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What's Lead Scoring and Why Does it Matter?

By Alice S on November, 14 2019

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Alice S

Marketing manager with a love of all things digital. Certified in Hubspot and Pardot. Like to bend email marketing campaigns to my will. Happiest space is helping clients find out how much time and money marketing automation can save them.

You know you should be pursuing leads, but what are the right leads?

Wait, what are you talking about!? You don’t understand. We don’t have a lot of leads. We’re always excited to chase the ones that enter our funnel, no matter what! One of them will pay off, we’re positive. They’re all the right leads as far as we’re concerned.

It might feel like that right now, but why waste your time chasing poor (and likely unprofitable) leads into the sales funnel and hoping for the best outcome? This is not a sustainable approach to doing business.

Which brings us back to our point about pursuing the right leads. Might we introduce, lead scoring!

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is a way to rank prospects against a scale that underscores the perceived value each possible lead represents to your business. Depending on the resulting value assigned, you'll better understand how to or if you should even bother to engage or not engage with a lead.

Lead scoring is a way to rank prospects against a scale that underscores the perceived value each possible lead represents to your business.

Some lead scoring systems give you actual numbers (say scoring ranging -50 to +100), others employ flames or similar graphics so you know which leads are cold, warm, and hot, hot, hot. Either way, the lead scoring system helps your marketing and sales teams stop throwing all leads at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Why kind of information should I be looking for in a lead score model?

The most accurate lead scoring models contain both explicit and implicit information.

  • Explicit scores are based on data provided by or about the prospect, for example, how big is their company, what do they do in their industry, or where are they located.
  • Implicit scores are discovered from monitoring prospect behavior; examples of these include tracking what parts of your website that they’re visiting, whether or not they’ve taken advantage of any of your lead magnets like a free whitepaper downloads or e-book, and how often and on what topics they choose to open certain e-mail and the resultant link clicks.
  • You can also track how engaged your lead is by assigning a Social Score – it predicts lead relevancy based on analyzing a person’s presence and activities on social media.

No matter how you’re choosing to score, the big takeaway is that you understand you should be scoring leads because it allows your business to customize that new or ongoing prospect’s experience based on his or her buying stage and interest level.

Remember, today’s potential customers are savvy. Lead scoring improves the quality and “readiness” of leads that are delivered to your sales teams for follow-up.

What are the key benefits of a lead scoring model?

When a lead scoring model is effective, you get more value for your time spent on marketing and sales tasks. The key benefits are:

  • Increase in revenue: you're chasing better leads and ignoring the ones that don't bring you dollars or reach your business goal.
  • Increase efficiency and effectiveness in sales: Lead scoring sharpens sales attention on leads that your business stakes out as most valuable, ensuring that leads that are unqualified or have low perceived value are not sent to your sales team for further engagement
  • Increase effectiveness in marketing: A lead scoring model quantifies for your marketing team what types of leads or lead qualities are most valuable to your business, which in turn helps your marketing team more effectively target its inbound and outbound campaigns and deliver more high-quality leads to sales
  • Increased alignment in marketing and sales: Lead scoring helps break down silos and positions the relationship between marketing and sales as playing on the same team, which can only lead to more collaboration when designing and implementing your operations

According to a 2015 study by Spear Marketing, 68% of B2B marketers use both behavioral and demographic scoring. It’s a promising statistic, but as the study further stated, many marketers are not getting the most out of their lead scoring systems.

How can I get more from my lead score model?

Here are 6 further tips to boost your lead scoring model to the next level and improve sales productivity:

1. Email opens shouldn’t be the only magnet used to score leads by

An email open indicates some measure of engagement with your brand and company. However, it’s not the most consistent measurement, because it can cause inflated lead scores. Instead, you might measure page views generated from the email or downloads from a lead magnet contained in the email.

We recommend you develop a lead scoring model that uses a combination of opens, clicks, and conversions.

2. Assign higher value to certain actions and web pages

Building on the premise from our first tip, when it comes to lead scoring, not every action taken by a prospect should be equal. Audit your website analytics (or let's connect and we can help you audit your website and marketing) to gain an idea of what web pages on your site might be considered of high value to a potential client such as a contact us form, evergreen resource pages, or your e-commerce with a shopping cart section.

Not every action taken by a prospect should be equal.

You can also rank your free downloads or subscription series like a podcast or weekly webinars. Shake out what’s valuable and assign higher point values to these activities to gain a better “at a glance” look at where your customer is headed on his or her journey.

Here are a few examples for how you might weight out the potential prospect touchpoints:

  • Download a whitepaper - Add 5 points
  • Watch a product demo video- Add 4 points
  • Prospect job role not a good match for buyer persona - Deduct 10 points
  • Fills out opt-in form - Add 8 points
  • Unsubscribe from a list - Deduct 8 points

Pro tip? As you should be routinely reviewing, clarifying, and updating your buyer personas, you should also routinely review and clarify value for your downloads, web pages, and other actions you’ve assigned certain values to ensure your funnel stays streamlined and smooth without bias or vanity bloat.

3. Set your lead scoring thresholds

According to the same Spear Marketing study, 46% of B2B marketers do not have lead scoring thresholds that automatically alert or route leads to sales. Here’s where you should take advantage of your marketing automation tool. Easily set up your lead scoring threshold using an automation rule.

46% of B2B marketers do not have lead scoring thresholds that automatically alert or route leads to sales.

Automation rules are just like they sound: rules in place that transform leads into opportunities. In most cases, this means that the prospect is considered qualified and rather than having to have someone on your team remember to assign them a sales person or shift to the next part of the lifecycle manually, the lead information automatically routes into the next level of your funnel where they'll get a more high-touch approach since they've reach a SQL (sales qualified lead) indicator.

It’s okay to have different thresholds in place, as well, for low, medium, and high indicators for at least two reasons:

  1. Because that also gives important context to your sales team about the dollar value of the new prospect they’ll be speaking with.
  2. Because you’re not only tracking the individual conversions to purchase, but also the lifetime value of the potential customer.

4. Use separate lead scoring models

One of the businesses Nifty works with has a wedding planning vertical, a conference planning vertical, and a tradeshow planning vertical. All of the verticals serve the larger market of special events and hospitality meeting planning, but we helped them set up three separate lead scoring models for each vertical.

Why did we do this? Because having separate models allow the business to more effectively and efficiently target the scores allocated to each prospect, and make sure they correctly reflect a prospect’s wants and desires.

For example, if a prospect interested in wedding planning information is being scored using a blanket scoring model that also takes the conference and tradeshow planning information into account, it may not reflect the high-interest and level for the right products specific to the wedding planner vertical. Which means the lead may not get the attention from the right sales person that they deserve.

5. Have clearly outlined sales follow-up process and/or templates that include lead score context

Having internal processes that have outline clear milestones and one clear end game make for a powerful marketing and sales focused organization. This is never more true than when thinking of the relay race baton handoff of the lead qualified by marketing to the sales team.

Having internal processes that have outline clear milestones and one clear end game make for a powerful marketing and sales focused organization

One of the most commonly missed pieces is how someone from the sales couldn’t follow up well because they don’t have the right context for the prospect he or she engaged with. Make certain you send the SQL with notes that give a better picture.

Simply sending leads to your sales team’s pipeline without any context or prioritization misses out on an opportunity with lead scoring. Ventilate your silos. Have both your marketing and sales teams be part of the process to map the customer’s journey from the top of the funnel through the signing of the contract (and ongoing engagement after they've become a buyer!).

6. Use negative scoring and reduction model

According to Spear Marketing, 50% of companies can benefit from putting a scoring reduction model in place.

Why? Because prospects could use your lead magnets for many different reasons. A prospect might over-inflate her score because she’s doing research for a college project on your site’s subject matter expertise. Another is a current client who is continuing to take advantage of lead magnets but isn’t being scored according to the right model.

Using reduction model tactics can reduce bias in your scoring system and keep scores honest, so to speak. Similarly, negative scoring can be used to dock points from leads who have gone inactive or who visit your specific resources that indicate a preference for learning only, rather than learning AND purchasing.

Pro tip? Be certain to include measurements from these downward or stalled scores in your analytics dashboard along with upward lead score growth. There’s an important story to be told from a lead that changes direction or doesn’t grow as fast as anticipated.

What are some of your favorite lead scoring best practices? Don't have any yet? Nifty Marketing would love to help you get started. Let's set up some time to talk today.

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