Service-level agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales often focus on lead followup timeframes. These SLAs are significant since the faster the sales organization engages marketing qualified leads (MQLs), the more likely MQLs will convert to qualified opportunities.

However, SLAs do not resolve one of the largest issues that delays the engagement of MQLs: delayed entry into the lead management process. This time lag “cools” leads before they’re engaged by sales (or even marketing). The result is a significant decrease in the number of leads that become sales qualified or drive a closed/won opportunity.

The Issue at Hand

Delays in lead entry, which can range from several days to several weeks, are frequent with event-generated leads (e.g. from tradeshows and webcasts), many of which can be MQLs. The primary reasons for these delays are lack of:

  • Integration. Unlike inbound tactics (e.g. corporate Web site registration forms), most event-generated leads don’t flow into registration forms that are connected to a marketing automation or sales force automation platform.
    • Standardization. Many event leads don’t adhere to the data standards, which means their field values must be standardized. This is often because forms are not used to collect the leads (e.g. from business cards) or because the forms used do not adhere to corporate standard fields or pick list values (e.g. from third-party sponsorships).
      • Engagement. Often there is no indication of a lead’s level of engagement. There’s a big difference between leads originating from business cards dropped in a tradeshow sweepstakes bucket and those from a meaningful conversation with a contact.
        • Timelines. Though the date of the event is designated, there is often no guideline as to when event-generated leads must be added into the lead management system.
          • Measurement. There are often no measurements or governance processes focused on the amount of time required to add event leads into the lead management process.
          • How a Marketing-to-Marketing SLA Can Help

            To decrease delayed entry into the lead management process, an SLA should govern event-generated leads. As with other SLAs that govern lead followup activities, marketing and sales management should agree to the terms. The SLA should address:

            • Timeframe. The number of days within which a field marketing resource must add leads into the lead management process after an event. To address the differences in marketing programs (e.g. large tradeshow vs. webcast), delivery timelines can vary. If field marketers don’t directly add leads into the lead management process, the SLA should note how long a field marketer has to provide leads to the appropriate resource, and how long that resource has to add the leads into the system.
              • Format. Specification of data fields the leads must have and the standardization each field must provide for. Capturing the contact’s engagement level at the event is crucial.
                • Treatment. Definition of how leads should be engaged, in terms of messaging sales can use (if it becomes an MQL) and marketing outreach.
                  • Governance. Documentation of which reports will be used to measure compliance with the SLA, how often reports will be generated and who is responsible for reviewing and taking action on reports.