How many leads did your marketing team generate last year? This simple question can be hard to answer for many B2B marketers because tracking leads is a complicated process, especially if you don’t have automated systems in place. However, being able to confidently answer this and other questions around marketing’s contribution to lead generation and revenue will:
- insure company growth
- justify increasing budget dollars for your marketing efforts
- improve marketing’s lead generation effectiveness
B2B marketers need to utilize a system for lead tracking to answer these questions.
Let’s discuss what lead tracking is and how to get started, even if you’re a marketing “team” of one or two, or lack an automated lead tracking system.
What is lead tracking?
One of the most important responsibilities for a B2B marketer or marketing team is to generate leads. In its simplest form a lead is an individual who is interested in your product or service. And a simple lead management process is one where marketing generates a lead, then passes it over to the sales team who “close” the lead as either a won or lost sale.
Lead tracking is the ability to track each lead from initial inquiry via a marketing channel (online or offline) or campaign (digital ad, email, direct mail etc.) response through to a closed sale (won or lost).
This simple lead tracking and management business process can get complicated very quickly. For example, is the lead located in a geographic area your company sells into, which sales person gets which leads, how does marketing hand off the lead information, and how does sales notify marketing of closing the sale. These are just some of the lead tracking details you typically need to work through. Read my post about business processes to learn the why and how for lead tracking and other marketing processes.
Lead tracking best practice
Marketing should work with sales to determine exactly what criteria best defines a marketing lead. Best practice is to give sales leads that are qualified by some basic criteria such as the person’s role/title, expressed need and ability to use your product or service (geographic location, # employees, vertical segment, etc.), and purchase timing. With sophisticated marketing automation and CRM systems, marketing can automate the lead nurture process, further refine the qualified lead criteria, and pass the lead over to sales to handle.
But what if your current marketing capabilities simply can’t deliver this level of qualification? In spite of all the marketing hype by the software vendors, analysts and marketing consultants, there are still plenty of B2B marketers who don’t have marketing automation or even CRM systems in place. This is especially so for smaller B2B companies, manufacturers, and many of my clients.
Maybe your current “lead” is anyone who stops by your exhibit booth at a trade show, attends a webinar, responds to an email campaign, or submits a website Contact Us form. That’s OK, just make sure you start tracking these “leads” now.
Your starting definition for a lead may simply be any individual whose contact information (email address and/or phone number) you hand over to sales.
If you aren’t already gathering your prospect contacts to create your in-house marketing list, read my blog 5 Reasons You Should Build a Strong In-House List.
Lead tracking leads to answers
OK, so you are generating leads via digital and offline tactics and handing them over to sales, but you don’t track them. That’s a problem you need to fix now!
At the very least you should track every lead you hand over to sales. At least then you can answer the question about how many leads marketing generated in a given time frame. Tracking where leads come from will show you which marketing efforts generate the most leads and help you figure out where to deploy your resources. You’ll have data as a basis to understand which marketing tactics are really working, not just your gut. And you’ll have data to back up your budget request!
Tracking leads will help you understand better the kinds of companies, titles of individuals, and other criteria of those interested in your products and services. As a result you will be better able to find and generate more leads like them. This can provide a more accurate and meaningful basis for your persona development. If you can “close the loop” with sales to see which leads become customers and which don’t, that’s even better for understanding marketing tactics that may generate a high number of leads, but few closed-won sales.
Making an effort to shed light on what I call the “black hole” of marketing lead handoff to sales –marketing hands over leads and never knows what happens to them — is often an excellent way to begin improving marketing and sales alignment. Talking to individual sales reps to ask why a specific lead didn’t pan out can be eye opening!
Getting started with lead tracking
As I mentioned earlier, having marketing automation and/or CRM systems in place enables you to track leads much more easily, assuming you set these systems up and use them properly! But I can tell you from personal experience it’s possible to start with just a spreadsheet, contact database, or email marketing system like MailChimp or Constant Contact. At the very least start by inputting as much information as you can about each lead into one place. That way you can tabulate and analyze the leads you hand over to sales.
When I worked for a medium-sized manufacturer we only had a contact database at our disposal. So every lead we generated, from trade show booth visitors, email campaigns, and web forms for example, we put into a spreadsheet and then imported into the contact database. Before we loaded the spreadsheet we made sure to include the lead source, market segment, and other details helpful for the sales rep, and for our analysis and future lead nurture campaigns.
Try closing the lead generation loop
Assuming it’s not an overwhelming amount of data, find out how to get sales forecasts and weekly, or monthly, closed-sales reports. The sales forecast will tell you which leads the sales team is actually working on. The closed sales report will tell you which sales opportunities are won or lost. This information might be in a spreadsheet, but if your company uses a CRM system, then that’s likely the best place to get this information. You can match up this sales data with the leads marketing passed over to sales, enabling you to further refine your understanding of who and where the best leads come from and the characteristics of those individuals.
Create a foundation for automation
In the future, when you implement automated marketing and CRM systems, you’ll be way ahead because you’ll already have lead tracking and handling processes in place and data available to configure and populate these systems. Your implementation will happen more smoothly and quickly because you’ll already have a working lead tracking process. Of course you may change and refine your lead nurture and handling processes given the capabilities of an automated system. However, my point is, because you already gave it a lot of thought and worked closely with sales, you’ll have a much easier time.
Read my post about business processes to learn the why and how for lead tracking and other marketing processes.
Back to my previous example, I was able to help justify purchasing a CRM system based on our mostly manual lead generation and tracking efforts. In addition, when we implemented the CRM system we migrated our contact database to the CRM system. As a result we were able to quickly begin analyzing where we got our best leads, the characteristics of those individuals, which sales opportunities we won, and more.
Just because you don’t have automated systems in place doesn’t mean you can’t start. There’s plenty you need to work through anyway, regardless of the tracking system you use. In fact, without the distraction and complication of implementing automation, you can better focus on the lead tracking process itself. Tracking leads is the first step to answering questions about marketing’s contribution to lead generation and revenue.
How will you, or did you, started your lead tracking?
Susan Mitchell is a freelance B2B marketing consultant to domestic and international firms providing strategic plans, content marketing, sales enablement tools, and lead generation as an extension of your B2B marketing team or to fill resource and capability gaps.