For marketing professionals, spreadsheets and emails are our lifeblood. We create and track our marketing plans, forward leads to sales, plan tradeshows and keep customer lists – all with Excel and our favorite email client. Excel is convenient and flexible, but the truth is that it’s also antiquated and error-prone. Managing your marketing programs this way is inefficient and doesn’t give you the visibility that you need to make the right decisions.
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Let’s take a simple example. Sales have been declining for one of your most profitable product lines. You suspect that the issue is not competition or fundamental demand for the product, but instead is a pipeline build issue. Sales may be chasing existing opportunities, but no one is trying to identify new prospects. You step up and put in place a lead generation program. You put out a direct email promotion, hire an agency to do cold calling, and even generate some press coverage.
You then start to track the leads coming in using a spreadsheet. You have some idea where they are coming from, so that is good. You then send them off to sales, and that is the last that you ever hear of them. How do you know which of the channels you selected are delivering the best leads – not quantity, but quality? For that matter, how do you know if your efforts are translating into sales at all? You might see an uptick in sales volumes, but for all you know, that could be because it is getting close to end of quarter, and sales are starting to approve deep discounts to make the numbers.
This is where process automation can help. Companies such as idatix.com provide workflow management software that can give you visibility of exactly how your marketing programs are performing, and also allow you to streamline your marketing processes.
Let’s revisit that lead generation program. Instead of having someone take calls and manually record them in a spreadsheet, you set up the workflow management software so that they can record the details in a simple form. Once they do this, the workflow management system automatically dispatches the lead to the right salesperson, using configurable rules based on things such as the territory and industry segment. This is only an example – a workflow management system can be configured to route information based on any criteria that you want.
Of course, the workflow management system could route leads automatically simply by sending an email to the proper salesperson. Unfortunately, if it does this, you will lose visibility in just the same way that you did by following a manual process. However, if your sales team uses a CRM system such as salesforce.com, then the workflow management system can be configured to insert the lead into the system and automatically notify the salesperson that this is being done. Now, you have the lead directly linked to the subsequent sales process.
What this enables you to do is to track the progress of the sale resulting from the lead. For example, a sales management system will typically track the sale through a number of qualification and closing stages, recording things such as percentage probability of closure at various points, the outcome of the sales process, and how long the sales cycle took. Now you can trace an individual lead right through its conclusion. You can do this directly from the workflow management system itself, provided that you choose one that includes data management capabilities – such as iDatix.
Of course, you are in marketing – you’re not running the sales team. The last thing you want to do is to track every single sales opportunity. However, what a workflow management system will let you do is to analyze that sales data in order to extract statistical information. For example, you could get information such as which lead generation channels are most effective for specific industries, or which channels result in the highest percentage of closed sales, or even which channels give the shortest sales cycles. This is the type of information that you can use to measure the success of your programs, and to optimize them going forward.
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Tracking the effectiveness of lead generation is only one example of what you can do with these types of systems. The point is that you can drive and track end-to-end processes across multiple business systems – not just sales management– to give you visibility of the impact of your marketing efforts. You can also use these systems to correlate and analyze all of your existing marketing data – including emails and spreadsheets – unleashing its true value.