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Lead Management Report: IDC Finds Leaders are Smart, Agile, Automated, and Aligned

IDC CMO Advisory Service’s latest best practice report, Realizing the Vision of 21st Century Lead Management, presents a newer, smarter way to conduct lead management that is better adapted to the reality of how customers buy today.  Combining proven management science methods with best practices from leading technology companies, the new model is more scientific, more data driven, more agile, more automated, more aligned between sales and marketing, and more customer service oriented, than the 100+ year-old funnel.

It’s becoming common knowledge that the Internet has revolutionized B2B buyer’s behavior, knowledge, and expectations. B2B marketers and sellers have outgrown the traditional funnel approach and are scrambling to adjust to the impact of the new buyer dialog.  The new B2B buyer dialog presents the following challenges for lead management:
  • Complexity: Lead management used to consist only of qualifying leads and passing the best ones to the sales team. Now marketers must juggle this task while simultaneously conducting a perpetual digital dialog that informs and influences the prospect. Wrestling this complexity requires a more sophisticated and formalized lead management process.
  • Orchestration of digital and human communication: The traditional funnel dictated a one-way “hand off” from marketing to sales. However, because buyers are always online, the concept of a binary “hand off” is obsolete. Marketing can never truly disengage. Rather than make a true marketing exit, a team orientation is maintained.
  • Marketing accountability: B2B marketing departments are under considerable pressure to be accountable. Financial pressure from economic uncertainty and slipping sales productivity has brought the lead management process into harsh scrutiny. Expectations have risen because of the availability of spreadsheets, dashboards, and analytics tools to slice and dice any facet of marketing. The C-suite is becoming aware of how much more of their destiny now rides in the hands of the CMO.

Although each company must operate lead management with an eye for their own unique set of environmental requirements and logistical challenges, there are basic tasks that remain the same in every case. The tasks are: strategic planning, capture, assess, advance, develop, close and monitor/measure/analyze.

The building blocks of lead management success

One common misconception is that the tasks assessment (qualification), advancement (routing), and development (nurturing), occur only once in a lead life-cycle.  This may have been true in the simple, old, days. However, most companies today have a requirement for a more sophisticated multi-channel approach.  The IDC model treats the assess/advance/develop tasks as a modular block or cell. A simple workflow starts with a single cell that can do a little work. By using multiples of this same simple block – and applying best practices to the tasks in each block – marketers can build a measurable, optimized, multi-celled organism that can do amazing things – including blending with the sales methodology.

IDC found 16 important success factors including:

  • Define consistent global standards, including a common language. More companies attribute their lead management success to this practice than to any other. By eliminating unnecessary complexity and redundancy, companies gain better control and achieve more predictable performance. Calibrating data to standards also opens the door for predictive analytics and trusted insight.
  • Establish long-term, cross-functional councils. Best practice companies realize that lead management, while led by marketing, is part of an enterprise process. One firm teams up a 30-person council each year for three months to prioritize projects, determine standards and processes, and resolve issues.
  • Treat leads like valuable but limited assets. Companies experienced in 21st century lead management operate in ways that express respect for buyers. Leads are carefully vetted, nurtured in a personalized way, and sometimes recycled rather than merely captured, qualified, and thrown over to sales. Best practice marketers use automation extensively. To remove hurdles and assist a buyer, this automation is integrated with the human factor — telefunctions and blended media, such as chat and social, as well as high-touch sales.

Clients of the IDC CMO Advisory Service can access the full report here.

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