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Lead management software becoming a hot topic

What do you do with leads or inquires once you generate them?

This basic question is overlooked by so many and yet it’s the leading cause of failure in what would otherwise be effective lead generation programs.

The common-sense answer to this challenge is easier said than done: Have your best people respond to them quickly and consistently in order to qualify them into sales ready leads. The ones that aren’t qualified yet (but are a fit) you put into a lead nurturing process.

The need to better manage leads and inquires has given rise to a slew of new software companies offering a variety of lead management or marketing automation solutions. 

An interesting conversation was started recently by Laura Ramos on the Forrester Marketing blog about lead management software. I’m really glad to see an analyst giving their opinion and I look forward to more insights. Ramos’ post, “B2B Lead Management Market Heats Up,” is definitely worth checking out.

According to Ramos, there are four primary buckets of technology solutions aimed at solving the “how do I make lead generation activities more effective?” They are:

  1. Web analytics
  2. Database services
  3. Marketing automation
  4. “Pure play” lead management

With that said, I think it is important to realize that lead management software and marketing automation tools are only one part of an effective process. Here’s what I’ve learned…

Software will not spontaneously generate collaboration between sales and marketing, nor will it create solutions that match your processes and it certainly will not generate sales-ready leads on it’s own. However, for many the allure of easy execution and fast results are difficult to resist. It’s easy to overlook that these systems require a great deal of hands on input and maintenance to be fully appreciated.

My company has spent well over a million dollars and almost ten years to develop our lead management software system that we use as part of our services and we’re learning what works (and what doesn’t) everyday through testing and trial and error. That said, I can say that developing a good process takes more time than you think and developing people to execute the process consistently is even more difficult.

I regularly encounter organizations that invest in expensive software before they fully understand the fundamental operational processes that it will be supporting. This was and still is true of CRM and SFA systems. Lead management software has turned out to be no different. If you want to fully leverage your lead management software, you’ll first need to develop operational discipline and focus on good execution.

Start by understanding your lead generation requirements and design a suitable process to support it and insert the software into the process where it will be most effective and actually used. Most importantly, don’t under estimate the need for a dedicated team of people that will drive the process and make the inputs into the system.

Begin by mapping out a clear process. At InTouch we use process flow and data diagrams to collaborate with clients when designing lead management programs.  Make sure you involve and collaborate with everyone who will be part of the process. Their buy-in will be key to the programs success. Then identify if there are still any gaps in staffing. Finally, once people and process are mapped out, select the tools or systems that will help your people efficiently manage the process.

Lead management is the bridge between sales and marketing that connects the beginning and middle of the customer acquisition process. It requires engaged people to execute the right process, which is then supported by the right software.

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