Apples and Oranges

It feels like every month a new marketing automation vendor hits the scene making grandiose promises ranging from immediate ROI increases to more effective marketing to the delivery of lead management.  While some of these “promises” can be achieved over time, it’s a fallacy to think that the purchase of technology will solve or eliminate all of our lead management issues.

To further muddy the waters, some marketing automation vendors have actually dropped the term “marketing automation” and instead have labeled their solutions “Lead Management Automation.”  In fact three of the top five marketing automation vendors either use the term “lead management” to describe their solution or have it listed as a product/solution offering.  While marketing automation can automate lead management, it cannot deliver lead management. 

For the sake of clarity, let’s look at the difference between the terms “Marketing Automation” and “Lead Management”:

Marketing Automation is technology or software that automates manual tasks, integrates databases and allows for consistent, repeatable communication to your prospects across multiple channels (email, direct mail, web, etc.).  This technology can help marketers score prospects, nurture leads, deliver dynamic content, track prospect marketing history and report on marketing activities.

Lead Management is a set of six separate yet integrated processes – data, lead planning, lead qualification, lead routing, lead nurturing and metrics – that allow you to manage and measure every step of the buying process or sales funnel.   Lead management goes beyond focusing on the top of the funnel i.e., demand generation. It addresses the entire buying cycle from response all the way through to close and even retention and customer service.

Now let’s compare Marketing Automation versus Lead Management as potential approaches to increasing marketing ROI.

Marketing Automation Technology

A B2B marketing organization is excited because they just purchased a new marketing automation system.  They waste no time and launch an email marketing campaign targeting their current prospect database.  A single, non-personalized email with a whitepaper download as the call-to-action will be mass-blasted to the entire database.  Those that respond are forwarded immediately to sales (because if they “raised their hand”, they must be interested) and those that do not respond are dropped into a nurturing campaign.  After the initial launch, a number of prospects respond and they are immediately sent to sales for follow-up.  The remaining are sent to an automated drip nurture campaign.  In spite of the respectable effort that the marketing organization made in producing this campaign, once metrics are reviewed, it is determined that using marketing automation only had an incremental improvement compared to previous campaigns. Most of the leads sent to sales were either not followed-up on (because they weren’t qualified effectively) or if they were, they ended up being a “dead end”.  Those that were nurtured were all communicated to in the same manner. As a result, few were converted and many lost interest.

In this example, the marketing automation solution improved the efficiency for sending the emails, following up on communications, routing the responses to sales, and measuring the campaign effectiveness.  However, the hoped for increase in overall marketing ROI from using marketing automation was never realized.

Now let’s look at how implementing Lead Management process as the foundation for your marketing automation solution can drastically change and improve the outcome.

Lead Management Process-Enabled Marketing Automation

A B2B marketing organization is excited because they just purchased a new marketing automation system.  However, prior to launching their email campaign utilizing the marketing automation system, they decide to develop and implement a lead management process.  To start with, they analyze their Data to make sure it’s consistent and current.  The also work on segmenting their database, and making sure that their CRM system will integrate seamlessly with the marketing automation system. This will allow them to choose the prospects and customers they want to target and tailor the messages to each segment.  The also seek to confirm the revenue goals for the company so they can go through the process of Lead Planning to determine the number of leads they need to generate to help sales fulfill their quota.

Prior to the campaign,  the marketing and sales organizations collaborate to develop a Lead Qualification Process which defines terms such as “lead” and “qualified”, assigns criteria (demographic & behavioral) to those definitions, and allocates numerical values to the defined criteria (i.e. lead scoring).  By developing this process, both marketing and sales now know exactly what a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is, which will ultimately lead to increase the lead quality and sales close rates.

Marketing and sales also work to develop routing rules based on the Lead Routing Process.  This process includes standard business rules enforced by service level agreements (SLA’s) to establish the following:

  • Routing leads to sales that are qualified
  • Routing any leads to a nurture campaign that are not qualified for sales
  • Routing leads from sales back to a nurture campaign that sales feels are not fully qualified.

The marketing group also developed a Lead Nurturing Process with subsequent lead nurturing campaigns that will be managed via the marketing automation system. The lead nurturing process takes into account the following:

  • The offers included in each message align to the prospects’ place in the buying cycle (this is referred to as Offer Mapping)
  • The content for each message will be mapped to the offers for each stage of the buying cycle (this is referred to as Content Mapping)
  • The frequency at which the nurturing will be triggered (drip vs. prospect behavior and action)

The last area marketing addresses is the Metrics Process. This process determines:

  • The frequency of reporting
  • What marketing and sales metrics will be measured to determine ROI and campaign success
  • How the metrics will be used to help shape future campaigns

Get the idea?  There is a huge difference between just flipping the switch on your marketing automation system vs. applying the discipline, time and resources to develop a lead management process. Marketing Automation Technology can indeed do what its name implies — automate communication, routing and measurement. However the process needed to make all of these steps successful will not magically appear simply by using software.

Studies show that while many companies are adopting marketing automation, the need for lead management process is the key to getting true value from the solution. In a recent post on his Propelling Brands Blog, Adam Needles discussed B2B research conducted by Bulldog Solutions and Frost & Sullivan.  The research focused on 250 B2B organizations who have implemented a Marketing Automation Solution.  When asked the question “What are the biggest roadblocks in your marketing automation platform?”  109 (44%) of the respondents answered – “We don’t have the right process.”

Take the time to develop a process prior to utilizing any marketing automation system and you’ll see your marketing and sales returns compounded exponentially!