Published on May 2nd, 2017
Not all leads are created equal.
We know, we wish it wasn't true either.
But wishing it to be true doesn't change the fact that many of the visitors to your website simply will not be a good fit for your business.
One of the biggest time killers your sales teams face stems from spending too much time chasing down bad leads in the hopes of polishing them up a bit and turning them into quality, workable leads.
And sure, it happens occasionally. But if we're being honest with ourselves, it's rarer than we'd like to admit and often very time consuming.
As content marketers, our job isn't just to bring in as many leads as possible to the sales team and let them sort it out themselves. No, our job is to bring the sales team quality leads.
Of course, these sales guys never talk about all the leads that converted easily into customers because of solid vetting. Instead, your sales guys probably spend half their water cooler time using sports idioms to brag about "knocking another one out the park."
Oh yeah, these guys love to gloat about the 100 mph metaphorical fastball they crushed clean out of the park, over the stadium, and into some poor fan's minivan. Then they'll go on to describe just how awesome their batting average is and force you to high five them before they give it a rest.
But what they don't often brag about is how many of those "home runs" weren't hit off of fastballs, curveballs, sliders, spitballs, changeups, knuckleballs, or some other difficult pitch we've never even heard of.
What most sales people fail to mention, or may not even realize, is that it's often us marketers at the mound pitching to them.
And when we've done our job right, we give them slow floaty underhand pitches. And when we're really on top of our game, we're not even throwing them baseballs or softballs, we're throwing them giant inflatable beach balls.
So how can we ensure that our sales teams are only swinging at pitches that even an uncoordinated, milk-drunk toddler could hit a line drive off?
By using Lead Scoring.
What is lead scoring?
Lead scoring is pretty much what it sounds like: you assign values (scores) to leads in your pipeline to help your sales and marketing teams discern the leads' levels of interest in your products or services.
By looking at past customers, and how they found their way through your sales funnel, you can make some pretty strong inferences as to whether prospects currently in your funnel are ready to make a buying decision.
When lead scoring is done right, you'll be able to easily tell if a current lead is in need of more marketing materials, if they're ready for a conversation with a salesperson, or if they should have made a purchase already and are just waiting for somebody to reach out to them and nudge them in the right direction.
And lead scoring doesn't just let you know if they're interested in you or not, it can also be used to help you decide if the lead is a good fit for your business. A lead might very well want to do business with your company, but for whatever reasons, you either can't or just don't want to do business with them.
In short, lead scoring helps your team focus primarily on high quality leads while minimizing time lost chasing low quality leads. You know, separating the wheat from the chaff if you're old school. Or, I don't know, separating the iPhones from those exploding smart phones if you're new school.
And the best part is, when you're a HubSpot user at the Pro or Enterprise level, you get an easy-to-use lead scoring tool.
What Criteria Should You use to Score Leads?
It's not hard to convince people just how awesome and helpful lead scoring is. Heck, if you've gotten this far you're probably bought in already. But you, like many others, probably want to know, "how do I actually set up lead scoring and what criteria can I use to score my leads?"
This is where it can get tricky because lead scoring isn't a one size fits all solution for businesses across the board. Every company, even in similar fields, will rate their leads differently depending on who their best fit buyer personas are.
Rather than tell you exactly what to score your leads on, we'll give you a couple of benchmarks to start with and a few examples to help you determine which criteria to use yourself.
The two main ways to score leads stems from demographics and behaviors.
What kinds of explicit information can we learn about leads? What questions would you want to ask them to help you determine if they were a good fit, great fit, or even a bad fit for your company? The good news is, you can absolutely get them to give you answers to these questions by using forms on your website.
The best way to gather this information starts with having great content on your website that your prospects would find valuable. Creating downloadable checklists, cheatsheets, hack guides, ebooks, buyer's guides, and other awareness and consideration stage offers gives your prospects incentive to reach out to you early in their buyer's journey.
Aside from asking them their name and email address to get one of your free offers, you should ask them a question or two about demographics that are important to you. Depending on the value of the offer they'll be getting, will determine what questions (and how many) they're willing to answer.
Don't go overboard by asking too many questions all at once. More information can be gathered later through progressive profiling with smart form fields.
Here's just a few demographic questions you may want to score:
- Company size
- Company name
- Location (state, region, country, etc)
- Job Title
- Company revenue
- Buyer Persona
- Education level
This by no means is a complete list. You'll create many of your own unique form field questions you'd want somebody to answer, but these are a couple of typical questions.
For instance, say your company installs windows, doors, and countertops for local commercial properties.
First off, you might want to ask if a prospect even lives in your service area. If not, you're probably not going to want to spend much energy marketing to them and trying to get them on a call with a salesperson if you know early on they're a bad fit.
Secondly, you might have homeowners interested in contacting you, but you only service the commercial sector. Asking a persona identifying question of whether they're a homeowner, property manager, or general contractor, will help you quickly rule out anybody identifying as a homeowner.
The homeowner would probably get a negative score from you. But what about the property manager and the general contractor? Do you find you often sell better to one over the other? If so, you'd want to score that persona higher than the other.
Furthermore, maybe you only do commercial work on buildings of a certain size, so asking a question about the square footage of the building could be very important.
With demographics, we're often asking people to give us the answers directly. Behaviors, however, are things we can learn about a prospect as they navigate our website and engage with us through emails and our social channels.
When you're using HubSpot, you're able to collect a lot more data than just what gets put into a form. Before a prospect fills out a form, they're able to slink around your website mostly undetected other than you seeing an uptick in traffic on various pages.
You can tell someone was on a page, but you have no idea who. They're like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible rappelling down into your website, careful not to set off any alarms.
But as soon as they fill out a form, it's like that drop of sweat hit the ground and all the alarms go off. The cameras pinpoint Tom as we see him suspended above the floor doing some weird breaststroke pantomime as he tries in vain to not touch the ground again.
Not only that, but we immediately have a backlog of information, and we're now able to see exactly where he came from, where all he went, and how he ended up dangling from where he currently is.
Most behaviors fall into one of three categories:
- Website behavior
- Email behavior
- Social behavior
Website behaviors are some of the most important metrics to help you score leads. These can often tell you how engaged with your company a prospect really is.
But what are some ways you can score prospects based on their website behaviors?
Score leads on page views. The more of your content a prospect consumes, the more likely they'll be willing to buy from you down the road. So, wouldn't it make sense to score people based on how many blog articles or pages of your website they've seen?
Start with five page views and see how many of your contacts fit that criteria. If a lot of people have read five pages, try ten, then try 20. Keep making new lists of page views until you find only a handful of people at the highest number. You may be surprised at just how much of your content somebody is willing to consume.
Don't believe me? We worked with a car broker company that has had several people read over 1,000 pages of their site. OVER ONE-THOUSAND PAGES! Take a look:
Wouldn't you agree that somebody who has read one-thousand pages of your site might be a better candidate for sales to reach out to than somebody who has read only a measly 500 pages?
Score leads on specific pages seen. Similar to our opening declaration that not all leads are created equal, the same can be said about our website pages. If a prospect has been on your blog reading educational content, that's one thing, but being on your site and checking out your pricing pages is a completely different story. Therefore, it might make sense for you to score specific pages differently.
Score leads on number of visits. Not everybody is going to engage with you on their first visit. Serious prospects taking the time to make well-informed buying decisions may visit your site frequently, occasionally, or only a handful of times. Either way, you'd definitely rank leads differently depending on the amount of times they returned to your site to learn more from you.
Score leads on offers converted. Maybe some prospects have downloaded a checklist on your website. Would you score that the same as if they downloaded your comprehensive ebook? What if you had a series of ebooks and some prospects had read all of them? Would you score them on each ebook as well as give bonus points for collecting the whole set? Each offer on your website, whether it be a tip sheet or a free trial of your software, should be scored. Highest scores should go towards those filling out bottom of the funnel offers like free consultations, free quotes, free trials, etc.
Score leads based on email engagement. Marketers love sending prospects emails. As soon as we get those email addresses we can't wait to send prospects marketing information that will help them move further and faster down the sales funnel and through the buyer's journey. But just how engaged with you are these prospects? Have they opened any of your emails? If so, how many? Have they clicked on any of the links in your emails? What if the email bounces, they unsubscribe, or even mark you as spam? Does that sound like somebody you'll be able to engage easily? Taking a closer look at how they respond to and engage with your email marketing can give you a strong indication of whether you need to have sales take over the emailing, if they need more marketing emails, or if they'd like you to stop emailing them all together.
Score leads based on social behaviors. Outside of your website and their inbox, how are they engaging with you across social platforms? Are they clicking on your links you posted on Facebook? How about Twitter? Is it important to you if they have a certain amount of connections on LinkedIn? What about the freshness of their engagement? Sure they may have been tweeting up a storm about you a few months ago, but when was the last time they clicked on a post of yours?
Don't forget about negative scores. It's easy to get overly excited with giving away tons of points to leads for positive demographics and behaviors. But smart marketers know when what was once a hot lead begins to cool.
Heck, it's not even that some of these leads go cold. This isn't a cup of piping hot coffee left wayside while attended a long meeting. It's not even about temperature really. It's about freshness. We're talking coffee left at the office next to a window over a blistering Fourth of July weekend. It's gone rancid. You can tell by the white fuzzy blanket on the surface comforting the dead fly. You wouldn't drink it would you? No! Not even a sip.You may have had a lead on your site reading all your articles and downloading all your content one day, and the next they're unsubscribing from your emails and marking you as spam. They've gone bad. Don't hesitate to score them negatively. You'll save your sales team a lot of wasted time and upset stomachs by assigning negative scores.
How Should You Score Leads?
As you're probably well aware of by now, lead scoring can get extremely complicated. How many points should you be doling out? How can you tell if one ebook should be ranked higher than the other? Did you adequately give the right points to the different pages somebody viewed? There's so much nuance that can go into lead scoring that it can be difficult to know where to even start with giving out scores to demographics and behaviors.
While we can't tell you exactly how to score your leads, we can give you a basic framework that will help you get started. We call it the Lead Scoring Matrix. Check it out:
As you can see, we break the matrix down into many of the categories talked about above as well as how they relate to different stages of the buyer's journey. An ebook downloaded while the prospect is in the awareness stage doesn't carry as much weight as one downloaded in the consideration or decision stage for example.
You can download your own free copy of the matrix below (we won't even ask you to provide us any demographic information about yourself. This one's on us).
The second thing you need to get started is benchmarks for points to allow you to determine when and how you should engage with your prospects. We like to set three benchmarks:
- Radar (30)
- Research (60)
- Revenue (90)
If somebody has scored 30 points, they should at least be on your radar. You might not have a salesperson call them quite yet, but you might send them more targeted information through email. And of course, more email engagement will help drive their score higher.
At 60 points, you should be doing your research on these folks. What pieces of data are you missing from them that you'd like to know? Have you checked out their company's website? Have you checked out the individual's LinkedIn profile? At this point, you might want to gather up the missing links of data and pass the lead onto your sales team.
At 90 points, you have to ask yourself, "why haven't we generated any revenue from this lead yet?" They've been on the site multiple times, they've read lots of content, they've downloaded your ebooks, they're an industry that's a perfect fit, etc. These are the folks that should have been sold to yesterday. Get on it.
If you find that you have way too many leads scoring 90 points, then you know your scoring criteria will need to be adjusted some. Same goes if you have very few leads garnering 30 points or more.
Lead scoring isn't something that you'll work on for a few hours, wrap it up, and set in stone for a long time to come. Best lead scoring practices means reevaluating often the efficacy of your scale. You'll constantly be tweaking and perfecting your lead scoring criteria as you learn more and more about your leads that converted to customers.
Good luck, and happy lead scoring.