Sunday, August 29, 2010

Demand Generation Essential for Effective Lead Management in Banking

One of the biggest challenges facing small business bankers, mortgage loan officers, corporate bankers and trust officers is the ability to keep pipelines filled with qualified, sales ready leads. While marketing may execute programs that feed the funnel at the top, sales teams within the bank are still tasked with determining which leads are qualified and nurturing these leads in an environment where buyer behavior is less predictable and the evaluation of alternatives is being done more and more online and through social media.

In many cases, bank marketing and sales team are executing with conflicting strategies while working toward a common goal of generating sales. Leads are often provided by marketing before they are 'sales-ready', while sales is accused of not closing enough leads generated by marketing. This creates departmental conflict and lower sales team engagement due to the expectation of poor lead quality. In most cases, if a lead is not immediately sales-ready, no nurturing of the lead ev ntakes place resulting in program failures.

To address this challenge, many B2B sales organizations in and out of the financial services vertical have turned to technology based Demand Generation solutions, building repeatable processes that effectively manage more interactions using expanded communications channels to attract, educate and qualify a prospect. While not very familiar with this marketing capability in the past, my company's acquisition of Protocol Integrated Marketing Services late last year has allowed me to learn a great deal more about the benefits of this process from a team that are leaders in the field.

The benefits of a Demand Generation process include:
  • Tired of arguments between marketing and sales regarding the effectiveness of marketing programs, Demand Generation uses an orderly, scaleable and consistent manner to determine if a lead is qualified and ready to buy. This allows for a quicker response to market opportunities and actionable metrics.
  • Demand Generation helps to make marketing efforts more effective and repeatable since the lead management process follows a consistent pattern. This results in an improved opportunity-to-pipeline conversion, deal velocity and revenue stream.
  • At a time when large sales are more complex than ever, take a longer time to progress, involve multiple decision makers and may need significant nurturing, Demand Generation helps manage the communication process, building trust through dialogue.
  • Demand Generation replaces spray-and-pray approaches like blanket postal or emailing with campaigns aimed at invigorating stale contacts, reducing churn, or winning back defectors - programs that couldn’t run efficiently without automating customer profiling and outreach.
In short, Demand Generation shortens the time and improves the efficiency of B2B sales efforts from program implementation to close. Additional benefits from the process include the identification of the decision maker(s), the problem(s) they are trying to solve for, the most likely decision time frame, and the investment they are willing to make before the lead gets passed to the business developer.

Finally, for those prospects that do not have identifiable 'pains', are not ready to buy, or fail to purchase the financial product or service expected, they are fed back into the sales pipeline for ongoing communication and nurturing.

Marketing still has an important responsibility to develop relevant, multichannel content to feed the lead qualification and nurturing process and stimulate dialogue. Without this content, the Demand Generation engine will slow to a stop since there is no value in continuing engagement from the prospect's perspective. But done well,  a strong Demand Generation process optimizes marketing's impact on sales and helps eliminate waste.

Does your bank have a centralized Demand Generation process to develop, manage and score leads? Is the process automated, with results shared between marketing and sales organizations at your bank? What has been the impact of this process on your sales results?

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