Lead scoring, Marketing's answer for Sales

One marketing department no longer hears "these leads suck" from sales. Lead scoring put an end to that.

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Three years since taking over as director of demand generation at Endeca Technologies Inc., there's one thing Will Pringle no longer hears from his Sales department: "These leads suck!"

That's thanks in large part to Marketing and Sales getting together to implement a lead scoring system using Salesforce.com, Eloqua and D&B business information. Rather than guesses or hunches about Marketing's contribution to the bottom line, there's a pretty clear understanding of what's working.

"Before 2004, we didn't have the ability to measure it," Pringle said. "Last year, over 60% of the opportunities and 25% of the revenue came from marketing leads."

It wasn't always that way, of course. When Pringle came to Cambridge, Mass.-based Endeca, an enterprise search software company, Sales would say, "You can't give us too many leads." So Marketing began pouring leads into Salesforce.com -- leads from trade shows, Webinars, seminars and white paper sponsorships. Nine months later, Pringle said, sales executives had a different message: "You can generate more leads than we can follow up on."

It was then that the Marketing and Sales departments got together to prioritize the leads coming into the company. Marketing asked Sales: If there were a "magical insight" they could get from prospective customers, what would Sales want to know. They replied with two things, Pringle said -- the real level of interest in the product and the customer's ability to actually buy it.

They figured that the level of interest was best determined with a phone call, but Marketing could help prioritize a company's ability to buy.

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Now, when leads come in, they are appended with information from Dunn & Bradstreet, such as company revenue, industry, employee size and location, and loaded into Eloqua's marketing software to be matched with the lead-scoring system established by Endeca. What emerges are leads classified as either A, B, C, D or E. If the lead has no Dunn & Bradstreet information, then it's a D lead. Sales reps can call or not, it's up to them. If the lead is for a company with more than $100 million in revenue or if it's in one of Endeca's targeted industries -- retail, manufacturing, media and publishing -- then it's a C lead. If it's both a $100 million company and in a target market, it's a B lead; and if it's in one of the company's 600 to 800 target accounts, it's an A lead. All sales reps have a special screen in Salesforce.com alerting them when leads from their target accounts come in.

"Instead of saying, 'Hey, here's 1,000 leads from the Gartner IT expo,' they see, 'I have 77 A leads,' and they call those first," Pringle said. "We require calls into A through C leads and they can cherry-pick the D leads. It takes a fair amount of the mix and saves us time."

It's also a competitive advantage, Pringle said. If a competitor emerges from a trade show with the same list of leads, and sales reps simply start at the top and work their way down, Endeca is going to get first crack at the targeted leads.

Every six months, the demand generation team does a major review of the scoring system, and minor adjustments, such as target accounts, are made monthly.

"It's like Google changing their algorithm -- you have to stay on top or it loses its value," Pringle said. "My team does that, but we work closely with sales operations and the inside sales team."

A few things aligned for Endeca's project to work out for the best. First off, Endeca had near 100% adoption of the Salesforce.com application, Pringle said. In addition, in 2003, a newsletter from Sirius Decisions, a marketing consultancy, arrived with a new organizational model for marketing departments. Under the new model, he said, a senior director of demand generation, who follows how the money is spent and tracked, sits above the vice president of marketing, who is in charge of marketing that can't necessarily be tracked.

"Now that we can do all that, the planets have aligned for Endeca -- we have Eloqua and we have a company that believes in this model," Pringle said.

It's gone a long way toward improving Marketing's credibility with Sales, he added.

"We have a framework for discussions around what the leads are," Pringle said. "There's no longer the comment, 'The leads suck,' because we set the definition for what the qualified lead is together and we pass them what it is they asked for."

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