I like fruitcake. I know it’s a shocking revelation but I grew up in a house where fruitcake was celebrated. My mother gushed and smiled when the fruitcake arrived, immediately taking it from its plate and resting it on the dessert table. I would stare in wonder at the multicolored masterpiece before enjoying a thick slice. It was only when I went over a friend’s house as a child that I discovered that fruitcake is not exactly a wonder-inducing delight in other households.
In this season of merriment, the fruitcake is always the elephant in the room. We all recognize the fruitcake shape and smell, although my aunt has slipped a number of fruitcakes by people by arriving with the fruitcake tightly sealed in a blue butter cookie tin. The air is immediately sucked from the room when the fruitcake arrives. The crestfallen face, the polite smile, the cringe as the host/hostess turns his/her back to the fruitcake bearer as he/she silently wonders what to do with the thing, and the silent shunning of the fruitcake bearer by other guests; in short, it is a recipe for disaster as a holiday party guest.
So, what does fruitcake have to do with leads management? Do not let your leads be “that” fruitcake. Nobody wants to talk about the leads unless they are good. Nobody wants the fruitcake unless there is nothing else to eat in the house. Put leads in the forefront: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you run a program for $50k and it produces 25 leads, $2k/lead is probably not the amount you were hoping to spend. But, if there were three qualified leads that spent $200k each, you were probably successful. $2k/lead is ugly but $600k in sales for a $50k investment is tantalizingly good. You don’t know what you have until you nurture, qualify, and engage your leads. You will need to assess the leads your marketing efforts brought in and put effort into converting leads with potential to get the most from your dollar. The most successful marketers are not afraid to stumble, as long as they can figure out how to recover.
So, please, in this season of merriment, take the leads out of the blue butter cookie tin. There’s always someone like me who will say “Yum…fruitcake.”
The other day, I was running over the list of “applications” I had been asked to master in different companies to improve/bring efficiencies/consolidate or any other word you can think of to say “make lead capture, management, and distribution easier.” All told, we’re looking at seven to ten different programs promising a single efficiency. So this is what I have learned: it doesn’t matter what program you have, it’s how you use it. In one of those programs, I was promised nothing short of utopia. This program integrated with…well everything, and allowed one to see the closed loop sales cycle. My head spun with dreams of producing reports that would deliver every detail about a customer’s interaction with us, short of whether they had chosen the turkey or ham hors d’oeuvres at the cocktail party.
What soon became apparent was that our sales professionals had little interest in cataloging their interactions with customers, the program didn’t operate as efficiently as promised with other tools, and we ended up deduping leads by hand. So much for utopia in a box. The key to a great lead management system is what doesn’t come in the box: you. It’s what you put in the tool, how you handle the leads, how you manage the leads. It would be great to know if your customer has a fondness for tiramisu and likes a certain table at Myers + Chang however, it does you no good if that information isn’t acted upon. You can produce 100 reports but, if everyone says “Great information” and goes about their business, it means absolutely nothing. Make your lead management tool work for you. Make information relevant. Decide how you will manage leads before you dump needless information into a leadnmanagement tool. In short, I don’t care for tiramisu and like the table near the bar at Myers + Chang however, I won’t be likely to buy whatever you are selling because of that. Although a fluffy vanilla doughnut from Flour Bakery that is only sold on Sundays could sway my opinion…
As I sit watching the Pats and Raiders play, I realize that the sales pipeline is a lot like the game itself. At the beginning of the game, we are full of hope and excitement. Grown men and women are practically dancing in their seats in anticipation as they drown their munchies with cold drinks, arguing about the chances of each team. That’s how every marketing campaign starts, with a clean slate and open pipeline waiting to be filled. As the game progresses and four quarters slowly drain into precious minutes, we are either gripping our seats in a hushed silence because we only have one more chance to reverse our fortunes or we see victory another yard away. So goes the sales pipeline, as our campaign comes to a close. We’re either praying for a miraculous in-flow of qualified leads or we’re sitting back smugly in our chairs, counting the leads like $20 bills. At the close, it’s the same outcome: there are no ties. You win or you lose. The difference between winning and losing can be as simple as a well planned slight of hand to the running back for victory or the missed punt heard round the world (or the region, depending on how much of a fan you are). With your next campaign, keep in mind that a well thought out plan is the difference between dancing in the end zone and watching someone else pour Gatorade over the coach. Good luck.
As the quarter draws to the close, many marketers are turning to the same task: metrics. We’re all seeking to report how well our marketing programs have gone this quarter or explain why a certain campaign may not have performed as well as we anticipated. To that end, determining how many leads were generated due to those programs is just one piece of the puzzle. How many of those leads were qualified? How long did it take to convert those qualified leads into opportunities? A sale is a story and the lead is just the beginning. If we don’t know the whole story, we will never know if it had a great ending.
Lead generation. It’s the ultimate goal of all marketers yet one of the most subjective aspects of a marketer’s responsibilities. While a lead may be fairly easy to generate, a qualified lead is almost enigmatic at times. For some in Sales, a qualified lead is someone who not only needs the product and/or solution he or she is selling but, also has the funds and meets the criteria of the target customer. As most marketers know, those “qualified” leads aren’t dropping from the sky or knocking down our doors. Finding qualified leads requires creativity and hard work, and a little “right place, right time” doesn’t hurt. Lead generation, qualification, and nurturing are all key to keeping your sales pipeline full and providing your sales team with what they need to help succeed. We’ll explore all things lead in this blog and I encourage you to provide your feedback. Here’s to filling the pipeline.