If you are looking to do good lead management, you cannot make it without a marketing automation solution today, says Norbert Schuster. The veteran lead management expert knows oats in the sales and marketing digitization stuff. His specialties are the branded strike2 Waterhole Strategy strike2 (Wasserloch- Strategie®), inbound marketing and marketing automation. We have asked him what companies with multi-tier sales structures can do to generate more and better leads.
Mr. Schuster, the recent study by HubSpot proves: the first contact with the potential customer is the biggest difficulty for organizations. Why?
Norbert Schuster: This is mostly due to the rush. A bit like in an interpersonal relationship. Imagine that you would like to meet a person for a love relationship. But, before your very first date you offer them already to go on holiday together. That wouldn’t work anyway. This is exactly the same way in lead generation. Instead of breaking in, you need to ask yourself: who is that future contact of mine? What are their problems, their pains? What are they up to? Marketing and sales are often addressed with these questions. They are expected to provide an exact profile of their Buyer Personas. It is very important to connect the sales to the process. Sales managers are the only ones that contact the potential customer directly. The marketing department can only define suitable content at the next stage. The content should exactly address the pains that the customer has. Then the leads would come – almost- by themselves! I have called this ‘the Waterhole Strategy’: you want to take pictures of the elephants in the Savannah? Don’t go searching for elephants. Build a waterhole instead, and the elephants will find you. Why? Because they need water and will go everywhere to find it. That is to say, create content that lets customers find you!
Let’s imagine we’ve fulfilled all the steps and – the lead is there! They would like, say, to book a test drive! But no one is contacting them. This happens in over 30% of cases! What is going wrong?
Either the process was not well-thought or badly implemented, or the lead didn’t have the expected quality. Sometimes sales partners are cautious to be the first to contact the customer. Not all are ‘hunters’. But the reason may be as well that the vendor has previously sent half-baked leads to them. This leads to mistrust.
Let’s stay by car purchasing: what happens nowadays to the leads that signed no purchase contract following the test drive? And what would be right to do? Simply throw in the dustbin?
No way! Unfortunately, many sales partners are still doing that today. They are disappointed and say, ‚It’s the customer’s fault that they were too stupid to recognize that our product is great’. Other dealers put the lead on a re-submission track and contact them again when they know the leasing agreement has expired, normally in 2-3 years. In the times of marketing automation, it’s critical to send the ‘lost’ lead back to marketing – say, into the marketing automation system. There it will be placed into the lead nurturing process and will be addressed with new relevant content.
The study by HubSpot identifies another problem: how to calculate the ROI of a marketing campaign. This still seems to be a difficult task for many companies. What would be your advice?
In this case marketing automation would be an ideal solution as well. I can define where the lead comes from, how it was generated, if it is an existing customer and which steps they have gone through. Because the whole process is automated and digital. However, a problem I often encounter at this stage is: not all partners would like to take part in that. They think, I don’t care where the lead came from. And they provide no further feedback to the vendor – just because they are slow and don’t want to leave their comfort zone. Sometimes out of suspicion, too. They ask themselves what happens to the lead after they ‚lose hold’ of it.
How can we stop this confrontation and encourage the partner to share lead information back to the vendor?
With strong involvement from the very start. Across the whole lead management process and in the marketing and sales strategy. You should provide input – say, in workshops. You should build transparency and trust. This really works. Tools like the leadtributor are useful as well: they help build transparency in opportunity management and secure the leads for the partners. Partners get a guarantee that the lead lands back in their system after they send information about it to the vendor. This helps build trust and certainty to optimize the customer journey.
Marketing and sales are often somewhat alienated. How can we provide for a better co-operation?
This is unfortunately the case. The reason is the difference in their DNA. Salespeople think in short time periods and are looking to quick closings. A marketer thinks long-term. You need to explain to the salesperson that they are part of a bigger system and complex process. And that they will notice an increase in revenue in the mid-term if they help to define the Buyer Personas and the relevant content.
How well are German companies doing in terms of marketing automation processes?
Recent studies show that only 29% of German companies use marketing automation processes*. Just to compare, 43% in the UK and 60% in the USA.
Why is Germany so far behind?
This is a good question. I believe the reason is that good lead management, which includes marketing automation as well, is also change management. That is, it affects the whole organization structure and every process in marketing and sales. Most enterprises are slow, and they think: why should we change anything? It works well at the moment. But this will hit back one day. It will be too late to start with this when bad times arrive. When I wrote my book “Die Inbound-Marketing-Method” (The inbound marketing method) in 2012, the reaction was very restrained. The general opinion was that it will take too long before you implement such a method. Then in 2015-2016 many companies came to me to get consulting regarding inbound marketing. Today you cannot imagine marketing without inbound marketing and marketing automation. leadtributor software is part of that trend, it is closely integrated into the marketing automation process. I would say, this is the last missing part in the puzzle to interconnect sales and marketing.
*Uwe Hannig, Klaus Heinzelbecker, Thomas Foell: „B2B Marketing Automation im digitalen Dschungel“ (2016)
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