One number we inbound marketers are particularly interested in is a potential customer’s lead score. This number tells data-driven marketers and lead-hungry salespeople in an instant how much that individual has interacted with the brand, and – to use a sales cliché – how “warm” they are. But what on Earth am I talking about when I say “lead score”? Well, obviously I’m going to tell you.
What is lead scoring?
Kind of what it sounds like, really. In the world of marketing automation, lead scoring is the assigning of a score, against a pre-determined scale – to a lead or contact within your system. Usually, when a lead reaches a certain score, they are determined as being “marketing qualified”, and hence are ready to be passed on to sales. The score is added to – or subtracted from – when the lead performs certain actions and activities. You assign a point score to each activity, based on how strong a buying signal you think it is. For example, you might decide that opening email is worth one point, and downloading an eBook is worth five points. When the lead performs these activities, the system logs this and the relevant score is added to their overall lead score.
Why lead scoring?
Now we’ve got to grips with what lead scoring is, we’re going to unpack why you’d want to do this.
For me, and I’m guessing most inbound marketers, it comes back to one of the core ethoses of inbound marketing – better sales enablement. Within a business, inbound is all about delivering more leads into your sales team that are further on in the buyer’s journey – meaning the salesperson is getting involved at exactly the right time, and the lead is ready and receptive to engaging with them. However, as you’ll no doubt be aware, examining a lead and determining their sales-readiness, in a more traditional sense of “cold/warm/hot”, can lead you into murky waters. Different products have different sales cycles. What one salesperson considers “warm”, another one might consider cold. Customers have different approaches to engaging with you and procuring from you.
This is where lead scoring comes in. It’s a way to make something which can get quite complex and messy, simple and clean. Numbers are universal. Even if Salesperson A and Salesperson B can’t agree on what constitutes a “warm” lead, they can’t argue with a number. A black and white, quantified representation of how the lead has interacted with your brand. As long as the number is meaningful to them. We’ll get onto that in a minute.
Lead scoring is also a simpler way to carry out the actual task of marketing automation, especially now that many quality lead management software solutions are available.. It gives you a reference point to base workflows off of, keep on top of lifecycle stages in your system, and can help you nudge along leads who are engaged, but not quite sales ready yet. You could base an entire nurture program on leads who have a score between x and y, with the aim to be to engage with them in such a way that it tips them over into marketing qualified, and they can be delivered to sales ready to go.
How do you score leads?
I told you I’d get to this bit. In order for lead scoring to be successful, and add value to both your marketing and sales activity, the numbers have to mean something. It’s a good idea to reach an agreement on what number determines a marketing qualified lead between the sales and marketing teams. It could be 10, 25 or 50. It entirely depends on your business and the length of your sales cycle. The only the thing I would warn you off of is setting that number too low. Remember – it’s about delivering the lead to sales when they’re ready – you want them to feel receptive to sales engagement. So make sure your lead scoring system is based around that – they shouldn’t reach the stage of MQL until they’ve at least attained the score required to complete a marketing funnel.
I said “at least attained the score required to complete a marketing funnel” because obviously there are numerous other ways a lead could interact with you and your website outside of your prescribed marketing funnels. They might click on a link you posted on Twitter, they might browse a product page a couple of times. These are interactions that are just as valuable, if not more valuable, than the interactions you’ve anticipated within your marketing funnel. You should take this into consideration when setting points against activities. You should also bear in mind the weighting of certain activities. Obviously, clicking on a CTA in a blog post deserves some points, but not the same amount of points as filling in a form. Visiting a product page once isn’t a strong buying signal. Visiting it 3 times is. The best thing to do is play around with a number of scenarios and pathways for your leads to go through, totting up scores as you go. This will help you find the right balance and the right numbers to give an accurate representation of the lead’s place in the sales cycle.
Don’t worry. If you’re new to the world of inbound marketing and marketing automation, the idea of having to map out all of these activities and corresponding points in your mind can feel like trying to get the hang of Risk when you’ve had a bottle of wine. We’re here to help. If you’d like to understand more about how lead scoring could help you deliver better leads into your sales team and close more customers, get in touch.