• Aleksander Mitrovic

What is lead management? Definition, strategies and processes in B2B marketing

Generating interest, acquiring new customers, expanding existing customers, modern lead management requires a targeted strategy in order to generate more leads and develop them until they are ready for sales. The implementation of lead management, marketing automation, buyer persona and content marketing is important for companies. But what is lead management anyway?




B2B Lead Management


Definition of lead management


The term lead management includes all processes and measures that are defined and implemented for the strategic generation of interest among target group and the conversion of them to customers. These processes can affect sales, marketing and IT across departments. A successful lead management strategy not only increases the number of leads, the company's internal resources can also be used more efficiently. A modern lead management makes use of technical tools that enable the automation of the processes and make the results measurable. The aim should be to bring together all data sources from sales and marketing and thus to obtain an overall picture of the customer in real time, among other things to identify sales potential (keyword cross-sales).



Why lead management?


With successful lead management you can:

  • Generate more leads

  • Turn prospects into real customers

  • Develop interested prospects until they are ready to buy

  • To make your marketing activities more transparent and to make a measurable contribution to the company's success



Modern lead management


Historically, the form of lead generation has changed significantly. In the past, outbound activities, especially cold calling, with classic offline channels such as mail, advertisements or TV and cinema advertising were increasingly used, but with the transition to the digital age, these have become increasingly unimportant because they have become less effective. These forms of acquisition were often perceived as annoying and involved a high level of wastage. The target group could not be persuaded to make a purchase decision at the right time or in the right places.


With the possibilities of a modern lead management strategy and the predominant use of online media, prospects can be picked up where they are with the use of technical aids and converted to customers through the use of targeted marketing strategies . Successful lead management is roughly composed of the following elements:

  1. Processes coordinated with one another, which serve to generate a interest among target group and accompany them through to the purchase. These require structured approaches in marketing and sales.

  2. Tailored content is indispensable, because: Only B2B companies that really have something to say are considered. When communicating with prospects, relevant information must be conveyed. A call-to-action, which should not be missing in any communication, is essential.

  3. Modern tools facilitate customer acquisition. Suitable software provides valuable assistance. It supports the process implementation, planning and implementation of campaigns.

For the development of B2B leads, the idea of ​​the sales funnel has been established, with which the procurement process is represented in several stages. At each stage, content leading to the goal must have a positive influence on the buyers decision.



Which companies benefit from competent lead management?


As already stated above, lead management is primarily about the efficient acquisition of prospects, who are to become the best possible customers in a timely manner. The methods are therefore particularly suitable for companies that want to grow faster than their competitors or are active in industries with growth potential. Suppose you are marketing products or services in the B2B area that require a lot of explanation and require more time to make decisions from potential buyers. Here, strategically designed lead management makes a valuable contribution to sales and marketing. The number of new leads generated each month is generally decisive for the decision to implement your own system. Experts consider an in-house lead management system to be a worthwhile investment as soon as your database contains around 5,000 leads . But smaller companies also benefit from a systematic approach to interested parties.



From outbound marketing to inbound marketing


Lead management in the B2B area leads to contacts on various levels. Here, too, many decisions are influenced by the Internet. Many potential customers have already obtained information about the company offering before contact has even been made. This takes place, for example, on the company's own website, social media channels or rating portals. It is all the more important as a company to be easy to find on the Internet and to provide attractive content. This is the only way to get prospects to take a closer look at your offer and perceive you as an expert.


This strategy, which is closely linked to content marketing, changes the approach, away from outbound marketing and towards inbound marketing. The potential customer finds their way to the company through appealing content themselves, instead of being contacted directly by the company first. Just as important as in outbound marketing is the definition of the target group and the targeted preparation of the content. Various online channels and forms are available to promote the generation and qualification of leads quickly. This can be, among other things:

  • Informative and advanced landing pages

  • Search engine marketing

  • Social media

  • E-mail marketing in compliance with data protection guidelines

  • Provision of free tools

  • Background information

Nevertheless, some classic approaches in the B2B area are still important. Visitors to trade fairs can become interested parties through the right presence of your company and potential customers through qualified employees. You can achieve similar success by participating in congresses or conferences, where the main goal is to make new contacts. In the case of trade fair and congress contacts, as well as contacts made online, qualification should take place through competent telephone marketing.



Email marketing as part of lead management


What classic direct marketing was in the past is now e-mail marketing in the online age. With the relatively strict data protection regulation ( GDPR ), however, there are limits to the possibilities. Newsletters and other information offers may only be sent with the recipient's express prior consent. Nevertheless, this form of acquisition with well thought-out multi-channel management can still lead to great success. The connection of newsletters with social media, audio-visual or other web content can lead the interested party to the product or service they are looking for. Not only for direct sales, but also for long-term customer loyalty, email marketing is still an indispensable part of any lead management strategy.



Where is my dream customer?


For an efficient generation of new customers with lead management, it is essential to determine which groups you want to approach with your offer. Here you can decide to define classic target groups and combine this with a buyer persona concept. Unlike a large target group, which is mainly determined by socio-demographic characteristics, psychological characteristics or actions, the buyer persona gives the ideal customer a face. This makes it easier for you to plan content marketing campaigns and gives you the opportunity to plan the customer journey more individually (because each buyer persona usually has a different one behind him).



How do you define the buyer persona?


Profiles that are as detailed as possible are created of the typical representatives of your target group. As a B2B-oriented company, decision-makers are primarily defined. This can look like this:

  • What area of ​​responsibility and position does the person hold?

  • Company size and industry

  • Personal characteristics of the decision maker, including gender and age

  • Where are its pain points and what drives it?

  • Which preferences shape his behavior and how are his motives structured?

  • With which keywords does he search in which search engine?

  • What are the criteria for making a purchase?


These and other aspects lead to a meaningful personality profile from which a collection of topics can be created that can answer all questions. These answers provide you with information about the information and offers you can use to simplify the situation for your desired customer. Keep asking yourself: How can I help my customer? You can also see how you can attract the potential buyer's attention. You can measure which information, in which form and on which channel can best reach a specific person. In short: effective lead management recognizes the online behavior of interested parties and defines relevant content for potential buyers.



Successful implementation of a modern lead management strategy


A study by Gleanster Research found that 50% of all leads are interested but not ready to buy. Furthermore, it was found that 35-50% of the leads go to the provider who answers qualified first, although only 21% of all leads (i.e. only approx. 50% of the interested parties) are successfully converted to buyers. So there is a lot of leeway here that leaves room for optimization. As a result, if you don't nurture the leads you generate, you lose a lot of potential for sales. To avoid this, you should pursue a lead management strategy and implement it in your internal processes. Successful lead management takes place in three steps:

  • Lead generation

  • Lead nurturing

  • Lead scoring and routing


1. Lead generation


The first stage of the process is geared towards generating leads. In the first stage, you must first ensure that your company is found as reliably as possible by potential customers. Being present in social media and other online channels increases the level of awareness of your company and at the same time offers the opportunity to communicate with interested parties. In addition to social media, opportunities for this are also offered by your own website or active participation in specialist websites. In the best case scenario, you will get the attention of decision-makers through targeted content marketing. However, high click rates alone are of little use; you have to make sure that as many users as possible come into contact with your company. Provide the interested party with attractive, highly relevant content and ask them for two essential things at the same time:

  • His email address

  • To get permission to contact us by email

With this procedure, the unknown visitor to your homepage becomes a lead, which you can subsequently turn into a customer. The use of content marketing is essential here.



2. Lead nurturing


In this second lead management level, the new contact is to be nurtured, and his interest is to be transformed into a purchase intention through information. To this end, it is not only crucial to offer relevant product or service information in real time, but also to follow up on customers who are undecided or not yet ready to buy. Marketing automation should come into play at this stage. Automation software, which is often part of CRM tools, helps sales to keep track of leads and to take action in real time.

For example, the provision of information by email can create incentives to buy. Send your desired customer relevant information at well-chosen time intervals and pay attention to his position in the company. Ask for previously unknown data and the planned time of purchase with every e-mail. You are always up to date with the latest developments and at the same time complete the profile of your desired customer. In all activities, relevance is crucial for success. Talk to your prospective customer personally, pay attention to customary rather than uniform communication. With a carefully designed and personalized e-mail, you can achieve higher open rates than with standardized e-mails. So always pay attention to:

  • relevance

  • personalization

  • entry scenarios (where does the customer come from? Has there already been personal contact?)

  • timing

In lead nurturing, the individual contacts go through different levels of qualification. Therefore, when defining the lead management strategy, it is important right from the start to precisely define the characteristics that qualify a lead for the next level. These levels are usually:

  • 1. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) : Contacts that can be taken over by sales

  • 2. Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) : After the qualification was checked by the sales department, this contact was accepted

  • 3. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) : Contacts that can be contacted by sales

These qualification levels each lead to a third level.



3. Lead scoring and lead routing


The third stage in lead management is dedicated to scoring and routing. In the first two stages, you turned an anonymous website or trade fair contact into a prospect with the intention of buying. Now it is important to accompany the potential buyer through to the actual purchase.

With the help of the qualification carried out in lead nurturing and the scoring applied in this phase, you will find out how interesting the contact is for your sales goal. To do this, they rate the constantly evolving profile as well as the activities of the interested party and assign scoring values. Ideally, marketing and sales are involved in this process, because it has to be decided when the potential buyer should be looked after by sales ( Marketing Qualified Lead ). This is generally followed by lead routing. Here the interested party is handed over to the sales department, who uses the information obtained from marketing to develop a sales strategy that ultimately moves the customer to buy.

As soon as the purchase is completed, the customer relationship is strengthened through CRM so that the longest possible loyalty to the company is achieved. All these steps can be supported with marketing automation tools in order to develop their full effect.



Marketing automation in lead management


Marketing automation is a software-based method that enables you to automate the marketing processes as much as possible. You can use it to enrich user profiles with information based on individual behavior. As a result, you set up automated campaign processes for communication.


An ideal solution for marketing automation combines the functions of web analysis and CRM system with email marketing, advertising and retargeting. Retargeting is becoming more and more important in times of cross-channel online use. The interested party is recorded after visiting the website or another channel and addressed again with targeted advertising on other channels. New data protection regulations have limited lead management retargeting, but it is still a powerful tool. With lead management, marketing automation ideally begins at the moment the lead is received, for example as an email address. The system then creates a user profile that can be continuously developed. Among other things, data on visits to websites (analytics) are used for enrichment,

Modern software for marketing automation always offers a scoring function with which you can verify the degree of maturity of certain contacts. You can use it to track customers who are on the company's own websites and develop suitable interactions if necessary (chatbots). Such software can accompany the customer relationship through all three stages mentioned above. After-sales measures serve to create long-term customer loyalty and are geared towards subsequent purchase decisions. The advantages of using CRM software are clearly the relief of your sales department. Sales department can only take care of potential clients with a clearly recognizable purchase intention.


Sales funnels definition?


To illustrate the rather complex process of generating customers in lead management, the model of the sales funnel (or sales funnel) has become established. It was developed by a consortium of research companies and has since prevailed. Originally developed for the end customer business (B2C), the model can also be used well for the B2B area. The potential customers are led through a funnel in order to receive a sufficient amount of qualified leads at the end. The phases are divided up differently, but mainly consist of:

  • Create awareness

  • Increase interest

  • Purchase phase



B2B Sales funnel


Conclusion


In the 21st century, new ways of generating leads have to be explored; classic methods no longer lead to the desired success. Competent lead management can be a powerful weapon in customer acquisition. It is important to pay attention to many individual details when generating prospects and winning new customers. Of course, your range of products or services also plays an important role in the development of suitable measures. However, the costs for the right lead management strategy should be understood as an investment in success. Every system with modern software is worth the money, provided you decide on the right processes, the right tools and the content that leads to the goal.