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7 Steps To Creating The Optimal Lead Scoring System

Learn how to personalize your customer's journey with lead scoring. Originally written by our Director of Marketing, Brian Gladu, this post was so well received that we turned it into a learning guide for your easy reference.

Introduction to Lead Scoring

Lead scoring solves an important problem. It keeps your sales team focused on only your best opportunities, so they aren’t wasting time on dead end leads. By assigning points to a host of lead rules — such as characteristics, fit, and behavior — you can effectively target your best leads.

Our lead scoring tool is available only in our Small Business and Enterprise plans. What follows is a guide to setting up a valuable lead scoring system in ActiveCampaign.

A good lead scoring model can help you prioritize leads by:

  • how likely they are to purchase
  • purchase size
  • purchase timeframe

You can also use a lead scoring system to:

  • Identify and target leads that need nurturing: Lower-scoring leads may need additional nurturing to increase their interest and engagement. With our marketing automation, you can segment your leads by score and drop them into nurturing campaigns intended to yield sales-ready leads.
  • Test assumptions about your target market and sales process: How well do you understand the characteristics of your customers and the patterns of behavior that results in purchases? Think of your lead scoring as a predictive model. Continue to refine and improve it over time. If it’s accurate, you can even forecast revenue based on the amount of high-scoring leads in your pipeline.
  • Identify your “raving fans” and “net promoters”: Lead scoring tools track your customers’ engagement, allowing you to identify extremely satisfied, highly-engaged fans of your company. Those customers are often eager to recommend your company when the opportunity presents itself, and you can encourage such praise with automated campaigns. Those who champion your company deserve a little special treatment.
  • Standardize how leads are discussed and evaluated: Lead scoring gives marketing and sales teams a common language for discussing the quality and quantity of leads. By scoring behaviors based on their likeliness to lead to conversion, marketers can generate more leads by adjusting their inbound marketing to target specific factors that result in high scores.
  • Refine your marketing messages: You may find that your best leads respond to slightly different marketing. By segmenting those contacts that are the best match for your business, you can test various approaches that might not work for less-interested leads. You might be able to contact those leads more often or be more aggressive with your calls to action.

Remember, your lead scoring system is only as good as its rules.

3 Most Common Lead Scoring Mistakes

  1. Failing to score on both fit and interest: Both lead characteristics (fit) and their behavior (interest) are important. Be sure to set multiple rules for both categories, and do your best to assign points evenly among said rules. Doing so ensures you are accounting for fit and interest; a contact who scores highly in both categories is likely to convert.
    Score leads by fit and behavior
  2. Scoring on a whim: It’s easy to look at a rule and say, “Well, that’s important, so we’ll give it XX points.” But such guesstimation is a treacherous path. You’ll have an unbalanced system that produces inflated scores for contacts who meet only a few big rules. To avoid that reality, follow the seven-step process outlined below.
  3. Using a lead scoring system that is too simple: It’s true that there is power in simplicity, but a lead scoring system with only a few rules is not nuanced enough to identify and prioritize your best leads. You’ll be able to divide “okay” leads from “bad” leads, but your “best of the best” leads won’t be at the top of the pile where they belong. You can’t expect three or four rules to separate your ready-to-buy leads from the pack.

What follows is a seven-step plan for creating an optimal scoring system. If you follow these steps, you’ll have categorically balanced point distribution that accounts for fit and behavior. In short, your system will boast the complexity needed to accurately prioritize your very best leads.

1. What Do You Require?

First, establish the minimum criteria a lead must meet to become a customer. If a criterion is not truly essential, don’t list it here. Consider only the required qualifications. For instance, your customer may need to be 18 years of age or older. Or, they might have to live in a specific region.

If you’re struggling to identify your minimum requirements, think about factors that disqualify leads from becoming customers. From that perspective, you should be able to determine the bare minimum benchmarks leads must meet to earn your attention.

2. Who Are You Targeting?

Next, identify the core qualities of your target market. If you are familiar with your existing customer base, you’ll probably be able to list many of those attributes quickly. Unlike the minimum qualifications referenced in step one, your contacts don’t need to have these characteristics to qualify as a customer. Rather, the core qualities are traits that your typical customer possesses, and the goal is to identify prospects that are most like your typical customer. If leads are similar to your existing customer base, they are likely a product fit.

Your marketing team might be better equipped to pinpoint your target market due to the extensive research they conduct. With that said, your sales team might have meaningful input, as well, since they are speaking to the market every day.

3. Who Is Your Ideal Lead?

Now you want to identify characteristics of the “perfect” customer so that such leads earn a higher score. Consider what makes some leads better than others. What are the qualities and characteristics of your ideal leads? That is a question better posed to your sales team, but don’t neglect to get marketing’s input. Such characteristics, for example, might be factors like budget size, a deal with a contact in upper management, or a short timeframe to purchase.

For further guidance, you could survey your customers or create a spreadsheet that details characteristics of your highest paying customers. That way, you can identify common threads and score such factors appropriately.

4. How Do Customers Behave?

In this step, we shift focus from the characteristics and qualities of leads to their behaviors. Behavior-based rules identify interested, highly-engaged leads.

Begin by listing all possible behavior leads can engage in. While some behaviors are more important than others, it is helpful to assign a point value to all behaviors (even if it is a very small value). Don’t exclude behaviors just because they seem unimportant. Balance is crucial.

Consider scoring these behaviors:

  • Email opens
  • Email clicks
  • Email replies
  • Email forwards
  • Social media shares
  • Web page visits
  • Website sessions
  • Contact requests
  • Downloads and form submissions
  • Free trials
  • Product demos

If you have a follow-up campaign, note the behaviors it provokes. What calls to action does it contain? Actions that the majority of your leads take before converting are called “critical conversion behaviors.” Those might include starting a free trial or requesting a sales demo. A thorough analysis of your Google Analytics data should clarify critical conversion behaviors. Be sure to note which actions are critical conversion behaviors so you can assign them the appropriate amount of points.

5. Decide On A System

For many companies, a straightforward 1 – 100 lead scoring scale will suffice, but additional options exist. If your company handles different types of leads, you could use the thousands digit for further classification. For instance, B2B companies might use “1” to label small business leads, “2” for medium-sized businesses, and “3” for large businesses. Thus, a lead with a score of 2089 would be a medium-sized business rated with a score of 89.

After you complete step one, you can use a lead’s score to qualify them aside from other factors. That way a bad lead never makes its way to your sales team (no matter how many behavior-based rules they trigger). To do this, you could give out blocks of 100 points for specific “must have” criteria, so a lead qualifies if they meet the criteria. For instance, you may need leads located in a certain region, leads who have a contact in a specific department, or leads who are in a certain industry. By giving out 100 points for each of those rules, a lead becomes sales-ready only when it reaches 300 points. In that scenario, a lead with a score of 389 would be passed to the sales team, but a lead with a score of 289 would not.

6. Distribute Points

Now that you have a system and a set of rules, you must distribute your points.

As I mentioned earlier, it is tempting to assign points to individual rules simply by judging the rule’s importance. Instead, begin by assigning a maximum value to categories of rules. Then you can distribute points to individual rules in each category. That way you end up with a balanced system that gives proper weight to different factors. That approach prevents a system that scores leads highly merely because they match your target market or display highly engaged behavior — the true best leads meet both qualifications.

In addition, be sure to give appropriate weight to fit- and interest-based rules. If a lead’s behavior earns him or her only 50 points out of 100, they probably won’t score highly unless they also match some of your ideal characteristics. However, a 50-point score is substantial enough to indicate an engaged lead, and plenty of opportunities to raise his or her score await such contacts.

Also, if you distribute points equally between the “good fit” rules you created in step two and the “ideal prospect” rules you created in step three,  then your scoring system is more likely to distinguish your best leads. For example, you could assign 25 points to “good fit” leads, while an “ideal” lead also receives 25 points.

Giving equal weight to “critical conversion behaviors” and “interest indicating” behaviors is best practice, as well. Doing so allows a high-interest lead to be scored highly, but they won’t outscore high-interest leads that also engage in critical behaviors.

You can vary the specific proportion of points according to your experience with your prospects, too. Remember, you are best served by distributing points across categories before assigning points to individual rules. Doing so yields meaningful, well-balanced scores.

7. Refine and Tweak Scores

As long as you continue to make adjustments, your lead scoring system will improve. Schedule time to review your scoring system’s performance, perhaps every 30 days to start.

Once you have 30-plus days of data, you can analyze more deeply. Did any low-scoring leads convert? Did any highly-scored leads falter? Identify new lead scoring rules or adjustments in point distribution that could prevent those scenarios. Focus on low-scoring leads that end up converting, especially.

And of course, expect for some great leads to not convert. That’s part of business. Ultimately, you want to be sure you are identifying all your best leads. When a high quantity of low-scoring leads converts, that suggests your scoring system is ineffective. If you examine those leads closely, you may find additional rules that would boost their scores.

Remember, your lead scoring system is unlikely to be perfect right away. But if more high-scoring leads than low-scoring leads are converting, then you are on the right path.

Using Lead Scoring in ActiveCampaign

Our lead scoring tool — located in the upper left-hand corner of the “Contacts” page — is extremely flexible.

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You can score contacts and deals.

You can set up as many distinct lead scoring programs as you want. You can create a variety of lead scoring systems for different categories. For instance, you could have separate scores for characteristics and engagement, and you could have unique scores for email interaction and site tracking.

Furthermore, those lead scoring programs can house an unlimited number of rules. The rules can be based on any contact field (including custom fields), behavior such as email opens and forwards that are automatically tracked, and website behavior tracked by site tracking.

ActiveCampaign’s lead scoring is unique in that you can use lead scores within automations. In fact, you could have automations that adjust a lead’s score based on where leads fall on if/then statements or you could increase their score if they open a particular campaign.

Change points within automations

You can also use lead scores to trigger automations. For example, when a lead passes a certain score, that could trigger an email inviting the lead to participate in a sales consultation or product demo to close the sale.

Trigger automations with lead scores

Closing Remarks

Lead scoring is a powerful marketing automation tool. A quality set of lead scoring rules helps your marketing department create better leads and helps your sales team convert more leads. When you invest in creating and perfecting an optimal lead scoring system, leads are addressed according to their exact fit and interest, allowing you to focus on those who are most likely to convert.