Lead conversion, the process of turning a lead or prospective customer, into an actual customer, is a central component to optimizing revenue. No matter your MarTechstack, defining and translating your organization’s sales funnel into a lifecycle processing framework will assist with lead conversion optimization. At its core, lifecycle processing provides organizations a way to systematically qualify, prioritize, accelerate and group leads through the sales funnel, helping to focus on conversion optimization. With the end goal of positively driving pipeline and revenue.
That’s really the goal here: identify who can buy, who wants to buy, when they want to buy and how they want to buy.
What does it mean to optimize lead conversion?
If you are a member of a revenue team (think marketing, sales or customer experience) you have likely been assigned KPIs or other metrics that your team is measured against.
An example KPI: marketing influence $10MM in net new logo pipeline creation.
Awesome goal! However, in order to understand what you actually need to do to drive that pipeline amount, we need to back up and understand what lead conversion rate must take place through each funnel stage. Now we are getting into all kinds of analytics questions but for the sake of this blog let’s stay focused on lead conversion.
By definition, lead conversion is defined as: a marketing and sales process that involves converting leads (prospects) into customers.
Great, but what does optimized lead conversion really mean in terms of action? Think about it as a frictionless path to purchase. Or in another way, a deep level of understanding, by your organization of each stage of the sales funnel and each stage has been optimized for conversion.
Are sales funnel and lifecycle processing the same thing?
Good question! The sales funnel is a visual representation of the stages your buyers go through, think of it as milestones through their path to purchase. Here’s a common stage representation we use at Etumos:
The top of the funnel represents early sales stages: a prospect is just being introduced to your brand. The middle of the funnel is the engagement stage, interest is being shown in your offers – but still no commitment to purchase. The bottom of the funnel represents the prospect’s engagement with the sales team – resulting in either revenue or lost opportunities. This is an oversimplification, of course, but the idea remains consistent. Each part of the funnel represents a defined set of lifecycle stages, each of these stages have defined proxies to enter/exit and key data captured at each stage – enter Lifecycle Processing.
Pro tip: 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. When built with the buyer in mind, companies are able to accelerate their lead > revenue conversion rate.
Components of a Lifecycle Processing Program
Most lifecycle processing programs are architected within a marketing automation platform (MAP) and receive inputs from both the MAP and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. We won’t get too in the weeds here but there is some valuable data that can and should be collected by your lifecycle processing program. These include:
- Lifecycle Stage [text field]
- Date – First: Lifecycle Stage [date/time field]
- Date – Last: Lifecycle Stage [date/time field]
- Defined proxies between your MAP and CRM to move records through the funnel in an automated fashion
These fields should be synced between your MAP and CRM for visibility and be used by both the Marketing and Sales team. In the long term, these fields can be utilized by data teams to build reports and dashboards in external systems.
Some key data insights that can be gained by Lifecycle Processing data include:
- Identify areas of the funnel where prospects are getting stuck
- Identify areas of the funnel where prospects are accelerating too quickly
- Average days in stage
- Average days from lead creation to customer
- Velocity reporting between stages
Lots of opportunities, let’s get into the specifics around optimization!
Optimizing Lifecycle Processing: by Stage(s)
A great starting place is identifying the goals of Lifecycle Processing::
- Define the funnel stages and the entry/exit criteria for each
- Define the conversion goals for those funnel stages
- Create multiple opportunities for prospects to convert
- Develop criteria to weed out those prospects not in the ICP to keep the database healthy
- Utilize enrichment services to improve MAP and CRM data accuracy and reduce the risk of sync failures
- Identify how to handle recycled leads – records handed off to sales which were returned back to marketing
- Identify how to handle closed-lost opportunities
- Identify actions which need to be taken once a stage changes – e.g. adding to a nurture campaign
Once you have the goals defined, you can begin to address the opportunities to optimize the marketing efforts around the stages to reach the goals and fine tune the proxies and associated communications.
Top of Funnel Example
If data enrichment is part of your MarTech stack, think about how you can optimize a form conversion and ask for just an email address – let the system do the rest. Through the enrichment integration you can populate a data profile for a prospect and find they happen to be a contact at a target account. You can then use an automated process to convert that lead to a contact within the CRM and route to the appropriate member of the account or sales team. What you just did was remove the barrier to conversion while matching the lead with a target account and notify the correct record owner – all within 5 minutes. At the same time, your lifecycle processing program is stamping specific field values and date/time stamps to provide your data team the ability to report on key conversion metrics. Such as:
- Stage conversion rate
- Days in Stage
- Average conversion time
Middle of Funnel Example
Let’s focus on non hand raise prospects. Lifecycle processing can segment these engaged prospects into a lower stage funnel that can be used by other processes (such as nurture entry) and route to the best fit nurture. All of this is done automatically, without needing to have complex logic and individual record review. In addition, once the prospect is deemed ready for sales engagement, your lifecycle processing and move the prospect into the next funnel stage – triggering other processes to ensure the record syncs to CRM with the correct data to enable sales followup.
Some common practices here, include:
- Task assignment
- Capture of Interesting Moment Data
- Assigning to a qualified lead queue
- Routing to SDR team for qualification
Bottom of Funnel Examples
Example 1: You may determine that the prospect should be suppressed from marketing campaigns and sales communications should be the priority
Example 2: Sales has accepted the prospect but through qualification was unable to confirm BANT and the prospect needs to be recycled
Example 3: The prospect is associated with an opportunity that is moved to closed lost instead of closed won
Each of these scenarios provides an opportunity for optimization of the funnel. Let’s dive in:
Example 1: Utilizing the status field, the lifecycle processing can react to a status value change and move the prospect into the corresponding lifecycle stage and stamp the date of stage entry. At this point, other processing can react to the stage change and suppress the prospect from marketing campaigns. A common use case here is pausing the prospect within a nurture cycle. This helps reduce the clutter of communications the prospect receives and focuses on the sales motion.
Example 2: Utilizing the status field + a recycled reason dependent field provides both marketing and sales detail as to why the prospect did not move forward in the sales funnel. As mentioned above a change in the status field can trigger lifecycle processing to move the prospect into the recycled stage and stamp the date of stage entry. Providing the opportunity for other processing to suppress the prospect from communication for X amount of days, all through automation. In addition, marketing and sales can analyze the recycle reasons for trends and use the data for routing or segmentations.
Example 3: Utilizing the opportunity stage field, lifecycle processing can move the prospect into a sales recycled stage and stamp the date of stage entry. If the opportunity has a closed lost reason, this can be used by sales and marketing to understand why the opportunity didn’t progress to closed won. At the same time, other processes can react to this stage change and suppress the prospect from communication for example.
Lifecycle Processing on its own is great, but when it’s optimized to support your unique sales funnel – lead conversion becomes a central focus and the positive results can be seen in the numbers.
What’s next? We recommend you sit down in a room with representatives from each group that is involved in the sales process, don’t forget customer onboarding. Use this time to define your organization’s funnel stages, this definition can include:
- Stage Definition
- Entry criteria
- Exit criteria
- Data capture requirements
Use this information to inform your Lifecycle Processing build, good luck!