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Why and How to Use Leads

Thank You

This article was written at the 2017 NPSP Sprint in Baltimore by these amazing community members: Justin Barss, Billy Daly, Lynda En, Maggie Epps, Cori O'Brien Paluck, Beth Saunders, Samantha Shain, Tim Weeks. A special thank you to Cori O'Brien Paluck for leading the group effort.

What is a Lead and How Does it Work?

Traditionally, a Lead represents a sales prospect (a person or organization) that expresses interest in the goods or services a company offers.

From a standard Salesforce point of view, a Lead is a record that collects data about a prospect before you're sure that the person will have a lasting relationship with your organization. Leads in Salesforce have loads of built in functionality including field mapping, ownership auto-assignment, and the ability to convert to a Contact, Account, and Opportunity once you want to fully integrate them with the rest of your data. Also, the native Lead conversion process can be extended to trigger the creation of a custom object using Salesforce automation.

Nonprofits can use Leads to document an expression of interest for any number of interactions, especially when there is a clear goal to qualify the interest before creating other records like a Contact. Defining a clear Lead process can help you collect data and convert the data into other records at the click of a button.

You don't have to be a money-making company to find Leads useful! Read on to discover some common use cases that can help you decide if Leads are right for your organization.

Leads vs. Contacts

We mentioned that Leads are typically used to qualify interest before creating a Contact, but you might still be wondering when to use one over the other. And really, it comes down to data. You're only required to have minimal data for a Lead as compared to a Contact. It's simply a way to record that someone may be interested in working with or donating to your organization, or they want to purchase something that your organization is selling. Leads are more temporary than Contacts. A Lead is really only around until you figure out if someone's interest is genuine, and if it is, you would convert that Lead to a Contact (or Account). It's also a safe way to capture interest from your website and make sure you're not getting duplicate or spam records. You want to reserve your Contact records for people that you know are interested in being involved with your company (because they have signed up to volunteer or sent in a donation). You can make use of these points of interest by recording name, company, or email address and tracking that data in the long term.

When to Use Leads (Examples)

Here are some common examples of how an org might use Leads. We also outlined at a high level what you'll need to set up in Salesforce if you'd like to use Leads in a similar way.

Web-to-Lead forms are your friend. They are a simple form that can be embedded right on your website and they don't require any custom field mapping. You can also use FormAssembly for your more complex forms, which handles duplicates and multiple object touches a bit better.

Example 1: Organization Selling a Product

This is how for-profit organizations typically use Leads. An organization is selling solar energy to groups of neighbors for a bulk discount. A neighborhood resident submits a general Contact Us form on the website requesting more information. The organization contacts the resident, obtains additional information, answers questions, and qualifies the prospect for the product/program being sold. Once qualified, the Lead is converted to a Contact, Account, and Opportunity ready for the next step in the sales process. Now, the organization can measure inquiries, stages of the pre-sales process, conversion, and closed sales.

To set this up in your org:

  1. Create a Web-to-Lead form and embed it on your website (as a Contact Us form). This is a great way to capture interest about your product or service.
  2. Create and map custom fields. You can create custom fields that you use to track potential customers. Once the Lead is converted, you can map the Lead fields to the fields on the subsequently created Contact, Account, or Opportunity record.
  3. Report on Lead conversion. Use standard Salesforce reports to report on the amount of time between when a Lead is created and converted.

Example 2: Organization Recruiting Volunteers

An organization has strict guidelines for volunteers to participate in certain programs. The volunteer roles may require specific skills, certifications, or other prerequisites (such as background checks or security clearance). The org needs to understand how many applicants do not pass these tests, and who is currently in the qualification process. The org can use Leads to track the applicant through the qualification process. Once the applicant is qualified, they can convert the Lead into a Contact.

To set this up in your org:

  1. Create a Web-to-Lead form and embed it on your website. This is the form that applicants can fill out to express interest in volunteering with your company.
  2. Set up your Lead statuses. Web-to-Lead forms are a great way to capture volunteer interest, but they also introduce a bunch of new Leads. You can use Lead Statuses to organize these new Leads.
  3. Create a Lead Dashboard to monitor applicants through the different stages of qualification.

Example 3: Organization Researching Potential Donors

An organization is collecting wealth data for prospective major donors who are identified through Board member referrals, demographic-based search, or other external means. Before adding these prospects to existing donor or Contact records, the org wants to ensure they meet the engagement level criteria. If they meet the criteria, the Lead should be converted to a Contact or Account, and the information is handed off to the org's Development Officer.

To set this up in your org:

  1. Create custom fields that your NPO uses to qualify prospects. Once the Lead is converted, you can map these Lead fields to the fields on the subsequently created Contact, Account, or Opportunity record.
  2. Create Assignment Rules to automatically assign new Leads to users in your company, and notify them when a new Lead is created and assigned to them.
  3. Create Queues of multiple users in your org who can manage Leads. That way when staff are going on vacation, you can assign Leads to the Queue.
  4. Create an Engagement Plan and assign it to your Leads. Engagement Plans are predetermined sets of tasks that you can use to follow up on and engage with a Lead.

Example 4: Determining if People are Qualified to use an Organization's Services

People may call in, email, fill out a web form, or walk into a center looking for more information. Perhaps the organization can't provide services to the individual (for qualification reasons) or they lack resources that the person needs, but the organization is able to track the area of the constituent's need and refer them to another organization. Board members need to know where the unmet needs are to help with budgeting and strategy, and to communicate referrals to partner organizations.

To set this up in your org:

  1. Create a Web-to-Lead form and embed it on your website. People who come to your website can use this form to inquire about resources or services.
  2. Create custom fields to track the areas/services/resources that people are inquiring about. You can also create a lookup field so that you can track the Account(s) you're referring people to.
  3. Create reports to track inquiries that have and have not been converted (grouped by area).