Lead enrichment is the process of gathering and structuring supporting data around leads. The aim is to increase both the quantity and the quality of information, in order to increase the success of sales processes.
There are a variety of practices encompassed by lead enrichment. Some of these are commonplace, and could be categorized as lead management, data hygiene, or sales acceleration practices.
For example, a sales team might focus on the quality of data by verifying the existing contact information. Alternatively, they could increase quantity by gathering additional contact information for a lead’s account.
What kind of data is useful?
Sales success depends on developing relationships, which gets easier when sales teams have easy access to more relevant information. Typical lead enrichment practice gathers data that highlights the suitability of a lead, and identifies the route to decision makers. Also for many automated processes, information that allows accurate targeting of content is also very useful.
Lead enrichment processes can be more granular to suit highly specific business needs. For example, a vendor servicing company cars might have more leads than they can follow. Through lead enrichment they can aim to pursue only the leads which are most reliant on their vehicle fleet.
In such a B2B context, ‘Firmographics’ can be an important concept in lead enrichment programs. It can be thought of roughly as a business-scale equivalent of demographic data. The kind of data a vendor will find useful includes categories like number of employees, physical location, and revenue. B2C lead enrichment is quite different – more on that later.
Where does the data come from?
There are a variety of data sources, ranging in usefulness based on three key factors:
- accessibility, is it readily available and can it be directly associated with a particular lead
- reliability, in particular the quality of the data
- ease of transfer to the purpose at hand
Data can be sourced on a large scale automatically by integrating internal business systems with online resources, often at substantial cost.
Business-oriented social networks like LinkedIn have become a go-to resource for a lot of B2B sellers looking for supporting data about their clients. Centralized business directories are generally reliable, but tend to have very limited accessibility. For B2C the most commonly used external data sources are social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Although there is a focus at present on big data and data mining, most of the data that is useful actually comes from within the business operations. Indeed, a lot of lead enrichment in B2C and B2B has nothing to do with big data sources at all. Usually the particular area the business is operating in means that very specific data needs to added to leads as a part of every interaction with a particular person.
As with any sales process, maximum benefit can only be derived when substantial elements are automated. There are some simple ways to automate parts of the process, and the key is the integration of systems such as web forms and CRM with the enrichment data from multiple sources. These systems in turn are integrated with communications solutions to enable lead contact and outreach.
Alternatively, lead enrichment can be a partially manual process, with sales and marketing teams conducting their own research. But this is only feasible where the target audience is rather small. In most businesses selling at any scale, it will be essential to use largely automated means.
Benefits of lead enrichment
The ultimate goal of any sales improvement activity is to increase the efficiency of sales processes. In B2B sales, lead enrichment is frequently used to map company hierarchies and establish a route to decision makers. When it’s not possible to directly address a key decision maker with a cold pitch, the next best option is to understand the most direct influencers within the business.
Another benefit is the reduction of client effort at key stages of their journey. For example, when a vendor can source key business data elsewhere, there is less need to request that data from the customer. Lower effort in data submissions – and less invasive questioning – contribute to much higher submission rates, increasing the total number of leads generated. The two areas just mentioned illustrate the two very different types of lead enrichment:
- Tapping into a large external resource, e.g. social media, to automatically update on leads
- Linking together all internal updates to data with all other sources to facilitate prioritizing and the communications approach with the lead
Both of these overarching approaches also apply to B2C. Social media and other large external data sources are used for initial targeting. But it is the many small and specific data updates that inform the ongoing communication with a lead.
As an example of the latter, one of the most frequent complaints in B2C customer communications is about having to supply the same information again and again. This is the case in customer service and in sales contexts. The benefits of avoiding this right, by automatically updating and sharing data, are pretty clear: increased conversion in sales and better retention post sales.
The most useful capabilities to support lead enrichment
Businesses generally gain significant benefits from the following capabilities that support lead enrichment:
- Integration of internal data sources to make data available to all other processes
- Integration of external data sources to automatically add data to contacts
- Offering user interface elements to allow and encourage staff to add, update and correct data as a matter of course while doing other tasks
- Automating assignment of data checking and cleansing tasks to employees
- Automating data cleansing activities – validate and clean at point of entry or flag for cleaning at earliest possible time
- Enabling each team to change the integrated processes any time
- Preventing silos by ensuring data is shared across systems and teams
There are advantages sometimes to being effective before being efficient. So a business will sensibly decide to get a process working somehow even if there are inefficient parts to it. This is fine as long as the inefficiencies are tackled in time to reach the next level of scale.
Unclean data explodes cost as you scale
What is vital to be aware of in lead enrichment and handling of data associated with contacts, is that errors with data or difficulty finding data for a contact tend to explode the cost and shrink the financial returns as you scale. For example, if your systems do not validate phone numbers and store them in correct international standard, then you quickly find that a whole host of other processes become very costly to do and deliver far lower performance.
Similarly, not integrating orders and inventory data with contact information, tends to be ok when the process is operating at small scale, but becomes extremely difficult as you handle more and more customers.
On the flip side of this, if you do integrate across systems and automate lead and contact enrichment, then new opportunities open up. For example, businesses can use the additional data to personalize communications in meaningful ways, such as through email, SMS and other messaging. This in turn makes lead nurturing and pipeline stirring more effective.
Another common example, if your data on leads is accurate, then you can also identify who to focus on. This can allow a sensible automated process to decide who should get one-to-one tender loving care and when it should happen. This focussing of resource can save your best people from dealing with the less lucrative customer contacts. This in turn improves sales performance.
Lead enrichment is all about integration and automation
As you can see from the previous section, successful lead enrichment depends on the quality of your integration and automation approach. The three things to ask yourself are:
- Do we have the ability to integrate any system that impacts data stored about contacts?
- Is it possible to change the user interfaces of employees anytime to directly allow data to be updated?
- Can individual teams change the underlying data flows anytime? Are you able to this without coding?
Lastly, can all three of these be done without any significant software project?
Generally, if your integration and automation strategy enables these three capabilities and minimizes the need for development projects to make ongoing changes, then you can be more confident about your organization’s ability to optimize lead and contact enrichment.