When I explain the concept of a “lead management framework,” it sounds so simple: Enterprises can drive more revenue by using a codified Marketing and Sales system. In other words, there is a concrete system that everyone follows: Marketing does its part by driving and nurturing leads through a demand generation funnel, and Sales knows just when to come in and contact that prospect. Together, everyone follows a proven, effective system based on data and market research.

If only it were that easy. The truth is that many B2B enterprises haven’t pulled together any real data or market research to start with. They lack clarity on who their buyers are, how they make decisions, and when they are ready to make a purchase. This ends up with a lot of guessing – and guessing isn’t the best way to generate revenue, especially if Marketing and Sales are making radically different assumptions.

If this is the case in your organization, you’re far from alone. The once predictable, sales-centered buyer journey has changed dramatically, and most companies are cutting corners to keep up. Being dependent on misaligned Sales and Marketing funnels is an expensive mistake. Instead, you need a properly mapped out lead management framework based on more than just a “hunch.”

Here are some of the most frequent missteps organizations make when developing their demand generation funnel and lead management frameworks. With just a bit of foundational work, your business can be miles ahead of those who fail to do these 5 things:

Mistake #1: You haven’t defined a “lead” within your organization

In many organizations, the terms Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), and Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) are only used in quarterly reports and board meetings. On the ground, Sales still uses the generic term “lead” to refer to someone who is sales-ready, while Marketing defines a “lead” as anyone who offers contact information.

Your definition of a “lead” should not change from department to department. Codifying the buyer journey and clarifying the value of each prospect by using the same terms across your organization is critical. This will allow you to build a Sales and Marketing funnel that provides actionable insights instead of each department cherry-picking results.

Mistake #2: Your lead management framework only considers net new customers (even though returning buyers have significantly better ROI)

Does your company consider potential returning customers as “leads”? It should. Even though many demand generation funnels focus solely on net new customers, nurturing returning customers is the real revenue driver for most B2B businesses.

For example, a B2B hardware company could send a sample of a new product to buyers who have made a bulk order in the past. This outreach effort turns the recipient from a dormant former buyer into a potential current or future buyer; in other words, they are now a lead. The process of then moving these recipients from a lead through to opportunity and sale should be codified within the same framework and tracked with clearly defined KPIs. This will ensure that you are building a revenue engine  that drives sales from all prospects, whether they are net new or returning customers.

Mistake #3: Your buyer personas are outdated (or don’t exist at all)

It seems simple enough: To properly sell to someone, you need to know who that “someone” is and how they make a buying decision.

Unfortunately, many enterprises underthink what’s happening on the other side of the computer screen when developing landing pages and nurture sequences. Their strategies focus on their own products and services rather than the customer, producing generic messaging and unsegmented targeting. While some Marketing and Sales teams may have clarified the businesses they are selling to, many fail to identify the buying units within those businesses.

Your lead management framework should be based around talking to the right people at the right time with the right messages. For that to happen, identifying the “who” and “when” for your audience is of critical importance. Before building and refining your framework, you should take the time to do the groundwork – figure out who you’re talking to, how buying units work together (because B2B buying decisions typically involve many influencers), and what messaging makes them tick. From there, you can map out when in the buyer journey to send out certain messages to key stakeholders, pushing them through the demand generation funnel so they’re ready for Sales. This will create a solid foundation on which your lead management framework can stand.

Mistake #4: Assumptions about your buyers haven’t been validated

Defining your buyer personas and buyer journeys isn’t just a matter of talking to sales staff and recording their subjective observations about who’s buying and how. Sure, internal teams can offer insights into your best customers, but if you fail to follow up on their ideas, your strategy can miss the mark.

Don’t spend the time and money building a lead management framework on a faulty foundation. Look at sales data to validate what’s working. Use predictive analytics to identify new potential markets. Review market research and conduct focus groups to clarify how buyers think and act in your industry. In short, make sure you’re on the right track before codifying anything. Outside data and expertise will help you understand your buyers and contextualize the observations of internal staff.

Of course, this preparation won’t tell you everything you need to know about your audience. The only way to truly understand whether your audience will respond to a campaign is to try it out in a controlled, measured way. This brings us to our next point…

Mistake #5: Not testing your lead management framework

You’ve done the groundwork: clarified a “lead” within your teams, developed buyer personas, and validated how people will likely move through your funnel. At this point, many businesses are anxious to go full steam ahead and roll out the lead management framework across all verticals.

Not so fast. The most critical validation of your personas and revenue systems won’t come from predictive analytics and focus groups; it will come from testing and refining your system one step at a time by trying it out with real people. Start by releasing a single nurture sequence aligned to one key vertical or product. After you see what works and what doesn’t work, you can adjust accordingly and start rolling your newly defined system out to different personas, measuring the buyer journey along the way.

As markets shift and your company matures, you will need to continue adjusting your system to keep up with buyer expectations. Codifying your “trial and error” system will allow you to take calculated risks to improve your framework quarter after quarter. This will make it possible to move in the right direction over the long-term.

How to Keep Your Revenue Engine Performing Well Over Time

Your lead management framework shouldn’t just work today – it needs to work next quarter, next year, and beyond. Done correctly, it should even improve over time (after all, you’ll be testing and improving it as time goes on!).

To ensure this happens, I recommend leveraging your Marketing Operations and Sales Operations departments. Marketing and Sales Operations can own reporting and oversee your Marketing and Sales platform, meaning they’ll make sure everything is rolling through your marketing automation and CRM smoothly. They’ll offer an unbiased perspective on performance, check that all forms and sequences are in working order, and keep departments aligned around one central plan.

I also recommend taking steps to continually validate your systems. This can include developing a relationship with an external Marketing Operations consultant like MASS Engines, building an internal steering committee, and keeping market research partners engaged. Staying on track and testing over time will ultimately maximize growth for your business.

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