In actuality, lead generation should not be just the initial creation of interest, but the full slate of nurturing activities growing the lead into a genuine prospect. Marketing’s role must include taking responsibility for moving sales-ready leads to sales, instead of simply handing over cold inquiries and then attempting to match back the revenue won from the leads initially generated to evaluate the success of marketing programs.
Of course, a key requirement for this is that sales and marketing must first work together to determine the company’s definition of a sales-ready lead. Once that definition is agreed upon, it then becomes marketing’s job to work toward filling the top of the sales funnel with leads meeting that definition, as opposed to simply clogging it with inquiries who in all likelihood are not yet ready or able to buy.
How can marketing evolve into this new mindset, and what processes and metrics must be implemented? In order for marketers to track and drive leads through the lifecycle, they must be equipped with the tools and visibility to allow them to meet their objectives. They must also be assured that both sales and company management understand their new role, since it is likely marketing will be delivering fewer leads (as far as actual quantity goes, though the quality will be significantly better).
Another key element to consider is what the lead lifecycle or lead management process should now be at the company—not what it has been, mind you, but what it should be. Many companies have fallen into a process that simply just evolved. No one sat down and mapped out the lead lifecycle or lead management process based on best practice knowledge, or with a practical eye toward efficiency and effectiveness.
Remember, the lead management process is always the precursor to the sales process. Companies are very sophisticated about the sales process and the stages within those processes. Similarly, marketers should not look at what currently exists but at what is the optimum lead management process for their specific company. For example, what fits their specific product and services buy cycle? What fits their prospects best? What fits their organization best?
Once marketers have determined what the lead management process should be and how a lead will move through the lifecycle, they need to implement the tools and metrics to meet that need. They must also map out their needs at a campaign level, whether online or offline, and determine what they need to understand about the lead itself. Do you want to track and understand the lead’s demographic information? Their behavior as they interact with your company and materials? Their answers to questions? How much information is reasonable to track for your target audience? How is it best to obtain that information? All of these items must be thought through and decided upon.
Furthermore, from a nurturing perspective, how will you grow a lead into a sales-ready lead? What works for your specific audience? At the beginning much of this will be trial and error. But marketers will quickly see the emergence of patterns and trends.