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Lead Management in Five Words

Knipp%20HS%20Fall2011%20BorderWebMost marketing execs I meet are working with inbound lead flows in the hundreds or thousands.  Despite the fact that they really need to work on increasing that lead flow, they have a big focus on how to manage those inbound leads.  Many are amazed that here at HubSpot, a B2B software company, we generate upwards of 45,000 leads per month (and I mean net new conversions).  They always ask me how WE manage such massive lead flow?  What systems, tools and processes are in place to get the most value out of all that lead generation activity!?

First, let me remind you that when I started about 2 and a half years ago, we were generating closer to 10-15K per month ... just about doubling each year since then due to the unfailing efforts of a pretty stellar team, led by CMO Mike Volpe, that does everything from prolific blogging, to frequent educational webinars and ebooks. 

Signs that you have too many leads to handle:

Your sales team is complaining about quality more than they are about volume of leads.

Your prospects complain that your sales team is too aggressive.

Both symptoms of a marketing team sending all leads, regardless of quality or readiness to buy to the sales team.

It’s time to learn the Five Ss of Lead Management: Set, Scrub, Score, Segment & Synthesize


Tailoring these five steps to your sales & marketing realities will help you get the most out of that pipeline and always be in a position to optimize as you grow or market conditions change.

1: Set Lead Capture Criteria: Can't Do Anything Smart Without Lead Details & Criteria

What does a lead look like to your business?

If you are a pool manufacturer, it might look something like:  Name, Email, Type of Pool Project, Timeline, Location & Comments.  But if you are a B2B software company, you also need Title, Name of Company, Industry, Company Size, Revenue and a few other things unique to your business. 

Without a well-defined baseline of lead criteria, nearly all efforts at intelligent lead management will be for naught.  In a perfect world, you know EXACTLY the minimum amount of data you need to qualify a lead and you can minimize your form or lead capture for highest conversion.  But some businesses might need to start with a variety of criteria and refine them over time as you learn that a question really doesn't help sales to qualify the prospect at all.  Working closely with your sales team to define the most critical details is the only way to get at the best starting point.  Once in place, do your best to get the same data from each and every lead source.

2: Scrub: Some Leads Aren't Really Leads

Companies generate leads from different sources that might include call-ins, blog, free trials, website downloads, business cards from an event or even lists from co-marketing initiative you sponsor.  Each of these lead sources could have varying quality of data for each contact.

If you don't want to waste valuable sales time, marketers should use software or manual scrubbing methods to cut out the junk.  Anywhere you have a form, someone can input a fake email address or name like John Doe or Bugs Bunny.  Not only would you never want this to make it to a rep, but you don't even want to waste your costly email resources accidentally nurturing a contact that doesn't exist!

So, use tools to scan for common flaws, typos, and more that can be fixed or cut out.  This will ensure that you always have a clean list in future.

3: Score: Not All Leads Are Created Equal

Though we generate 45,000 net new leads monthly, with just shy of 100 sales people that would mean touching 450 leads each per month.  At 15 leads per day, that wouldn't leave any time to actually TALK with any of the folks they’d be frantically dialing.  That's why marketing is responsible for helping identify which of these leads are most interested in learning more about HubSpot or have a business problem that we can help solve.  The rest get nurtured for later.

Because our marketing software gives us insight into both the demographics (Think title, company size, etc) and behaviors (Which pages they view and what actions they take on/off our website) that are most likely to produce a customer, we can create scoring criteria that pair the most likely candidates with our sales people.

For example, using our Lead Scoring application, I can assign +10 points to a lead with VP Marketing in the title and another +5 points to a lead who has viewed our Pricing page more than once.  Conversely, I can demote a lead, with a -10 for the title Intern or -5 for a lead that is in a geography we don't yet serve.  In our business, we also know that leads who have requested a Trial or Demo close at nearly twice the rate of those just downloading an eBook.  Armed with that knowledge, we can speed those 'likely to buy' leads into the hands of our sales team so they can have a great conversation.

What we don't want to do is ignore any of them.  That's where the final step of segmentation comes in.

4: Segment: Different Leads Have Different Needs

All the fancy scores in the world do you no good if you don't ACT upon them.  Use your criteria and scores to segment leads and then give each segment decidedly different treatment - it's what they want anyways! 

Generally, segmentation will look like some sort of hierarchy. 

At HubSpot first, we remove anything that isn't fully a 'lead' and call it a prospect in our 'community list'.  We'll still nurture that email address, but if we don't have enough information (Title, Phone Number, etc) to call it a full-fledged lead, we won't pass it along, EVER.

Once we've limited the flow to only full- formed leads, we segment on one or two major categories and geographies.  After that company size routes leads to the right teams, but from there on, we use each additional criteria in combination with the score to determine how fast they get worked.  A demo request from a Marketing VP at a company with 200 employees is going to get some pretty FAST attention from the rep lucky enough to get it.

For any leads that we deem not 'hot enough' or that a sales person doesn't work within a specified time frame, we add them to our 'community' list.  Even if a sales rep works on a lead but it never turns into a customer, we are religious about welcoming them back to the fray of our community.

Why?

Anyone who views and enjoys our content is a potential sharer who can help spread our information with their network.  So, we think of them as our family and we nurture them with care.

5: Synthesize: Data Closes the Loop

Even though you just acted on all your leads, you aren’t done!  Every month we review our performance so that we can refine our lead management practices.

Maybe we find out that a few lead sources gave us poor data quality or not the right lead fit.  Maybe data is showing that you need to look at our Pricing plus Case Study pages to really be a hot lead.  Even more telling, sales accepted, but didn't work an entire segment of leads.  We need to find out why so that we can either, fix a lead issue or fix a perception issue.  You might also find out that some of the criteria that you SET at the beginning of the process turned out to be useless for segmentation or qualification – that means you can omit them from forms and reduce friction for prospects on your website OR replace them with a better piece of data.

Sales and marketing, which we call Smarketing, work diligently together to understand what's working and what's not, so that we can constantly tweak our lead management principles to get the best results.

The Five Ss of Lead Management are a starting point for any company … and have served us well as we ramped to 45,000 leads, but there is definitely a lot of ‘devil in the details.  Tell me, what are your favorite tools and tactics to manage your leads to greatest impact?


This is a guest blog post by Kirsten Knipp, Director of Marketing at HubSpot. HubSpot is a marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA that makes inbound marketing software.

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