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How to Maximize Lead Lifecycle in Pardot

When implementing Pardot, one of the most important strategic considerations is how to align your configuration of Pardot with your lead lifecycle strategy. In this blog, we’ll discuss what to consider when developing your lead lifecycle strategy, configuring your lead lifecycle model in Pardot, and how to maximize Pardot and Salesforce Sales Cloud to increase lead velocity and drive conversions. 

A lead lifecycle is the buying process that leads progress through in a B2B sale process, and in some cases, can be applied to B2C customer lifecycles as well. Sometimes, establishing a lead lifecycle strategy can cause friction between sales and marketing teams. This happens when marketing leaders point to how many leads they are generating, and sales leaders suggest the marketing leads are not qualified to make a buying decision – resulting in abandoned leads and misplaced marketing efforts. Usually, when this happens, marketing teams are focused on KPIs like cost per lead, quantity of leads, and sales conversions.  

Part of the reason this strategy often fails is because it insinuates the B2B buying process is linear, and often focuses only on marketing engagement. However, a solid lead lifecycle strategy not only includes evaluating marketing engagement, but also identifying key buyer personas and relying on firmographic and demographic data in tandem with engagement scores. This data can be captured through progressive profiling. 

A solid lead lifecycle strategy also entails a deeper understanding of how B2B buyers purchase—where the majority of that time (27%) is spent researching independently online (which means it’s imperative to have content created to support each stage of the buying lifecycle, and distributing this content and messaging across as many channels as possible). Only 17% is spent meeting with potential suppliers—which means marketing really should own a majority of the funnel (Source: Gartner). 

To help put this into perspective, let's walk through how one B2B organization offering photography services for schools developed their lead lifecycle strategy, and implemented Pardot to help engage leads throughout their lifecycle. 

This company was primarily focused on developing a lead lifecycle strategy for re-engaging nearly 10,000 stale leads in their CRM with no active engagement for two years or longer. 

First, they analyze their data to determine ideal customer attributes using data points like school size, potential average order value, location, and community population. Then, comparing that data with their existing customer data, they determined a scoring method using Pardot’s Grading functionality to add demographic scoring to the accounts. The information was essential to ensure the school account was the best fit for the sales team to outreach. 

Next, the company mapped out their buyer's journey for booking portrait sessions. From there, they brought everything together to form their lead lifecycle strategy and determine prioritization of re-engaging their leads. Below are the lifecycle stages they outlined:

  • Open Lead - A lead with an engagement score of zero, firmographic school data populated, and has an emailable contact.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead - Lead has an engagement score of 50+ (i.e., they’ve clicked through an email or downloaded content via a Pardot form). If they had prior engagement activities, the next step was to determine if they were a sales fit based on location and school demographic details. From there, they began sending nurture emails to re-engage these leads to further qualify them. The goal was to drive them to a ‘Book Now’ form to gather more demographic information. 
  • Sales Qualified Lead - If the lead has an engagement score of 50+ and met firmographic criteria (i.e., school has a population of over 1,000 students and an ideal territory.) They captured this data using the “Book Now” form that leveraged progressive profiling to capture demographic attributes. If the lead was not qualified, they sent an automated message to the lead informing them that they do not have a photographer in their area at this time. For qualified leads, sales teams can engage them via nurture and outreach campaigns to qualify the opportunity using Pardot 1:1 email templates, or Salesforce Engage.
  • Sales Qualified Opportunity - Once a lead is determined to be qualified and has engaged with the sales team, the next steps are to identify the key decision-makers and confirm availability for requested dates. The dollar amount for the forecasted opportunity is calculated by average school size multiplied by the average order value.
  • Sales Qualified Opportunity Stages - The sales team had the various stages of their deal cycles set up as stages within the Salesforce Opportunity. They identified their key buying stages as:
    1. Contracting 
    2. Approval
    3. Scheduling
    4. Closed won
    5. Closed lost

By having a lead lifecycle in place that aligned marketing and sales priorities across the entire funnel, and by having Pardot and Sales Cloud set up to align to their entire buyers journey, the company was able to prevent a leaky funnel, and also optimized the buying process experience for sales, marketing, and prospects—which ultimately generated more than $4 million of closed-won new accounts in less than two months.

To learn more about Pardot, check out the other blogs in this series: Beginning the Pardot Journey and Three Common Pitfalls to Avoid in Pardot.