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Which matters more for your organization: High lead quality or high lead quantity?
A perfect sales and marketing process delivers both. But in reality, only about 10% of prospects develop into qualified leads, and only up to 6% convert into customers.
We get it – these figures are discouraging. Promising customers often fall through the cracks because many businesses fail to act in time.
But today, you can get the best of both quality and quantity by setting up a lead scoring model. A lead scoring model gives you a list of potential clients or customers who are more likely to convert, based on the green flags that are specific to your business.
B2B and B2C brands can both benefit from this approach, despite their differing sales cycles. Lead scoring can help B2B brands prioritize the most promising leads. For B2Cs, it can help identify future repeat customers and advocates.
In this post, we’re covering 10 lead-scoring best practices to help B2B and B2C organizations improve their lead generation and customer acquisition initiatives. We also share some insights gleaned from real-world examples that can illustrate the benefits of these strategies in practice.
If you’re already a Hubspot, ActiveCampaign, GetResponse, Pipedrive, or any other CRM/marketing automation software user, you’re on the right track. These tools have built-in lead scoring features you can leverage for your programs.
But before we dive in, let’s get the basics out of the way.
Lead scoring helps businesses assess and rank prospects based on their chances of becoming paying customers. You can automate this entire process using marketing automation software, which we get into a little further down.
So how exactly does it work? Each potential customer receives a value. This value reflects their importance to the business based on a variety of factors (demographics, website behavior, marketing engagement, etc). Leads with the highest score on the 100-point scale are considered the easiest to close.
Organizations have much to gain from lead scoring models, such as:
- Increased efficiency: Salesmate reports only 20% of sales-qualified leads (SQLs) receive follow-up. Lead scoring helps ensure you don’t overlook hot leads by filtering out low-priority prospects.
- Increased productivity: 60% of your salespeople’s time goes to waste on poor leads who have little chance of converting into a sale. Imagine channeling that time and effort toward the right target audience.
- Increased profitability: Tie efficiency and productivity together and you get *drumroll please* a healthier bottom line. A study showed that organizations that act quickly have a 30% greater win rate. It also revealed that an average salesperson only closes 1 in 5 deals. This time and effort spent on chasing down wrong leads could cost companies up to $218,000 for every $1 million opportunity closed.
Overall, having a lead scoring model can help your company prioritize its sales efforts and allocate resources more efficiently. Having read these numbers – and hopefully convincing you of the merits of lead scoring – let's dive into the best practices.
Following these guidelines will help you foray successfully into lead scoring. (Bonus: We’ll also be sharing a lead scoring best practice that will not only let you improve lead quality, but also allow you to generate more prospects over time.)
Explicit lead scores represent the demographics of your targeted leads. Common examples are company size, location, and job position.
Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) can serve as a valuable tool for identifying these key characteristics. The closer the leads fit the profile you established, the higher their score should be.
For example, an ideal customer for your B2B enterprise might be a CEO of a medium-sized tech company with an estimated $50,000 to spend. Each of these objective characteristics has a point value. Therefore, if a lead satisfies all these criteria, it would score higher than a lead that satisfies only a few.
The overall nature of your organization will influence these explicit scores. To illustrate, the prospect’s job title matters to our hypothetical organization. But this isn’t a mandatory attribute for all organizations.
B2C companies, such as direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, don't typically care what their customers do for a living. B2B companies, on the other hand, can benefit from knowing this attribute. Knowing the contact person’s position in their organization helps companies understand the person’s expertise and decision-making power.
Along with setting your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), you should also determine what your existing audience has in common. They likely share the same characteristics which will help you understand the demographics you’re attracting.
Knowing what your ICP and existing customers’ traits are, will also help you determine the kinds of information you’ll need from potential customers. You can then request this info through your lead generation forms. Here's an example from B2B company Smartsheet:
As we’ve seen, key characteristics (explicit scores) determine whether your offer will appeal to potential clients or customers. Key behaviors called implicit lead scores, can tell you if they’re taking steps in the right direction. They make up the second half of your lead score model.
Implicit scores measure a lead’s interest level. For example, you can assign potential customers more points when they take the following actions:
- Website interactions: Viewing a specific page, submitting a contact form, registering for a webinar, or downloading files.
- Email engagement: Opening, clicking, and responding to emails.
- Social media activity: Liking, commenting, and sharing social media posts.
- App usage: Time spent on the app, number of log-ins, and use of specific features.
Prioritize leads that are much further down the sales funnel for a quicker payoff.
These leads have already shown repeated interest and are likely to become customers. In the case of top-of-the-funnel leads, they’re still exploring their options. You have more to prove, and you’ll need to devote more resources to winning them over.
Your lead scoring model will only begin to take shape once you associate points with your key attributes.
We rank actions and demographics according to their relevance to business. But because different types of activities have different impacts, there needs to be a balance to depict the value of each lead accurately.
Form submission can award a SaaS company’s leads 5 points. But demo requests often indicate a higher level of interest, deserving higher points. Let’s say, a solid 15. These two actions are clear-cut. It is easier to align them with your company's priorities.
But in the case of other activities, like viewing pages, there are more nuances involved.
For example: If you only measure time spent on a page and don’t account for the type of page being viewed, leads who spend a short time browsing your pricing page will score lower than those busy catching up on your latest blog posts.
It’s obvious that leads already curious about your pricing plans are further down the funnel than your avid readers. So does obtaining multiple digital downloads and signing up for various events. If you don’t figure in these finer details, you’ll end up glossing over a hot lead.
Before you set up your scoring system, scour through your conversion history. Understanding why people convert – or why they don’t – helps you identify these subtle nuances.
That said, it's entirely up to you how broad or complex you want to make your point system. But don’t worry about creating perfect guidelines from the beginning. Developing a lead scoring model that works well for your business is a continuous process.
Fortunately, most marketing automation platforms, such as GetResponse, offer basic scoring templates to help ease you into the process.
Lead scoring models help you avoid jumping on prospects before they’re ripe. But when does a lead become sales-ready?
The answer will vary from business to business. Therefore, you’ll have to determine what the threshold is for your business.
The lead scoring threshold specifies the minimum score required to qualify leads. This score isn’t only based on how well a lead matches your product or service. It also figures in their interest and engagement.
Threshold setting is one of the first lead-scoring best practices you should perform, so you don’t sit on your score data for a long time. However, it’s important to toe the line when figuring out a realistic number.
Setting the bar low can frighten away promising leads who need more time to reflect. Not to mention, you’ll constantly send your salespeople off to fruitless missions, which is a waste of resources. An average salesperson only spends 36% of their time selling. You’ll want to maximize it as much as possible.
Set the bar excessively high, and you might lose the opportunity to send your representatives marketing qualified leads (MQLs) for the final push. If you’re not fast enough, competitors will have an easier time snatching them up.
Since your sales team has the most experience – and is familiar with the behavior of conversion-ready clients – it’s essential to get their input when setting lead scoring values.
Aside from your sales team, there’s another group of people you can learn from: your customers. Hear it straight from your converted lead’s mouth. Ask what motivated them to take the plunge and how they arrived at their decision.
The number you come up with at the beginning doesn't have to remain constant. The immediate goal is to determine a lead scoring threshold that suits your business, industry, and historical data.
From that point, monitor your results regularly, so you can adjust your threshold as necessary.
Not everyone interested in your product or service is a good fit. And you shouldn’t spend time convincing them otherwise. If you identify prospects' behaviors that indicate disinterest or mismatch, you’ll find it easier to identify the unlikely prospects.
Here’s what negative lead scoring looks like for real estate syndication software, Syndication Pro:
“We use negative lead scores alongside positive scoring and other lead qualification methods to maximize our chances of converting leads into customers. We start by defining what actions would trigger a negative score, like bounced emails or disqualifying survey responses.” – Ameet Mehta, Syndication Pro Founder
Other examples of attributes that justify negative scores are:
- Email unsubscribes
- Web visitor visits career pages repeatedly / completes a job application form
- Social media unfollows
- Limited spending power
- Location is out of your company's service area or difficult to reach
These negative attributes are business-specific. For instance, ecommerce brands won’t give negative points to a generic email address like @gmail.com or hotmail.com. But many B2B brands are likely to do so in an effort to align with their corporate audiences.
Assigning negative points is one of the most overlooked lead scoring best practices. Not every company does this. However, it's worth it.
Negative lead scoring helps detect which leads are better worth your time. And more importantly, it gives insight into why some leads don’t qualify.
Not all negative actions require a negative score. For instance, pet food company Optimeal looks at abandoned carts as a positive sign. For the ecommerce brand, it means they’ll need to take extra action to convince these customers to complete the transaction.
When this occurs, the brand gets to work. “This is a great time to send this lead a discount code and remind them of your easy return process to allow them to experience your products first-hand and become loyal customers,” the company explained.
Databox estimates an average sales cycle of two months for B2B brands. A lot can happen during that period.
Many leads come in warm but lose heat over time. Their engagement with your brand dwindles. Emails are opened less often. Webinars or giveaways are ignored.
While it’s tempting to work on reigniting their interest, you’re likely to waste your fuel. Lead scoring saves you from doing so – if you set a point of decay.
A point of decay is the opposite of your threshold. It’s a lead-scoring best practice to set one up for prospects who have been trapped in the sales cycle with prolonged poor engagement.
Point of decay models vary from company to company, but the basic principle is to subtract points over time. Here are a few examples:
- Prospect loses 10 points after 30 days of inactivity
- Prospect loses 20 points after 60 days of inactivity
- Prospect loses 50 points after 90 days of inactivity
Base your point of decay rate on your average sale cycle. This way, you’re not invalidating leads you can still convert.
The best way to make lead scoring models run smoothly is to automate them. Automation eliminates human errors and bias, which results in a more accurate scoring system. It also frees up your marketing team and sales team to focus on their zones of genius.
Your marketing automation software or CRM software (or even CRM with automation) plays a vital role in lead scoring. With these lead scoring tools, leads can be given points and ranked based on how much they’re worth objectively. They also reconcile data from multiple touchpoints, saving you time and improving your lead scoring accuracy.
CRMs provide your sales teams with a centralized system for tracking and managing leads. With it, you can customize preset rules or algorithms to assign scores to leads.
Your marketing automation tool serves a similar purpose for your marketing team. Integrating it with your CRM database enables your sales department to tap into both data sources.
Automation also allows you to take advantage of machine learning. Hubspot’s predictive lead scoring uses past trends and data to identify Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs). It compares this to your existing leads and identifies those taking similar paths.
Manual lead scoring makes it more challenging to achieve optimal scoring. It’s more difficult to assign appropriate weights to each criterion. Predictive lead scoring offers efficiency and less grunt work for more complex customer journeys.
85% of B2B professionals believe that aligning sales and marketing teams holds the key to improving business performance.
You’ve already synced their systems together. Why not their departments, too?
The marketing team is responsible for generating leads. The sales team is responsible for turning these leads into customers or clients. Both are important when it comes to lead scoring.
You can tell if your lead scoring model is successful based on the Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) conversion rate. If MQLs are converting poorly, the threshold needs to be lowered or the scores need to be revised.
Of course, aligning sales and marketing teams is often easier said than done. The key is to start with getting alignment on just one key point. Here’s how email deliverability tool Folderly managed to achieve it:
“We initiated effective communication between the sales and marketing teams and got them to agree on what makes a good lead. We focused on the sales funnel and made the sales and marketing teams attend work events together. It enabled them to coordinate better and align with the company’s objectives.” – Vladislav Podolyako, Founder and CEO of Folderly
A lead scoring model is flexible. The needs of your company determine what fits best. When these needs change, keeping the marketing and sales teams in constant communication ensures that modifications are made as quickly as possible.
While lead scoring is often associated with improving lead quality, it has a secondary benefit. With fresh insights about your target audience, you can enhance your marketing efforts and attract more prospects (which means, you also get to tick that quantity box).
The scoring data will bring valuable behavioral trends to light. These trends can guide your content and messaging strategy.
For instance, Social Pilot, a social media marketing platform, observes which of its blog posts have a good conversion rate, and uses the finding to improve other posts. Digital Marketing Executive Suraj Nair shared, “We look at various parameters like readability, experience, and others to identify the reason behind the high conversion.”
Lead scoring also helps identify weak points and gaps in your marketing plans. Since this model requires alignment between marketing and sales, both teams can see the prospects’ journey in its entirety.
You can take advantage of these valuable data points to develop targeted campaigns for promising yet low-priority leads. These campaigns should aim to engage these leads and progress them along (for example, through email funnels and drip campaigns).
However, that's not the end of the story. Some organizations use lead score data points to go full circle, leveraging them to polish their Ideal Customer Profiles.
Adapt your scoring model as you gather more data. It takes some trial and error to get lead scoring right.
Don’t cast your net wide open when making a list of key behaviors to keep track of. Take it slow before scaling up.
By sticking to just a few behaviors in the beginning, the task of monitoring across different touchpoints becomes less daunting for your team. It also becomes easier to refine your lead scoring system when unexpected patterns emerge.
Another reason to continue reviewing and improving your model is that changes are bound to creep into your business as it grows. You’ll cater to more audiences over time. Your marketing department may expand into new platforms. Or you might change up your sales process.
Whatever it is, your definition of a sales-ready lead will evolve with it. Outgrowing your lead scoring system simply isn't an option.
Facilitating regular meetings between sales and marketing is important in this regard. These provide an opportunity to evaluate how the current system is working and what areas need to be improved. A quarterly discussion is a great measure, but you can scale it up if necessary.
Whatever your business type is – B2B or B2C – lead scoring models can help you close more deals. These tried-and-tested steps can get help you maximize your sales and marketing efforts and time, while also boosting your profits.
Let us know how these lead scoring strategies worked for you in the comments.
Still don’t have a CRM? Read this piece to find the best CRM for your business.
This article has been written and researched following our EmailTooltester methodology.Our Methodology