It is quite critical to hold on to your vital leads today than ever before. With an all-time low consumer confidence and stagnant economy, most SMEs are struggling to acquire new customers now.
As is evident, any business-to-business marketing involves generating sales leads through various activities including media, journals, exhibitions and trade fairs; and following up on these leads until they fructify into a profitable relationship. Strange as it might seem, business marketers caught in the chaos of their marketing programmes frequently forget to track all their sales leads. (Even big companies get into this trap). It is not as if they take total leave of their senses and ignore otherwise serviceable enquiries, which does occur among the least enlightened business-to-business marketers. But by failing to properly log and track enquiries from all sources, they commit the next worst sin of lead management: benign neglect.
Useful marketing information from a company's potentially best enquirers goes unrecorded and never reaches the sales lead management database, if they have one. CRM or Customer Relations Management is more applicable to B2B than B2C. As a result of non-recording in the database, a company gets a distorted picture of what actually is happening in its lead-generation programme.
The scenario runs like this: A company's lead-tracking system records the source of publication reader enquiries because those "bingo" leads come from publishers. And direct mail, catalogue, and bound-in business reply card enquiries, along with reply coupons clipped from ads, usually carry special codes to indicate their origin. In fact, it is very simple to make this coding. All one needs to do is put the initials of the publications in one corner of the reply coupon. In the digital media space this problem is somewhat eliminated but then you need to code in the origin of the enquiry appropriately if you are advertising in multiple channels.
The sources of inbound telephone leads, whether to landline or mobile, toll or toll-free numbers go unrecorded and unknown. It is a frequent problem in sales and marketing departments, even though inbound phone leads tend to be better qualified than most other types of enquiries.
Phone enquirers are more likely to want to see a salesperson, make a decision, and buy now. But when the specific advertisement, publication press release, direct mail piece, or other sources fail to get credit for inspiring that enquiry, it appears to be less productive than it actually is. A good lead source might even be dropped from a programme if it mistakenly looks as if it is not pulling its weight.
What might be causing such problems in companies big and small? I can list out a few. You may add to this if the list is not exhaustive:
- Companies outsource their enquiry fulfillment, hiring a firm adept at sorting computerised lead information provided by publishers and then mailing all those brochures. They then rely on fulfillment house enquiry counts as the base for their lead-tracking databases. They keep their inbound telemarketing in-house or outsource it to another supplier. Information from inbound toll-free calls, and especially enquiries to the company's main telephone number, do not get included in the fulfillment house reports at the heart of the lead-tracking programme.
- Companies often do not ask telephone enquirers how they learned of them; which ad, catalogue, mail piece, etc piqued the prospective buyers' interest. Providing a different telephone number for each enquiry source can help gather the information automatically, but the number of phone lines required to collect comprehensive data can get out of hand in an active marketing programme, leading to compromises that fuzzy up the data.
Conceptually, such problems are easy to fix. However, it takes some information management adjustments, modified staff training, and a disciplined approach to enquiry management. Those are the tasks that get left to late Friday afternoon in the fog of marketing warfare.
Under a war-like condition, fussing about attributing leads to a single source when an enquiry actually can be motivated by several different sources can seem like a waste of time. The prevailing sentiment in the barracks is to be happy that the leads are there in the first place and to pounce on them now!
So, simple as the lead-tracking process might seem on paper, it does not hurt any marketing manager to double-check the assumption that "of course" information from all enquiries reaches the sales lead database. This is vital for any business to prosper, and even survive.