Why is lead generation such a hot topic in marketing circles today?
As Geoff Moore elegantly illustrates in Living on the Fault Line, the importance of marketing relative to sales and operations varies according to the stage of industry maturity. When organizations are in the stages where sales drive the business, marketing’s first job is to make sales work better. This is not new — but it is a useful explanation for some of the friction that develops between sales and marketing departments.
What is new is the availability of tools and paradigms for Web-to-lead programs supported by automated marketing – to nurture leads until they are ready for the sales team’s attention. These generally offer an unprecedented level of marketing measurability and integration with sales teams. In turn, they produce a framework where marketing is held to a higher standard of accountability for performance and ROI.
There are a host of software solutions being marketed around claims of lead generation. What are the important differences among them for prospective buyers?
With feature sets evolving rapidly, software manufacturers may wish to respond with their own reaction to this question, but here’s our perspective. As solution integrators (mostly in B2B markets) of Web-to-lead and automated lead development solutions, we see the following as key success factors:
Most application usage is constrained by the level of usability and knowledge achieved through interaction design, and there is no reason why this class of applications should escape this general rule. The value claimed by software applications deals in potential. But the value realized often hinges on whether people enjoy learning, using and pushing the application to its limits. The pace of turnover in corporate marketing departments compounds the significance of this factor.
This is increasingly table stakes, and here’s why. Salesforce.com, and to a lesser extent some other SFA tools, are attaining the status of “sovereign” applications — that is, applications that are always on and are ingrained in the daily work habits of the user. If your sales team has reached this stage, then it makes sense to consider how elegantly your lead development system integrates with this pre-existing SFA solution.
The difference between more basic email marketing platforms and an automated e-nurturing platform comes down to the ability to plan and program contact sequences in a rule-based interface. Using this feature allows you to exert more strategic intelligence and planning around what gets shared with whom, when, and under what circumstances. Watch for these rules-based platforms to evolve features that let you configure alerts that notify you when either milestones are achieved or things are not meeting minimum performance thresholds.
The future of direct marketing and lead development involves an increasing degree of experiential personalization. Now that communications are moving towards digital interactions it is possible to collect self-reported and behavioral data. As marketers we can now use this information to produce dynamically generated direct mail (email and print) that is automatically broadcast with a combination of logic and business rules.
As Digital Lead Development Practice Leader, Paul consults with companies that want to generate more leads with multi-channel campaigns, drive Web-to-lead capture, and implement automated lead nurturing/scoring programs that intelligently route a flow of qualified leads to sales. He also helps organizations choose, roll out, customize, and integrate enabling software systems.