Between 2006 and 2007, the three best known marketing automation platforms were founded; HubSpot, Marketo & Pardot. Back then, marketing automation consisted of capturing leads through forms on a website, emailing them, and syncing to your CRM.
Fast forward to 2018 — the number of channels to track and engage with leads & prospects has exploded. We’ve more types of leads (MQL, PQL, CQL, ZQL… I’m kidding about the last one) and more channels than ever:
- Live chat & chat bots
- Review websites
- Free trials in your product
- Multiple owned websites
- Every kind of social media
… and. The. List. Goes. On.
As SaaS teams from startup-to-scale-up, they cast more nets & wider nets to pull in more (MOAR!) leads. Whilst marketing automation platforms have evolved since they were founded, they can’t track all this lead activity and engage with leads and prospects in the way they buy in 2018.
Watching the incredible growth of the marketing technology landscape over the past 7 years, it seemed obvious that no one vendor could bundle up all of the incredible innovation happening in martech into a single product or arguably even a suite.
Without data integration, your CRM and marketing automation tool are blind to most of your lead activity.
In competitive spaces, leaving lead sources untracked leaves you vulnerable to competitors swooping in and stealing your (hidden) pipeline by tracking and tracing your leads instead.
Data-driven teams track and unify all their lead data
Instead of leaving this valuable data in silos, we’ve spotted data-driven growth teams tracking all the different methods and channels that leads can engage with their brand.
With a complete tracking setup, they can capture more leads for sales to take action, and have a complete set of customer data to qualify leads with and personalize conversations.
Here’s a simplified (and anonymized) example of a team’s lead tracking mapping who we work with at Hull. You see it goes far beyond basic form submissions.
|Lead source||Level of intent||Tracking|
|PQL (Product Qualified Lead)||High||Product analytics|
|CQL (Conversation Qualified Lead)||High||Chat bot|
|MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead)||Medium||Marketing automation|
|IRL Events (Attendee)||Medium||Marketing automation|
|Webinar (Attendee)||Medium||Marketing automation|
|G2Crowd||High||3rd party page view|
|Siftery||High||3rd party page view|
|Employee Referral||High||Link tracking|
|Customer Referral||High||Link tracking|
|Anonymous Website Visitor||Medium||Reveal API|
|SDR outbound campaign||Low||CRM|
To build a full picture of your true pipeline, all these lead sources need to fall into one profile within one of these tools:
- Marketing automation platform
- Customer data platform
Whichever method you use, you need to be able to relate your leads, anonymous website visitors and accounts for accurate B2B lead tracking. All these leads then need to sync seamlessly to your sales tools for reps to engage with.
Here are the five tactics we see teams taking to capture all their leads and lay-up sales for engaging them.
Tactical Takeaway #1: Transform website analytics into lead creation
Most teams already have basic website analytics and conversion tracking on key events. Whilst useful, this limits what is possible from your website data.
Lead qualification depends on identifying fit (do they match your ideal customer profile?) and intent (how far down the buyer's journey are they, if at all?).
In B2B, one way you can identify the “fit” of a website visitor is using a reverse IP lookup service like Clearbit Reveal. Since offices often share IP addresses, you can match an IP address with a company. Clearbit Reveal also packages their other company domain data in their response — industry, location, revenue, employee count etc. — so you can identify the best fit accounts on your website.
Here’s what an “anonymous” visitor looks like with Clearbit Reveal data with the Hull - Clearbit integration.
But one page view by a “best-fit” company is not a strong buying signal. You need to pair it with behavioral data. You can track the level of engagement from a particular target account by assessing how they’re engaging with your key pages (like pricing) and key events (including abandoned conversions like form submissions and button clicks).
Since the website activity is that of a person, but the data we’ve gathered (through Clearbit Reveal) is at the account level, we need to try to match these together.
Without a clean conversion where you can match a person with their previous web sessions (e.g. a form submission), you have to improvise a little. Most teams here use the domain name from Clearbit Reveal to trigger prospection of relevant, target job roles to engage. From one website visit, you can engage all the relevant stakeholders in a target account. Here’s how we've spotted teams using that for showing retargeting ads to entire target accounts.
*Voila! You can now engage people on your website who haven’t submitted forms. *
Tactical Takeaway #2: Connect live chat conversations with all your profiles
We notice teams using live chat and chat bots give a “second net” to engage leads on your website — beyond the forms you’ve always had.
Start a conversation with your prospect while they’re on your website. Make it about the prospect, and not your sales objective. Capitalize on the opportunity to show genuine interest in their business right now, not later.
Like forms, the contents of a chat conversation needs to be matched with profile data in your other tools. This is much easier if the chat is with someone who has identified themselves — for instance, through sharing their email (otherwise, look at the steps in the first tactical takeaway).
Chat conversations are usually recorded as events in other tools with the contents of the conversation as an event property. And like forms, this sets person-level attributes such as their name, email address, and so on. But the contents of each conversation sets the context for how that lead is treated.
To get the most value from the contents of chat messages, live chat tools encourage the use of buttons instead of just free-form conversation — it’s easier for someone to click or tap than to type something out. It’s also much easier to track and sync “buttons” since you define the data structure. You need to treat the output of live chat tools (conversations) in a very similar way you’d treat forms.
The goal is to capture and sync leads who:
- Can be identified (themselves, or through enrichment)
- Indicate they’re interested. “Conversation qualified lead”
- Are a good fit potential customer.
Conversational leads are temporal — you need to follow up quickly before these leads go cold. When segmenting qualified leads like this (to sync to sales), include a recency filter. “At least 2 times in the past 15 days” indicates a back and forth discussion in the previous one or two working weeks.
We’ve also seen teams closing the loop to trigger personalized live chat based on previous or enriched lead data. Stay tuned for a future Spotted post on the tactics and implementation we’ve spotted for that that…
Voila! You can now track and trace all conversation-qualified leads
Tactical Takeaway #3: Track website traffic outside of your main website platform
Not every interaction happens on your website. Instead of turning a blind eye, we notice data-driven teams are trying to track this.
To do this, we notice this teams using custom URL shorteners. Tools like PixelMe show what’s possible wrapping up UTM codes and dropping tracking pixels to be used anywhere.
Custom URL shorteners that are part of customer data platforms like Hull can also record this data back into your unified lead & customer profiles. Now you can track and trace what someone clicks outside of your website including:
- Social media (including links to curated content & community platforms)
- Advertising (across all networks)
- Sales & support emails (which don’t have existing tracking)
- Links in guest posts & partner websites
With UTM parameters and QueryStrings appended to the URL, you can add custom data to your tracking to assign channels, lead source, and other data for attribution.
Finally, if you can implement tracking scripts on 3rd party websites, then you can track web analytics from your customer data platform. Cross-domain tracking can become painful without a stable identifier — you need to manage conflicting session and user IDs, and their relationships as a visitor moves across everything else.
A customer data platform has a unified customer profile (built around a stable identifier), so you can install the same organization-level tracking script on multiple websites and reliably track leads & prospects elsewhere. Since it isn’t an option for most partner websites to inject custom tracking scripts, this isn't that common.
Voila! You can now track and trace link clicks outside of your main website.
Tactical Takeaway #4: Capture leads from review platforms
After finding Product-Market fit (with n group of very happy customers) flipping your funnel into loudspeaker is a powerful way to grow in B2B.
Platforms like G2Crowd, Capterra, Siftery, and others gather reviews from people using your software to convince others to take a chance.
Instead of being a black hole of tracking, data-driven teams are adding 3rd party review sites to their tracking plans. Besides using URL shorteners from tactic #4, they’re tapping into the APIs of different services here with Processor. (Hint: you might need to ask them to share their IP address endpoint, then check out the first tactical takeaway again…)
For instance, with G2Crowd you can fetch people who have viewed your product. This might be the first time you’ve identified a particular company engaging with your brand, or it is a lead who is further down the buyer's journey and they’re checking up on reviews (a great time for a rep to suggest a demo or trial).
Voila! You can now track leads engaging in 3rd party reviews for your product
Tactical Takeaway #5: Transform product usage data for lead qualification
Strategically, given ever more competition for acquiring users from traditional search and social platforms, free trials of SaaS software are the common pattern we're seeing teams use to unlock growth during scale up. Unless there’s a time-intensive setup cost, people expect to be able to try before they buy.
In a new reality where Google and Facebook are the only two platforms that offer opportunities for user acquisition at scale. Because it’s scalable and cheaper, product driven growth is how the biggest products have grown so large so quickly. It’s also how new products will win in the future.
Kieran FlanaganVP Growth at HubSpot
Outside of the traditional free trial offerings (teams without the price points to support sales), we’re seeing more SaaS products opening up limited or “sandbox” versions of their accounts, or offering fully featured, usage-limited versions of their tools out of the box. Engaged trial users in best-fit accounts are then synced to sales as a product qualified lead.
But this product usage data is locked up in product analytics tracking tools and backend databases. And even if you can integrate it with other tools, a long stream of user actions isn’t easy to segment or intuitive to a sales rep.
To solve this, we see teams transforming streams of product usage data per-person & per-company from backend databases and product analytics tracking tools into real-time lead scores, signals, and segments.
- Scores to summarise the level of recent activity
- Signals to highlight key features that are used & not used (useful for sales reps’ conversation starters)
- Segments of product qualified leads
Keep an eye out for a future Spotted post on product qualified leads, creating conversation starters for sales reps, and computing lead scores, signals & segments.
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The real-time element of lead scoring is important. Like other lead tracking methods, activity should have a sense of decay so sales reps are directed towards people have taken action in the product recently, not months ago and since forgotten you.
Voila! You’re now able to track your leads activity in your product and sync with your other sales and marketing efforts
Best-fit criteria for universal lead tracking
We've observed the best results amongst companies who are managing leads across multiple channels. Typically, these have:
Reached product-market fit
There’s clear alignment with who they’re targeting and the channels to engage new best-fit customers.
Already have a marketing presence in multiple channels
Following product-market fit, teams that are exploring and settling on product-channel fit. For most scaling startups, this involves exploring more than just one channel. Tracking starts to break down
Significant website traffic
Off the back of product-channel fit, your website ought to have one or more channels directly driving significant traffic, and indirectly through your other activities.
Results we’ve seen
It’s very hard to isolate and quantify the impact of any of tracking these channels unless it is totally net-new initiative adding leads that wouldn’t have been created otherwise (in which case, it’s not fair to sum that as the benefits of universal lead tracking).
The results we see from teams here is visibility, alignment between teams (particularly sales), and accelerated sales pipeline. No more flying blind in your CRM & marketing automation tool. With more tracking comes more triggers and opportunities to take action and nurture lead and deals in a meaningful way.
You’ve got to try it for yourself though :)
What you should do now
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'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at inbound.org (acq. HubSpot).
If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇