Anybody in business of any sort knows that in most cases, bigger is better — at least as far as sales figures are concerned. Higher sales equals more money, and that’s what keeps the shareholders or stakeholders in the company happy. It’s also what keeps the lights on and allows the bills to be paid, the grass to be cut, and the braces to be put on the kids’ teeth.
But as anybody who has spent more than three and a half minutes in the marketing world knows, not all leads are created equal. Some are duds and others will become highly profitable customers. But it’s not merely a roll of the dice or dumb luck that brings in leads with a higher likelihood of becoming customers — it’s lead scoring.
What Is Lead Scoring?
To state it simply, lead scoring is a process that allows marketing and sales professionals to understand which prospects are the most likely to convert into sales and customers. It assigns a numerical ranking (for example, 0 to 100) to a set of criteria on a lead, based on that lead’s potential sales-worthiness. The higher the number, the more promising the lead. Then you take the sum of these data points, and the higher that number, the more worthy the lead is. Obviously, the larger the number, the stronger the lead’s potential. Simple, right?
OK, maybe it’s not that simple. The first thing you ask is, “What are the criteria that are used for these rankings?” To tell the truth, there are many possibilities here. These criteria can include obvious things like demographics or actions taken by the lead (online behavior, email engagement, and social media engagement, among others).
Really, what you’re doing here is drilling down, breaking down the lead, and giving each category a ranking. The higher the aggregate ranking, the more likely you will be able to convert the lead into a customer. It’s not simply a matter of having more leads in the pipeline; it’s all about having the most promising leads in the pipeline.
Takeaway: Lead scoring is the process used to separate less-promising leads from those who are most likely to be converted into customers.
Why Is Lead Scoring Important?
In the big picture, lead scoring is more than just another digital marketing strategy; it has the potential, if implemented correctly, to make your marketing and sales departments more effective, and more importantly, it can have a tremendous positive financial impact on your company. The ways that this is possible are:
Focused and Effective Marketing Campaigns
By implementing lead scoring, you’ll be able to identify exactly which campaigns and channels bring in high-quality leads, the ones that are most likely to be converted into customers. Once you’ve gotten a grip on how and where these leads are gleaned from, you can tweak your marketing strategies to generate more of the same type of leads.
Alignment Between Sales and Marketing Departments
A little business 101 here: Sales and marketing are not the same thing! Marketing informs and attracts leads by focusing on building brand awareness, whereas sales professionals have the job of converting potential customers into paying ones. In most companies, the sales and marketing departments are different teams entirely.
The lack of a lead-scoring system (or the presence of a not-very-effective one) can only weaken the link between sales and marketing in your company. Once a robust lead-scoring process is implemented, the leads that marketing passes over to sales will be “qualified” — that is, will have achieved at least the minimum threshold you’ve predetermined — and foster better synergy between your sales and marketing departments.
Boost in Sales and Revenue
Once a lead-scoring process is in place, the sales department can easily prioritize which leads to follow up with first. It makes the sales team more efficient by helping them know which prospects to focus on. Being able to convert the low-hanging fruit into customers is a natural way to grow revenue for the company.
These points represent only the biggest attributes that lead scoring can bring to a company. There are plenty of smaller, more subtle benefits too, including simplifying, streamlining, and lowering the budgets in many parts of the organization.
Takeaway: Without some kind of lead-scoring process in place, you’ll be wasting a lot of time and effort pursuing leads that will never convert to sales.
Some Basic Lead-Scoring Models
We’ve determined that scoring a lead means assigning a numerical value to several predetermined data points associated with that lead. Once a lead has been scored, it’s assigned a number: a ranking. The scored lead is tossed into the pot with other scored leads, and those with the highest rankings are the first to be tackled by the sales department. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’s time to learn what a typical lead-scoring model consists of.
You give a score to an attribute of the lead (such as the industry where the lead is employed), which is based on historical data. So for example, a lead working in a science-based company may score higher than, say, one in the retail sector. In that instance, a value is given to that category based on the employment of the lead.
Synergy Between Departments
Before you apply any lead-scoring model, both the sales and marketing departments must agree on what attributes are used to score a lead. If there’s a difference of opinion, then some less-than-qualified leads may float to the top of the heap, while other potentially promising ones might fall by the wayside, resulting in a tremendous missed opportunity.
Defining the Lead-Scoring Threshold
It’s important to know what score is the right one to tell marketing to pass the lead over to sales when it’s time. Following up on the synergy between departments, both sales and marketing must agree on that cutoff number when separating qualified leads from the rest. This is a tricky balancing act, as setting the bar too high excludes qualified leads, while setting it too low will allow prospects that probably aren’t worthy to be pursued by the sales professionals.
Defining the Explicit Scorable Attributes
Here you assign numbers to the specific attributes of a lead. Every situation is different, of course, but typical qualities include:
- Company size
- Job title/role
- Years of industry experience
- Company size/revenue
- Geographic location
These are a few typical examples of attributes; depending on your industry and other factors, there can be many more.
Defining the Implicit Scorable Attributes
There are other factors that may be scored too, ones that are based on online behavior. These include:
- Website hits
- Social media engagement
- Email opens/clicks
- Requests for newsletter subscriptions
- Requests for additional information (contact requests, content-form submissions, downloads, free samples, etc.)
Of course, there are also some “negative” actions that can factor in the lead scoring. These include:
- Unsubscribing from an email list
- Submitting a job title that may indicate a no-go (student, retired, unemployed, etc.)
- Listing employment at a competing company (indicating industry research)
How Companies Leverage Lead Scoring
As you have learned, companies — especially ones with well-defined sales and marketing departments — can leverage lead scoring in multiple ways. For example, our digital marketing experts here at Hawke Media have discovered that lead scoring results in less wasted time and money, as its departments work in a synergistic, streamlined manner, with both sales and marketing working together to convert qualified leads into sales. It also strengthens relationships with prospects, provides a razor-sharp focus for the sales professionals and, as companies selling big-ticket items have discovered, lessens the time for converting leads from prospects to customers.
Every business out there today wants to succeed — that success relies on sales— and those sales are dependent not only on leads but on qualified leads. Lead scoring is a mandatory process for any company worth its salt. For all the reasons already mentioned above (saving time and money, identifying qualified leads, and enabling synergy between marketing and sales), it’s a no-brainer to implement lead scoring. With a well-planned and researched lead-scoring model, your business will benefit from not only increased revenues and lower costs but your potential customers’ experience as well.
Ready to take your marketing to the next level? Reach out for a free consultation today.
Chris Capelle is a technology expert, writer, and instructor. For over 25 years, he has worked in the publishing, advertising, and consumer-products industries.