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Marketing Technology Process Assessments

Forrester Research introduced a framework for assessing lead management maturity and examined how business marketers today stack up against the model. In a recent study, they looked closer at the role that technology plays in supporting lead management success, and uncovered the following insights.

B2B marketers try to leverage sales-centered systems to manage leads. Eighty-five percent of these B2B marketers use or plan to use sales force automation (SFA) systems to manage leads. Unfortunately, this approach rarely works. SFA applications are transactional systems that do little to help marketing slice and dice customer data, drive targeted messages, track responses, and qualify prospects.

Clearly, the adoption of marketing-specific applications lags. To compensate for the challenges related to driving marketing programs from sales systems, half of B2B firms have now built marketing databases to help them better understand customer and prospect behavior. But, less than a one third use applications -- like lead management and marketing automation -- that leverage these databases to define and automate targeted marketing communications.

That said, firms with mature lead management practices use technology more. B2B marketers who say that lead quality tops their list of lead management priorities are more likely to invest in marketing technology. In fact, 54 percent of the firms they identified with mature lead management practices employ specialized applications that help them manage, nurture, score, and route leads -- this is compared with only 15 percent of less mature firms.

Examples of these software applications include Aprimo's Lead Manager, Eloqua's Conversion Suite, and Market2Lead's M2L Gold Edition. The leading companies are also significantly more likely to use technologies like business intelligence and marketing automation. Why? Because these technologies help them understand customer and prospect behavior and identify and nurture leads more efficiently.

What sets apart the firms Forrester identified with mature lead management practices? Their ability to harness software to not only help drive demand, but also to understand customers and prospects more intimately, engage them and deepen relationships, and accurately align communications with their buying cycle.

I believe that Forrester's findings maps very well with my own experience of working with clients. Automating poorly defined lead management processes is a recipe for failure. To make marketing technology investments pay off in higher quality leads and higher percentage conversions, B2B marketers must start by standardizing data capture processes and building out contact information profiles consistently. With this foundation in place, B2B marketers can then employ marketing-specific technologies.

The lesson learned; successful marketing technology deployments are based upon a foundation of understanding people, process and technology -- specifically in that order.

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