Lead Management Matters In B2B Marketing

In my Forrester research — and in contributing to the Interactive Marketer blog — I talk a lot about why B2B marketer need to worry more about managing demand once marketing campaigns and inbound activity brings new, unqualified leads through the door.  I find too many B2B marketers spend a lot of time, money, and energy buying lists for direct and email marketing.  As part of maturing lead management activities, shifting this perspective from list generation to building a prospect data base and numerically, quantitatively qualifying responses is essential.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Forrester:

I Dig Databases And Marketing Qualified Leads — July 22, 2008

I dug Dave Taber’s latest newsletter edition about “The Life of a Lead”.  I mean, I really “Dugg It”.  The article includes a link to digg.com, so I clicked it, registered, and voted for his document. Not simply because I like his ideas, but because I want to experience the “wisdom of crowds” firsthand and see how communal voting might apply to B2B marketing.

Let me back up. Dave and I worked together at Sybase too many years ago to mention. He’s been heading up Taber & Associates for over 10 years now. His Web site leaves something to be desired and he’s not blogging (yet), but I continue to get great insight from his newsletters. He’s a very smart man. From this latest letter, it looks like Dave is writing a book on Salesforce.com best practices.

There are three things Dave points out in this letter that I’d like to underline as concerns B2B marketers should tackle:

1) Terminology and nomenclature – when it comes to demand management, no one uses terms consistently, and we need to.  Dave’s list is a great start.  Rather than just “qualified leads,” I would create a distinciton between marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads. I’ll get back to this in a second.

2) Create a marketing database separately from what you keep in the sales automation application. Read what he says; makes perfect sense. Dave Frankland and I wrote about “Database Marketing Fundamentals For B2B Marketers” in June, if you want to delve into the subject further. Bottomline: a marketing database keeps the messiness of demand generation away from sales.

3) Recognize the value of lead nurturing – what Dave calls cultivation. It works, but your programs need to be written down and automated.  Dave makes a great point about why you should turn nurturing into a process and how this makes it easier to use telesales outsourcing services.

I would separate qualified leads into two categories: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).  (I’m not the first to talk about this, but I can’t find the source. If you know, please point me there.)  Why? Tracking MQLs lets marketing measure their contribution to the pipeline — and understand how sales acts on the demand they develop. Moving a lead from MQL to SQL signals that sales agrees the lead is worthy of forecasting, of adding to the pipeline. It also provides a way for sales to return leads to marketing for further nurturing if they get cold. Depending on need, firms can divide MQLs or SQL into subcategories or stages, depending on your size and process, but I think having the distinction is important. MQLs/SQLs let marketing learn more about what sales, individually and as a whole, really considers important in generating quality leads — and vice versa.

Which leads me back to the wisdom of crowds. I believe social mechanisms offer excellent ways to get information. So, I plan to spend more time blogging, microblogging, tagging, and voting to inform my research with firsthand experience, to get “leads” on what matters in B2B marketing, and learn from those who have been involved with social media longer.  I’m @lauraramos on Twitter now.  Follow me, vote for my research on Forrester, Digg my research, and let me know what you think the impact of social activity in B2B business buying will be.

–The same final request now applies to this blog and to the ongoing conversation we will have here. Hope you will join me!

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