Perspectives on Lead Management

Published in Marketing Tech Outlook on June 20, 2019.

By Michelle Killebrew, Vice President, Head of Marketing, PwC New Ventures

Lead Management can be complex in its own right. Try to explain it in simple, relatable terms to your counterparts that may not appreciate the nuance of what you’re trying to achieve, and the craft you have honed to make it a reality.

The thing about Lead Management is that it sounds easy; Marketing should create demand via campaigns, collect and manage leads and pass the warm and hot leads to Sales to close. Job done. In reality, Lead Management is a “thing”. Actually, it’s more than a thing in its own right, it is a functional specialty—and beyond that, it’s a technical specialty.

I am a multidisciplinary marketer, but I grew up in the performance world,navigating ecommerce and SaaS marketing analytics before going Enterprise and (literally) teaching teams and our agencies how to be performance-minded. I had a “quota.” That is to say, I had revenue objectives both direct and indirect, and so optimizing spend, conversion and revenue was part of how I measured my success.  Additionally, I’m a tinkerer, so good enough was never good enough. There is always a “how might we” question to test and improve around.

I’m assuming Marketing Tech Outlook readers are technical marketers with an appreciation for the meaning of the phrase “the art and science of marketing.” I will also assume that most of us have, as part of our day jobs, the task of explaining the reality around Lead Management: what it is, why it’s not easy, why it’s not foolproof and why it’s not “free.”

How to Describe Lead Management to Non-Marketing Stakeholders

According to Wikipedia, “Lead management is a set of methodologies, systems, and practices designed to generate new potential business clientele, generally operated through a variety of marketing campaigns or programs.” Which translates into the people, process and technology required to create demand with prospective buyers. It is the way by which Marketing sources prospects to Sales, including the data integrations and infrastructure to pass leads from one place to another. I believe it’s best to set the stage simply at first and then unpack the complexity in subsequent conversations that address the what and why.

Why Isn’t Lead Management Easy

Simply put: scale. If you want to close meaningful revenue, you have to engage with a lot of prospective clients in order to drive the volume needed to convert leads into buyers. Despite sophistication in targeting via digital channels, Marketing will attract far more prospects than those that will convert to actual clients. Maybe those leads represent real opportunities, or maybe they’re just researching options. Maybe they can’t afford it in this budget cycle, or maybe business priorities changed, and the project is no longer in scope. Regardless of the reason, only a small percentage of prospects that engage with marketing convert to client. I’ve found that explaining this to unknowing stakeholders in second-person story form helpful “Have you ever researched a software tool or even a gift idea and changed your mind…?”

Why Can’t Marketing Promise Results

Just like the stock market, there are many external factors at play. And just like the stock market, micro- and macroeconomics play into clients’ willingness to pay. Building a lead management system from the ground up is rife with uncertainty. The only way to validate actual performance for your offering, to your target audience, with your campaigns/messaging, your systems and your team is to actually put it in market. Benchmarking is a great place to start, so that you can make some educated performance goals, but you will never know until you know. Test and iterate. Build it, launch it, and optimize. While marketers by reputation aren’t known to be math experts, Marketing is math. Complex math, given the infinite number of external factors that weigh in. Lead management is literally a numbers game. One that those with the best conversion rates will win. Yes, there is consumer psychology that can and should be leveraged to boost performance, but at the end of the day, it is good to remind your stakeholders that people and markets are fickle.

Why Do You Need Extra  _________[People, Technology or Budget]

Companies that do lead management well have entire functional departments dedicated to this. We’re talking technical marketing staff, data science teams, fully integrated MarTech stacks and an understanding that the expense to optimize lead flow directly impacts gross margin and customer satisfaction (i.e. retained customers and therefore compound growth rates). If you’re just standing up lead management processes, it can be perceived to non-Marketers as super simple: “Can Marketing just sent customer lead lists in Excel to Sales?”

While you know that’s not the answer (because of issues with data privacy and personally identifiable information just to start), you may need to explain that website (CMS), marketing automation (MA), customer relationship management (CRM) systems, minimally, will need to have data integrations to make Lead Management work. If you get more sophisticated, landing pages, digital analytics, data lakes, and more come into the fold. People need to manage these integrations and ensure everything is running smoothly. Then you’ll need to determine (math; automated math) when a Lead is ready to talk with Sales; that’s Lead Scoring. Is a prospect the right profile? Is their behavior indicating that they are ready to have a Sales conversation? This automated math needs both strategy and a practical way to deploy it – again, at scale.

Lead Management can be complex in its own right. Try to explain it in simple, relatable terms to your counterparts that may not appreciate the nuance of what you’re trying to achieve, and the craft you have honed to make it a reality. And at the end of the day, show your results. No one can argue with the revenue that you can prove Marketing has delivered.


New Content Economy? What’s Old Is New Again!

Published in ClickZ on February 19, 2015.

As the marketing ecosystem evolves, we can look to our past for inspiration on how to deal with the new challenges we face.

"What will it take to win in the new content economy? The best way for publishers to earn more is to interrupt less. The best way for brands to emotionally connect is through meaningful content. But for the new content economy to thrive, all of these efforts need to happen at scale." - The Rise of the New Content Economy, VentureBeat

I was reading the above article - by now you know I read a lot; philosophically agreeing with B. Bonin Bough’s thought "I'm so scared to become irrelevant so I try to spend time constantly learning what’s new" – and struggling with a massive case of writer’s block for this piece when an epiphany hit: as with most things, we’ve been here before! I actually agree with what is stated in the article, that we, as marketers, need to think through how we properly engage with our audiences given the latest advances in technology. But with that said, the fundamentals of marketing are just that: fundamental. They still hold true even if we think of "modern" ways of applying them.

Recently I had the privilege of presenting at TEDxUniversityofReno. My talk was called "How Technology Can Make Us More Human," focusing on how we, as people and as brands, are leveraging technology to enhance or interrupt our experiences with others. In preparing for my talk, I researched current data points, forward looking global trends – but I also reflected back on past predictions of what our future may hold. I re-read Fahrenheit 451 (written 1953) and 1984 (written 1949) - which, if you haven’t read in a while, I highly encourage you to do so! I’m also adding Brave New World to my "on deck" reading list – and was reminded how our human history is cyclical. Our discovery and re-discovery of how we engage with one another is both fascinating and humorous.

Currently in the headlines as being new and "must execute" trends:

  • Native Advertising and Content Marketing: While I’m sure it goes back further, native advertising in our modern world can be traced back to the 1930’s advent of radio soap operas - where the brands were in charge of creating original content with which to engage their target audience: housewives.
  • Social Technology: This is really a technological application of our human nature in "word-of-mouth" conversation. Applying this to promote products, brands, and services is as old as time immemorial. Yes, we need to continue to refine our methods of speaking authentically through these channels and yes, tools and analytics can help us do this more effectively, but the concept is not new.
  • Relationship Selling: The latest resurgence in building out sales teams is a trend resulting from our over-reliance on technology (marketing automation, etc.) and people’s true desire to seek advice from a human during complex buying decisions. This seems like common sense to me and apparently customers are beginning to demand it, as shown by the business models supporting the headcount to fund for these new teams.
  • Print Marketing: I’ve been saying this for a while now - print marketing is not dead. In fact, as we focus more on digital channels, the physical, tactical, and experiential nature of print makes it even more special, and I agree whole heartedly with Tessa Wegert in her recent ClickZ article on the topic.

What can we learn here? As we are faced with new and more complex marketing challenges, we can look to our past for inspiration on how best to use these seemingly new obstacles. Tried-and-true foundational marketing practices can be re-imagined and re-engineered to meet today’s expectations.

I love that that as people seek to engage with one another, they are looking for more "natural" ways to do so, a la Snapchat. "'You know this conversation we just had? Snapchat is just like that. It’s like real life. It’s just between us and you’re left with nothing but the memory.' It sort of puts the fun back in social again; just like when some of us were kids," says Steve Tobak.

So, as we look forward, take a moment to look back – we’re an amazing human race, and we have likely already thought through similar challenges.

PS – I also love that Millennials have this affinity for nostalgia; I consider it a proof point of the above, plus it makes me smile to see the toys from my own youth on the shelves today!