Lead Scoring Step by Step

By Katerina Foretova in Marketing
·12 min read

Lead scoring have been great buzzwords for the last couple of years. Everybody suggests, “Do lead scoring if you don’t want to waste the time of your sales team cold-calling not-ready leads”, and I get that… If done right, lead scoring can help maximize your sales team efficiency as they will only focus on leads that are ready to purchase from your company.

But do we really know how to score our contacts and get what we need out of lead scoring? Plenty of you may answer: “Yeah sure, we just need to define the scoring criteria, assign them with a value, and that is it, results will come right after.” 

But unfortunately, lead scoring is not as easy as it may sound. It requires some research, collaboration between teams, and, of course, time. Lead scoring is just not something you set up in five minutes and it then lives its own life.

This article should help you understand what steps to take in order for you to set up a good and functional lead scoring system that brings more clarity to where your website visitors currently are in the sales funnel.

What follows is a 6-step guide that will help you define your leads, identify scoring criteria, and run a successful scoring system.

Prerequisite: Sales and Marketing Need to Work Together

It is important to understand that lead scoring is not something that should be managed by marketing teams only. You can hear many sales people complaining about their marketing team not generating enough qualified leads. But this is what happens mainly when marketing and sales do not cooperate closely to define, run, evaluate, and improve lead scoring processes. It is essential for your business that marketing and sales constantly communicate about the quality of leads that the marketing team generates, and validate and re-evaluate the rules for leads and lead thresholds. After all, our focus is not the number of leads we generate, but the number of leads that turned into customers.

1. Do Your Research, Define Your Ideal Lead and Their Behavior

So, to set up a good scoring process you need to have a clear idea of who your website visitors really are. Do you know what your ideal buyer profile looks like? Are you aware of what your customers have in common and what made them convert from leads?

Research

To get all that information, dig deeper into your website analytics and learn about who your website visitors are and what they do on your website before converting into customers. Ask your sales team. They may tell you that the person they mostly deal with on their sales demos belongs to a certain job role. Maybe they will help you identify valuable content on your website that gets people crazy about your company and helps them convert sales-ready leads into customers.
And if you still feel like you need more information, ask you current customers what made you make the final decision to buy from you.

Your Ideal Lead

Once you have gathered enough data, you can put all the information together. What does your ideal buyer does look like then? Is it a freelancer or a company? How big is that company? Are they from a specific area/country? What about the industry they come from, is that something that you find important?

List all the characteristics that you are looking for in a lead. The definition of your ideal lead could then look like this:

  • Age: 30+
  • Role: C-level
  • Size of the company: Over 25 employees
  • Industry: Construction
  • Location: The US market is the most important but can be from other countries as well

Behavioral Information

Your initial research will also allow you to learn about all the actions people took on your website before they turned into customers. Maybe they visited your company or pricing page, or signed up for a sales demo or a webinar. What are the online activities that helped them make the final decision to go with your company? What are the actions that show leads are interested in spending money with your company? Write them down.

The list can then look like the following:

  • Has been on our website three times 
  • Visited the terms and conditions page
  • Visited the pricing page
  • Added a product into their shopping cart
  • Read article XYZ
  • Registered for a webinar
  • Subscribed to a newsletter

How big the list is highly depends on your business. It can be a list with 10 or 100 activities based on what products and services you offer, the size of your website, etc. We have identified over 50 different activities that allow us to classify our website visitors according to how likely they are to become our customers.

2. Determine Your Scoring Criteria

So, after your initial research, you should have a clearer idea of who your leads are, what they do on your website, and what helped them make the final decision to buy from you.

You will now use that information when defining your scoring system. One of the approaches when it comes to a scoring system could be to divide your scoring criteria into three categories:

Profile Criteria

These types of rules will help you understand how well a visitor fits your business and what type of person you are looking at. List all demographics that are relevant to your organization. Take advantage of the description of your ideal buyer when working on this exercise.

Individual Organization
Role in the company Revenue
Department Industry
Location Location
Purchasing authority Website traffic
 

Behavioral Criteria

This is exactly what you were working on when defining the activities of your ideal lead, so half of your work is done. Now, take that list and review it once more to see whether these are the activities you are looking for in a hot lead. You may also divide them by categories, as presented in the table below.

Webinars Web pages Emails Other actions
Registered for a webinar Viewed a specific page Subscribed to a newsletter Completed a form
Attended a webinar Viewed any page under a category Opened a marketing email Downloaded a whitepaper
Viewed a video recording Landed on a page Clicked links in an email Signed up for a sales demo
 

Keep in mind that the number of times the visitors took the action on your site can be quite important as well. It can tell you a lot about how engaged they are with your company and how close they are to becoming your customer. Here are a couple of examples:

Behavior – Level of engagement
Visited the website multiple times within the last X days
Viewed multiple pages
Completed X number of forms
Opened X number of emails
Signed up for X number of webinars

Negative Criteria

There may be some characteristics or behavior that will make your leads less desirable or not desirable at all. These negative rules can completely change your scoring results and the way you look at individual leads, so make sure you do this part.

Here are some examples:

Demographics Activities
Is a student/intern Has not visited the website for the last X days
Is from a specific country, e.g., a country we don’t want to do business with Unsubscribed from all marketing emails
Is of a certain age, e.g., under 18 Submitted an “apply for a job” form
 

After determining your scoring criteria, it is now time to assign points to each of these rules. The scale you will typically work with is a scale from 0 – 10 or 0 – 100. No matter what scale you go with, the most essential thing is to understand what each number on the scale means.

3. Distribute Points

In order for you to distribute points accurately, you need to know how important each of your criteria is against each other. Sure, some activities or profile characteristics are worth more points than others, but be careful here! We have seen a lot of cases when people would just look at a rule and estimate its value based on them guessing. Rather than that, we would recommend having a clear and logical system that you follow. After all, you want to end up with a balanced system, right?

What follows are three different ways to distribute points among your rules. This will help you decide which of them best fits your business.

Assign points to categories of rules and then distribute those points further within those categories.

Thanks to this approach, you will end up with a system that looks at all the factors you are looking for in a lead and gives them proper weight. It will allow you to decide how each of the criteria categories is important against each other, e.g., maybe the industry is more important for you than the size of the company? What more does this tell you about the visitor’s engagement? When does a lead engage with your webinars or interact with your emails? Once you have distributed points amongst the main categories, you can start redistributing those points further down to individual rules. 

Assign an equal number of points to the categories of Profile and Behavior criteria and redistribute them further within those categories

This way, you will make sure that the lead needs to reach points in both rule categories so they are considered a lead.

Distribute points based on the conversion rates of each of your rules

Keep in mind that this approach is a little more complicated than the previous two but will help you make sure that you assign points according to what role each criteria plays in converting your leads into customers.

First of all, you will need to calculate your overall lead-to-customer conversion rate. (Note that we are speaking about MQLs). Next, you will calculate how successful each of your rules have been when it comes to closing a deal. You can then compare the conversion rate of individual rules to your overall conversion rate. So, let’s say your overall conversion rate is 1%. What you may discover is that those that sign up for your trial version will convert in 25% of cases (25x your overall conversion rate), but those that register for your webinars in only 5%. In this case, you may assign 25 points to those that signed up for the trial version, but only five points to those that registered for your webinars.

4. Establish a threshold for sales-ready leads

The next step is to determine what score makes your leads ready for contacting by your sales team. Since it is very unlikely that anyone will be able to reach the maximum score, there is no point in adding up points for all the rules you’ve defined.

Instead of that, you can return to your initial research and have a look at the path that some of your customers took on your website before they were ready to speak to your sales team.

Another thing you could do is to list a couple of scenarios of desirable interactions with your website. Adding up points for each of these scenarios will give you an idea of how high the baseline for sales-ready leads should be.

Don’t worry. The threshold doesn’t have to be perfect now. You will probably adjust it a couple of times as you will talk to your sales team about the readiness of the leads you sent them for contacting.

5. Launch your scoring system

Now that you have defined the scoring rules and decided on the score threshold, you can now use your lead scoring tool to set it up for your website.

6. Re-validate your scoring system

Don’t rest on your laurels. Your scoring system will most likely not be perfect and you will need to adjust it a couple of times based on its results. Talk to your sales team about the quality of the leads they got from you.

Questions to ask yourself

You will want to learn about the leads you classified as sales ready. Did those leads convert in the end? If not, how come they scored so highly? Is there anything those leads have in common that can help us adjust the rules and/or point distribution?

It is also recommended to have a look at low-scoring leads that did convert in the end. Are there any new rules that we should take into consideration, or maybe increase point assignment for any existing rules?

Possible Findings

You may find out that you have classified two leads with exactly the same profile and web behavior as sales ready but only one of them converted. When you look closer, you realize that one of the leads has done all those activities on your website within the past week whereas the other one over the past three months. This may help you re-think your rules in terms of the period they happened.

We have also seen cases of university students writing a thesis on a subject related to company business. These students scored very high as their job was to do very thorough research of a company by downloading various reports, whitepapers, or by signing up for webinars. You may want to prevent these cases by coming up with new negative criteria.

Frequency of Re-validating

One question that could have come to mind is how often you should review your scoring rules and their threshold. You should definitely pay very close attention to your scoring results right after the launch. It is the time when you may find out that nobody is classified as sales ready because the threshold baseline was set too high. After your initial adjustments, the frequency you may want to look at your scoring highly depends on the length of your sales cycle.  A reasonable frequency seems to be every month or quarter.

Don’t Forget to Document It

Now that your lead scoring system is launched, it should be in your interest to document it. It is especially useful for new team members that will want to understand the way you distributed the points, why you used a certain scale, how you determined the score threshold, and how often you validate all of it.

I am curious about what your experience with lead scoring is. Does your marketing and sales team work together on setting up scoring criteria? And how often do you go through the results? What was or still is the biggest pain for you when setting up scoring? I would love to hear from you!

By Katerina Foretova in Marketing
search
Gartner report
We're a Challenger again in the
Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM!
×