On B2B Demand Generation tools and Lead Generation Dashboards

CEOs continue to demand better ROI measurement and accountability from marketers.

As a result, there’s been a surge of interest in software and tools to manage the process of lead management, lead nurturing and lead generation with a greater emphasis on measurability.

In 2005, I wrote a post predicting that lead generation dashboards would become a hot topic and according to the CMO Council’s 2007 Outlook Report the time for marketing performance dashboards is now.

The report states, “Seventy-five percent of respondents from companies with revenues of more than $500 million plan to deploy a marketing performance measurement dashboard this year, almost twice the number who will invest in the next highest category of system deployment, which is lead generation and qualification. Marketers from smaller companies said lead generation and qualification and email campaign management would be their two top areas of system or service deployment.”

Additionally, a MarketingProfs article from last week, “B2B Demand Generation in the Age of Accountability, Measurability, and Automation” by Mike Zavershnik of Eloqua emphasizes how “new marketing automation systems delivered as a service enable marketers to quickly scale their most successful campaigns to drive a larger flow of qualified leads.”

With that said, I think it is important to remember that buying lead management software and dashboards tools are akin to buying a high-performance stock car. Without a skilled and knowledgeable driver behind the wheel, you may never get out of first gear no matter how great the car is.

All too often companies invest in expensive software before they fully understand the fundamental operational processes that it will be supporting. This is a common theme in sales and marketing automation, CRM implementation being another good example.
To develop a world-class demand generation and lead management operation you’ll need three things:

  • Enough of the right people to support the process
  • A well thought out process to support the people
  • And finally, the right tools and systems to help people manage the process

I think that most sales and marketing professionals recognize that software will not spontaneously generate results, but the allure of easy execution and fast results are difficult to resist. It’s also easy to forget that these systems require a lot of hands-on input and maintenance to be fully appreciated.

Yes, lead management software and dashboard tools are hot now because the pressure for more measurable ROI is greater than ever and these tools can help you, but make sure you take a more holistic approach.

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 underestimate the need for a dedicated team of people that will drive the process and make the inputs into the system.

If we continue to follow this line of thought it’s logical then to ask yourself if the metrics you are getting back out of the system are telling you that you’re getting better?

This morning I talked with Jim Berkowitz, who writes the CRM Mastery E-Journal. When I told him about this post he replied, “With dashboards, nobody ever seems to talk about having the right metrics that help you measure if you’re improving…” I agree.

Most marketing metrics are like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror (yes, another car analogy!). They tell you where you’ve been but they can’t tell you where you’re going. Ouch! So are you using metrics that actually help you look forward?

I think companies will continue to buy the promise of these tools even though they lack the resources to actually leverage them. What do you think?

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