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Marketing analytics used to simply be about measuring the hits on your website and the number of opens and clicks on emails. But as marketers we know that the times are changing.

For one, the buy cycle (how your prospects buy) has changed because of the vast amount of information now available on the Internet; in turn, we have been forced to change the way we market products and services. Accordingly, the analytics and metrics that we use to track and evaluate marketing programs must change, too.

Of course, that's not to say website pageviews are unimportant or that you shouldn't track clickthrough on email. But those metrics are no longer the end point; instead, they are merely the beginning of real marketing analytics.

Today, marketers must find a way to manage leads through the lead life cycle, which requires visibility into how you drive, track, and evaluate leads, and it requires the ability to determine when leads are "Sales-ready" and when they are not.

In addition, marketers must take responsibility for nurturing leads that are not "Sales-ready," in order to maximize the value of what they've spent on their lead-generation dollars.

In fact, some industry benchmarks suggest that leads must be continuously "touched" before they close. Around 80% of leads close only after five contacts; in some cases, that number is closer to 9-11 touches.

If as a marketer you are assuming that the value of your lead-generation dollars comes from just one email blast or a month of AdWords buys, then you're not on the right track to understanding how to increase the value. In contrast, nurturing leads (through multiple contacts or touches) as part of your lead-generation programs will increase the return of your lead-generation dollars.

Determining Real Marketing Analytics

So how do you enable your organization to increase the value of its lead-generation dollars, start tracking metrics it hasn't before, and gain total visibility into the leads that you are generating? Marketers need to incorporate systems and processes in order to help them do so. We aren't suggesting huge and overwhelming efforts. Some simple things can be done, little by little, to help give you visibility into real marketing analytics.

Lead-management systems—automation created specifically for marketing departments—are becoming more prevalent in helping marketers to drive qualified leads. These systems can also give marketers visibility into real marketing analytics—those connected to the fundamentals of the business.

What are the analytics that can be gained by marketing organizations through these types of lead-management systems? Let's discuss that via an example of a lead-generation campaign:

Let's say you launch an email campaign. First, you are going to want to track how much money was spent, how many emails were sent, to whom they were sent (the specific market segments), and what the returns were.

Let's now look at the metrics that should be visible and evaluated throughout the process.

Assuming that the email campaign went out to 10,000 people, what should we measure and how should we measure to maximize our lead-generation dollars?

  • We need to measure how many people clicked (opened the email and clicked on one or more of the links).
  • We should measure which links were most popular, if there were multiple links in the email.
  • We should measure how many of the clicks that went to the landing page actually converted (e.g., filled in a form to get something—product demo, trial, whitepaper).

The next phase of marketing analytics depends on your process and your ability to manage and track leads. If you pass all conversions over to Sales and that works for your organization, then the rest of this article is probably not for you. But that also means none of the real marketing analytics has been tracked yet and made visible. Conversely, if you take leads, score them based on their behavior or demographic information (or both), then you are in a good position to determine which leads are "sales ready" and which aren't.

So let's say you've implemented a lead-management system that allows the leads coming in from the campaign to be scored automatically. What's next? What metrics do we need to track to understand how we are doing?

Of the leads that filled in the form (conversions), how many were scored and passed on to Sales and how many stayed in the marketing bucket for further nurturing? That information could tell us how well targeted our email campaign was—in other words, how many of the people we targeted fit our lead profile. To learn more...

  • We'll need to track the number of "Sales-ready" leads passed to Sales per campaign.
  • We'll need to track how many of the "Sales-ready" leads became qualified opportunities.
  • We'll also want to determine how many of the qualified opportunities became actual sales and for how much revenue.
  • Finally, there needs to be a round trip between the CRM system and the lead-management system. In other words, how many sales and how much revenue were attributed to that campaign?

For the leads still in the lead-management system, we'll set up a nurturing program whereby the system, based on a series of conditions, sends out emails throughout the weeks and months to stay in touch with the leads (remember the earlier-noted stat about five contacts per lead). We'll want to know:

  • How many leads in the nurturing program hit the scoring threshold and become "Sales-ready"?
  • How many of these "Sales-ready" leads progress through the cycle as outlined above?
  • How many leads stay in the nurturing program—i.e., what percentage of the leads generated per campaign never move to Sales?
  • How many Marketing-generated leads moved over what period of time to the Sales organization?
  • What percent of the leads moved to Sales were closed, and for how much?
  • What was the ROI of the campaign as defined by revenue per expense?
  • What are the most successful types of campaigns:
    • By channel—online, offline, etc.
    • By mechanism—email, AdWords, etc.
    • By target market—vertical industry, company size, title, etc.

Marketing's Own Lead-Management System

It's apparent that to maximize lead-generation dollars, Marketing must become accountable and gain the ability to track real marketing analytics, by which we mean the type of analytics that have an impact business models.

For Marketing to have such impact, it needs to use its own systems and processes, not those of the sales team or other business departments. These systems also need to offer ease of use and simplicity.

As most of us know, marketing departments are stretched thin these days and are being asked to account for things without being given the resources to do so. A lead-management system can put the proper processes in place. marketers should start simple, as with most new systems, allowing for the system and process to grow as they start getting more familiar and comfortable with the analytics they need.

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Lisa Cramer is president and co-founder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of an on-demand lead-management solution.