A Process-Based Guide To Improving The Value Of Marketing Investments

Published: February 9, 2010

Prodded on by the economic down turn, BtoB marketers are now being asked to prove their worth, justify their budgets, produce more and show results more than ever before. More and more marketers are waking up to the realization that BtoB marketing has become more science and less art.

During this time of scrutiny from the C-level, marketing automation vendors have jumped into the fray showcasing their robust feature sets and their ability to deliver lead scoring, lead nurturing and even full cycle lead management capabilities.

But can technology alone really do all that? While these technologies are indeed robust and do allow marketers to become more efficient and effective, they certainly can’t deliver the process-based approach that will ultimately help the marketer meet the demands of today. It’s tempting to believe that that technology will cure all of the marketer’s ills. But it won’t. Companies that adopt marketing automation technology without the planning and development of process will not reach the potential returns they could otherwise achieve.

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Where to Start?

Understanding the need to develop and implement the right process is one thing. Getting there is another. For most marketers, it’s difficult to determine what processes are broken, or what processes are missing altogether?  “How do I know what I don’t know?” is a question that freezes many into inaction. But don’t worry. There is a way.

The best place to start is with a process audit. An audit is an exercise whereby all parts of the lead management continuum are identified, assessed, and analyzed. Included are all functions that have a role in lead management. This obviously includes sales and marketing, but also may include business development, IT, Web Services, and the current technology structure.

Any organization within the company that has a role, however minor it may be, in the generation, qualifying, routing and disposition of leads should be included in the audit. The audit, plain and simple, is a fact-finding mission. The goal is to find the broken areas, diagnose them, and determine how they can be fixed. It is not an exercise in assigning blame, and there are no “sacred cows”. It’s simply a project undertaken to uncover the issues or leaks that exist within a company’s lead management practice.  Often, having an objective, “third party” lead management consultant helps to provide an honest assessment of all areas.

The areas an audit should cover can broken down into six key categories:

1. Data (Sales Data, Marketing Data)

2. Lead Planning (Sales & Marketing Integration Point)

3. Lead Qualification

4. Lead Routing (Marketing to Sales; Sales back to Marketing)

5. Lead Nurturing

6. Measurement & Analysis

Taking an honest look at these key areas will allow the marketer to make an assessment of where the company is and where it needs to go in order to ensure the most is being made of the marketing dollars.

The Blueprint

Once the audit is complete, marketing will have a much clearer picture of where lead management stands, what areas are the biggest stumbling blocks, and what needs to change. Now, the real work begins when the issues that have been identified are addressed and rectified. The best approach for this phase is to develop of a cross-functional team to ensure the processes are developed, tested and implemented with buy in from all parties involved.

Any process is only as good as the people who will be operating that process, so it’s imperative that they be involved at the beginning. Taking the time to understand the impact of the process and work across all parts of the organizations (marketing to sales; sales to IT, etc.) will greatly enhance adoption.  Conversely, it’s very difficult for one group (marketing for example) to develop the process in isolation, roll it out to the rest of the company, and expect enthusiastic buy in.

Process Development in Process

This framework and approach is one that has been proven over and over with great success. One such company is still reaping the rewards of moving forward with a process-based approach, more than a year after adoption.

Typical of many organizations, this financial services company was sending all “leads” to sales for follow-up. Sales, in turn, were getting increasingly frustrated because the majority of the leads were not qualified and had little to no interest in buying. As a result of this approach, sales had very low conversion rates, marketing had no true measurement of campaign success, sales grew increasingly frustrated, and the gap between marketing and sales continued to grow.

Understanding their need to change, the organization took on an initiative according to the approach described above. The objective was not just to adopt marketing automation, but to develop and establish a lead management process to get the most out of their technology investment.  As part of this approach they determined that marketing and sales would work together to jointly develop the process including:

  • Lead definitions
  • Qualification criteria
  • Scoring models
  • Lead nurturing process
  • Lead routing rules – including SLA’s and Business Rules

Mission Accomplished – Benefits Realized

As a result of taking a process-based approach supported by marketing automation, the company has achieved extraordinary results.  Where once sales and marketing were on opposite sides of the divide, it is now a collaborative environment and both groups are aligned (alignment is not the problem, but a symptom of lack of process).  This company has achieved the following:


–       Sales conversions increase by 22%

–       Marketing measurement put in place and ability to use the intelligence from these metrics to define future programs

–       Marketing programs increased overall revenue by over 10%

–       Over 300% increase in qualified leads sent to sales

This is just one example of an organization has vastly improved its sales and marketing processes and matured as an organization. The processes developed jointly with sales continue to pay off and improve the bottom line.

Art Gives Way to Science

In the 90’s we saw CRM vendors storm the B2B sales landscape with promises of a better aligned sales team and increased revenues.  Sales groups who were having issues keeping track of their customers, building relationships and managing the sales cycle bought into the hype.  CRM technology became the battle cry of vendors and customers alike claiming that with the addition of a CRM solution, their sales would increase, quotas would be attained and the relationship with the customer would be enhanced.  However, once implemented, companies realized the same issues that plagued their sales staff before, still existed and in some instances were even worse as the adoption of technology added to present complexities.

So what are we to learn from the mistakes of the past and what should we take from the promises of marketing automation of the future?  We know that technology in and of itself is a solution, but it’s only half of the solution.  For companies that want to get the most from their marketing and sales organizations, they need understand that without a defined and implemented process, they will struggle to get the most from their technology investment.


Carlos Hidalgo is President of The Annuitas Group, a leader in marketing and sales process development, implementation and automation. With over 25 years experience, The Annuitas Group has developed marketing and sales processes and lead management programs for companies of all sizes helping their clients vastly improve the return on their marketing and sales investment.

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