The definition of a marketing “lead” varies for each company. In general, leads are defined as a qualified sales target.Regardless, a lead is a person or account that sits somewhere in the consideration phase of the customer or buyer journey. Lead generation, therefore, refers to all marketing activities that support transforming strangers into prospect then into marketing qualified leads (MQL) to Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) then onto Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) which means a sales person has assigned an opportunity for that leads and is forecasting that to close either as closed on or clsoed lost.
Lead generation strategies can include outbound strategies such as cold calling, emailing, direct mail and blanket advertising, while other marketers may prefer to use an inbound marketing strategies like content marketing, blogging, search engine marketing and optimization. Inbound lead generation, businesses only reach out to individuals who previously expressed some level of interest in a product or service.
Steps within lead generation strategies typically include:
- Definition of a lead. What attributes will an ideal lead have in order to be deemed marketing qualified lead?
- Lead Capture. What marketing strategies and tactics will we use to capture these leads? Signing up for a newsletter, filling out a web form to download a piece of content, liking a page on social media, visiting a website multiple times, and completing a survey in the mail all give brands the go-ahead to continue the line of communication.
- Lead Management. How will we track and score lead behavior, how will we nurture leads deemed not qualified or sales ready and what is the process of when and how a lead is passed between sales and marketing (Sales and Marketing Alignment)
- Reporting. How will we measure success?
Depending on the company, the marketing and sales departments may divide up lead generation activities differently. Some marketers focus solely on lead capturing activities, while others focus on generating qualified leads for the sales team. Best in class companies will have their sales and marketing departments define exactly what constitutes a lead and when it is to be passed over to sales for follow up.
Some companies create a service level agreement (SLA) outlining this process in detail. The SLA will contain details on the ideal demographic of a lead like job title, company size, industry, number of employees etc. (explicit data). The SLA will also cover how a lead is to be scored based on their behavior.
Best in class companies adopt marketing automation platforms (MAP) to help track, score and nurture leads. Prospects are scored based on their behavior. For example: if a prospect opens an email you might award 5 points, visited a web page you might assign 2 points for each page or 15 points for downloading a whitepaper. Regardless of the lead score, The SLA helps document exactly what a lead looks like and how many points a lead receives for each activity. Once an ideal lead with the right demographic profile and behavior is identified the SLA documents when and how that lead will be followed up. For example, when a lead reaches a score of 100 points that lead is passed over to sales for further qualification. Sales person A has 24 hours to contact that lead for further qualification before being passed to sales person B. If sales accept the lead, an opportunity is created and forecasted. If a lead is rejected, the lead goes back to marketing for further nurturing (Lead nurturing).
Lead nurturing strategies can enhance sales outcomes and promote long-term customer relationships. The latest B2B statistics suggest that on average only 25 percent of the leads generated by marketing will close as new business in year one while 75 percent of the leads not closing as new business until year two or three. This implies, without lead nurturing, marketers could potentially waste 75 percent of their marketing budgets if they don’t nurture leads that are not sales ready. If your company sells a considered purchase with an extended sales cycle, marketers have no choice but to add lead nurturing strategies to their lead generation efforts.
IMA has created a list of marketing automation platforms on Martec Showcase designed to help companies be more effective with their lead generation programs.