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Anyone have any guidance on implementing (in my case, updating) their Org (Enterprise in my case) to not use Leads any longer for B2C purposes?

I am getting opinions from as many sources as possible, and wanted to see if someone here has dealt with this, OR never used Leads for dealing with B2C customers/prospects.

I plan (if we find no major hiccups) to eliminate use of our Lead object, and have all "Prospects" create (Person)Accounts. We've already done a lot of due diligence checking of what would be affected and where. The closest thing to an "issue" is the loss of Queues (which is NOT an issue for us really). Conversion metrics, etc, no issue there.

We end up with a lot of benefits if everything is on Account by default, some of which are:

  • No more conversion of records
  • No more dupe checking across two objects
  • Master-Slave object relationship possible for objects that were previously required to be accessible from both the Lead AND the Account (Rollups, etc)
  • Once initial reprogramming of PHP and Apex is done, much less ongoing programming (only one Object to deal with)

Our company originally developed the Salesforce Org with standard B2B (Accounts w/Contacts), then converted to B2C (PersonAccounts), and now I want to drive the next innovation, killing Leads entirely. All data anyone has tried to break the idea with exists at the Account level already.

Any insights would be great. ;-)


Addendum 2014-02-07 8AM EST: I wanted to add for clarification to those responding that we use Leads for literally one purpose - to get people to attend a Webinar, NOT to sell the product(s). We only talk to them about actually purchasing AFTER they attend. The moment they attend a Webinar (currently), they are converted to an Account with an Opp for that product. The data on whether or not they've attended a Webinar is already on the Account as well. Leads for the last 2 years have all actually been owned by our nonhuman User (that is our Connectivity User for SF plugins).

If and/or when we do decide to do anything remotely Lead-ish with an actual human on our end involved, we've already discussed that instead of creating the Opportunity for the Product after they attend that Product's Webinar, we would just create the Opportunity as soon as they ENTER the system (which is through a webform for a specific product). We'll create the Opp before they attend, instead of after - a literal flip of a switch in how we do things.

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In addition to the items already mentioned, you will not have mass actions available on list views. –  user6740 Feb 7 at 5:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Leads have specific uses: queues, lead assignment rules, auto response rules, web-to-lead, "unread by owner" field, campaign integration, and reporting.

Let's go over each feature in more detail, shall we?

Queues

Queues let groups of people pick from a common pool of leads they want to follow up on. Very few organizations use this feature as it is, I believe, instead deciding to use assignment rules for specific types of leads.

Assignment Rules

Great if you want to get the right leads to the right people, either by territory, product interests, or whatever else you might consider. This is probably one of the most attractive features of leads (besides web to lead and campaign management), although you can emulate this with territory management or workflow rules.

Auto-Response Rules

Great way to let your leads know that you've accepted their request. People like to know that. Workflow rules can emulate this on contacts/person accounts.

Web To Lead

Love it or hate it, it's an easy way to put up a form for accepting leads. I'd say that more "mature" organizations have already moved past this very limited feature anyways, but if you're not there yet, you might hold off.

"Unread By Owner"

This feature lets you run reports on who hasn't followed up on leads. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the system, and it's pretty useful to have. It is technically feasible to build this for contacts, though, with some Apex Code, Visualforce, and Workflow rules and/or scheduled Apex Code.

Campaign Integration

Campaign integration is, among other things, a pretty awesome feature. Unlike contacts, you can import new leads and associate them to the campaign at the same time. When you convert the leads to opportunities, you automatically get ROI reports with no extra effort. You can mass email those leads by campaign. You can make list views by campaign to see which leads are where. Conversion percentages give you the effectiveness of your campaign efforts. In short, campaigns and leads work well together, and you'd be amiss to throw this away without a second thought.

Reporting

ROI reports. Conversion reports. Market segment reports. Email Campaign reports. Reports. I'm not saying that you can't get at this data without leads, I'm just saying that you're discarding a bunch of out of the box functionality if you do. Now you've got to remember to associate the contact to the campaign. And the opportunity has to be associated, separately. Plus, you don't know how long they were waiting from the time you learned about them until they were converted to opportunities. All of these juicy details are there for the taking.

No Leads?

I understand that many organizations hate the leads feature. I worked with technical support for four years, and I've worked as a consultant for five. Here's the problem with leads: they require, at minimum, more effort to get started, more effort to get configured, and quite a bit of effort to realize the full benefit of leads. This leads to questions like the one presented here: "How can we get rid of leads?", "How can we avoid duplicates?", "What is even the purpose of leads?". The question here shows that you're already at the tipping point; users aren't converting leads, aren't taking the time to "de-duplicate" leads, and aren't using them properly. Leads, in short, are the least understood feature of the entire system, and until you grasp their true value, you can't appreciate them.

Let's take a look at each "benefit" you mentioned.

No more conversion of records

... and no more awesome reports about how your conversions are driving sales, your ROI for campaigns, and everything else.

No more dupe checking across two objects

A lead and a contact in the same organization are not duplicates. A lead is a potential you want to follow up on. Here's the deal: You call the lead, you ask them if they're interested, and you convert them if they show any interest. The system does a pretty good job of de-duplicating leads into existing contacts automatically, except for those fringe cases like "Rob" versus "Robby" and "Bill" instead of "William." But, odds are, you might still end up with duplicates. They're not that hard to merge. Honest.

Master-Slave object relationship possible for objects that were previously required to be accessible from both the Lead AND the Account (Rollups, etc)

Right. The problem is, while leads provide great amounts of information, they are transient. If your leads are older than a week, you're doing something wrong. Nobody in their right mind is saying that you should have a custom object with a "lead qualification questionnaire" that must then be converted to the contact. That's absolutely insane. Additional triggers, additional lookups, and so on. But if you have to ask/state this question/benefit, you are trying to abuse leads, and that's why you want to get rid of them, because you don't understand the feature.

Once initial reprogramming of PHP and Apex is done, much less ongoing programming (only one Object to deal with)

Person Accounts are still two records, and you still have to be cognizant of them as quasi-independent objects. Instead, let your PHP deal strictly with leads if it is lead-oriented, or contacts/accounts if it is account/contact oriented. It is incredibly rare that you would have a solution that absolutely requires you deal with leads, contacts, and accounts in a single PHP script. If you're de-duplicating across lead/contacts, you're doing it wrong.

Conclusion

Nobody's making you use leads, and it's your CRM to do with as you please. However, simply saying that you refuse to use leads because they are worthless instead of trying to work in harmony with them is like preferring a lawyer over marriage counseling. I completely agree that using leads is something that has to grow on you. It's an effort. But I believe you'll be pleased with the results if you give it an honest try.

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Wow, I greatly appreciate your input. There is no way I can respond in the space allowed for ONE comment. I'll try and figure out how to respond so it's on the record for prosperity. Thanks again! –  AMM Feb 6 at 21:00
    
I think you meant "posterity". You could probably get away with a pastebin, those supposedly last for all time. –  sfdcfox Feb 6 at 21:02
    
Hahaha. Prosperity. I am just batting a thousand today (unrelated issues at work) <sigh> I want to prosper, okay!? (rofl) –  AMM Feb 6 at 21:04
    
@AMM For the record, I think leads could a lot better; the simple truth is that most of the features leads offer are brilliant, and Leads is one feature we all love to hate, or hate to love, depending on one's point of view. I just think that most people that have reached your point have already walked down a lonely road of "why don't leads work the way I need them to?!?!". I imagine a day when the system will allow queues for contacts/accounts, and better campaign/contact functionality, for those that just don't need leads. –  sfdcfox Feb 6 at 21:16
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@AMM I see your problem. I'm going to stand by my "abuse of how leads are supposed to work" theory. Your heart is in the right place, but the execution of that desire is just slightly off. I can't tell you how to fix it in a single comment, or perhaps even in a single answer (which would be too "localized" to your use case to be a proper answer here). In summary, though, you need to leverage campaigns and opportunities better, and integrate your usage of leads into the cycle. Your leads are leads too long and it's causing data integrity problems. Happens all the time. –  sfdcfox Feb 7 at 15:11

It is very common in the nonprofit sector to eschew the Lead object and keep everything in Accounts & Contacts (not using PersonAccounts, but that's not the central issue here).

The case for Leads is often to use them as a repository for lower-quality data, especially if that data can be generated by anonymous Web users. Also, if your overall sales process works in that way, it's a natural match, and can be a good way to divide things up between inside and outside sales, for instance.

For organizations that never use Leads, they are sometimes frustrated by the limitations of standard relationships that are polymorphic to Lead or Contact, eg, Task/Event.WhoId and Campaign Member.ContactId/LeadId. Eventually, your organization will get so used to not using Leads that they may forget they're there, and have similar frustrations.

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I'd say leads are also under-utilized by most companies that do not have a full time admin or a self-trained admin, since leads are so often overlooked for their usefulness. –  sfdcfox Feb 6 at 20:35
    
Thanks for your input as well. Both responses so far are informative. Very bluntly, so far, nothing I've ready makes me want to change course (getting rid of Leads). We've used them since day one (years before I came onboard). We BARELY use any of the functionality mentioned by @sfdcfox in his response. And things like AutoResponders we CAN'T use because they are web2lead (web2lead is evil - we have API based systems for our webforms). Our system is VERY robust, but also has a TON of bugs (mainly on the PHP side, but also SF). I have a lot to ponder. Thanks again so much. –  AMM Feb 6 at 21:04

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