In the bad old days of lead management, marketers created prospect lists of often-questionable quality and threw them over the wall to a sales force that had become cynical about lead quality and performance. Salespeople complained that marketers didn't adequately qualify leads. Marketers shot back that salespeople didn't follow up on the leads they were given. The whole thing was very dysfunctional.
Today, there is no excuse for this kind of disconnect. Every company now has the capacity to be a publisher and, thanks to Web analytics, every prospect's route through a site can now be tracked back to the point of entry. When combined with lead tracking, marketers can create detailed profiles of customer behavior that lead to better-targeted, more effective campaigns over time.
Here are five secrets of online lead management in a Web 2.0 world:
1) It's all about quality content. In today's search-driven world, prospects care more about relevance than they do about sources. Marketers need to think like publishers. That means giving prospects a portfolio of content tuned to their needs. Start by ditching the pitch. Customers want information that helps them make decisions. Eliminate buzzwords like “industry-leading” and “revolutionary” from your vocabulary. Nobody searches for those terms. Come up with content that has demonstrated value for the customers you seek.
This isn't hard to figure out. Look at the most-downloaded white papers on commercial aggregation sites to see what's already delivering response. Check the most-e-mailed stories on relevant publishers' sites for ideas. Use the Google “link:” command to filter Web content that generates lots of inbound traffic.
2) Use a variety of formats. Different people consume information in different ways. Give them a choice. If you're posting a white paper, repurpose it as a webcast or podcast. If you've just written a how-to guide, produce it also as an online video. Link between all the content vehicles you choose to make it easy for customers and search engines to find you.
3) Spread that content around. Today, you have lots of opportunities for prospects to find the information you publish. These include company and employee blogs, customer communities, independent bloggers and affiliate sites. Use them all to promote your content, improve search performance and identify your most-promising lead sources.
4) Mine Web analytics for intelligence. You shouldn't have to coax prospects to fill out long registration forms in order to learn more about them. Their online behavior can tell you plenty. Web analytics tools deliver information about referring pages, visitor paths through your site, repeat visits and more. Use this information to create a profile of each prospect you catch in your filter.
5) Create a feedback loop. All of the information you collect about prospects' online behavior should be logged into your lead tracking/customer relationship management system. This not only helps sales reps craft a more informed pitch but also gives you a database of results for use in creating future campaigns. This last point can't be overemphasized. Historical performance is your best indicator of future results. Look for referring URLs that deliver the most traffic to your key lead generators. Where the referrers are your pages, tune them for search performance and create a campaign to link to them internally.
For good traffic sources that are outside your control, extend the feedback loop to those site operators. Blogs and community discussion forums that perform well should get extra attention and marketing dollars. Your search marketing campaign should key on the pages that do the best job of funneling leads. M