Whether you’re looking to fine-tune your current lead management process or build a new one from scratch, this eBook covers all the essentials you need to master.
In this eBook, you’ll learn lead management strategies and tools to track leads better, engage them the right way, and improve conversions.
Over the next six chapters, we’ll share six carefully-crafted lessons that focus on six key lead management aspects:
- Refining and Pinpointing Your Target Leads
- Capturing Crucial Lead Information
- Scoring and Ranking Leads
- Nurturing and Converting Leads
- Handing Off Leads to Sales
- Monitoring and Tracking Leads
Each lesson is packed with practical tips and ideas, so you can easily put what you’ve learned into action right away.
In the meantime, for your first assignment, list down at least five goals you want to achieve with your ideal lead management and customer acquisition process.
Starting with the end in mind will let you better understand and master the topics later in this course, so make sure to identify your lead management objectives as clearly as possible.
What Exactly is a Lead?
But before we dive into the finer points of determining what and what doesn’t count as a good lead, let’s first answer a very basic question: What exactly is a lead?
While every business has its own unique definition of a “lead”, leads are typically defined as qualified prospects with an interest in what you’re offering.
Unfortunately, what constitutes “interest” isn’t always very clear to everyone in an organization. It’s exactly this lack of clarity that causes friction, congestion, leakage, and misalignment in the sales funnel.
Let’s say someone fills out a form on your website to download a whitepaper. The submitted info indicates the company matches your target industry and business size, plus the prospect’s choice of topic suggests he’s most likely part of your target audience.
Is this a lead?
If you ask the marketing team, they’ll most likely tag this as a lead, since this is someone they can nurture and steer toward a sales conversation later.
Meanwhile, someone from sales might look for more concrete signs of buying intent before calling this prospect a lead. For example, sales will probably prioritize this prospect if he’s also been to your Pricing & Plans page, or has specifically signed up for a free trial.
Which definition should you follow?
Here, marketing’s definition might be too broad, and it could lead the sales team to chase a lot of unqualified prospects.
On the other hand, sales’ idea for a lead might be too narrow and could severely limit marketing’s ability to supply enough leads to keep the pipeline flowing.
Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas
To work smoothly, lead management needs a balance between these two often-conflicting points of view. Reaching this middle ground, in turn, requires you to set up the following:
- Ideal customer profile (ICP)
- Target buyer personas
ICPs and buyer personas are two different (but related) ways to precisely define your target leads. An ICP is an outline of the ideal company that buys your solution, while a buyer persona is a representation of a decision maker who’s involved in the buying process.
To define your own ICP, analyze your top 10 or 20 customers and look for common characteristics in terms of:
- Technology in Use
Once you nail down your ICP, you now need to create buyer personas to serve as overviews of the decision makers you’ll be dealing with in the sales process. Typically, there are multiple decision makers you need to engage in a single organization, so you need to develop a buyer persona for each type. Each buyer persona should include:
- Job Title
- Role in the Buying Decision
- Sources of Information
- Pain Points
These are only a few of the many attributes you need to combine in a well-defined ICP and buyer persona, but they’re enough to get you started. We’ll expand these later in Chapter 2.
As you may have already guessed, coming up with your own ICP and buyer personas will be your next assignment. These tools will help you clearly define what your ideal leads look like and help you better manage them throughout the sales process, so make sure to do your homework.
For more insights and tips on building ICPs and buyer personas, get a copy of our free eBook “Targeted B2B Marketing Handbook”. This valuable resource also includes checklists and worksheets for coming up with ICPs and buyer persona definitions.
Essential Lead Information
In Chapter 1, you learned how to precisely define your ideal leads by creating ICPs and buyer personas. That means you now have an outline of specific characteristics that each candidate lead needs to meet.
But those details form only a small portion of the prospect information you need to capture and monitor.
While there can be thousands of prospect data points that different B2B marketing and sales teams keep track of, lead information typically falls into two distinct types: fit and intent data.
Fit data are pieces of information that help you determine whether you’re reaching out to the right prospect.
You’ve already seen a few examples of fit data when you initially set up your ICP and buyer personas in Chapter 1.
These include the personal (demographic), company (firmographic), and behavior (psychographic) information that best describe your ideal lead.
Exactly which fit data points to capture will depend on how complex your sales process is. A good rule of thumb is to ask whether it:
- Helps confirm that you’re connecting with the right decision maker at the right company
- Enables you to carry out your desired level of segmentation and personalization
You also don’t need to collect all the needed fit data at once. In fact, it’s good practice to capture only a handful of prospect information at a time throughout the sales process. For example:
- Start with basic demographic and firmographic data for top-of-funnel leads (e.g., basic contact details from lead capture forms)
- Drill down on in-depth firmographics and psychographics as the lead progresses through the pipeline (e.g., budget and timeline qualifications during follow-up calls)
The other important type of lead information is intent data. Intent data can tell you what a potential buyer is interested in and help in determining how sales ready that prospect is.
Intent data typically consist of actions that a lead has (or hasn’t) taken throughout the sales process. These can include:
- Visits to specific pages on your website
- Topics browsed on your blog or resources viewed
- Collaterals or marketing/sales materials requested
- Content accessed outside your website
- Interaction with your outbound efforts (email clicks, sales call responses)
Intent data come in two forms. Internal (or first-party) intent data include prospect activities that your marketing automation platform captures on your website and other touch points.
External (or third-party) intent data, on the other hand, refer to a prospect’s data trail outside your website or marketing campaigns. These are obtained from third-party providers like publisher networks collecting data at the IP level or user registrations and shared cookies.
These pieces of information show what your prospects are searching for and viewing on other content sources.
Combining Fit and Intent for Better Lead Management
Fit and intent data make your lead management efforts more effective. That’s because, when taken together, these two types of prospect data allow you to objectively determine which leads to pursue and precisely pinpoint where a lead is in the sales process.
To improve lead management, here’s how to combine fit and intent data:
- Correlate your ICP and buyer personas with intent signals (e.g., which buyer roles are more likely to gravitate to specific content)
- Match a prospect (not just a segment) with the corresponding intent data
- Use your sales funnel to put fit and intent data into context (i.e., start with broad characteristics and get granular as the prospect moves down the funnel)
In the chapter, we’ll take a closer look at the direct outcome of combining fit and intent data: the lead score.
Let’s wrap up with the key takeaway from this chapter: fit data describe your prospects, while intent data predict what they’re interested in.
This brings us to your next assignment. Review your ICP and buyer persona definitions, and try to include as many types of fit and intent data that can help describe and predict your leads better.
Lead Scoring’s Role in Lead Management
Lead scoring is one way to make sense of the reams of information you collect about your leads. The lead score summarizes everything you know about a prospect into a single number or value that tells you what buying stage a prospect is in.
By assigning and updating lead scores for each prospect, you’ll be able to segment, engage, and manage leads better.
That’s why your lead management process won’t work without a proper lead scoring model in place.
Building a Lead Scoring Model
You can think of a lead scoring model as a formula that spits out the lead score when given some information about a prospect. Good lead scoring models include both fit and intent data, although the exact details will depend on what you think are the important factors that determine a prospect’s sales-readiness.
Let’s say you sell enterprise IT security software to financial services firms, and you want to develop a (very) simple lead scoring model based on a prospect’s industry, job title, current security software, IT budget, whitepaper download, and page visits.
It’s good practice to start building a lead scoring system by first creating a lead scoring matrix:
- List out each scoring criteria as separate columns in a spreadsheet.
- Assign weights to each criterion according to how important it is in gauging sales-readiness (e.g., 5% to industry, 10% to job title, 15% to current software, 20% to IT budget, 25% to whitepaper downloads, and 25% to page visits).
- Decide on a grading scale to indicate how well a prospect meets each criterion. (e.g., a scale of 0 to 10 for each variable).
- Set scoring thresholds. The sum of a prospect’s grade under each criterion multiplied by that criterion’s weight is called the weighted score. Let’s say any weighted score below 4 points is a cold lead, between 4 to 7 points is a warm lead, and above 7 points is a sales-ready lead.
One very crucial thing to keep in mind is to implement a grading system that accurately reflects how prospects really progress throughout the buying cycle.
In our example, this means assigning higher scores (i.e., scores closer to 10) under a given criterion:
- Industry: The prospect works for a company in the financial services sector.
- Job title: The prospect holds a more senior role in the decision-making unit.
- Current software: The prospect’s company currently uses a software that your solution can outclass.
- IT budget: The prospect has indicated a budget you can work with.
- Whitepaper downloads: The prospect has chosen an in-depth title on implementation rather than a broad introductory topic.
- Page visits: The prospect has already been to your pricing pages.
The exact criteria and definitions will, of course, be different for your own lead scoring model, but this example should give you an idea.
Making Lead Scoring Work for Lead Management
Once you’re ready to implement a lead scoring model, there are a number of things you need to put in place to make it part of your lead management process:
- Automate as much as possible. Whether you’re using Excel or a fancy CRM platform, lead scoring can be tedious and repetitive, so make sure to use a suitable automation tool.
- Integrate all your marketing data sources to ensure a single view of any given prospect.
- Compare prospect data with deals won/lost to find reasonable scoring thresholds, and periodically review the model using more recent data.
- Aggregate related fit and intent data into categories to make the number of criteria more manageable. For example, you might classify prospect information into personal, firmographic, buyer role, interest, and activity.
- Consider using predictive lead scoring. As your sales cycle becomes more and more complex, you might benefit from lead scoring systems that rely on AI and machine learning.
That’s it for this chapter. Hopefully, you’ve gotten a clearer picture of how lead scoring enables better lead management.
In the next chapter, we’ll learn about lead nurturing, which essentially is an action plan for handling leads with various lead scores.
To apply what you’ve learned in this lesson, try creating your own lead scoring matrix. We’ve got a ton of useful lead scoring resources to help you out:
- Section 2 of our Targeted Marketing Handbook includes checklists and worksheets for building more sophisticated lead scoring models.
- Callbox’s Guide to Lead Scoring walks you through an overview of the lead scoring system we follow here at Callbox.
- One of our most popular videos teaches how to classify cold, warm, and hot leads.
Lead Nurturing 101 in 30 Seconds
Lead nurturing is the process of engaging prospects at each stage of the buying cycle. It’s basically the answer to the question: “what do we do with leads who aren’t yet ready to buy?”
When done right, lead nurturing syncs up your sales funnel with your prospect’s path to purchase. This means that all your marketing activities deliver the right message to the right prospects right when they need it.
An effective lead nurturing program meets four crucial requirements:
- Prioritizes building relationships, not rushing the close
- Delivers relevant messaging through segmentation and personalization
- Takes place across multiple channels
- Produces measurable and trackable results
These same requirements, however, also make setting up a lead nurturing process very challenging for a lot of marketers. That’s why it’s also important to narrow the scope of your lead nurturing efforts based on:
- Typical volume and sources of your leads (the more leads you handle, the bigger your lead nurturing program needs to be)
- Product diversity (a wider range of products or services also requires a more diverse lead nurturing strategy)
- Number of audience segments (different audiences need different messaging approaches)
- Sales funnel complexity (complex and lengthy funnels require more elaborate nurture paths)
Understanding the Buying Journey
From the classic 3-step buying model (awareness-evaluation-decision) to more recent buyer journey maps like the AARRR (activation-acquisition-retention-revenue-referral) model, marketers use many different ways to represent how their target customers reach a purchase decision.
But in today’s buying landscape, these models don’t work right out of the box. You need to tweak them a bit by taking your own prospects’ unique situation into account:
- Who? B2B buyers purchase as a team. You need to think of your target customer as a collection of different buyer personas with different decision-making roles.
- Why? You have to clearly identify what business outcome buyers are trying to achieve, as well as the need or pain they’re trying to address.
- When? Buyers’ information needs differ from one stage to another. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the buyer’s context and uncover the questions at each buying stage.
- What? Different types of content and messaging make sense for a specific buying stage.
- Where? B2B buyers look for information in a number of sources and formats.
Mapping Message/Content to Lead Segments
The key to delivering the “right message at the right time to the right people” is through proper lead segmentation. There are several ways to segment leads and prospects, but most marketing experts recommend starting with lead nurture segments based on two dimensions:
- Dimension 1: Buyer personas
- Dimension 2: Buying stages
This allows you to target leads according to the main factors that drive buying decisions, without being too complex or too broad.
Since you’ve already defined buyer personas in the previous lessons and (hopefully) finished identifying your prospects’ buying stages, you now have all the ingredients to map out your lead nurture tracks.
You first need to fill out a persona-funnel matrix, which is a table that matches content/messaging ideas to each buyer persona throughout the decision-making stages.
Using our enterprise IT security example from the last lesson, this is how we might create our persona-funnel matrix:
- List out each buying stage as separate columns. If you use the traditional 3-stage model, then the awareness, consideration, and decision stages fall into different columns.
- Write out all your buyer personas as rows. Let’s say you’re targeting three buyer personas:
- Risk manager persona
- Chief information security officer (CISO) persona
- IT stakeholder persona
- Specify the main content/messaging approach for each persona under the corresponding buying stage. For example, your messaging strategy for the risk manager persona might include:
- Awareness Stage: Content/Message that gives an overview of the business, compliance, and strategic risks of common IT security issues
- Consideration Stage: Costs and benefits of different IT security products and resources to help risk managers evaluate a solution
- Decision: Resources that detail how your product specifically mitigates business risk, especially for your current customers
Of course, you also need to do step 3 for the other two personas, but the key idea here is that a persona-funnel matrix helps you stay relevant not only to your different marketing audiences but throughout their buying process as well.
Communication Timing and Cadence
The next step after completing a persona-funnel matrix is to flesh out the details of your communication cadence. A communication cadence or lead nurture track is the timeline of touch points that executes the messaging strategy outlined in your persona-funnel matrix.
In our previous example, the lead nurture track for the risk manager persona might look like this:
- Awareness Stage, Touch 1: Send personalized email that shares your eBook about business risks in the current IT security landscape
- Awareness Stage, Touch 2: Connect on LinkedIn and share blog articles about the changing role of business risk management in IT security
- Consideration Stage, Touch 1: Send email that points to IT security risk assessment resources, worksheets, and calculators
- Consideration Stage, Touch 2: Place a follow-up call to talk about the prospect’s IT security risk profile
- Decision Stage, Touch 1: Send email to share customer case studies
- Decision Stage, Touch 2: Place call to offer a demo
The CISO and IT stakeholder personas will each have their own lead nurture tracks, which will focus on the content/messaging and channels that best meet their needs and answer their questions.
Your lead nurture program should also include a lead response management plan that details what happens when a prospect does and doesn’t do a specific action or trigger.
So there you have it, you now have a working understanding of how to build a lead nurturing strategy that fits into your lead management process.
In the next chapter, we’ll get into the details of handing leads over to sales which, in some ways, is the climax of the lead management process.
For now, your assignment will be to:
- Choose a suitable buying model
- Fill out a persona-funnel matrix
- Create a lead nurture track for each buyer persona
What ‘Smarketing’ Looks Like
We often hear about achieving “marketing-sales alignment” (or “smarketing” for short) as a key priority for B2B companies. But, as Forrester reports, only 8% of businesses have actually managed to sync their marketing and sales teams together.
The main reason why the vast majority of us fail at smarketing is that we’re focusing on achieving only one piece of the puzzle: a shared understanding of the conversion funnel.
While having a single, synchronized view of the lead lifecycle is an important step toward alignment, it’s not the only condition that needs to be met. A well-aligned marketing-sales process requires that:
- Marketing and sales speak the same language.
- There’s accountability on both sides.
- Differing points of view are considered and resolved.
- There’s a closed-loop feedback system.
- Successes are shared.
Refining Your Lead Handoff Plan
Taking the above five requirements into account, here’s how to create a smarketing-ready lead handoff process:
Step 1: Spell out goals and expectations
Marketing must pay special attention to the goals that sales needs to meet, since these are ultimately what translate into marketing’s objectives. At the same time, sales also needs to consider what marketers expect from reps.
- What are the top 3 things that sales will need to hit their numbers this quarter?
- What are the industries/verticals/markets that sales would like to sell into more?
- What specific tactics does sales want marketing to do more or less of?
Step 2: Lay down common definitions for each lead stage
Whatever buying model you choose to adopt, it’s important that both marketing and sales agree on each lead stage definition. For example, setting the thresholds for classifying leads according to lead scores requires the consensus of both teams.
- How do prospects and leads reach out and interact with potential vendors?
- What questions do prospects and opportunities typically ask in each buying stage?
- What common problems and pain points do customers seek to resolve by purchasing your product?
Step 3: Work out lead scoring criteria together
Both marketing and sales need to understand which prospect actions drive lead scores. To make the lead score a reliable indicator of sales-readiness, your lead scoring model must be a product of collaboration between the two teams.
- What are the triggers and actions that prompt a potential customer to progress through the buying process?
- What are the main qualifying and disqualifying factors that each team looks for in an ideal lead?
- What lead score or threshold accurately represents a specific lead stage?
Step 4: Set up follow-up and notification processes
Marketing and sales people also need to clarify exactly what happens once a lead has reached a given lead score and is deemed sales-ready.
- How are leads assigned among reps?
- What is the timeframe for response and notification?
- What is the process for monitoring transferred leads and their activity?
Step 5: Create a lead handback procedure
Sometimes, lead scoring systems make mistakes and give out false positives. In that situation, there needs to be a well-defined process for handing leads back to marketing for further nurturing.
- What happens to leads incorrectly labeled as sales-ready?
- What are the main factors for rejecting or handing back leads?
- How will the rejected lead’s score be modified or adjusted?
Although the lead handoff procedure is the culmination of your lead nurturing efforts, it doesn’t mark the end of the lead management process. There’s still a lot of tracking and monitoring to be done once a prospect has been handed over to sales.
In the final chapter of this eBook, we’ll see how prospects are tracked and monitored throughout the entire lead lifecycle.
For now, your assignment will be to take a look at the exact steps you follow when transferring leads from marketing to sales. Is it consistent with the smarketing principles we’ve discussed here? What are the challenges you face with your current lead handoff plan? What are ways you can improve it?
Lead tracking is how you follow and stay up-to-date with a lead’s progress throughout the funnel. While the exact details will depend on your lead management program, a solid lead tracking process will include:
- Determining the lead source and trajectory
- Identifying which buying stage a lead is in
- Monitoring triggers and actions
- Collecting and capturing information needed at a given point in the funnel
- Updating a prospect’s status or lead ranking
- Reporting and summarizing key results
To make sure your lead tracking process meets all these requirements, you need three things in place:
- Closed-loop reporting
- Lead management metrics
- Appropriate attribution model
Let’s go over these one by one.
Marketing and sales teams typically use different lead pipelines. In most organizations, marketers rely on a marketing automation platform (MAP), while sales uses a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
Closed-loop reporting bridges the gap between a MAP and CRM by allowing data to freely flow between the two pipelines. This allows both teams to gain an end-to-end view of the lead lifecycle and understand:
- Where the best and worst leads come from
- Where bottlenecks and funnel leakages take place
- How conversions take place in each funnel stage
- What the sales team does with transferred leads
- What marketing contributes to the sales process
The specific closed-loop reporting implementation will be unique for each lead management program, but it needs to meet the following minimum requirements:
- Prompt lead handoff (no delay in lead transfer from MAP to CRM)
- Control rules for syncing leads (syncing records that meet a given lead score or lead ranking)
- Field-level syncing (maintain updated field values for both systems)
- Support for custom objects and fields (easily extend to meet new requirements)
- Data visibility on both sides (each system can view lead activities recorded in the other pipeline)
- Trigger activity highlighting (users can specify which trigger actions to monitor)
- Ability to pull lead data at different levels of abstraction (for example, combining lead details with account-level data)
- Adaptability and responsiveness (implement changes through configuration without coding)
Lead Management Metrics
In a multi-channel lead management program, each channel has its own set of KPIs to gauge performance (e.g., opens and CTRs for emails; impressions and engagement for online tactics; etc.).
Although these are important numbers to keep an eye on, these metrics don’t tell you the overall effectiveness of your lead management process.
For that, you need to track KPIs that measure high-level lead management outcomes such as stage progression, conversions, won deals, revenues, and costs:
- Number of leads that pass through each funnel stage
- Average time spent in each funnel stage
- Average sales cycle length (time it takes for leads to become customers)
- Pipeline velocity (total expected deal value divided by average sales cycle length)
- Overall conversion rate (leads handed over to sales divided by total number of leads)
- Converted leads by lead source
- Converted leads by campaign
- Revenue contribution of converted leads
- Average deal size of converted leads
- Win rates by lead source
- Win rates by campaign
- Cost of acquiring and nurturing leads
- Acquisition and nurturing costs by lead source
Another pressing issue that today’s lead management programs face is determining how much each activity actually contributes to specific marketing and sales outcomes. In conversion funnels that involve different channels and multiple touches, the conversion and revenue trail can be hard to retrace.
That’s why it’s important to choose a relevant attribution model for your particular lead management process. An attribution model is a set of rules that determine how credit for revenues and conversions are assigned among the different touch points in your lead nurture path.
Like other things in your lead management program, you need to choose the best attribution model that fits your unique process:
- First-touch Attribution – The first touch point gets 100% of the credit for the conversion or sale.
- Last-touch Attribution – The touch point that directly preceded the conversion or sale gets 100% of the credit.
- Linear Attribution – This model evenly distributes credit among all touch points in the nurture path.
- Time Decay Attribution – This attribution model gives more credit to touch points closer to conversion.
- U-shaped or Position-based Attribution – In this model, the first and last touch points each get 40% of the credit while the other touch points receive the remaining 20%.
Each of these models has its own pros and cons, and each one also has several variants tailored to meet specific marketing needs.
When choosing a model, a good rule of thumb is to try out each one and see which closely resembles how much each touch point impacts results.
Putting It All Together
You now have all the basic ingredients to put together a functioning lead management program. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to do to develop a solid lead management plan:
- Pinpoint your target leads by defining ideal buyer profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas
- Collect crucial lead information that help you identify both fit and intent
- Gauge each prospect’s sales-readiness by assigning a data-driven lead score
- Help leads navigate the buying journey with robust lead nurture paths
- Set the stage for a smooth transfer of leads with a concrete lead handoff plan
- Track prospects throughout the lead lifecycle by setting up closed-loop reporting, monitoring lead management KPIs, and implementing the right attribution model
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this short eBook, and now it’s your turn to put what you’ve learned into action.
Good luck with your lead management and customer acquisition project.