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Lead Scoring Best Practices (The Only Framework You Need to Get Started)

Ready to implement lead scoring, but not sure where to start? This guide will walk you through a basic lead scoring framework that you can use to get started, then make adjustments as needed.

 

Our Lead Scoring feature is a powerful, flexible tool for your marketing/sales processes, but it can be a bit challenging to get started.

This guide is for ActiveCampaign users with a Plus, Professional or Enterprise plan who may understand what our Lead Scoring feature does and why it’s so valuable, but don’t quite know how to get started.

If you’re unfamiliar with Lead Scoring, start with the guides we’ve previously created for help understanding what it is, how it aids your marketing and sales processes, and how to set it up in our platform:

This guide is a bit different from the others in that it takes a more actionable approach to Lead Scoring: Here you’ll find a real Lead Scoring framework you can set up in your account today. We’ll walk you through it step-by-step so that by the end of this guide, you’ll have implemented a fully functioning framework that you can continue to monitor and tweak as needed.

Let’s get started.

Set Thresholds

First, we’re going to set your thresholds. Thresholds are synonymous with the lifecycle stages of your sales process. Contacts will move “up” or “down” between stages based on their actions.

In this framework, we’ll use the following thresholds, which are standard stages of the sales process:

  • Prospect – potential contacts
  • Lead – more engaged leads
  • MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) – The most engaged leads and the contacts your marketing team should be creating opportunities to get them to Sales. Basically, Marketing does this by giving these leads something to interact with that proves their level of interest and engagement.
  • SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) – the primary target for the sales team. Sales should spend the majority of their time on contacts identified as SQLs.

We’re going to base this on a 100 point system. This will give you plenty of flexibility with the framework so you can easily make adjustments as needed.

In a 100 point system, the sales team should be working any contacts with a score of 100 or above. Again, these SQLs are where Sales should spend the majority of their time.

Assign Threshold Points

Now that we’ve established your thresholds, the next step is to assign points to each threshold.

Since we’re using a fixed point system, leads will work their way up to 100 points as they continue to take action throughout the customer journey.

Begin by identifying the number of free offerings (or lead magnets) you currently have available in order to capture contact information. For the purposes of this framework, we will assume you have 5 free offerings in your marketing funnel.

In a 100 point system, points are distributed as follows:

  • Becoming a Prospect (10 points). A prospect is defined as anybody that has taken action on a free resource you have to offer.
  • The point value required to become a Lead is equal to the number of free offerings you have times the Prospect Score. Therefore:
    5 (free offerings) x 10 (Prospect Score) = 50 points. Meaning, any prospect that takes action on ALL free offerings will be qualified as a Lead.
  • The point value required to become a MQL is equal to the Lead Score plus 25. Therefore:
    50 + 25 = 75 points
  • The point value required to become a SQL is equal to the MQL Score plus 25. Therefore:
    75 + 25 = 100 points

To summarize:

  1. Prospect = 10 points
  2. Lead = 50 points
  3. MQL = 75 points
  4. SQL = 100 points

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The 100 point system will give you plenty of flexibility within our framework so you can make adjustments as needed. There will be some trial and error in the process of learning how your contacts behave, but by setting up Lead Scoring, you’re on your way to learning more about them. So don’t worry about getting it just right immediately—the basic framework is all you need for now.

Set Lead Score Rules

Now, let’s identify the actions contacts can take that correspond with each threshold we have defined:

  • Prospect – Downloaded a free offer
  • Lead – Filled out a contact form
  • MQL – Scheduled time (or registers for an event)
  • SQL – Attended an event or meeting

Note that all actions correspond to each threshold we established earlier:

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As you can see in the charts above:

Every free offer is worth 10 points. If a contact downloads your free offer they become a Prospect.

The contact form is worth 50 points. If a contact fills out you contact form, or downloads all 5 of your free offerings, they become a Lead.

The opportunity to put time on the calendar to talk is worth 75 points. If a contact schedules time to discuss your product with you, they become a MQL.

And event attendance is worth 100 points. Once a contact attends a meeting to discuss your product, they become a SQL—a “hot” lead!

This means that a contact can move quickly through your lead scoring system by taking specific actions. For instance, if a contact doesn’t download your free offer, but does schedule time to learn more about your product, that contact instantly becomes a MQL. That’s because the action of scheduling time indicates a higher level of engagement than downloading a free offer. (Remember, this framework is meant to guide you; it’s important to consider what actions contacts take that are most valuable to your business when setting up your lead scoring system.)

Now you’re ready to set your Lead Score Rules to ensure contacts’ scores are added to whenever they take one of these actions. Note that these actions do not repeat and contacts do not get more points for repeating the same action. If a contact schedules time with you, for instance, that contact wouldn’t get more points for scheduling time again if they cancel the first time. They would have to actually attend the event to get the additional points that would advance them from a MQL to a SQL.

Here’s what your Lead Score Rules section should look like once you complete this step:

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See more on how to set your Lead Score Rules in ActiveCampaign here.

Identify Other Actions Worth Scoring

There are some actions contacts can take that are worth scoring multiple times.

It’s safe to assume a contact who opens all of your emails and visits your website five times is more engaged than a contact who only opened one or two of your emails and never visited your website, so it makes sense to score these actions more than once.

Here’s how you might divvy up points among those actions:

  • Email open/read = 1 point
  • Email click = 2 points
  • Website visit = 3 points

Lead Score Rules only run once, but we can use a series of automations to award points every time a contact takes certain actions. For example, if you send a campaign with a link that directs contacts to your website, you can set up an automation to award contacts 1 point for opening/reading the email, another automation to award 2 points for clicking on your link, and a third automation to award 3 points for visiting a certain page of your website. If a contact takes all of those actions, they become 6 points closer to reaching the next threshold—because of one email you sent. If they continue to engage with your campaigns, that behavior will be reflected in their lead score.

Tip: Did you know you can create labels to keep all of your automations organized? Before you build your Lead Scoring automations, create a “Lead Scoring” label by clicking on the plus sign next to Labels in the menu on the left:

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After you build your Lead Scoring automations, from the Automations menu, you can then drag each automation over the label to apply it:

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Click on the label in the left menu to see all of your Lead Scoring automations:

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The following “recipes” can help you get started building your Lead Scoring automations:

You can also find these in the platform by clicking “Automations” in the top navigation menu to load the Automations Overview page. Then click the green New Automation button to open the “Automation Recipe” modal. Select the Automate Sales Team category then the Lead Scoring subcategory.

The points that you award via an automation can also decay after a certain amount of time (see more about point decay below). Learn more about building a point decay automation here.

Determine Point Decay

Point decay is an important part of your Lead Scoring framework because if your contacts don’t stay engaged, they’re no longer hot leads after a certain point. Their scores should decrease in value over time to reflect that.

You determine point decay when you create your Lead Score Rules and set a time for each rule’s points to expire:

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We recommend setting all points to expire after 60 days. In general, it’s good practice to allow contacts two months (60 days) of no action before you begin to subtract points from their scores. This provides a flexible starting point so you can change it more aggressively (30 days) or be more lenient (90 days), depending on what works for your business.

Ultimately, your point decay rate should be based on the length of your sales cycle. So if your sales cycle lasts six months, you should keep those points in tact for six months—a longer decay rate than you would have for a cycle that lasts just 30 days.

You can also use automations to subtract points. Again, depending on the length of your sales cycle, we recommend including a “Points Expire” condition in an automation so that:

  • After 30 days of no action – 15 points are subtracted from a contact’s score
  • After 60 days of no action – 30 points are subtracted from a contact’s score
  • After 90 days of no action – 50 points are subtracted from a contact’s score

Summary

You should now have a foundational lead scoring framework in place that you can use to identify your most engaged contacts and hottest leads.

Remember, always start by setting up your lead scoring basics, then spend some time monitoring the scores of your contacts. Do the scores seem to accurately reflect their levels of engagement? Does the stage a contact is at in your sales cycle, as indicated by a contact’s lead score, seem accurate?

If not, adjust and refine your system as needed.

Whatever the length of your sales cycle, expect it to take at least that long to get a good feel for how well your current system settings are working.

For more on lead scoring, you can also listen to our podcast episode, Lead Scoring Best Practices.

What kind of lead scoring best practices have been working well for you? Share in the comments below!