To finish up on the conversation I started with Sean Dwyer in February, I’d like to share a few final thoughts about the ways I’ve seen top marketers implement lead management automation successfully. In this final installment of our Q&A series, Sean and I explore who are the core stakeholders to involve in lead management automation, what are the key success factors, and the ultimate prize — how lead management automation helps deliver healthier sales pipelines.
Part III: Implementation and Key Success Factors
Q7: Who should be involved in the implementation of the Lead Management Automation platform?
Lead management automation should include marketing and sales as equal partners in the requirements gathering, selection, and implementation process. IT will be involved, too, but they will play a more minor if the company chooses an on-demand solution. IT must make sure that integration with existing customer support, database, and sales automation systems goes according to plan and that the new system doesn’t introduce any security or unforeseen technical problems into the current environment. Marketing and sales folks shouldn’t have to take on the burden of understanding the existing technical infrastructure to make marketing automation work.
I emphasize that marketing and sales must share joint responsibility – an idea that many marketing folks may bristle over. But, let’s face it, unlike other marketing automation decisions; lead management automation delivers direct tangible benefits to quota-carrying salespeople like greater visibility into the type of leads coming down the pipeline. It can also expose which specific characteristics, profiles, search history, marketing interactions, online behavior, and such differentiate higher scoring leads from those with lower scores.
Many lead management vendors include what I call “sales enablement” features in their offerings today – tools that help track a prospect’s digital footprints and summarize their presales buying behavior. For most reps, these features create a window into the customer’s psyche formerly hidden from view. Sales management and key account managers need to understand how lead management automation benefits the sales rank-and-file, so involving them in early discussions about “What is a well-qualified lead? How can automation help our firm generate more qualified demand? And what do we need this system to do to get there?” will improve sales’ willingness to work with the new technology, make it part of the sales process, and give marketing the feedback needed to improve customer acquisition and insight processes.
I think it is important to include all customer-facing functions to the implementation and training process, even if only for an introductory look at what the platform can do. Customer service, technical support, professional services, and even human resources can benefit from the purchase insights lead management automation delivers.
Q8: What are the most important factors for successfully implementing a Lead Management Automation platform?
I know the following may sound simplistic, but – through dozens of interviews and conversations with marketers who have used lead management successfully for more than a year – I’ve found that the keys to success include:
1) Gear up for process change; don’t rely simply on technology. Looking to pump up lackluster sales pipelines, many marketers turn to technology and overlook the systematic process, people, and internal behavioral change successful automation requires. Most veteran marketers said focusing on process, and not technology, was the factor that most affected their success with lead management.
2) Stock up on the content. Surprisingly, many marketers under-estimate the amount of content they need to have on-hand or produce to keep the lead management engine running. Because marketers think classically in terms of white papers, brochures, and datasheet – all which require high production investment – they quickly feel overwhelmed by the prospect of feeding a constant flow of content into a lead nurturing program. The trick is to focus on quantity –take long white papers and break them into several smaller parts, cut up data sheets into tables and bulleted lists, enlist subject matter experts in developing blog posts, videos or podcasts, or syndicate partner content – without sacrificing relevance.
3) Market the marketing automation. Don’t expect everyone in marketing and sales to embrace the lead management automation platform with gusto. We all have tendencies to resist change to a greater or lesser degree. Embrace the enthusiasts, elevate their early successes to management, and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Treat the rollout of the lead management system like a product launch; announce it, train on it, and certify sales and marketing on their proficiency with the platform. Ask “Have they got the message? Do they repeat it reliably? Do they practice what they preach?” When you can say “yes” to these questions, then you know you’re on your way to success.
Q9: How should Sales and Marketing leverage the Lead Management Automation platform to help drive the pipeline?
Lead management automation is all about driving the pipeline. It’s like a DVR or a mobile phone, once you own one you can’t understand how you lived without it. But getting things to run smoothly at first can be challenging. Stick with it because the payoffs are significant and tangible. Consistently, marketers who use this technology over an extended period of time report measurable increases in lead quality, opportunity-to-pipeline conversion, and deal velocity—all factors that directly impact sales pipeline health and revenues. It’s not uncommon to hear stories about how marketers improved inbound demo requests, early stage pipeline dollar-values, and appointment-to-opportunity conversion by factors of 2 or more.
Achieving this level of success requires focusing on the four key areas: scoring/profiling, routing leads to sales, nurturing leads not yet ready to buy, and monitoring lead progress (i.e. closing the loop with sales). If you make sure the lead management platform delivers on all four of those process stages, then your ability to drive pipeline heath and execute more effective campaigns will improve.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, please check out a whitepaper that Silverpop offers titled“How Managing Leads Pays Off In A Stronger, More Qualified Pipeline. ” In this report commissioned by Silverpop, Forrester (meaning yours truly, when I worked there prior to Xerox) surveyed 15 senior-level marketers to gauge their experiences in using lead management automation. Yes, Silverpop is somewhat of a competitor to Loopfuse. However, if you look beyond this to see that we are all trying to raise awareness and educate marketers about the value of this technology, I think you will find some of the insights shared in this report both insightful and useful.
I wanted to thank Sean for offering me this opportunity to share our conversation with all of you. Let me know what other questions you might like to see asked and answered in the future.