Thursday, May 20, 2010

Marketing Automation & Lead Management – Taking it Further

By Carlos Hidalgo, President, The Annuitas Group

I read last week’s Demanding Views column – Marketing Automation is not Synonymous with Lead Generation, and while I agree with some of the assertions stated in the article, I believe the article fell short in describing marketing automation and what is needed for it to be successful.

The premise of the article is fundamentally true — organizations will not purchase marketing automation and therefore get lead generation.  However, the article misses by stopping at and mis-defining lead generation.  The article also goes onto make the corporate web site the fulcrum around which marketing automation pivots.  Organizations looking to adopt automation or improve the investment already made in such a solution need to think beyond lead generation and their internal web site and focus on lead management and the buyer.

We are square in the middle of the Buyer 2.0 world with the buyers control increasing and the traditional buying journey dwindling.  This was evidenced most recently in a DemandGen Report study that found that more than 83% of organizations surveyed stated their buying process did not follow a traditional buying path.  Buyers are now involving sales much later in the buying cycle and instead are turning to their peers as sources of information in the early and middle stages of the buying cycle.  The collaboration of buyers with their peers has been further enabled through the prevalence of social media making it very possible that organizations will have developed some kind of short list before engaging 1-1 with a vendor’s sales representative.  This being the case companies that are focused on lead generation i.e. filling the top of the funnel and not lead management i.e. managing the entire buyers journey will not get the full value of their marketing automation investment.

People, Process & Technology (PP&T)
Organizations looking to develop a Lead Management FrameworkTM need to look at people, process then to technology to ensure success. Unfortunately, too many organizations are jumping right to technology and are unable to realize the promises of what automation can deliver if approached in the right manner.

People
The right skill set within an organization is vital to ensure the adherence to process, the execution and delivery of campaigns, and campaign measurement.  Finding the right people can be a challenge as many BtoB marketers have been brought up at the foot of the marketing branding tree. However, organizations that ensure the proper skill and mind-set among their people will excel.  These people have a deep understanding of the new buyers and the importance of a process-based approach to sales and marketing.

Process
The operational approach to Buyer 2.0 is the development of a lead management process in the form of a Lead Management FrameworkTM For this approach to succeed, the involvement of marketing & sales is a must, but other groups like IT, Ops., Finance, Web should be considered.   Any other resource or group that has a part in the demand generation process (inquiry to close) should ideally be part of the lead management journey. 
Beginning with an audit to get a clear assessment of the current gaps, then moving to a development and implementation stage is the way to approach organizational lead management.

Technology
Having the right people managing the proper process is the perfect time to bring in an enabling marketing automation technology.   This ensures there will be business rules that will govern the use of the technology and the right people with the professional skill-set managing the solution.

The article last week was right in that there is still a lot of confusion about marketing automation in BtoB organization’s.  However, focusing solely lead generation and the state of your website as indicators as to when to buy automation focused on the corporation, not the buyer. Focusing on people, lead management process, then enabling marketing automation technology will greatly improve your return on all your marketing and sales activities and your return on your automation investment.

Carlos Hidalgo is President of The Annuitas Group, a leader in marketing and sales process development, implementation and automation. With over 25 years experience, The Annuitas Group has developed marketing and sales processes and lead management programs for companies of all sizes helping their clients vastly improve the return on their marketing and sales investment.

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