What Is Lead Scoring?
Lead scoring is a method of prioritizing leads - usually by their level of interest in your product and how good a fit they are for your company - to maximize the use of your sales and marketing resources.
In other words, lead scoring keeps you from wasting your time and money on leads who aren't likely to make a purchase.
How Can Lead Scoring Increase Marketing Effectiveness?
The Buying Process Has Changed
The Internet is now a major influence on all buying decisions, whether B2B or B2C. This means
- buyers don't rely on companies' sales teams for product information,
- they are more informed when they do make contact with sales,
- they have more control over negotiations,
- and the tend to be at least halfway through their buying process when that contact occurs.
There are also more decision makers involved in any B2B purchasing decision - about five on average.
According to Oracle, "Organizations that make a concerted effort to address these changes in the buying process consistently increase lead conversion rates, shorten sales cycles, and improve win rates."
Lead scoring gives you insight into both your buyers and your own business goals. First, if none of your incoming leads are meeting your expectations, you know you need to recalibrate your marketing efforts. Lead scoring also forces you to take a closer look each lead that comes in - that's valuable information for both your marketing and sales teams.
Second, you may start scoring your leads with certain goals in mind, and those goals may shift as you discover where you want your business to go and which clients you prefer to work with. Determining how and with what criteria you score your leads can help focus all your marketing strategies.
Lead scoring increases your ROI by targeting your resources at the most valuable leads. Less time and money wasted on bad leads = more efficient spending. It also helps you keep tabs on high-quality leads, instead of losing them in a pile of unsorted leads.
Marketing & Sales Relationship
For effective lead scoring, marketing and sales need to work together. They need to communicate their needs and collaborate to make sure nothing gets lost in translation.
The sales team is the starting point for lead scoring: to score leads properly, marketing needs to know what exactly qualifies a lead for sales. That may be stage of the buyer's journey, how much they already know about the product or service, or what kind of assistance they need.
Marketing executes the scoring qualifications provided by sales. The marketing team should ONLY hand leads to sales once they meet those qualifications. This will streamline the entire process and produce optimal ROI.
If they can do it, so can you.
10 Expert Lead Scoring Tips
What qualifications can sales & marketing use to score leads? What are some best practices for lead scoring, nurturing, and follow up? Here are some tips and tricks used by the experts.
1. Score by BANT (Discreetly)
BANT is still a valid lead scoring tactic, though it's rude to ask about these things directly. It's best to do some outside recon once you know their name and company rather than asking "What's your budget?" outright.
Budget - Budgets vary from business to business, and you can't really be sure how much a potential client is willing to invest in your product or service. If a lead doesn't have the budget to meet your asking price, you can still keep them warm in case their budget increases.
Authority - Is the person who converted the decision maker? If not, how much influence do they hold in the purchasing process? Who is the main decision maker?
Need - Some leads are only interested in downloading an eBook, or doing research for a school project. Some indications of need will be obvious (you're a plastics manufacturer, they distribute plastic items). Other indications aren't as obvious (whether they're unhappy with their current vendor or just doing research).
Timeline - Only the buyer knows their true timeline (when they'll be ready to buy). But you can make educated guesses based on your recon info.
2. Listen to Digital Body Language
Digital communication is nothing like talking face-to-face. You can't refer to their facial expression, tone of voice, posture, stance, or other physical signals when trying to gauge their interest. However, there is a digital equivalent to physical body language that you can use to score leads.
This body language includes:
- Blog posts read
- Social media activity
- Email opens
- Website session duration
- Pages viewed per session
- Forms completed
- Links clicked
Any other trackable actions that they take fall under "digital body language." Typically, the more interest they display (downloads, reading articles, filling out forms), the higher their score will be.
3. Make It Easy with Marketing Automation
Marketing automation can benefit businesses of all sizes who are looking to increase lead scoring effectiveness. Marketing automation can score leads as they come in, and you can set up workflows to follow up with them automatically. This will take the burden of lead nurturing off your shoulders, and remove some elements of human error.
4. Two-Dimensional Scoring (fit + interest) w/ Threshold
Some marketers use a multi-dimensional scoring method to track leads. The table looks like this:
Letters A-D signify demographics (or how well the lead fits your buyer persona profile), while numerals 1-4 indicate behavior (engagement or interest with your brand/product).
A lead with a score of A1 matches your buyer persona almost perfectly and shows a high level of interest in your product. A score of D4 doesn't match your target audience and shows no actual interest in your product. The letter scores are unlikely to change over time, while you can nurture leads to move to a lower number. This is a simple lead scoring method that may be useful for beginner marketers.
5. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
Lead scoring may look and sound complicated, but it really doesn't have to be. If you're a small business who's just starting out, or if you haven't done much marketing before, you can take leads as they come. Don't overwhelm yourself with technicalities or details. Add qualifiers to your lead scoring strategy as you learn and grow as a marketer.
6. Lay Out a Detailed Follow Up Plan
So you've scored your leads... now what? Are they going to sit there with their scores and magically make a purchase? Probably not. You need to plan your lead nurturing and workflows to nudge your leads further down the funnel.
Some marketing automation platforms that we mentioned above allow you to create a few different workflows which are triggered automatically when a lead converts. Different workflows can trigger based on lead qualifiers (also a capability of marketing automation!).
8. Keep Sales & Marketing Close
Remember what we said about the relationship between sales and marketing? That shouldn't be a one-time, only-as-necessary thing. They should be working together constantly to optimize lead scoring and lead generation.
That means working as a united front, unsiloed. They should be constantly running in feedback loops to adjust outputs to responses. No more cat-and-dog shenanigans.
9. Analyze Why Certain Leads Don't Turn into Opportunities
You had this great lead on the hook... and then you lost it! What went wrong?! Were you too aggressive, or not aggressive enough? Did the stars align against you?
When you lose leads (and when you win deals!) you should be able to look back on the process and understand what you did right and where you went wrong. If you fail, don't take it personally - it's merely a learning experience for next time. The only real mistake you can make is to not learn from your mistakes.
10. Keep Unqualified Leads Alive
They might not be ready to buy now, but that doesn't mean they'll never be ready to buy. There's no harm in keeping them warm with helpful information as long as they're subscribed to your email list.
Lead Scoring Is Absolutely Necessary
Don't neglect lead scoring. If you feel too busy, set up marketing automation. If your sales and marketing teams hate each other, lock them in the conference room until they learn to get along (actually, don't do this, people may die). Use these tips, and if you have any questions, ask the experts!
There are always excuses and explanations to why you haven't started using necessary aspects of modern marketing. You're not going to get it all done or become an expert overnight! Put them together piece by piece, and eventually you'll have a fully optimized, smoothly working inbound marketing strategy.