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Lead Management Is the Key to Growing Channel Partner Relationships; Is Your Organization Managing Leads Effectively?

Lead Management was the leading AIDC supplier selection consideration in 2009.  Partners want better qualified leads, and more of them.  Many AIDC suppliers cut their marketing budgets in 2009, producing fewer leads for their channel partners (responses to informal inquiries suggest total lead volume dropped in 2009 from 30% to 40%).  Doing more with less requires that we devote more time and attention to each of the core steps in the lead management process:

Lead Creation
Years ago, I attended a channel strategy seminar at a Chicago business school.  Sales and Marketing executives from leading technology companies were in attendance.  A Marketing Director was making a presentation, sharing some impressive statistics regarding the number of leads her department had generated through various campaigns.  She wanted advice on how to more effectively manage her budget.  Her peers offered up the usual suggestions: outsource highly regulated processes, consolidate spending with a short list of highly qualified agencies, etc.  

Eventually, one of her peers, a channel sales manager from a prominent technology company asked, “what is the value of all these leads you are generating?”  

The following conversation ensued:

“I’m not sure I understand the question.”

“Well, you’ve undertaken a series of marketing campaigns.  Each of these campaigns represented an investment for your organization.  What was the return on each of these investments?”

“Oh, like the pie chart I presented earlier that showed the lead volume associated with all of our inbound and outbound marketing activity?”

“No.  I’m talking about the value of the leads you created, which is a function of the dollars you spent supporting each of those activities and the revenue you generated.”

There was an awkward silence.  I was stunned.  It’s been years since that seminar and the technology companies I work with have become more and more adept at managing their channel relationships.  Still, relatively few excel at lead management, actively managing and refining the process by capturing the data required and putting this data to work to increase their yields.

I’ll be devoting my next three posts to lead qualification, lead distribution and analysis, exploring common disconnects and discussing best practices.  If you have ideas or experiences to share, please post them.  The AIDC industry has been challenged by the recession.  Growth will depend on careful management of scarce and valued resources, and leads are no exception.

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