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Exposure to closure: five key lead management terms

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Generating a lead and following it through to closure might seem like a pretty simple concept: You define your target audience, develop a compelling offer, communicate the offer to your target, they respond, you follow up and voilĂ ! A sale happens.

As you can imagine, in the real world of business-to-business marketing it quickly becomes more complex. Consider these five key terms for success in your lead-management processes.

1. Exposure. Exposure can be thought of as the stimulus that you're putting out into your market in search of a given type of response. Your marketing and sales teams have determined what an ideal lead looks like based on attributes, buying readiness, position and timing. You've designed your offer to attract maximum customer response, and fulfillment pieces are in place to properly respond to inquiries.

Meanwhile, marketing campaign information is loaded into your CRM system to assist with funnel management reporting and downstream marketing ROI calculations. Internal teams and channel partners are informed about exposure campaign objectives, what sales aids are available, and the timing of promotions. Your digital properties are also on the ready to help place content, and to serve as additional messaging outlets and lead-source generators.

2. Capture. The capture process can be efficient if you use a common prequalification form to help screen for ideal leads, based on criteria set in advance. It allows the most valuable leads to proceed on to sales, while less-qualified leads are closed out immediately or returned to a nurture stream.

It's important to have a well thought out capture mechanism to catalog inquires coming from multiple exposure campaign tactics. Being organized upfront is important for quick fulfillment of customer inquiries, and in being able to track marketing effectiveness and ROI.

3. Make sure. To ensure your lead is sales-ready, based on your qualification criteria, it helps to have a lead-scoring system. Such systems quickly communicate the sales readiness of a given lead before it's passed on to sales, or alternately returned to the nurture stream.

Automating your scoring system in your CRM tool is valuable. It allows you to process more leads at a much faster pace. A fully qualified lead should be converted to an active opportunity.

4. Nurture. In many b-to-b companies it isn't common for marketing to generate an immediate sale. Long sales cycles are caused by team procurement processes, the need for testing, specification writing and many other factors. With longer sales cycles, however, come the real need to keep in contact with a targeted customer, to cultivate your relationship, provide additional reasons why your solution is differentiated, make additional offers, or simply remind him that you're still interested in his business.

Think proactively about your nurture streams and content requirements. It helps you avoid "dead air" in between exposure and closure phases, and enables your interim communications to be more strategic, integrated and driven toward a specific, desired outcome.

5. Closure. In this final phase you will either convert your opportunity into a sale or you won't. Either way you need to connect the dots in your CRM system, to ensure feedback to marketing is in place to measure ROI and to inform future campaign strategies.

If the closure phase does not produce a sale, capture the reasons why. If it results in a sale, well done—but you still have the opportunity to add that customer into future nurture streams designed to cross- and up-sell him with new offers.

Bottlenecks in lead management processes involve not having the proper key performance indicators in place with clear roles and responsibilities for your sales and marketing organizations. A central CRM system is paramount to orchestrating your overall process. It can help you understand better your overall sales funnel, and help you connect marketing ROI back to specific lead-generation activities.

With KPIs and CRM systems in hand, you'll be on your way to having a more accurate sales funnel. As a result, your sales force will be more motivated with the leads they receive, and your marketing teams will have an improved nurturing program.

Randall Rozin is global director-brand management and marketing communications at Dow Corning Corp. (www.dowcorning.com). He can be reached at randall.rozin@dowcorning.com, or via www.linkedin.com/in/randallrozin and Twitter, @RandallRozin.

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