Lead management describes a marketing approach to the strategic and targeted acquisition of new customers. The term encompasses all measures and processes – for example in the areas of inbound marketing, content marketing and marketing automation – that serve to turn anonymous prospects into contactable leads and develop them into customers. The decisive aspect here is the collection of personal data, on the basis of which marketing sends a lead further information – usually by e-mail – and thus guides him step by step through the customer journey to the purchase or conclusion of the contract. The lead management process consists of four or five phases, depending on the initial model: target and target group definition (optional or upstream in some models), lead generation, lead nurturing, lead scoring and lead routing. Other authors also add the lead analysis and lead reporting phases to the lead management process.
The Phases of Lead Management
Once the lead record has gone through the lead management process of marketing, there is a qualified sales opportunity for the company. This is where the interface between the marketing process and the sales process is located.
Lead generation is the first stage in the lead management process. If this is subjected to an end-to-end view, it represents the entire path of a contact from an unknown member of the target group to a potential customer. Accordingly, the process begins with the first contact between a consumer and the company. Lead generation is intended to achieve the goal of transforming the contact into a returning consumer of the media offer via appealing content and generating the customer’s data by exchanging qualitative content. By exchanging data, contacts become leads. Marketing automation simplifies lead generation for businesses. In addition, the use enables the processing of data volumes that could not be processed manually in the same time.
Leads can be generated on different channels, both digital and analog. This is where the exchange of contact data takes place. Companies can use the following types of lead generation:
- Outdoor lead generation
- Telephone lead generation
- Online lead generation
- Print lead generation
The incoming expressions of interest of the contacts, which were obtained in the lead generation phase, must be systematically recorded for a structured preparation. Priority is given to recording the interaction channel on which the corresponding expression of interest was received. If this has been done via an online touchpoint, the data set is already digital, and all analogue ways of expressing interest must subsequently be converted into digital data. In the lead entry, all data regarding the channels through which a contact was made is thus collected. Leads that have passed through the lead capture phase are therefore data sets that contain information about the contact, the interaction channel and the potentially existing customer relationship.
Lead qualification is used to provide information to interested parties. A lead that enters the sales process should have previously gone through a qualification process in which it was determined which topics the contact is interested in. By providing diverse content, it is possible to qualify the interested party to such an extent that he or she feels the need to talk to the sales department specifically about the company’s performance. This goal is achieved through the use of the flywheel or marketing funnel. This is intended to successively channel leads by enriching them with information to such an extent that customers willing to buy are filtered out of the total number of interested parties. A lead should have already reached a corresponding level of qualification or maturity when it is handed over to sales. In this phase, data sets can be distinguished between “Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)” and “Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)”. Marketing Qualified Leads represent customer records with a willingness to receive further marketing information. Sales Qualified Leads also stand for data sets where a conversion, i.e. a sale, is imminent.
Lead scoring refers to an approach in the marketing approach of the lead management process in which potential customers of a company are classified on the basis of a scale. The result is the assessment of the willingness to buy of potential customers for the company. The value determined in this way indicates the sales priority with which a customer is to be processed. Lead scoring is often used to transfer a potential customer from marketing to sales during lead transfer. It thus forms the basis for lead nurturing.
The final stage of the lead management process is lead transfer. In this, the leads that have such a high sales opportunity and thus offer sales potential for the company are forwarded to the corresponding sales organizations. The data sets passed on, which are made available to the sales department, are provided with a high value for the company through the entire process, since the interest of the contact has been proven several times and in increasing detail.