An effective, revenue producing lead generation system is one of the best ways for marketing to endear itself to any organization and in particular the sales force, which is generally intertwined with marketing as they both look to grow the company. Marketers can often get distracted by creative, messaging or channels but lead generation is the critical path for marketing as it shows the true value it bring to a firm.
I've set up a few lead generation programs in my day - some great and some not so great - and here's what I think are the keys for marketers challenged by creating a lead generation/management system:
- Know your data first - part of being able to build an effective lead system means knowing your information and understanding where customers are coming from currently, what good (and bad) customers look like, building consensus and models around what kind of business you want to attract, and what quantitative and qualitative attributes are desired in your future customer base. Understanding where you are and where you want to go narrows the playing field.
- Trust but verify - since you will be creating programs or possibly buying information to fuel leads for the system, it's important you be committed to the process but check all the inputs to make sure they will give you what you want. That means you need to have a clear understanding of what your sales team looks for in a lead and putting those parameters into your construct.
- Quality..and qualification...is critical - you can pretty much be guaranteed that if you lead program sucks the sales team will be vocal about bad it sucks. I've been on the wrong end of those conversations before and it kills momentum and makes it that much harder to get back to square. Testing for quality and mapping leads to the parameters set by the sales team before the dump of leads hits the sales force will ensure quality and improve your chances of success.
- Get feedback - invariably the early stages of any lead program have bumps, but the more your steer into them vs. defending your position will create a stronger bond with sales and create that foxhole mentality that proves to them you are both in this together.
- Make sure you can measure what you build - the hardest part of lead generation/management systems I've created has been the feedback from the sales team, even when it means revenue is coming in. They are distracted by several things so you need to make sure you have some type of systemic measurement process. If you rely solely on sales feedback you will never know how effective your program is.
- Move forward - as I said above there are always bumps in the road when creating a lead generation system but standing pat or doing nothing isn't the answer. These types of programs - ones that lead to revenue and contribution to the company as a whole - are what will make marketing integral to the organization. Even those you may feel you're climbing Everest, keep putting your toe in the hold and reach for that next rock. Whether you see it right away or not you are invariably working on the right things.
Creating an alignment with sales and the entire organization about lead generation and management is one of the greatest challenges a marketer can face, but the learning and the rewards of making it successful create a value for you and the organization is well beyond measure.