The Smart Marketer’s Guide to Accurate Lead Scoring

If you ask most sales and marketing teams what their ultimate goal is, you can pretty much guarantee that they will say it is generating more leads and conversions. And many of them make the mistake of keeping their primary focus on the top of the sales funnel. After all, if you have more leads coming in, then you’ll have more conversions too, right?

Well, of course, this is not always necessarily the case. Sometimes your leads are weak and they don’t have the necessary intent to use your product or a need that it can solve.

This is why a good lead scoring system is so important. It can save marketing and sales teams lots of time and ensure that their efforts make a greater impact.

Quick Takeaways:

  • By only pursuing leads that are likely going to convert, all of your marketing moves with be more strategic and effective.
  • Build your lead scoring model carefully. Know its strong and weak points.
  • Take into account the demographics, interests, and previous behavior of every customer segment and cohort. Build your buyer personas accordingly.
  • Tweak your lead scoring and qualification process to suit your buyer’s journey and marketing approach.

So, how do you go about creating a lead scoring system that is accurate and useful?

Build a Simple Lead Scoring Model

Let’s start off by defining exactly what lead scoring is and how it works. In the most basic terms, lead scoring involves assigning a value (typical “points”) to various factors that signal the likelihood that a consumer will convert. These variables are based on internal behavioral data that has been gathered from tracking individual customer accounts and monitoring how they’ve engaged with your business.

If a customer has more interactions, such as creating an online account, clicking on a promotional ad, and engaging with blog content, we assume that they have a greater propensity to use our product or bent towards our brand, and consequently we assign them a higher lead score.

Every interaction will have a different point value assigned to it based on how influential it is on customer conversions. For example, if a customer reaches out to the sales department, they are much more likely to convert. Other actions like engaging with a post on social media or opening a marketing email will have a lower point value because they are not necessarily strong signals that imply conversion.

While this sounds fairly easy to implement, the truth is that there’s a lot of effort involved, which is why the majority of businesses aren’t doing it. Not scoring your leads, however, can severely cut into profit margins and slow down the sales cycle if marketing and sales teams focus on engaging and converting leads that are irrelevant or uninterested. Data from our studies show that businesses that create an effective lead nurturing program are able to cut costs by 33% and increase conversions by 50%.

So, how do we put customers in the proper brackets according to their purchase intent?

Create Buyer Personas and Accurate Segments

The key to lead scoring is understanding who your “best” customers are and which ones have the highest chances of converting. The optimal way to do this is by creating personas supported by accurate data. Since this approach to lead nurturing is so personalized, your team will benefit the most from using a research-based ABM (Account-Based Marketing) program – it lets your team follow every customer’s individual journey, and determine whether or not (and how) each interaction correlates with a conversion.

ABM also makes it far easier to create a properly segmented audience that your team can target and nurture. Say your business’s audience is made up of 35% C-level business professionals, 55% small business owners, and 10% that fit into other categories. Such information can help you to create separate brand personas that highlight the preferences and priorities that each of these segments tends to have.

Furthermore, you can use behavioral data that has been collected with an ABM program to see the kind of content or interactions that influence each persona the most. This will be helpful for establishing a good lead scoring system because it shows which types of customers have the highest chance of conversions and deserve more attention when it comes to lead nurturing.

Score on the Basis of Demographic and Behavioral Criteria

Once you have this clearer understanding of your audience makeup, you can start to categorize the criteria for lead scoring. Take a look at the consumer data that you have gathered from past sales and leads. Start off with some of the descriptive demographic factors that your converted customers share in common.

Do the majority of your converted consumers fit into a similar age group, location, or job title? For B2C entities, what household income bracket is most interested? For B2B, how large are the majority of the companies that you service? What industries are more likely to buy from you?

As you identify these criteria, you can think about a score that is proportional to the value that each of them bring to the conversion, and how will you turn these into weights to assign to future leads.

Next, you should focus on behavioral data that signals potential conversions. Look at your data and pinpoint the behaviors that lead to micro-conversions like email link clicks, newsletter subscriptions, free trial requests, content downloads, or webinar viewers. Take a look at the conversion rates for each of these factors and score accordingly, allocating more points to the ones that are more likely to convert.

lead qualification - demographics and activity

Align Your Scoring and Marketing Strategies

The point of a lead scoring system is to help marketers optimize their efforts by focusing on accounts that have the highest chances of converting – but they should also be making it easier for more leads to interact with the content that influences them.

For example, if your product ads on Google or Facebook are not driving engagement or valuable leads, but your website blog content is highly influential and considered authoritative in your industry, then perhaps you should focus on getting more visibility for your content, channeling customers to your landing pages via your blog, and re-evaluating your advertising or PPC strategies.

Keep Tweaking Your Lead Scoring and Conversion Process

A smart lead scoring, grading, and qualifying process can be a total game-changer for your company in terms of conversions. However, your model needs to be founded on data in order for it to be accurate and useful.

There are several key ingredients that you need to create an effective lead scoring system:

  • A marketing process that records and categorizes important consumer data
  • Data-based audience segmentation with specific personas
  • A scoring system that takes into account both demographic and behavioral factors
  • Close sales-marketing alignment with a focus on conversions

When these things fall into place, you can expect to see more results for marketing efforts, better audience engagement, and shorter sales cycles. That’s a sure sign that your bottom line is going to climb up!

What attributes do you base your lead scores on? What weightage do you assign them? How do you define MQLs and SQLs? How do you go after your most valuable prospects? Care to share in the comments?

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.