Navigating Lead-Management Tollgates Along the Road to Revenue


Recently, while reviewing the results of a new Aberdeen Group study on demand generation, I stumbled on an interesting data point. Though 77% of respondents in our study rated visibility of lead performance across marketing lead stages as very valuable, only 43% indicated they could do this effectively.

Similar results were seen when rating visibility of lead performance across sales lead stages; 77% said this is very valuable but only 41% indicated they were effective at doing it.

How can this be? With a wide variety of lead management “funnel” models available for marketers to implement, why is it that just over 40% are satisfied with their ability to track lead stages and conversion?

One possible answer lies in the data we found—and it’s an interesting tale.

The Aberdeen survey, conducted with 199 marketing and sales professionals in companies of all sizes, asked questions bridging all areas of demand generation.

The Challenges of Lead Management

The following thread of responses takes us through the logic around the challenges related to lead management.

A total of 58% of respondents reported that they have well-defined common lead definitions between sales and marketing.

That is a pretty good start. The first step to building a closed-loop lead management model is to get alignment with all involved, typically Sales, Marketing, and leadership. (Of course, this isn’t a great start for the 42% that have yet to do this.)

The next response drilled down further, revealing if respondents had marketing lead-management processes defined along with basic lead qualification in place.

Only 34% of the overall respondents reported that they have achieved this. This drop-off indicates that the work to define the actual processes for leads is a bigger challenge for organizations, preventing the implementation of a closed-loop model for even more respondents.

The notion of adding some automation to the processes drops the affirmative responses further. Only 32% reporting that they have well-defined lead-management processes in place, and some processes are “automated” (such as a common definition of a lead between Sales and Marketing, basic lead nurturing, and scoring). 

That means that along the journey to closed-loop lead management, we lose a few additional organizations to the actual automation.

The challenge of implementing automation becomes fully apparent when digging even further. When asked if they have well-defined lead-management processes in place with all processes and campaigns “automated” (ongoing review process for lead qualification; nurturing and behavioral scoring), only 9% responded that they had achieved this.

That is a staggering drop in adoption and tells a very distinct tale of an audience that knows what to do but has difficulty implementing its vision.

What Are the Best-in-Class Companies Doing?

In this study, we found that best-in-class companies were 11 times more likely than all other respondents to have well-defined lead-management processes in place, with all processes and campaigns “automated.”

Those companies performed highest on metrics, such as Marketing’s contribution to Sales-forecasted pipeline and percentage of leads converted to Sales-qualified leads.

If you’re not achieving the same results as the best-in-class, it may be time to get back to basics. Today’s plethora of marketing and Web technology has enabled a world in which you can measure everything.

Though that is a fantastic development in theory, it can be daunting in execution. The models being presented are continuing to grow in complexity, making it difficult for late bloomers to catch up.

For companies struggling to get lead management in place, the foundational model outlined in Aberdeen’s research report, The Roadmap to Revenue [email required] may be an appropriate starting point. The paper outlines the stages, discusses lead definition, introduces the topic of measurement points (which I call tollgates), and offers average conversion rates by stage.

Once companies get their arms around the basics for process and measurement, they have a good foundation in place, not only to improve their marketing results but also to build upon new systems to measure other aspects of marketing.

By starting with the basics, true lead management can be established, allowing a foundation for the marketer to increase their measurement maturity over time, as the needs of their organization change.

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