What Is Lead Scoring and How Does It Work?

Lead Scoring: What Is it and How Does It Work?

By Jennifer MalinsOct 26 /2021

Savvy marketers know that better data regarding their leads will result in better conversions, but according to HubSpot, 79% of leads never turn into sales. Yikes! The culprit? A lack of lead nurturing. Not surprisingly, an equal percentage do not use lead scoring either.

Unless you have a monopoly on the product or service you offer, you have competition, which means sales and marketing becomes a high-stakes game. A good lead scoring system can be a game-changer by helping you quickly target the right people so you can get to them before the competition does.

Assuming you’re in it to win it, let’s take a closer look at lead scoring.

Lead Scoring: What Is It?

Lead scoring is a system of categorizing and prioritizing leads based on a set of criteria. Better leads get higher scores. Otherwise, you’re treating all leads as if they are equal. And they are not.

While one potential customer may be a student doing research for a paper, another may have you on their shortlist of companies they want to do business with. While you’re wasting time on prospects who will never become customers, companies with an organized system of targeting leads will steal the ball right out of your hands.

Consider this: According to HubSpot, 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor who responds first, but only 37% of companies respond to their leads within an hour.

Automatizing your lead scoring system helps your sales team get to the right leads quickly and helps the marketing team know which leads to continue to nurture.

Doing this manually, on the other hand, means sifting through your contact list one by one to try to find the gold nuggets in the form of qualified leads. In today’s increasingly competitive market, that’s like trying to score a soccer goal while wearing flip flops.

That’s why we recommend using a customer relationship management tool (CRM) like HubSpot. This makes it easier for your organization to not only track, organize and maintain relationships with prospects and customers, but to also nurture your leads and score them based on the criteria that matter to you most.

When your lead scoring system has been set up correctly, your sales team will become more efficient and effective at their job. They’ll be reaching out to the leads that matter to your business and doing so in a timely manner.

Lead Scoring: How Does It Work?

Many lead scoring systems have a 100-point scoring model. The criteria businesses use to determine these scores are typically a combination of demographic information and a user’s activity, which demonstrates their level of interest. User activity could include visits to your website, eBook downloads, or email opens.

The main influencer of the score is the desired customer, which are not necessarily the customers you’ve been attracting. This means your ideal target should always get the highest score.

The development of your lead scoring model should be a joint effort between marketing and sales. Identifying your ideal customer is not only a necessary step for effective marketing overall, but it also makes it easier to formulate your lead scoring model.

Pro Tip: Automatizing your lead scoring process will save time, but it’s not a “set it and forget it” situation because a lead’s value will change over time. Analyze and reevaluate your leads regularly, tweaking as your ideal customers change their needs and behavior and as your company grows and re-defines its target market. The good news is that with an automated system, this change in value is also automated.

Lead Scoring Models: Explicit Versus Implicit

While there are multiple ways to score your leads, here are the two areas we’ve found the most helpful when working with our clients.

Explicit Lead Scoring

Explicit scoring refers to the data you’ve collected on a given lead, such as information from a form, and has two components:

  1. Demographic data: This refers to the person-specific data, such as their buyer persona or job title
  2. Firmographic data: This might include industry or size of the company

Both types of data are valuable when scoring leads. For example, if you serve customers from several different industries, you might rank them differently depending on which industries you see as being more valuable or less valuable.

Implicit Lead Scoring

Implicit scoring is also known as behavioral scoring. This refers to how your prospects are interacting with your website or a distinct sales channel.

Pro Tip: Look at both implicit and explicit data as a whole and then interpret what it means in the context of your company. Rather than fixating on the numbers, ask yourself what story the data are telling you.

A prospect who has higher engagement doesn’t always equal a strong lead, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although they could be a student writing a paper, they could also be a mid-level manager doing research for a C-level executive.

After looking at the FAQ pages and downloading a whitepaper, they may present the decision-maker with a list of three possible vendors. If you’re one of them, that executive may go look at your price page, look at reviews, and do some LinkedIn networking or do in-person networking to see if their contacts have used your product or service.

This executive may have low engagement, but if they’re visiting the price page, that could show interest and lead to a conversion.

You will weigh these actions according to how likely it is that someone taking the particular action will become a customer. By consciously differentiating between someone expressing casual interest and someone who is clearly looking for a solution that you can provide, you can work smarter, not harder.

Start Lead Scoring

A well-developed lead scoring system often uses a combination of these two methods. It’s also likely that negative scoring will be a part of your overall model. This enables you to deduct points from leads when they unsubscribe from your newsletter or when they view your employment page.

Rather than getting lost in the details, keep your eye on the ball or the big picture. Think of lead scoring as part of a holistic approach that helps you understand the behavior of your ideal customers, enabling you to grow your business.

This may mean sometimes going against what the data suggests that you do. For example, if the people who are becoming customers are difficult to serve, your company may decide to target a different audience.

On the flip side, if you’ve tried many approaches to attract your ideal customer and they just aren’t entering the door, but a large group of potential customers has shown interest in your product or service, you might decide to serve that market.

You shouldn’t expect immediate results from establishing your lead scoring model. Some leads will require significant time to nurture, and this also depends on your industry and the niche you’re serving.

If this seems daunting, you’re not alone. We’ve helped many of our clients transition from manual lead scoring (or no lead scoring at all) to an automated system, saving them hours of time and headache.

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Jennifer Malins
The Author

Jennifer Malins

Jennifer uses her journalism background to capture client narrative and translate it into marketing that matters. Previously, she wrote SEO-rich web copy and blogs for a variety of healthcare practitioners and served as the VP of Programs for a literacy nonprofit.