Observation Deck

Lead Management Reimagined

Is it time for your business to step up and implement a lead management automation and analytics system?

Technology is bringing countless new opportunities to engage both the HME/DME provider as well as the consumer, while yielding new brand-building and engagement methodologies that previously were the stuff of dreams. Converting more leads to sales opportunities, and increasing sales was our primary objective in 2015 as we elected to obtain and customize a lead management automation system and methodology.

Lead management automation brings a lot to a business-to-business (B2B) manufacturer/marketer, such as Harmar, and I wanted to share what we’ve learned, because these business lessons are universal. Not only have the channels increased, but buyer behavior has dramatically changed. Buyers now spend much more time online researching, engaging digitally with vendors, and evaluating offerings from Harmar and our competitors. This all happens, typically, before any person-to-person sales engagement occurs. Online is where prospective buyers will indicate that there is a sales opportunity and tell you what their distinct business issues are — and often, it’s the first time they engage with a vendor.

Our challenge is to listen to what they say and, in return, deliver relevant content. Being capable of having meaningful, two-way conversations with your prospective customers is critical in grabbing and keeping interest throughout the buying cycle. As a B2B marketing organization that sells mobility and accessibility solutions and services (e.g. install and service plans), Harmar elected to invest in in predictive analytics to evaluate customers’ propensity to buy, to create analytical segmentation and to provide cross-channel optimization. We’ve identified multiple applications for analytics within our own organization. The insight gained by these analytics have optimized our contact strategy and marketing ROI calculations. Whereas we used to dispatch new content to our channels quarterly, we now do so once a week!

The creation of a digital marketplace for Harmar’s best dealers to transact online sales 24/7 and to entice the consumer to come, feel, touch and buy the product that fits their needs, is a novel competency that we feel can augment the existing business models of many dealers.

There are many dependencies that determine success. Content is critical; it’s especially imperative that it be developed in sync with the buying cycle. Scalability is also a challenge. Lead management automation requires a degree of process maturity that Harmar simply didn’t possess. We expended a great deal of capital and sweat equity, and a few swings and misses to get it right. A few key lessons:

Developing Multichannel Campaign Management

Digital channels continue to multiply at a pace that is unsustainable for mid-size businesses like Harmar to manage. Technology and process play a significant part in successful deployment, interaction and analysis of communications across multiple channels. Managing the multiple-touch-point digital environment is becoming more and more of a challenge. Our target audiences are everywhere.

In the past, we were fragmented, with no scoring or automation mechanism. This led to some assumption-based marketing, delayed follow-ups and no real understanding of what the customer was looking for. By modifying our lead management automation framework within Salesforce.com (our CRM system), we can now connect, score, profile and automate the next logical communication across an array of digital channels.

Marketing Automation

Previously, we had no way to automate simple decision processes. Now, we have the capability to utilize complex interaction management across multiple channels. Done right, this framework can facilitate the management of an explosion of channels – web, social media, mobile, tablet, search and more to come. My ever-present challenge to our marketing vice president of, “what is marketing ROI?” can now be answered regularly, allowing us to nimbly integrate and re-deploy campaigns and budgets!

In 2016, we’re pursuing further improvements, namely a model that will allow us to determine the business impact of a number of channel investment decisions. This is fueled by the insights gained from our lead automation system into buyer behavior, such as showing a candidate’s propensity to buy vs. propensity to leave. We expect this model will evidence higher precision in our lead-to-salesopportunity conversion.

This year, we anticipate being able to forecast how these conversions will affect downstream revenue. Our sales and marketing teams are deeply linked, buoyed by the knowledge that the ‘loudest voice and most seniority’ no longer carry the day. Our lead management system allows more rigorous reporting for sales and marketing, allowing for real-time modifications and improved customer interactions.

One of biggest challenges was getting non-sales and marketing executives onboard. Should you consider lead management automation for your company, start with organizational awareness. Executives understand the need for analytics and the competitive advantage it brings to the table, but they will still ask why processes need to change and how technology will work to achieve company goals.

Make progress, but don’t expect perfection. Remember (and set the expectation early on) that you are building a foundation for future success. There will always be room for improvement and change. However, having this technology foundation in place will make you more agile when change is required in the future. To wit, Harmar’s lead management automation process has yielded a 17 percent increase in our lead-to-new-sales conversion rate since implementation. Further, clickthrough rates soared from 3 to 16 percent, while response rates doubled.

Today, Harmar’s customer engagement continuum runs from social to mobile to the Web. We believe we’re in the position to listen to our customers like never before. The improvement in our data and processes improve, linked to customer interactions, provide a cornerstone for engaging both dealers and consumers and engaging them appropriately for selling and retention.

This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Drew McCartney is president and CEO of Sarasota, Fla.-based Harmar (www.harmar.com), which manufacturers a range of auto lifts, stair lifts, platform lifts, pool lifts and related accessories for a variety of uses ranging from mobility patients to seniors.

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