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.