed to take the lead on this project.
In the spirit of full disclosure, let me give a little background about the project. Silverpop hired Forrester to conduct research and write a whitepaper independently on the results. Forrester follows strict guidelines to ensure objectivity as a neutral third-party advisor. As a matter of policy, we don’t write whitepapers for hire, and the few we do must meet specific requirements, include primary research, and educate the market on a topic of broad interest — regardless of the sponsor’s intent. For example, we interviewed 15 Directors, VPs, or SVPs of marketing in midmarket firms of 100 to 5000 employees for the report. Some were Silverpop customers but the majority were not and Forrester made the call about who to include to achieve a full range of perspectives. However, my company does not employ a team of consultants separate from the analyst ranks and, when a project like this comes along, analysts who cover the market or technology play a major role conducting the surveys and writing the report.
So what did we learn? Well there are several ways you can find out. First, you can go to Silverpop’s Web site and register for a copy. On January 26, Silverpop CEO, Bill Nussey, invited me to join him on a webinar to talk about the report findings and to offer a few case studies illustrating the tangible benefits of lead management automation. In addition, Amanda Ferrante, with DemandGen Report, wrote a very thorough and thoughtful review of the paper earlier this week and details many of the findings.
In summary, here’s what we found:
1) Mature lead management pays off in measurable impact on pipelines, marketing efficiency, and accountability. On average, one-half or more of the marketers we spoke with cite healthier pipelines, increased marketing proficiency, and more efficient resource/budget use as key outcomes when investing in lead management process and technology change.
2) Process development and sales collaboration are essential first steps. More than selecting the most innovative or feature-rich technology, top firms succeed when they approach lead management as a process change that requires close and continuous interaction with sales.
3) Four practices shorten the time from implementation to value. Lead management experts focus on customer profiling, lead scoring, content design, and nurturing to accelerate investment returns.
4) Successful lead management improves marketing’s standing and stature. Marketers that follow lead management best practices increase marketing execution efficiency, help sales optimize deal-closing activity, and turn customer relationships into valuable corporate assets.
5) Ability to share and instill best practices is key to selecting the right technology partner. Long term success depends on trading off flashy features, promised ease of use, and low price tags for proven expertise, a track-record of successful implementations, and a growing, vibrant community of like-minded users.
Bottomline: Lead management automation works and helps markters to close up leaky marketing funnels, put better qualified opportunities in front of sales, and help drive stronger topline revenue. If you have had similar success, or suffered a few failures, with marketing automation, feel free to chime in her with your experiences.