July 23, 2014

Why Lead Management Automation Really Matters

We should care more about lead management automation in B2B marketing. Maybe we don’t care enough because we’re focusing on the wrong reasons for doing it.

It isn’t because the software for automating this stuff has improved, or because it’s available through the cloud so you don’t have to deal with those people over in IT.

No, there’s something bigger going on here. And that is a huge change in the buying process.

In part it is being driven by social media. ITSMA’s annual survey of IT buyers found that this year, for the first time, a majority of buyers in the US—and 75% when you include other countries—are using social media in the purchasing process—especially the younger ones.

In our research we’ve also seen consistently over the past few years that two-thirds of buyers prefer to research their buying options themselves rather than waiting for vendors to contact them. Indeed, research by Forbes and Google found that 80% of C-level executives perform at least three web searches per day.

And finally, the trade press and general business media are dying. We have fewer and fewer outlets to do the heavy lifting of thought leadership for us by featuring our subject matter experts in in-depth analytical articles. Yet buyers are hungrier than ever for this kind of information and insight.

Buyers are removing salespeople from the buying process
What this all means is that buyers are really trying to remove salespeople from the earliest stages of the buying process. They want to become as informed as possible about current trends and their buying options before they ever speak to a salesperson.

This is where we as marketers need to provide more content—but not sales content. This content must be like what the press used to provide, objective, idea-based, and educational—not selling. Put another way, we have to use content to establish a relationship with buyers where our salespeople can’t. And we have to continue to build that relationship over time until those buyers are ready to talk to us.

That’s why lead management automation is important. It’s too difficult to track that relationship and know when someone is ready to do more than just read your white papers unless you have a process for lead management and can automate it. You have to be able to connect content with behavior with action. That’s not possible manually. It just won’t scale.

What do you think? What is stopping your company from creating an automated lead management process?

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  • Carlos Hidalgo

    Chris, great post! We are seeing the same thing about the buyer transformation in regards to sales. Content truly is the key to engaging the buyer in a meaningful 1-1 dialogue which is far from selling.

    I do think however that calling these systems lead management automation does not accurately portray what they are. Lead management is a process that is enabled by automation, however purchasing an automation system does not necessarily deliver lead management to a company.

    To answer your question on what’s stopping customers from creating an automated lead management process . . . its just that, they have no process in place and therefore if they make the jump to buy the solution (in hopes of creating process), they often times automate chaos. This is why the name marketing automation is more fitting, but perhaps its just time for a new name all together.

    Carlos Hidalgo
    The Annuitas Group

  • http://www.christopherakoch.com/ Chris Koch

    Hi Carlos,
    I agree. Marketing Automation sucks as a term for this. I think it comes from analysts focusing on software markets rather than processes when they come up with these names. Lead management is really what we need to be focusing on, and separately from the other marketing processes that can be automated. Thanks for the insight!

  • http://twitter.com/lauraramos Laura Ramos

    Chris, timely and important post — thanks for writing it. Your points about using lead management to reduce the need to have salespeople involved in the earliest stages of the buying process and to provide content to help establish a buyers relationships ahead of the sales call are exactly why lead management is key.

    Lead management is a topic that I covered as a Forrester analyst, and continue to write about on my blog (http://b2bmarketingpost.com/tag/lead-management/). While services marketers may think that selling services is very different than selling products — and requires significantly more face-to-face, sales-lead contact — it doesn’t have to be.

    In fact, to build a the trusted, deep relationships that selling and managing multi-year contracts require means demonstrating that your services team has both the industry credibility and expertise needed to meet prospective clients’ objectives. You can take the expensive, 1-1 selling, route or you can replace early-stage “cold calling” with content and communications that help to educate and attract the right audience.

    Your point, and mine, is that B2B marketers need some form of automation to track this activity and demonstrate that early-stage, informative marketing helps to “soften the turf” for later sales engagement. Curious to see what other responses you receive to this post, but I think this one should make services marketers sit up an take notice.

    Sincerely, Laura Ramos, VP Industry Marketing, Xerox Global Services, N. Am.

  • http://www.christopherakoch.com/ Chris Koch

    Great stuff, Laura! I think a key word that you mention is credibility. The content process creates credibility for the company and for its salespeople. Indeed, the essence of sales enablement is making salespeople more credible with the customer. Thanks for posting!

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