Lead scoring can be a powerful tool for a team overwhelmed by the number of leads coming into their database every day. When set up properly, lead scoring will help your team separate those contacts who are just looking for information from those who are serious prospects.
If you’re not totally familiar with lead scoring, it is the process of assigning numerical values (a score) to your contacts based on their interactions with your website. The overarching goal is to create a short-list of high-value contacts who are closest to becoming customers. There are some visitors who are just looking around your site and others who actually intend to buy. Lead scoring helps you differentiate between the two.
Before we jump into the weeds, it is important to note that your lead scoring model will never be “done.” You will set it up, collect feedback, and iterate. As the data you collect changes and your marketing efforts become more fine-tuned, you will need to make adjustments. This is expected.
Having worked with dozens of companies on lead scoring models, whether starting from scratch or overhauling an existing approach, these are the most common mistakes I see businesses make.
Too often I see teams set out to create a lead scoring model with no real direction or goal. This can cause issues between sales and marketing teams if no one knows what you are really after and what the scores mean.
Without goals, it does not mean much when a contact hits a lead score of 100. What is the ideal score? 50? 100? 500? Are they the perfect lead at that score or did they just fill out a “contact us” form?
Why you need this
Having documented goals around score milestones is crucial considering you are ultimately going to be betting your sales team’s time on your decisions.
Goals around point values are important so you can clearly articulate to your sales team the difference between those who are looking around and those who have demonstrated sales-readiness. Goals provide a WHY behind the WHAT.
The good news is that your goal doesn’t need to be all that unique to your process or business, it just needs to exist — so feel free to steal and adapt this one from Alex Romo, an inbound consultant at HubSpot:
"The goal of lead scoring is neither to make it hard nor easy for leads to qualify for MQL status. Rather, it's to capture a series of behaviors that accurately tell us a story about where the prospect may be in their buying journey, and when it's appropriate to reach out."
2. You lack a shared definition of your lifecycle stages
Lead scoring’s sole purpose is to help marketers identify those who are far enough along in their buying process that it makes sense to connect with them 1-on-1.
This lends itself to a whole slew of other questions, though.
What defines “far enough in their buying process?”
What are the differences between subscribers and leads?
What makes a website visitor a marketing qualified lead instead of a sales qualified lead?
It’s becoming apparent that we can get stuck on the marketing jargon pretty fast here.
Thankfully, HubSpot has once again done most of the heavy lifting with its standard lifecycle stage definitions. These may still seem general, so it is up to you to solidify these details and definitions with your team and to create consensus.
Why you need this
Lead scoring is the process of quantifying where a customer is in their buyer’s journey. Understanding what those journey milestones are and what defines each stage will make planning and executing a lead scoring strategy significantly easier.
Lastly, be sure to have a shared set of definitions. If sales operates with a different understanding than marketing, the entire lead scoring model will be a waste.
3. You implement lead scoring without enough leads
This is, as they say, putting the cart before the horse. Lead scoring will not generate more leads for your business.
What constitutes enough leads? I wish I could give you a magic number for this but, realistically, it is when your sales team is maxed out and doesn’t know who to call next.
A strong lead scoring model gives the sales team x-ray vision into the most serious prospects and a way to prioritize their time. No salesperson wants to spend time on low-quality leads.
Lead: contacts who have shown sales readiness beyond being a subscriber. An example of a lead is a contact who signs up for a content offer from your business.
If you don’t have an overwhelming number of leads coming in, shift your focus to the root of the problem: getting leads into the funnel.
Why you need this
Often times we see teams try to implement lead scoring as a way to make a lack of leads look better than it actually is. This band-aid approach to problems never works.
4. You lack data on your leads and customers
Not tracking who becomes a customer makes it near impossible to know what marketing collateral influenced their decision to become one in the first place.
It comes down to knowing your existing lead-to-customer conversion rate. This is your benchmark and how you will know what improvement in this area will look like.
When we start denoting who our customers are, we can start discerning what makes them more likely to purchase.
Some of the things you can look for when identifying what “more likely to purchase” is can fall under behavioral data (email opens, email clicks, page views, and time since last engagement), business size, industry, or location.
Why you need this
Without having dots to connect, you cannot connect the dots to determine what makes a great lead.
The first step to identifying purchasing intent is knowing who your customers are and what their journey was to get there. Without this knowledge you end up with an ineffective lead scoring model that doesn’t help your team close revenue.
5. You set up a lead scoring model without input from anyone else on your team
If you are a one-person operation, then you know what your prospects are looking for from first touch to last. But that is most often the exception, not the rule.
Many marketers operate in a silo and try to piece together a lead score based on what they think to be valuable actions and behaviors. It doesn’t have to be this way.
You can ask your sales team to come to a meeting to explain what makes a great lead.
You can ask for feedback on version 1.0 of your lead scoring model from team members.
Why you need this
To be fair, there isn’t really a “this.” It is simple a mistake than many make.
Getting the sales and customer-facing teams involved is vital when setting up lead scoring. They know what they look for in a quality lead and, even more importantly, what makes for a bad lead.
Getting their involvement will also increase the odds of them actually using the lead scoring model you worked so hard to create — making it a sales tool instead of just “something marketing is doing.”
Let’s settle the score
At the end of the day, lead scoring can be as complicated or as basic as you want it to be.
If we commit ourselves to setting goals, collecting data, including others in the process, and continuous improvement, we can set up our team for success and drive the results we all work so hard to achieve — and avoid these common mistakes along the way.
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