Lead scoring 201: Using data to improve marketing ROI

Lead scoring assigns points to a person based on their likelihood to buy your product or service. Our last blog post on lead scoring – Lead scoring 101: Lead scoring & why it’s important– also explains how lead scoring can be used to align marketing and sales, save valuable resources and increase sales close rates.

Now, let’s get into the science of lead scoring: the data that indicates a lead is likely – or unlikely – to buy and how to get started developing a lead scoring system for your business.

Types of data that determine a lead’s score
Lead scoring typically uses three types of data to show product fit, interest and intent to purchase:

  1. Explicit data – is specific, unambiguous information that doesn’t need to be inferred or analyzed; for example: company size, revenue, job title, location, etc. Explicit data shows how closely a lead’s position or company aligns with your business and should be assigned positive point values when scoring leads.
  1. Implicit data – is information gathered from actions a contact takes online that imply interest or intent to purchase; for example: downloading content, multiple website visits, subscribing to a newsletter or blog, etc., and should be assigned positive points when scoring leads.
  1. Negative criteria – is information (can be implicit or explicit) that indicates a prospect is not a good fit; for example: multiple unopened emails over a period of time; not enough budget; or is a student or competitor doing research, and should be assigned negative points.

Assign points to these pieces of data based on their level of importance for your business. The sum of these points is a lead’s score.

For example…
Let’s say you’re a B2B company that sells marketing software.

  • Explicit data: You know your customers are usually senior level marketers working at mid-sized companies with revenues of $2-5 million per year.
  • Implicit data: You know that before making a purchase, customers usually visit your website, download content, speak with a customer service rep and do a demo.
  • Product or service fit: Your customers usually come to you because they’re experiencing a problem: they need more processes around their marketing programs, or they’re seeking an opportunity: they want to grow their customer base.

The more closely each of these actions or attributes aligns with your target customer or buyer persona, the higher their lead score and more likely they are to purchase.

Determine scoring criteria: What does your ideal customer look like?
Think about what your ideal customer generally looks like. What attributes and actions (implicit and explicit data) are most important in determining likelihood to purchase? Jot those down. Those are the actions and data you’ll assign points to start scoring leads.

If you haven’t already, develop a customer profile (or buyer persona). Outline your business’ customer lifecycle and buyer’s journey online. Start assigning points to customer attributes and online behaviors or actions. Analyze past customers’ path to purchase. What do your ideal customers all have in common? That data should be assigned the highest point value when scoring leads, since it’s most important in determining likelihood to purchase (lead quality).

Getting started
Talk to your sales team. Ask them what they think customers have in common. Equally important, look for red flags that indicate that a prospect isn’t going to make a purchase (e.g. lack of budget). It’s important to note that a lead’s score isn’t always linear. Assign positive points to attributes or data that indicates likelihood to purchase; assign negative points for red flags that indicate a prospect is not the right fit.

And, be patient. Don’t expect this to work overnight. Lead scoring can be fluid based on changes in your products and services or pricing. Be realistic about how quickly a visitor will become a lead or a customer. For most businesses, B2B businesses in particular, the timeline can be up to a year from visiting your website for the first time to closing a deal. Lead scoring gives marketers the ability to report on metrics beyond awareness and site traffic. Giving the sales team high quality leads means they’ll spend less time chasing unknowns and more time closing business.

The result: marketing and sales alignment, increased revenue and tangible ROI attributed to your company’s marketing team.

I’d wish you good luck, but with the right strategy in place, you won’t need it.

Laura Elizabeth Saunders

Laura Elizabeth is a strategic dynamo, especially when it comes to implementing inbound marketing strategies. She also enjoys doing research, writing and media relations works for a variety of B2B clients.

Read more by Laura Elizabeth

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