Despite the clear benefits the tools have realized for early adopters, lead management automation solutions are still being utilized by a relatively small segment of the population. In the new Forrester Research Report titled, “B2B Lead Management Automation Market Overview,” the analyst firm estimates that market penetration to date is low, with between 2% and 5% of BtoB firms having invested in full-featured Lead Management Automation (LMA).
DemandGen Report had the opportunity to learn why the category was underachieving despite its promise in a recent discussion with Laura Ramos, VP & Principal Analyst at Forrester, and author of the report. Ramos indicated that companies have been slow to adopt due to the following factors: Heated competition battling to grab share, market confusion and because a standard marketing platform has yet to emerge.
Assessing the facets of adoption, Ramos expanded on what is holding organizations back, the grand debate about how to get sales & marketing operating collaboratively, and what factors to consider when implementing new technology. Here are the highlights of the discussion with Ramos:
DemandGen Report: The report highlights low adoption rate for lead management solutions (2-5%), do you feel this number will take off in the coming years? What kind of growth curve would you project?
Laura Ramos: I think the growth curve will rise gradually over the next one or two years until the early adopters of this technology become an early majority, then growth will take off. BtoB marketers adopt the technology, but there isn’t a wealth of best practices—for lead scoring, customer profiling, and lead nurturing programs—or them to draw upon, and this holds adoption back more than a lack of technical capability.
The real risk to growth is market consolidation. Right now it seems the vendors are more concerned with taking business away from each other than building a vibrant, social community of BtoB lead management professionals who use their technology creatively to boost pipelines and raise marketing’s stature as a major part of the business.
DGR: Will marketing automation become as prevalent as SFA, where it is really a must have for BtoB firms?
Ramos: I think lead management automation will become part of a broader marketing automation platform that includes campaign design and execution, budgeting/planning, analytics, demand management, and monitoring/reporting. BtoB and BtoC will require separate, specific features due to the fundamental differences in how business buyers and consumers purchase.
I don’t know that marketing automation will become as prevalent as SFA until marketing automation providers figure out a way to price their systems based on the value the systems deliver. SFA has the advantage of user-based pricing – the more salespeople you have, the more you pay per person. It’s easy to charge and discount on a user model. Marketing automation doesn’t deliver value on a per user basis, but on a programmatic one. But every marketing program is different—or uses different tactics/approaches— so how do you build repeatability into that kind of model?
DGR: The report also points to the fact that vendor consolidation in this space is currently cluttered with so many different options. When do you see that consolidation starting and how will it ultimately shape the landscape?
Ramos: I see it starting now. Look at Adobe’s recent acquisition of Ominiture.
I think it’s hard to predict how the landscape will shape up because Forrester’s research shows that marketers want a consolidated, enterprise marketing platform, but one has yet to emerge. Much of marketing automation gets overshadowed by the SFA and CRM/customer support markets. When taken as a whole—enterprise, consumer, field, international, demand generation, branding, product definition, sales support, etc.—marketing is a very broad discipline and very difficult to automate entirely.
DGR: One of the key areas the report focuses on is lead capture, profiling and scoring. Can you expand on why these features are so critical and if they should influence the solution a company chooses?
Ramos: You can’t manage demand if you don’t have a way of measuring the impact marketing has on leads and pipeline. Profiling automates your ability to observe changes in buyer behavior and the impact marketing activity has on demand long before sales forecasts these opportunities in the pipeline. Lead scoring adds more precision to decisions about which leads to pursue and which to nurture. Both help marketing understand whether their messaging and programs have the desired effect on the audiences they want to reach and whether this audience is getting engaged in the sales process.
Absolutely should influence the solution a company chooses: these are essential features of lead management automation.
DGR: The report talks about the importance of dialogue tools that nurture leads that are NOT ready to purchase. As BtoB companies adopt lead nurturing, what are some of the best practices you recommend and should this consideration influence the solution they adopt?
Ramos: Nurturing is the most underdeveloped part of lead management. It can take on many forms from simple “stay in touch” campaigns to programs that accelerate buyers through the purchase process based offer response or event triggers.
Knowing your how your target buyers buy, what influences their purchase decisions, and how to build online dialog around the buyers journey are key best practices that few marketers have deep experience or track records of accomplishing successfully.
Again, absolutely should influence the solution a company chooses: these are essential features of lead management automation.
DGR: One of the ever-present challenges is how to get sales and marketing on the same page. What are some of the best ways to do achieve this alignment and how can some of the existing solutions help achieve this goal?
Ramos: Start by working on the definition of a qualified lead. If marketing and sales can get on the same page on this subject, the battle is half over. Determining which criteria—and the relative importance of these criteria—are part of building a solid lead scoring model. But this model is very difficult to get correct the first time, so sales and marketing must work together to iterate on the model. This process creates better alignment between marketing and sales because it turns subjective arguments about lead quality into objective measures and factors that sales can critique, and marketing can adjust, without resorting to interdepartmental fighting.
DGR: Considering the crowded field of solution providers and the resulting confusion among buyers, what are some of the factors to consider when choosing a vendor?
Ramos: Most BtoB marketing buyers see vendors as tool providers only. They don’t see vendors invest in their future success, although I think this is happening as the market matures. Marketers who make it through their second year of lead management automation tell me that getting the right implementation and best practices support from their vendor is key to their success. Relatively speaking, few people know how to really make lead management work well, and getting your marketing team access to your vendor’s top experts should be a major consideration when selecting a technology provider.