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Why Lead Lifecycle Is the Backbone of Every Marketing Automation Platform

March 30, 2023

Overview

If you’ve followed Etumos for a while, you probably already have an idea of just how important we believe a well-managed lifecycle processing framework is to your marketing operations strategy. Whether you joined us at a Adobe Summit session or joined us at MOPsCON or worked with us as a client to implement this framework, you’ve heard us refer to the lead lifecycle as the backbone of your marketing automation platform. While a lot has changed in marketing operations over the years, we believe lifecycle processing is still the single most important operational process for MOPs teams.

What is a Lead Lifecycle and why is it important?

A lead lifecycle maps the buyer journey from first interaction with your brand to their becoming an active customer. When done well, it helps marketers identify where their prospects are in the marketing funnel and provides insights into what content works best for each stage. Marketers can then use this data to optimize their campaigns, target more effectively, and ensure that leads are being nurtured with the right content, at the right time.

However, in order to reap these benefits, the right technical framework must be in place in the MAP. That’s where Lifecycle Processing comes in. The best definition of this processing program comes from none other than Edward Unthank who said, “Lifecycle Processing takes how you think of your revenue model (or lead conversion funnel) and turns that into a collection of marketing automation actions that can be used as hooks by other operational programs or marketing initiatives.”

Lifecycle Processing allows the revenue team to manage what happens when a lead comes to your site and raises a hand by filling out a form or accessing an offer. The processing program also supports the ability to push that lead through marketing and sales toward an open opportunity. The Lifecycle Processing framework in your marketing automation platform automates the process of moving leads from one Lifecycle Status to another based on preconfigured actions to define these movements.

How should companies implement Lifecycle Processing?

While there are common lifecycle statuses, there isn’t one “right” set of stages for every company and the stages are influenced by the way other parts of your organization work, the type of business, and the maturity of your marketing and sales organizations. At Etumos, we recommend the following stages derived from the Sirius Decisions Model. These stages can be customized to fit your organization’s unique business needs.

  • Marketing Accepted Lead (MAL) – This status includes all new leads that you have not begun to qualify or define yet. It acts as a holding queue for operations that will happen to all new leads in the system, regardless of which stage they will fall into.
  • Marketing Engaged Lead (MEL) – This is the second stage of the lifecycle funnel, when leads have shown some behavioral engagement, but not enough to indicate they are ready for a Sales discussion. This is traditionally marked by any activity or behavior score increment (form fill, page visit, email open, etc.) The value of this stage can be to differentiate leads from those that have not shown any engagement.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) – These leads have been qualified based on behavioral scoring; philosophically, these are leads who are interested in your company and are likely to have a positive conversation with Sales.
  • Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) – These are leads the sales team has contacted directly or will contact soon. With organizations that have XDRs (choose your favorite acronym: Business Development Reps, Sales Development Reps, Marketing Development Reps, Lead Development Reps), these usually denote original lead vetting by a human.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) – These are leads/contacts that the sales team has begun to push toward open opportunities, showing an opportunity with an estimated dollar amount and a closing timeframe.
  • Customer – These are contacts that have been attached to closed-won opportunities.
  • Disqualified – These are leads or contacts that have been removed from your lifecycle, due to the fact that they were not demographically and/or behaviorally qualified—they’ll never become customers, neither now nor ever.
  • Marketing Recycled Lead (MRL) – This stage is for recycled leads (prior MQLs) that could not be qualified by Sales and have never been associated with an opportunity. The value associated with this stage is know which leads have engaged with Sales previously and could qualify to re-enter the Sales pipeline.
  • Sales Recycled Lead (SRL) – This stage is for recycled leads that have previously been associated with an opportunity. This includes churned customers and closed lost opportunities. The value associated with this stage is that it isolates pre-qualified leads for more targeted nurture, or enable direct outbound Sales campaigns. Depending on why the opportunity churned or was closed lost.

[Example funnel and proxies for these Lifecycle Statuses]

While the stages at the top of the funnel are often controlled within your marketing automation tool, later funnel stages are triggered by actions or processes within your CRM or other technologies. Therefore, we recommend the creation of a separate field for tracking Lifecycle Status in your MAP and CRM. This will enable you to easily monitor where leads are within the lifecycle without impacting processes other teams depend on for their day to day work.

This lifecycle field will allow other operational processes such as data standardization, enrichment, and nurture qualification to be triggered by a change in lifecycle status.

Who can do lifecycle processing?

While the exact framework varies from MAP to MAP, Marketo, Hubspot and Pardot clients can all benefit from implementing Lifecycle Processing. Your marketing operations team should spearhead the development of the process and stages. But like lead scoring, Lifecycle Processing is a collaborative effort with marketing, marketing operations, sales, and customer success. Be sure these teams weigh in on the stage names and definitions, as well as the process built to recognize transitions between stages.

For those looking for more information on Lifecycle Processing:

Conclusion:

Lifecycle Processing is the stabilizing core of your marketing operations. It effectively organizes and aligns marketing to a goal-based revenue model while consolidating and simplifying operational programs which interact with the CRM. Lifecycle Processing creates the measurement process for data-driven marketing, establishes measurable milestones, and digests the revenue-creation process into a mathematical model that can be improved over time. If you’re interested in learning more about how this framework could help streamline your processes, improve alignment with sales, and enable more effective reporting, we’d love to hear from you

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