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Testing Lead Scoring to Meet Sales and Marketing SLAs

By John McTigueMar 4 /2013

lead scoring is best done through testingAs Thomas Edison once said, "Hell, there are no rules here—we're trying to accomplish something." This sentiment applies perfectly to lead scoring. Why? Because we don't always know exactly how to create rules for lead qualification that will reliably move warm leads to the sales team and leave the rest for lead nurturing. This isn't a perfect science, and it takes time and testing to get it right.

Starting With Intuition

When we first set up a lead scoring schema, we're effectively guessing. We sat down with the sales team and established a solid set of criteria for sales-readiness for our digital marketing leads. We have (hopefully) created a content map that operates as a model for tracking buyer interest and behavior throughout our online presence. We are rewarding our leads with points when they behave "correctly"—i.e. exhibit buyer intentions by visiting bottom-funnel pages and downloading bottom-funnel content. Likewise, we take points away when they show signs of not being qualified, like answering questions that show they are competitors or students, not bonafide customers-in-waiting. The problem is, at the outset we don't know exactly how those triggers will work, to what degree each behavior should influence lead scoring and in what sequence. That's where the testing comes in through marketing automation.

Observation and Alignment

We can probably all agree that if sales and marketing aren't on the same page with respect to lead scoring, we have little chance of meeting SLAs and achieving our goals. Just identifying triggers and behaviors isn't enough; we need to get a handle on thresholds, for example, to transition a lead from raw lead status to marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL). We can set a lead score threshold we think will work, but we must test it.

Example Scenario 1: We have a trigger set up on our Services, Individual Service and Pricing pages. Each visit adds 10 points to a lead's score. On each page we have a call-to-action to download a brochure-style document (100 points) and a technical specifications sheet (50 points). Repeat visits to those pages yield 50 points, and repeat downloads yield an additional 100 points. Relatively quickly, our lead gets up to 500 points, which is our trigger for MQL, and a notification is sent to our inside sales team. Unfortunately, a majority of leads get through that aren't qualified because we have failed to qualify them by form questions that would address their industry, role, company size, product interest level and purchase intent. If they had indicated they were in our industry as a competitor, you would want to deduct a high number of lead score points, or if they answered "just browsing" to an urgency question, you would also want to send them back to the top-mid funnel for lead nurturing.

Example Scenario 2: All of the triggers, including form questions, have been fine tuned, but something unexpected happens. A lead suddenly becomes MQL the first time they visit your website. They visit everything and download everything right away. Your sharp-eyed inside sales team takes a look at the lead intelligence but questions the lead's qualified status. After all, your typical sales cycle is 1-2 months, not 1-2 minutes. Something is fishy about this lead. Further inspection reveals a bogus email address, company name and contact name. Yep, those pesky competitors are at it again. Back to the drawing board. Now we need to think about rewarding people who act like potential buyers—by visiting, absorbing, downloading, reading and coming back to ask questions—over time, not on the same day.

What if that lead really did want to buy today? Well, there's more than one way to bag a customer. Make sure you have customer-ready conversion forms handy from every page and a way to contact Sales directly by phone or Web.

These are the kinds of things your sales and marketing team need to discuss early and often. No set of SLAs will work perfectly out of the gate. By monitoring, testing and adjusting your lead capture, conversion and scoring rules, you can converge on a solution that works in the vast majority of cases. By including direct pathways to sales, you can minimize the chance that truly qualified leads go unfulfilled.

Photo credit: @mikepick

john mctigue blog photoWith over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. Connect with John via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.

Enterprise Inbound Marketing Guide
The Author

John McTigue

With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus.