Marketing Automation 101: Intro to Lead Scoring & Grading

Despite being one of the most powerful features of marketing automation, the lead scoring and grading model is also one of the most difficult topics to talk about — simply because your ideal scoring and grading model will ultimately depend on your product, industry, and buyer persona. But if you’ve been letting intimidation prevent you from using this impactful tool, it’s time to reconsider.

Lead scoring, or automatically scoring leads based on implicit buying signals such as form submissions or page views, allows you to evaluate a lead’s level of interest before assigning them to a sales rep. Lead grading, or automatically qualifying a lead based on factors such as company size or industry, prevents your sales reps from wasting time on leads that aren’t a good fit for your product. When used properly together, automatic lead scoring and grading can streamline your sales cycle and ensure that your leads are better qualified and properly nurtured before they ever reach the sales department.

Let’s take a look at four ways to ensure that you’re building the most effective lead scoring and grading model possible.

Talk with Your Sales Team

The most important thing you can do when setting up your lead scoring and grading model is to get your sales team involved. After all, your sales reps are the experts on recognizing when a prospect is ready to buy, and likely have a wealth of knowledge on how to recognize leads that should be prioritized. Particularly if you’re just getting started with tracking and progressive profiling, your sales team is going to be your best resource for understanding what particular actions best qualify a lead.

If you’ve already been using marketing automation or a CRM for a period of time, you can also use historical data to map out the typical buying path and answer questions like, “what pieces of content have prospects typically engaged with?”, and “how many touches did it take to turn a prospect into a customer?” But you should still work closely with your sales team to define what a marketing-qualified lead looks like and determine at what point lead handoff should occur.

Understand Intent vs. Interest

One of the most important concepts to grasp before setting up your scoring model is the difference between actions that indicate interest and those that indicate intent.

Start by walking through your typical buyer’s journey, and taking note of what each action may indicate about a prospective buyer. Some actions may indicate interest — for instance, white paper downloads and blog page views may merely indicate that a lead is interested in your business’ expertise on a particular topic. Scores for these actions should be lower, as the prospect has yet to indicate that he or she is ready to speak with a sales rep. Actions that indicate intent — such as filling out a Contact Me form, searching by company name, requesting a product trial, or viewing a pricing page — are much better indicators that a prospect is sales-ready, and scoring should be weighted accordingly.

Define Your Buyer Persona

Lead grading reflects persona, fit, or demographic, so start by defining your ideal customer profile. Consider qualifiers like job title, industry, and company size, as well as the BANT method (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing). A few questions to ask in order to establish these criteria:

  • Who are you selling to?

  • What industries are interested in your product?

  • Do these companies need to be of a certain size or in a certain location?

  • Who within a company is qualified to buy your product?

Making sure that a lead fits your ideal buyer persona can prevent your sales team from wasting valuable time reaching out to someone who has a high score but no intentions to buy (such as a someone who’s looking for a job with your company), and allows for a better allocation of  resources.

Set a Time to Reevaluate

The simple truth of the matter is you probably won’t build a perfect lead scoring and grading model the first time — particularly if you don’t have any historical data on which to base your model. To get the most out of automatic lead scoring and grading, the best thing you can do is to periodically reevaluate and adjust your approach. Pick a time to revisit your model (it could be three weeks or two months, depending on how confident you are about what you’ve built) and ask your sales reps about the quality of leads they’ve received in that time period. Use the data you’ve collected to look for patterns and key indicators you might have missed — then give it another shot.

The bottom line is, if you’re not using a scoring and grading model, start! Even if you feel like you don’t have enough information on your prospects yet, start with a guess and readjust your model later. And feel free to share your own experiences with scoring and grading in our comments section!

Want more help with lead scoring and grading? Be sure to check out our infographic on the topic, and fill out a quick form to get our a free white paper.


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