What Is Lead Management?

Lead management is defined as the methodology, process, and software used to reach prospective customers and convert them into buyers using targeted sales and marketing strategies.”

Lead management is essential for companies looking to grow their customer base and reach out to a wide audience. In this primer, we discuss what lead management is, best practices around capturing and managing leads, and top platforms in this space such as Salesforce.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Lead Management?
  • Understanding the Lead Management Process: 4 Stages
  • 5 Best Practices for Lead Management
  • Choosing a Lead Management System: 5 Top Platforms
  • Getting Started With Lead Management: The Way Forward for Marketers

What Is Lead Management?

Companies still resort to legacy methods like spreadsheets for tracking and managing leads. However, this is an extremely inefficient process and can impede the conversion of approximately 70% of leads, according to Zoho. A dedicated lead management system  is required to apply strategic techniques to gain new leads and ensure maximum leads reach the final conversion stage.

A lead refers to any individual or company that could be interested in your product. This interest is expressed via the sharing of contact details, clicking on a “register now” link, visiting your website, viewing a product video, or any other form of engagement. The process of lead management uses the details provided by a lead to systematically categorize them and plan the action points.

You can then follow up on different leads or retarget them with content, depending on where they stand on the marketing funnel. For example, when a C-level representative in B2B reaches out using your website’s contact form, this can be regarded as a bottom-funnel lead – your sales team can directly reach out to the individual and commence the acquisition of the account. On the other hand, someone who has visited your website more than three times can be considered a top-of-the-funnel lead. You can place ads specifically targeted for this audience to nurture more interest. All of these activities fall within the definition of lead management.

Lead management is, therefore, a broad area, covering nearly every sales technique used to capture and convert leads. While this can be done manually, it is advisable to use a digital platform that plugs into your website on one end and your CRM on the other to create a continuous lifecycle of data. The customer can then be guided across this lifecycle, experiencing a streamlined journey from interest to conversion.

But, how do you know if you’re ready for a next-gen lead management systems?

We recommend that you watch out for the following warning signs:

  • There is no single source of information. Your sales and marketing executives must continuously switch between platforms to follow-up on leads.
  • The leads handed over to sales aren’t qualified. This means that you’re spending an inordinate amount of time on classifying good and bad leads.
  • There is no visibility into lead behavior. As a result, you can’t conduct targeted content campaigns and must rely on the customer to contact you on their own.
  • You are overlooking opportunities frequently. In any lead management system, it is expected to miss out on a few leads – however, this shouldn’t cross a specific threshold.
  • The conversion rates are poor. This is typically due to the lack of nurturing activities, which is why promising leads don’t turn into qualified prospects.

If these scenarios sound familiar, it’s clear that your organization needs a more robust lead management strategy, aided by technology. Once deployed, it’s important to identify the designated ownership for lead management.

Who owns lead management?This is a critical consideration – without a specific stakeholder taking ownership and accountability of the lead management system, it isn’t going to improve ROI. Interestingly, lead management falls at the intersection of sales and marketing, depending on where the customer stands on their purchase journey. For example, there are marketing qualified leads (MQL) where a customer requires more information about a product and reaches out to the organization. As a marketer, you can now share presentations and pitches to try and convert the customer.

On the other hand, sales qualified leads (SQL) are directly handled by sales executives. These are also called “hot/warm leads,” implying that they are eager for conversion. At this stage, sales can quickly intervene and close the purchase.

Regardless of the prospect’s intent and interest levels, it is always a best practice for sales and marketing to collaborate on lead management. Marketing is positioned to capture leads, track them, and handover to sales when the customer is ready to convert. Sales are better equipped to qualify the leads and nurture them in conjunction with the marketing team, to ensure upselling and cross-selling.

This brings us to the lead management process itself.

Understanding the Lead Management Process: 4 Stages

If you choose to use a digital platform, this entire process can be automated and improved via the use of analytics and artificial intelligence. Broadly, a lead needs to be:

1. Tracked

We begin with the automated capturing of leads, since there are multiple sources of lead generation, from website visits to social media, and from email marketing to paid ads. In the B2B sector, leads can even be captured from telephonic conversations – all of these details must be fed into the tracking system via automation.

Now, lead behavior can be tracked to further intensify interest in your product. For example, if the lead views the product landing page repeatedly in the same week, you can initiate a targeted email campaign, leveraging content to convert the prospect.

2. Distributed

This a relatively simple step in the lead management process. Once the leads have been captured and tracked, you can route the details to the relevant sales team. For example, you can have a separate executive for small-to-mid-sized enterprise customers, another for a different vertical, as well as location-specific sales teams.

Remember, the faster a lead is contacted by sales, the higher is your chance of conversion.

3. Qualified

For a long time, this step was handled manually, relying on the personal expertise and experience of marketers and sales executives. Now, AI technology can monitor the traits and parameters defining the lead and can auto-qualify them with the right label.

In fact, a powerful lead management tool will assign a quality score to every lead, based on your ideal customer persona and data collected from lead behavior tracking. Lead qualification significantly cuts down the time spent on follow-ups.

4. Nurtured

In an ideal world, a qualified lead will inevitably turn into a successful sale – however, it isn’t always the case.

Your leads may start losing interest, could change their mind about the product requirement, or be attracted by a competitor. These “warm” leads (promising, yet not showing immediate interest) must be carefully nurtured in order to ensure conversion.

5 Best Practices for Lead Management

There are several best practices you can follow to ensure effective lead management. These help to achieve two long-term targets: first, capture and convert the maximum number of leads, and second, minimize the number of ‘bad leads’ in your sales and marketing funnel.

The five best practices you should follow when managing leads include:

1. Leverage targeted content for lead capturing

Targeted content is a vital lever in your lead management strategy. Especially in the B2B sector, it establishes your brand as a thought leader and a product expert in addition to being a seller. Even in a B2C example for lifestyle and cosmetics, how-to-guides and product reviews can go a long way in inspiring customer confidence and solidifying interest.

2. Always use cleaned lead data

The data housed in your sales and marketing system is responsible for the end result of your campaigns. The “Garbage-in-Garbage-out” principle applies here – if your sales and CRM funnel is replete with bad leads, your team will be spending excessive efforts on irrelevant campaigns and low yielding follow-ups.

3. Measure the impact of lead management efforts

This one is a no-brainer – it is an important best practice to monitor which lead generation campaigns are garnering the most impressive results. Investments in these directions can be reinforced to improve profitability.

4. Cast a wide net at the top of the funnel

It isn’t advisable to begin the lead management process with hot leads. Chances are, your initial lead database will comprise a variety of prospects at different stages of the purchase journey. By hunting only hot leads, you could be missing out on potential ‘warm’ ones, that could be nurtured into conversion.

Tactics such as clearly displayed contact forms, social media presence, and paid display advertising can help you reach a large audience at the top-of-the-funnel.

5. Collaborate with the sales team

We can’t stress this enough: a successful lead management strategy hinges on the collaboration between marketing and sales. While marketers are tasked with generating leads, it’s the sales executive who has to follow up, handhold and convert the prospect. By working together, these two functions can drive better conversion rates and reimagine customer experiences.

Choosing a Lead Management System: 5 Top Platforms

There are several digital tools available to help automate and augment the lead generation process, including Salesforce, Marketo, and many others. In many ways, they also work as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms, mediating interactions between your company and prospective customers. So, if you’re convinced you need lead management, here are five platforms to consider:

  1. SalesforceOpens a new window margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"> – Salesforce is a global leader in CRM and related activities; the company’s sales cloud platform also has a powerful lead management feature. Using Salesforce lead managementOpens a new window , you can track your active leads, automatically score and route them to the appropriate team, and even integrate your marketing campaigns to monitor their impacts on lead generation.
  2. Marketo – Marketo is another recognized name in the martech landscape, backed by Adobe’s customer experience management capabilities. Marketo’s lead management solution is a great alternative to Salesforce as it includes nearly every feature, in addition to integrating your inbound and outbound marketing programs. There’s also a nifty analytics module that links marketing efforts to the ROI generated.
  3. Freshsales – Freshsales is another Salesforce alternative. It offers a 360-degree customer dashboard that classifies and lists won, open, and closed leads. Like Salesforce, there is a built-in lead scoring so that your sales executives follow up only on the most promising prospects. The platform makes collaboration between sales and marketing easier with a built-in calendar, file management tool, and note-taking capability.
  4. HubSpot Lead ManagementOpens a new window margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"> – Marketing solutions provider, HubSpot, has its own CRM automation toolOpens a new window  that can be leveraged for lead management. You can automatically send emails, record calls, and share notes to optimize the lead capture and follow up process. HubSpot has an exciting suite of lead generation features, and this is where it stands out from Salesforce. Using live bots, social media ads, website forms, and other capabilities, you can maximize your lead outreach.
  5. Zoho CRMOpens a new window margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"> – Zoho’s AI-powered lead management suite is highly popular among large companies and small businesses alike. It’s compatible with multi-source lead generation, automates distribution and scoring, and can integrate with your marketing campaigns to deliver end-to-end analytics. Zoho CRM was named Best CRM Lead Management Software of 2018 by Gartner Peer Insights.

Getting Started With Lead Management: The Way Forward for Marketers

Equipped with these lead management best practices and a deeper understanding of what it means for your company, you’re now ready to get started with a lead management program. Remember to:

  • Define a benchmark based on your existing metrics (customer base, content repository size, martech infrastructure, etc.)
  • Carefully evaluate your customer’s needs and expectations so your lead generation tactics are foolproof
  • Implement a clear content calendar that can help in capturing and nurturing your leads
  • Conduct thorough research and select a lead management platform that’s in-sync with your objectives and business size

There you have it, once you understand lead management, it’s time to establish a line of communication between sales and marketing. At the end of the day, this is central to the success of your strategic vision, aided by small everyday steps taken by your sales and marketing experts.

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