The Innovative Marketer's Blog

Confused About Lead Scoring? Lead Scoring 101

Posted by Kevin Jorgensen on Jul 27, 2015 10:59:00 AM

You used inbound marketing to transform that old website you thought was just an online brochure into a lead generating machine. But now as the initial shock wears off and you start engaging with your new leads, you’ve pretty quickly learned that some are better sales opportunities than others. You're not alone. Sixty-one percent of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. Sound familiar? 

Thanks to inbound marketing, you’ve got more leads than you know what to do with. Naturally, you want a way to score the best leads so you can focus your limited resources on the prospects that have the greatest potential to produce revenue.

Often we find that inbound marketers either don’t know where to begin with lead scoring or they go overboard, creating lead scoring strategies that are more complex than the United States tax code. Here’s a way to get started with effective lead scoring without tying yourself up in knots.


KISS - Keep It Super Simple

Lead scoring doesn’t need to be super complex to be effective, especially when you’re implementing your first scoring system. Think of it this way; you want to always be sure you understand the meaning of your measurement. The easier it is to understand, the easier it is to set up and see the cause and effect that will let you tweak your content, lead nurturing emails, and other elements of your inbound marketing campaign for best results.

Begin with your funnel. Obviously, prospects reading top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content are less qualified than people looking at middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) offers.

So, for each top-of-the-funnel offer (TOFU offer) downloaded, award the prospect 10 points. For each middle-of-the-funnel offer (MOFU offer), like a webinar, white paper or eBook, award the prospect 30 points. For each bottom-of-the-funnel offer (BOFU offer) requested, award 90 points.

You can see from the scoring that qualified prospect offers are worth 10 times what the white papers and eBook downloads are. This reflects the importance of getting prospects to convert on those bottom-of-the-funnel offers, but it doesn’t entirely dismiss a prospect who downloaded three whitepapers and attended three webinars.

Make Sure It Can Grow

If you were to implement the scoring strategy above, you’d have a lead scoring system. It would be extremely simple and representative of a prospect’s activity with your school or business prior to engaging with admissions or sales. But, once you become comfortable with your basic scoring system you might want to add elements that further qualify or distinguish a prospect for certain behaviors. Here are a couple of ideas we’ve used with clients:

  • Award five points every time a prospect visits your site.
  • Identify certain pages on your site that are more indicative of people who are further along in their buyer’s journey.
  • Choose specific content that you recognize other buyers always download and award mega points for downloading that material. For instance, a case study, success story or testimonial page is usually viewed by people closer to the decision phase, so perhaps a visit to one of those pages earns 30 points.

Now, you’re giving people who keep coming back a higher score than those who stop by once and never return.

Looking at your scoring system, set a threshold score that determines when you make sales aware of a lead. For example, if a prospect has a score of more than 100, transfer that lead to sales for follow-up because they’ve had sufficient engagement to indicate that the investment of a salesperson’s time is warranted.

Include, Educate and Incorporate

To get started, you don’t need to make lead scoring more complicated than this. Your model includes values based on offers and values based on visits, with engagement with certain bottom-of-the-funnel pages awarded a higher value.

The next step is engaging sales in your lead scoring activities. What we’ve seen work best is selecting a pilot group of salespeople who want to grow their sales volume and who are committed to working with you to identify the behaviors of the best customers. Explain to them the value of lead scoring, how it focuses their attention on more qualified leads, how you created the scoring model so it was easy to understand and how, with their input, you’ll improve it over time.

Then, work with them every day to make sure they see the leads, see the score each lead has (higher score = better quality lead) and follow up promptly using information gathered in the inbound marketing process (no cold calls or “Hey, I saw you were on our website” type solicitations).

Make sure you get feedback on what sales learns by engaging the leads so you can incorporate their feedback to tweak your scoring strategy and improve its accuracy. You’ll know you’ve achieved a new state of marketing deity status when you catch sales talking about how quickly they closed that lead with the XX score.

Some Things to Avoid

Often there is a temptation to try to outsmart the process. One way marketers do that is by asking specific questions on a form and then scoring the responses. Title, for example.  If someone is a CEO, she or he might be awarded a higher lead score than someone who is a marketing associate.

If you really know that CEOs are most likely to buy your product or service, this might work - but it could also work against you, for instance, if sales chooses not to follow up quickly on a lower-scored marketing associate lead that is ready to buy today. Until you are really sure how specific qualities like title impact qualification, my recommendation is to score on activity with specific content rather than individual traits.

As another example, some will score on geography or industry. Again, unless you don’t work in certain areas or support certain industries, I wouldn’t recommend including these in your scoring model. (You may use this information to decide which sales rep to pass a lead to, however, so it is still worth collecting in the inbound marketing process.) For a list of some ideas about different criteria you might use to score leads you may consider this list of 13 lead scoring criteria published by HubSpot.  

While all leads are good leads in the sense that you can learn from their engagement with your site and content, not all are equal in value. Lead scoring allows you to assign a value to your leads quickly, which helps salespeople prioritize, engage appropriately and work more effectively to close more leads, more quickly. Your salespeople will also come to trust your scoring system as you demonstrate that you’re interested in only passing on the highest quality leads for their follow-up.

One of the first things sales will want you to discriminate on is budget. Of course if a prospect has no money, you can't sell them anything. However, all too often the question of where budget will come from isn't a direct answer to the question, "How big is your budget?". Often if asked people will make up numbers designed either to cause sales not to follow-up or to make themselves appear more important than they are. (Typically the less experienced leads will take the latter approach while the more savvy will use a fictitiously-low budget response to camouflage themselves from an over-eager sales person.) My recommendation is that you find more creative ways to inquire about budget and don't go for the seemingly simple direct approach. For example, you can infer a lot about budgets from annual sales figures or numbers of employees or certain trade events that a prospect attends. These questions can tell you what you need to know without asking an off-putting question. Often determining the exact way a product and service wil be paid for is best left up to sales. What you, as marketer, want to validate and score is that the lead has the potential to pay for your product or service before sending them over as a sales-qualified lead.

Once you establish a score that represents a sales-qualified lead, the temptation is to use the score threshold to discriminate against low-scoring leads. Use lead scoring to ignore leads at your peril. If someone takes the time to fill out a form on your website, they’re interested in your business. Ignoring them is the best way to make it difficult for them to hire you or purchase something from you. Assume every lead might be your next best and biggest client.

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Let the Lead Scoring Begin

If you keep a few basic principles in mind, there’s no reason you can’t start scoring your leads without tying you or your business up in knots. Keep your scoring system simple and relevant so that the score has meaning. Tie your scoring to content engagement and activities rather than responses to individual form questions.  Include sales in your planning and ongoing maintenance of your scoring system. Once you get your scoring system up and running for a few months, analyze your sales data to expand scoring and make the score relevant to sales. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

Topics: Inbound Marketing, Lead Generation, B2B Sales and Marketing