Confronting the Lead Retrieval and CRM/MAT Conundrum

After meticulously planning and implementing a show or event, it is extremely frustrating to experience a lag in the amount of time it takes to get those critical leads to sales. This “lead-lag” can affect your ROI, ROO, and even your budget. It’s true that integrating leads into CRMs (Customer Relationship Management) and MATs (Marketing Automation Tools) can be a challenge but it is possible to integrate them quickly to provide qualified lead data to your sales team.

Evaluating Your Current Process

Before incorporating your lead infrastructure into a CRM/MAT system, consider thoroughly reviewing your current process.  How do you prove ROI of your events?  Do you know where tradeshows fit into your lead generation strategy? How are you collecting your leads, and filtering them to sales? Do you know where your leads go and which ones become actual sales? Who gets credit for a lead or sale?   Is your event credited as a first touch attribution to a sale?  Once you’ve documented your current process, you can start to learn how utilizing a CRM/MAT can add value by accelerating the sales process and automating tracking and reporting, all of which tie into tracking your ROI. 

CRM, MAT or Both?

If your company has a CRM system like Salesforce or a MAT system like Eloqua, you can utilize these tools to help push your data into the system and enable your sales team to follow up on leads immediately. If your company doesn’t have a MAT, it will soon.  Gartner analyst Laura McLellan recently predicted that by 2017, “CMOs will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs.”   These systems, now considered to be the lifeline of a company, are clearly part of that expenditure. 

It’s imperative to determine well-defined objectives before initiating a CRM or MAT process, and of course, they will be unique to your company.  To avoid any complications, involve your IT department from the start.  Perhaps your company employs a marketing technologist or has a “MarTech” department.  Gartner said that 71% of the companies they studied have a chief marketing technologist role reporting directly to a senior marketing executive, and that number will continue to grow.

Many companies utilize both CRM and MAT systems.  In that case, you need to determine the best solution for your lead process.  Where do you want the leads to go?  Some companies choose to place low and medium qualified leads into a MAT system, so they can develop specific campaigns to nurture those leads.  Others use both in different ways.  For example, you can place all of your leads in the MAT system, and when they become “A” or “B” leads, push them into your CRM.  These decisions are why the objectives and sales process piece are so critical.

Defining the Differences

Learning about the major differences between CRM and MATs can help you decide whether or not you will want to use one or both.  Marketing automation software company Marketo lists five differentiators.

Although there are pros and cons to both, in general, a MAT system is easier to implement with marketing initiatives. It can be difficult to integrate marketing measurement using only a CRM.  

Lead Qualification, Scoring and Nurturing

Prioritizing what data will be moved to the CRM or MAT is an essential step.  For example, many of us utilize data about demographics, current clients, targeted prospects, e-literature sent, and qualification surveys with BANT. (BANT is an acronym that stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe.)

Clearly defining your leads will help identify lead quality.  What do you define as a qualified marketing lead and where will it be in the process?  A graphic example is shown below.

You do score your leads, right?  Lead scoring is the methodology for ranking leads by level of interest, product fit, budget availability, and when a lead is ready to purchase.  Some companies use “A, B, C” to rank leads.  Others use “Hot, warm, cold” and some develop a point system.  The main purpose of scoring leads is to help the sales team follow up effeciently, so it’s important to get as much information as possible while talking to the lead face-to-face.

Nurturing a lead is the process of developing the relationship so that when a lead is ready to buy (called lead conversion), the contacts are familiar with your brand and products.  CRM / MATs can automate much of the process, making it much more efficient.

Who Gets Credit?

Leads have many touch points.  For marketing alone, they would include advertising, PR, direct mail, your website, social media, SEO, trade shows and events, and other initiatives.  Forrester Research defines cross-channel attribution as the science of tracking and analyzing multiple touch points to give proportional credit to each.  From the first scan to the sale and beyond, cross-channel attribution helps define your part of the sale, giving you that critical ROI number you need, and demonstrating the impact of your event marketing efforts in quantative terms.  Your CRM/MAT solutions can help you orchestrate this determination.

Finalizing the CRM/MAT Process

After considering all of these components, you can now finalize your process flow, which may look something like the graphic below.  This process can happen automatically in real-time as your leads are collected at your event, so your sales team receives them as they occur.  No more “lead-lag”!

Verifying Value

A CRM/MAT adds value by integrating and accelerating the sales process and automating tracking and reporting results. When the sales process is integrated and accelerated, your sales team is more likely to follow up and realize a higher ROI for your event marketing programs.