The Beginner’s Guide to Lead Scoring

lead scoringMost marketers operate under one primary goal– to generate leads for their business. But, if you work in marketing, you know not all leads convert into paying customers. So that begs the question: How do you determine which leads are most likely to become buyers? And, how can you optimize campaigns to generate better leads?

Enter: lead scoring. Today we’re telling you everything there is to know about lead scoring – what it is, why it’s important, and how you can implement an effective lead scoring strategy as part of your overall marketing efforts.

Ready to learn more? Keep reading.

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is the process of ranking the sales-readiness of a lead using a predetermined methodology. The process goes like this: You determine which criteria or data points indicate a sales qualified lead and then assign point values to each of those criteria, ultimately leaving you with a final score for each lead.

A lead scoring system allows you to take the subjectivity out of the process and truly understand which leads have the best chance of converting. Unfortunately, statistics show that most organizations struggle to manage their leads effectively (source):

  • 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales.
  • 57% of B2B organizations say that converting qualified leads into customers is their top funnel priority.
  • However, 79% of B2B marketers also have not established a system for lead scoring.

So this makes us wonder if lead conversion is a priority and marketing leads are failing to convert, why not implement a lead scoring system? We answer this question next.

What are the benefits of lead scoring?

Lead scoring is more than just a marketing strategy. It can make your entire business more effective and can help to align the many different teams within your organization. If implemented correctly, lead scoring can have the following impact on your company:

More effective marketing campaigns:

Lead scoring allows you to identify the campaigns and channels that result in high-quality leads. Then, you can tailor your marketing strategy to generate more qualified leads.

Sales and marketing alignment:

61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales, but only 27% are qualified (source). This discrepancy is a major contributor to misalignment between sales and marketing. When your organization has a distinct ruleset in place for scoring leads, you can ensure that every lead you pass on to sales will be qualified – and that will strengthen the relationship between the two departments facilitating better sales and marketing alignment.

Increase in revenue:

With lead scoring in place, the sales department can prioritize which leads to follow up with first. Reaching out to qualified leads in a timely manner impacts revenue significantly– in fact, 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first (source).

These three benefits, although important, are only the figurative tip of the iceberg. Lead scoring can streamline, simplify, and improve so many processes within your organization. And, the best part? It’s not a difficult system to implement. Ready to learn how? Keep reading.

How to implement lead scoring

1. Create buyer personas.

Before you can score your leads, you must have a clear understanding of the characteristics that make a prospect and ideal fit for your products and services. That’s where buyer personas come in. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Each buyer persona profile is made up of criteria gleaned from quantitative research, anecdotal observations, and existing customer data.

The more buyer personas you have, the more holistic your understanding of your customers will be and, as a result,  the more precise your lead scoring efforts will be.

Since this post is about lead scoring, not buyer personas, we’ll move on from here. But if you’re unfamiliar with personas and want to learn more about why they’re important and how to create them, we urge you to read the following article: The Beginner’s Guide to Buyer Personas.

2. Determine which data points to score.

Now that you know what your ideal buyers look like, it’s time to decide which attributes you will assign a point value to. Lead scoring criteria can be broken up into two main categories– demographic information and behavioral information.

Demographic information refers to the characteristics that a lead possesses. Some examples:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Company Size
  • Department
  • Industry
  • Job Title / Seniority

The term behavioral criteria refers to the actions that a lead takes, or how they interact with your company. Examples include:

  • Email opens
  • Email subscription
  • Web page visits
  • Free trial requests
  • Form submissions
  • Content download
  • Social media engagement
  • Webinar registration

Every business has its definition of sales-readiness, so we can’t tell you exactly what criteria you should score. But hopefully, the above examples will start your brainstorming session.

3. Assign point values.

Not all scoring criteria are created equal. Remember: your goal is to define which traits and actions eventually lead to a closed deal. So, you need to assign numerical values to each data point accordingly.

For example, leads who subscribe to receive blog updates don’t often convert to paying customers. Conversely, leads who download a whitepaper tend to have a very high conversion rate. So, blog subscribers get scored two points while those who download white papers get 25 points.

And another example using demographic and firmographic data points: Your best customers often come from companies of 2,000 plus people who work in the financial industry. On the flip side, individual financial advisors rarely convert to customers. In this instance, you would assign 50 points to someone from a company of 2,000 people who select finance as their industry. But, you subtract 50 points for anyone who submits a form with a free-mail who lists their job title as “financial advisor” Again, the exact numbers and data points will depend on your lead scoring system – but you get the idea!

Here’s how to gather the data you need to develop an effective lead scoring system:

Talk to your sales team.

Sales reps interact directly with customers each and every day. Therefore, they have important insight into the factors that qualify a person to be a customer. They might have deeper insight into buying indicators that you failed to incorporate into your buyer personas. If you don’t want to take up too much of your reps’ time, check out your CRM data—you can glean a lot of important information by looking at the leads your reps do and don’t follow up with.

Talk to customers.

Your customers can tell you about their buying journey in greater detail than your reps can. Speak to some of your top buyers and ask them what early steps they took before deciding to make a purchase. As you speak to more customers, you’ll begin to see trends that will assist you with lead scoring.

Examine your marketing analytics.

Analyze data relating to all of your past marketing campaigns. Which ones generated the most leads? More importantly, which campaigns generated the most buyers? If you find that a specific piece of content has a high conversion rate, for example, then you might assign a high point value to leads who download that specific piece or who download similar content types.

4. Determine the point threshold that makes a lead sales qualified.

Once you assign each data point a score, you total all points amassed by a single lead and that’s their final lead score. Simple, right? Not so fast. The tricky part is this: You must determine what range of  scores represent “sales-readiness.” This will likely require some testing and analysis when you first implement lead scoring.

We recommend implementing lead score with no minimum value to start. Request that sales follow up with leads equally, no matter their score for a predetermined test period. Then, once that test period is complete, analyze sales follow up and lead score. See if you can identify a clear cut off point where leads stop turning into customers.

Once this number is determined, sales and marketing must work together to develop the appropriate outreach processes for leads of certain scores. For example, if, after careful analysis, you realize most leads that have a score below thirty never turn into customers. You come up with an agreement that sales will follow up with all leads scored above thirty and those who fall beneath that threshold will be placed into a nurture program until they become ready to buy.

5. Secure the help of sales and marketing automation tools.

If you’re thinking lead scoring sounds great, but nearly impossible to get done manually, you’d be right. Scoring leads without the help of a marketing automation tool is time-consuming– and even worse, it can lead to data inaccuracies and lead routing problems. Not to mention, as a lead is nurtured through the sales funnel, their score will likely change. Without automated processes in place, it’s pretty impossible to keep up with a single lead’s activities—not to mention thousands of leads.

Luckily, most popular marketing automation tools can handle the entire lead scoring process for you. All you have to do is enter your scoring criteria, and the automation tool will score leads as they come in and will update their scores as they change. You will be able to reap the rewards of lead scoring without devoting a ton of your time to it.

For more about marketing automation, check out our recent marketing automation blog.

Final Thoughts on Lead Scoring

Lead scoring might sound like a big project to take on. But we assure you – once you implement a lead scoring system, your entire organization will become more productive and effective. In fact, organizations using a lead scoring system experience a 77% increase in lead generation ROI (source).

So, stop wondering what leads are best and stop sending unqualified leads to your sales team. Sit down with your leadership and start your lead scoring strategy today – your entire organization will thank you for it!

To learn how the ZoomInfo B2B database can help with your lead scoring strategy, contact our sales team!