What's in a Lead?

What do we talk about when we talk about leads? Before implementing enterprisewide technologies or rolling out million-dollar marketing campaigns, it is basic questions like this that companies must ask themselves to ensure revenue return. A new report from IDC, "CMO Advisory Best Practices Series: Marketing's Lead Management Process," underlines the idea that companies in the technology vendor community still need to find a common language around lead qualification and lead management. The report finds that although 50 percent of marketing investment is allocated to demand generation, many companies still lack the set processes necessary to understand its effectiveness, a crucial step in reaching the lead management holy grail: complete loop closure. Michael Gerard, director of IDC's CMO Advisory Practice, explains that lead management continues to be a struggle for companies in the technology space as an increased focus on marketing accountability has left many scrambling to keep up with demands. "If we look at the technology space in a general way, few companies historically have been truly a marketing lead." Gerard says the first challenge companies face in creating this focus is, "How do we develop the culture and the technology so that as a lead is generated it gets identified?" Across the IT vendors surveyed, IDC found the current state of lead management performance to be a 3.6 on a 1-to-6 scale of effectiveness. The vendors reported an average desired shift to a five on this scale, equating to a 39 percent improvement. The report shows that all sides of lead management must be examined and overhauled in order to reach this goal. Firstly, an individual or team must be assigned responsibility for the lead management process by the CMO, according to the report. A single responsible authority will be better able to create a consistent language and process. The report highlights the importance of sharing this common process and language across the organization. To do so, Gerard says that sales and marketing must become more closely aligned both from a strategy perspective and during lead hand-off. "We see marketing and operations working closer together as one of the key ways companies have strived toward improving that alignment." The report cites that this union will improve lead transfer process, lead capacity planning, and lead attendance process. The end purpose of lead management for marketing is to better understand campaign effectiveness. This ultimately means closing the loop from the birth of a lead to the sale. IDC advises that companies trace their back end connections to the front end. Matching lead and shipping addresses is one way of doing so. Additionally, better communication between the company and its partners can help the company get better information on closed deals. Gerard says that although most companies (especially enterprises) are not at the point of a closed-loop understanding yet, they should be striving toward this goal by focusing on the basics. "They still really have to develop the foundation of the process before they get to that full, closed lead." Related articles: Above the Sales Funnel
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