Learn about building a person lifecycle program

Last update: 2023-10-13
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Do you know how many leads are in each stage of the buyer journey and when sales should contact them? Learn about creating a person lifecycle program that uses scoring to to get insights on where your leads are in their journey.


As a marketer, you want to know more than just the number of leads in your database. You want to know how many leads are in each stage of the buyer journey and in particular, which ones are ready to go to sales. A Marketo lead life cycle program, combined with lead scoring, gives you insight on where your leads are in their buying journey and how much time they spend in each stage. We talk about lead scoring in another module, but now we’re going to focus on creating a life cycle program and program status that give those scores meaning.

A lead lifecycle program evaluates a lead’s level of interest in your products or services using a lead score. That information can then be used to determine a lead status in your program that can be reported on and acted on. For example, is a lead ready for sales. If so, you’ll want to alert the sales team. When qualifying the lead, sales may determine that they are not quite ready to buy and sends them back to marketing with recycled status for continued nurturing. The statuses in your lead lifecycle program, should be based on your marketing funnel. Let’s use a sample marketing funnel to illustrate how this works.

We’ll start with the top of funnel. This is the awareness phase. A person in this position is aware of your products or services, but is not ready to buy. Here they might have a program status of known. Next, we have middle of funnel. These individuals have displayed buying behavior and have engaged with content, making them a potential sales lead. At the beginning of this phase, the lead is in the process of being nurtured and has a program status of engaged. Further down the funnel, the lead displays behaviors indicating they may be ready to purchase and their status is changed to MQL or marketing qualified lead. At this point, they are ready to be handed off to the sales team. Last we have bottom of funnel. When sales receives leads, they change the status to SAL or sales accepted lead. Then they determine if the lead is ready to purchase, not ready to purchase or not a fit to purchase. Their status is then set to SQL for sales qualified lead recycled for further nurturing or disqualified. Sales qualified leads are actively worked on by the sales team. If the parties established terms and begin negotiations on a deal, the lead gets converted to a contact and becomes an opportunity. If the opportunity results in a closed deal, the contact status is changed to one and they are now a customer. If the deal isn’t closed, their status is set to lost.

It’s important that key terms mean the same thing to both marketing and sales. Otherwise your teams are going to be out of sync and your lead lifecycle program won’t be very useful. Let’s go through the main steps to building a lead lifecycle program and start by defining common terms. Lead, what qualifies as a lead at your company? This will be some combination of demographics and behavior. You’ll need to agree on the minimum qualifications for someone to be considered a lead for your company and how you will measure that. Marketing qualified lead. What does marketing think is a good enough lead to pass on to sales? This will be a combination of how well the lead matches your ideal target, the leads level of interaction with your content and their buying intent, based on purchase indicators. Sales accepted lead, after a lead becomes marketing qualified, they are passed to sales to begin the formal process of acceptance. It is important to have a service level agreement in place that specifies the characteristics of a sales accepted lead and how long it will take sales to qualify the lead or market as recycled and return it to marketing.

Sales qualified lead, these are leads that have a high potential to purchase. Usually marketing passes marketing qualified leads, onto the sales department who determine which leads should be given to an account executive to close the deal. Once you have those terms defined, you should make sure your marketing funnel is aligned. Getting marketing and sales to see eye to eye, may require a new point of focus for both groups, because they each have their eyes on different metrics and short term goals. Encourage your teams to think about the marketing funnel in terms of one process rather than two. One way to achieve a common view of the marketing funnel is to set targets for marketing’s contributions to pipeline. For example, marketing could be made responsible for contributing a set percentage of the leads entering your funnel. You can set this level by looking at prior year sales and lead sources to see where marketing contributed. Also incorporating the marketing team, into regular sales activities can be an important part of engaging them in the whole sales process. Being present for forecast calls, can make marketers feel accountable for the same goals as the sales team. Working more closely with the sales team, allows marketers to see how the work they do at the top of the funnel supports and contributes to the success of the sales team.

Implementing a lead lifecycle program, will affect your bottom line in several different ways. First, you should see increased revenue. Marketing can hold back leads that are not ready and only send the best and most qualified leads over to sales, allowing them to focus on finding and closing those opportunities. You’ll see two changes in your sales cycle. First, it should be shorter, because the leads will be of higher quality. Second, you’ll be able to manage the flow of leads throughout. Without a lead life cycle program, many leads remain in their static state in your sales cycle and never proceed down the funnel. Improved conversion rates are another benefit. Quality over quantity plays a big role here. Delivering only marketing qualified leads to sales, greatly increases the chances that sales will convert those leads. Finally, you should see improved forecast accuracy. You can forecast revenue based on the patterns and activities you see happening during the life cycle. Make sure you have your revenue cycle modeler, built and running. This provides the visual guidance you will need for your forecasting.

Okay, now that we know more about lead life cycles, let’s build the programs and campaigns in Marketo to automate your lead life cycle process. -

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