A little longer post today…
Borrowing with pride from some recent comments from Kevin Quiring, Managing Director of sales and customer service in North America for Accenture, blended with some of my own rambling thoughts, here are some further perspectives about aligning B2B CRM tools, marketing automation and sales management tool platforms and the inevitable integration of the three.
So what are the trends in B2B lead management today?
Lead management is a hot topic today (truth be old, it always has been.) Businesses are placing renewed emphasis on generating new business—something that started with the 2008 recession—either through acquiring new customers or growing existing customers.
They’re introducing new products and they’re trying to do acquisitions—not nearly as many as they had done prior to the recession—and expand into new markets. To do this, they’re taking a closer look at their lead management programs, which in good times are fairly ignored at major organizations. So, they’ve really started to drill down on that.
But when you focus specifically on lead nurture, particularly with some of our largest clients, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. There are four main challenges for B2Bs looking to manage their leads.
- First, is a gap between marketing and sales. The two aren’t working together.
- Second, there’s certainly a lack of technology around automating lead management. That’s not to say there aren’t great marketing and sales automation tools out there, but they’re not integrated.
- Third, there is a lack of organizational accountability for performance management around the success of lead generation and nurture. You have separate groups being benchmarked against lead generation and lead nurture. Companies should be measuring the end-to-end return on investment (ROI) of both programs.
- Fourth, there’s a failure to apply customer data into analytics and insights that can enable marketers to better qualify and distribute leads.
So, how are companies addressing the lack of technology around automated lead management?
Many brands in the electronics, high-tech and insurance industries investing heavily in creating an end-to-end solution for lead generation, nurture and overall lead management—and looking to measure these tactics in various stages and holding people accountable for those outcomes.
They’re not waiting for the perfect technology solutions to emerge. They’re taking the CRM and marketing automation platforms like Salesforce.com and Eloqua or Aprimo and Oracle to create a workable solution. There’s a lot of customization and integration that goes into doing this. And then there’s the analytics component that is being integrated. Companies are using analytics to start to apply the historical data they have on sales opportunities and conversions to look at all of the key characteristics in the average length of buy cycle, conversion rates and deal size so they score leads appropriately.
They’re finding the salesperson’s intuition and the marketer’s opinion on what lead will be good or bad is interesting—but not predictive. When they start to apply that data and organize it in a way where they can statistically analyze and score leads up front, they get a more accurate picture of actual opportunity. Web-based scoring is the easiest, but to be able to integrate that into your company’s CRM system and tap that historical data is really key.
So now we need to determine what type of technology or solution would be needed for the analytics component? Would a marketing automation platform or a CRM system be enough to do this type of analysis?
According to Accenture, in most instances, companies are using a statistical analysis tool like something from SAS. The SAS models are built and then programmed onto the database to provide updated scoring of new opportunities and existing opportunities on a continuous basis. The marketing automation system still does the lead capture and consolidation, but the calculations are done via SAS.
For example, there is a B2B telecommunications client that offers its clients everything from voice to wireless to unified communications to IT consulting services. From a sales standpoint, trying to close a deal when prospects have the potential to be interested in so many diverse products requires multiple sets of activity.
Sales reps typically sell only one of those products. So if an historical relationship with a client is on providing voice and IP bandwidth for the company’s phone system, the sales rep might not know that prospect is also interested in machine-to-machine services (IoT?)
But if the prospect is on the site one day reading about machine-to-machine services and that lead comes in, marketing needs to know enough about that company and that individual—rather, the marketing system needs to know enough about those details and the profitability this potential lead could provide—to be able to score the lead.
The B2B telecommunications client is able to do that. Its system takes into account things such as monthly billing revenues and can even smooth that out for one-time purchases of hardware. So rather than just looking at the brand the inquiry came from and the channel it came from, it’s using both the marketing automation platform and the CRM tool to look at the prospect’s historical relationship with the organization.
Once it has qualified the lead, it then uses an analytics solution to determine how to best distribute that lead. For example, it wouldn’t just want to send that lead to the machine-to-machine division—it would also need to alert the current sales rep and maybe the sales vice president.
Analytics can also tell how much effort it should invest in closing the lead. The scoring system will look at all of the past deals of every product and service [the B2B telecommunications client] has ever sold to the company and how much time those deals spent in the pipeline. By looking at the time spent in the pipeline and the customer’s historical procurement process, it can estimate the total time to close.
Now it can weigh the amount of effort required on the part of the sales and marketing departments to determine how to best handle the lead. The scoring takes into account the overall ROI on that sales process to determine whether or not to hand the lead to a sales team or let the prospect drive the process on its own.