This week we were joined by Kevin Brown, co-founder and CEO of LeadSmart Technologies. LeadSmart is a SaaS company that creates and connects company CRM with Marketing Automation and Channel Management so that leads don’t fall down a “black hole” between the marketing and sales departments.

A lot of manufacturing marketers can be so focused on lead generation that they lose sight of what comes next. Getting big numbers from trade shows or online campaigns isn’t your sole goal. Your organization could collect hundreds or even thousands of leads, but that could be money wasted if you don’t solve lead execution issues you might have.

1. WHAT CAUSES THIS “BLACK HOLE LEAD CRISIS”?

If there’s one thing we discuss a lot on this show, it’s the disconnect between marketing departments, sales teams, and distributors. But, of course, that’s because it’s still a prevalent problem in many businesses. And it’s a huge deal.

Marketing works hard to generate as many leads as they possibly can. But then they hear nothing but crickets from the sales team, or the distributors. When they finally reach out to see if anything came of those leads, they might hear, “Oh, those leads weren’t that great,” and that’s that. Then when the next trade show or digital campaign comes around, the vicious cycle continues.

This can be an especially big problem if you’re a manufacturer who’s outsourcing marketing to an outside agency. Connecting your generated leads to any generated revenue may be the make-or-break reason to renew their contract for another year.

“If I’m an industrial manufacturer, and I hire a lead generation organization, but I can’t execute on those leads, and turn those leads into revenue, how long am I going to stay working with that agency? The agency could be performing perfectly, bar none. There’s no issues with what that agency’s doing. But if I don’t have the ability to put that through my network, and turn those leads into dollars, how long am I going to keep that group around?”

If you’re struggling to prove out viable ROI from marketing campaigns, lead generation might not always be the source of the problem. It may be that you need to solve lead execution issues to streamline the handoff of potential clients between your marketing department, sales teams, and distributors.

2. WHERE DO LEAD EXECUTION ISSUES STEM FROM?

Before helping to found LeadSmart Technologies, Kevin worked in B2B as both a distributor rep and then also a manufacturer’s rep. He first grew aware of this “black hole” during his work sorting leads and passing them on to the proper distributors.

However, in 2003, he left those positions and invested in a manufacturing company. Suddenly the company’s lead generation tactics were funded by his dollars. That was when he realized he needed to close the gap and solve lead execution issues to make those marketing investments worthwhile.

“Now I was the guy that was paying the bill to go to the trade show, generate all the leads, sending them out to my manufacturer’s reps, and got them onto the distributor, and I had to deal with the black hole. And now the black hole was my money!”

With the help of his previous experience, Kevin narrowed down these lead execution issues to two main sources. The first source is uneducated and unqualified leads. The second is uneducated (or just busy) distributors.

It’s not enough just to collect leads in a CRM and then hand them off to the next department. Those potential buyers may not yet be qualified for a sale. Additionally, you may be handing them off to somebody who already has their hands full. Major challenges faced by independent sales reps or distributors are another topic our show has addressed before. How can your reps know if each individual that you send to them will be worth a heavy time investment?

3. HOW CAN YOU SOLVE LEAD EXECUTION ISSUES AND BRIDGE THE GAP?

One clear step to dealing with your black hole lead crisis is to make sure leads are sales-qualified before immediately passing them off to your reps. That means building out standard qualifications within your CRM or marketing automation to identify and tag leads according to their location within the sales funnel. And if they’re not qualified, then you should nurture and educate them until they show signs that they’re “ripe,” and ready for sales.

Offering those campaign and nurture materials as resources for your distributors can help them, too. It gives them tools to educate both themselves and their prospects. Additionally, it means less work for them because they don’t have to spend extra time creating those resources.

“Everybody’s clamoring for our time. Your phone’s probably buzzed TEN times in the time we’ve talked, mine’s been doing the same, everybody wants our attention… If you have a great product, that’s wonderful, but you still need to keep everyone’s attention. And you still need to stay top-of-mind with them, so that they’re out talking about your product.”

There’s another reason why nurturing the leads yourself, at least in the beginning, is a good idea. Investing more time into qualifying those leads will cause your distributors to pay attention when you finally do make the handoff.

“You don’t want to just be top-of-mind with your customer and your end user. You want to be top-of-mind with your distribution partners. And if you can be top-of-mind with both of those, you win, because your distributor’s going to be more engaged, because he sees what you’re doing with his customer (the end-user). So he would be remiss not to give you the attention, because he knows that you are killing it with the content that you’re developing: video, email, whatever… If you are top-of-mind with the end user, and you’re doing similar outreach to your distribution network, you win.”

 

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