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How to Score: An Intro to Lead Scoring & Selling More With Predictive Technology

Jul 10, 2015

Imagine you’re generating thousands of leads a month and that list keeps growing. This might be exciting—or terrifying depending on the size of your sales team. With this incredible volume of leads, how can you and your sales team possibly know which prospects are most deserving of time and most likely to make a purchase?

Enter lead scoring—a critical component of any leading marketer’s strategy. Whether you’re a massive corporation looking to rein in your overflowing database, or a small business looking to provide a more targeted, intimate follow-up experience, lead scoring can and will transform the way you sell.

In this article, we’ll break down the basics of what exactly lead scoring is, how it works, and the benefits that it provides for modern day marketers. For more advanced users or those looking to enhance their existing lead scoring strategy, we’ll introduce some innovations in scoring that are helping companies better target prospects, improve sales efficiency, and sell more.

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring assigns a number (or grade) score to each and every lead that passes through your database. This score is based on any number of factors, falling into one of two categories:

  • Behavioral Scoring: How interested a prospect is in your productOn one side of the equation, scoring is determined by looking at how prospects interact with your brand. Based on a combination of web activity (e.g. pages visited on your site, time on site, etc.) and behavioral information (e.g. email opens, webinar attended, button clicked), lead scoring provides valuable insight into which people and companies are most likely to buy your product.
  • Demographic Scoring: How good of a fit this prospect is for your product
  • On the other end of the spectrum, lead scoring looks at demographic information of leads and firmographic information of the company to match against that of your target customers. It’s likely that you have an idea of which industries, job titles, and other criteria generally comprise your ideal customer, and this information can all be used to determine the likelihood of a prospect converting.

Fusing the two scoring systems together, you build a true picture of value: the prospect’s value to your business and your business’s value.

How does lead scoring work?

Like most everything these days, lead scoring is all about the data. Demographic information can typically found in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution—your digital Rolodex storing everything you know about prospective customers. Whether you traded business cards at an event, they filled out a form on your website, or you purchased a list of names, odds are you’ve got their name, basic content info, and hopefully a few other basic attributes to get you going. The good news is that, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably sitting on a mountain of valuable lead data whether you know it yet or not. Even if your data isn’t quite up to snuff yet, there are ways to supplement what you do have with valuable lead info, which we’ll cover shortly.

Behavioral information is typically tracked with a Marketing Automation System (MAS) like Marketo, Eloqua, or Hubspot. In addition to vastly simplifying the creation, deployment, and tracking of marketing campaigns, automation solutions typically come pre-installed with everything you need to get started with lead scoring. Starting with the first time you “meet” a lead (i.e. they visit your site), automation solutions track every interaction with your brand and assign scores for every interaction along the way along the way.

A lead scoring strategy helps marketers expedite the qualification process, and prioritize leads for your sales team—so that you can reach the right prospects first and fast. For prospects in the queue who haven’t yet hit your sales hand-off threshold, many companies use nurturing techniques to move prospects to the point where they’re ready to buy. Through a series communications or touches, nurture programs are designed to independently educate prospects—automatically engaging prospects without sucking up valuable sales or marketing resources.

The Future of Lead Scoring

So you’ve got your lead scoring up and running and you’re ready to take things to the next level? Whether your data isn’t quite up to snuff or you’re tired of relying on gut feeling to determine what qualifies a good lead, predictive lead scoring may be for you. By its very nature, lead scoring should be predictive—a potential customer’s score should predict whether that person is going to buy from you. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Before I started working at Fliptop, a predictive lead scoring platform, I’d always tried to base scoring on customers we’d won, but I’m not a data scientist—the most I could determine was that certain industries or job titles were more likely than others to become customers. But this kind of correlation hardly scratches the surface of what predictive lead scoring can do. And when combined with traditional lead scoring, the two strategies are a match made in data heaven.

Here’s how predictive lead scoring works:

  1. Start by analyzing all closed opportunities in your CRM – those you’ve won, and those you’ve lost.
  2. Using a predictive lead scoring platform, you can scan thousands of data signals across the public web and proprietary data sources to figure out the digital fingerprint of your ideal customer.
  3. Based on that fingerprint, your platform can create a scoring system in which all leads, contacts, accounts, and opportunities are scored based on how closely they match existing customers.

Imagine you asked your leads to fill out a 500-field registration form, giving you all the information you could ever use to qualify them. As useful as this information would be, you’d have little success convincing leads to fill out the whole form. Predictive lead scoring accomplishes the same thing, but speeds up the qualification process, letting you know immediately which leads are winners… and which are not.

This also prioritizes inbound leads for your sales and marketing teams. For companies that have their marketing really dialed, bringing in hundreds if not thousands of leads a month, prioritization is crucial to getting to the right leads quickly.

The Bottom Line

Traditional scoring is great at highlighting a prospect’s interest level in your product and willingness to talk to sales. If you’re a small business or just getting started with lead scoring, I hope that you’re able to use the ideas outlined to better qualify leads in-house or, ideally, invest in a marketing automation solution to do the heavy lifting for you. Your life (and sales numbers) will be better for it.

For more advanced marketers, predictive lead scoring supercharges traditional lead scoring by automatically identifying the ideal candidates for your product based on a combination of historical success data, machine-learning, and thousands of external factors. Think of your traditional lead score as the “activity” fit—the lead’s activities suggest a propensity to become a customer—and predictive score as their “true” fit – how the lead’s fingerprint matches those of your existing customers.

Whether you’re a million dollar corporation or small business trying to land your first customer, laying the foundation for lead scoring has the potential transform your business—improving sales and marketing productivity and driving more sales in the process!


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