Let’s be honest – lead tracking spreadsheets are a marketing nightmare. You may have gotten away with them as the backbone of your marketing system five years ago, but if you’re still relying on spreadsheets as the glue that holds your marketing program together, you are most likely about to either pull all your hair out or unaware that great numbers of leads are falling through the cracks.
Spreadsheets still have their place in many organizations, but that place is just no longer the command center of your sales and marketing operations.
There are three very important reasons to get away from spreadsheets:
1. Only Half of Your Staff Uses Spreadsheets Correctly
Every company, even those that think they are the all-hands-on-deck super cultures, has those spreadsheet rebels, or spreadsheet-allergic sales or marketing staff members. Let’s quickly run through some of the office spreadsheet archetypes to show the gaping holes spreadsheets leave when they are being used as a lead tracking system:
- The Spreadsheet Creator: This person is overjoyed to create a spreadsheet for each task or following all meetings, even though everyone knows that no one will ever, ever glance at those spreadsheets again.
- The Spreadsheet Updater: This person is the one always tasked with updating the spreadsheet with the last two months of activity when it becomes clear that the entire team has ignored the spreadsheet for the between 60 and 90 days.
- The Spreadsheet Ignorer: This person ignores all emails regarding spreadsheets or spreadsheet-related matters, and then comes up with world-class excuses whenever spreadsheet-related questions surface.
- The Spreadsheet Systemizer: This person believes that spreadsheets solve all problems. When any problem arises, this person immediately offers a spreadsheet solution. No coffee in the coffee pot? Let’s create a spreadsheet to track a revolving schedule of coffee-making task lists organized by color, date and staff seniority.
2. Lead Tracking Spreadsheets Are Manual
No matter how much you optimize your spreadsheet system it still takes a lot of employee time to update, organize, and track spreadsheets. Almost all of these recurring menial tasks are better handled by automation. And when employees go on vacation, leave, or just forget, the holes in the manual spreadsheet system really become apparent.
3. Spreadsheet Integration is a Nightmare
In a world where silos are being vaporized and systems integrated, spreadsheets are clunky and often resistant to integration. Imagine the number of spreadsheets you would need to track and run a truly progressive demand generation department today – content calendars, web task lists, creative briefs, lead tracking, data capture. Separate spreadsheets that don’t integrate and all require manual updating and tracking are a nightmare that even the greatest spreadsheet wizard can’t master.
So now that you are considering ditching your patchwork system of spreadsheets, what do you use to replace it? The answer? Marketing automation. Don’t be scared by the robotic overtones of the word. Marketing automation is simply a system that conducts much of the tracking, reporting, integrating, and scheduling of sales and marketing tasks while minimizing your actual involvement.
And the great thing about automation systems? Once they are programmed to do a task, they never forget, go on vacation, or take another job. They are reliable and can be low-maintenance. (If you set them up that way … smart automation is enhanced when smart people decide to create low-maintenance programs).
Four Ways Marketing Automation Can Transform Lead Tracking
1.Cue Data-Driven Marketing
Every marketer knows the importance of data, but many marketers still struggle to use data effectively on a daily basis.
Data is unwieldy. It lives in a database. It’s often not digestible or actionable, or at a marketer’s fingertips when needed.
Marketing automation systems link to your database and automate much of the data-driven actions that marketers often skip because they take too much time. Chief among these data-driven actions are segmentation and lead tracking. Automation systems can categorize your leads and customers according to where they are in the buying cycle. This helps you send different content that’s specific to each lead, increasing your marketing and sales effectiveness. Lead tracking will automatically update your system when a lead becomes a customer or a lead does something important that might signal a movement toward buying – such as downloading a price sheet, etc.
2. Make Tracking Painless
If you’ve worked in spreadsheet purgatory for any period of time you know the feeling of staring at the cubes of a spreadsheet until your eyes go blurry. Often you’re trying to track the performance of a campaign, or digest year-long marketing stats. Rest your eyes and your spreadsheet-addled brain by letting your automation system showcase your statistics in visual displays. This is the way that most boards or C-suites want to see the data presented anyway. Automation systems don’t just spit out pie charts, and bar graphs; they dynamically track performance and segments and suggest or automate marketing actions based on the real-time performance of a campaign.
3. CRM Integration
Marketing automation is only one piece of the lead tracking puzzle. Once leads move down the sales funnel and become sales-qualified leads, they’re often in the territory of the sales team and a customer relationship management system, rather than just a marketing automation system. Make sure that pass-off from marketing to sales is seamless by assuring that your marketing automation software integrates completely with you CRM system so that no leads fall through the cracks.
4. Email Marketing
Email is a vital communications link to leads and existing customers. Make sure your automation system can track email marketing results and roll them directly into its system, so that all of the data-driven capabilities of automation extend to how you communicate with leads and customers via email. Personalized emails, triggered emails and free trial or discount offer emails are vital ways to move a lead down the sales funnel toward that coveted end goal of conversion.