Mastering the Lead Lifecycle

The lead lifecycle is a series of stages that a prospect and the marketer go through before a prospect becomes a customer.

The four broad stages include gaining the prospect’s attention, convincing the prospect of an unmet need, increasing prospect engagement in the form of researching a solution for that need and, finally, the prospect taking action.

From the marketer’s perspective, the progression of people through the lead lifecycle resembles a funnel: the numbers naturally dwindle as prospects progress from one stage to the next as you identify the most ideal fits. However, let’s get one thing straight: the prospect pool that a marketer nurtures should extend well beyond that of the traditional “marketing funnel.” Leads come from all sources. Limiting the nurtured prospect pool to that of what stems from marketing efforts is a limiting view. We should be looking at lead nurturing as a continuous lifecycle.

Overall success depends on setting the right rules and expectations. When creating prospect nurturing campaigns, you should be scoring their profiles to identify who the ideal fits are. You should also be tracking their activity as they move through the various stages of the customer lifecycle to ensure that the messages you’re sending them are truly targeted and relevant. Ensuring that your prospect pool remains as targeted and well-defined as possible is the end goal – ideally, we want the ratio of qualified prospects that show interest compared to the ratio of the prospects who become customers to remain as close as possible. The reality is, only a few marketers actually achieve this feat.

The root problem lies in improper application of metrics.

Most markets track response and call to action factors such as likes, views, downloads and clicks. This is significant as supplemental information and is easy to track, but it does not indicate whether a prospect is truly progressing through the lifecycle as a soon-to-be buyer. There are many other important variables. Optimizing the lead lifecycle process requires incorporating a broad range of other metrics, especially those pertaining to marketing and sales performance, through each stage of the lead lifecycle.

Metrics like cost per marketing qualified leads, cost per sales accepted leads, sales cycle time, the ratio of sales qualified leads to closed deals etc. all help the marketer to gain better perspective. It’s hard to put a finger on a one size fits all solution, or a set of recommended metrics, because every business has a slightly different model and, thus, needs a tailored strategy. In general terms, the more you can align marketing and sales measurements, the more successful your organization be will in generating revenue. What’s important is to measure the right metrics: metrics that provide visibility, accountability and explicitly show what works and does not work for each stage of the customer lifecycle.

Another mistake is measuring performance by revenue alone. Apart from revenue, the metrics should ideally identify bottlenecks and opportunities and strive to identify the best engagement mode for each buyer.