Rate us concept or customer careHow can agencies help businesses develop lead scoring strategies that get results? To find out, I talked to Sam Boush, President of Lead Lizard, a marketing automation agency (and Act-On partner) based in Portland, Oregon. Lead Lizard serves clients from a multitude of industries around the world, and they’re dedicated to helping these organizations get more value out of their marketing automation and CRM systems. (They also have a great logo.) The conversation was an excellent opportunity to learn about Lead Lizard’s unique approach to lead scoring, and to get an up-close look at the methods they use to help their clients create a score that quickly identifies good prospects.

Sam’s team has extensive experience combining demographic data with online behavior in order to build successful lead scoring campaigns for their clients. They help organizations define what a qualified lead looks like, determine how qualified leads interact with their marketing programs, and bring in best practices from a deep well of experience with lead scoring campaigns.

Settling the Score

There are many benefits to having an agency manage lead qualification for your organization. During our conversation, Sam outlined several of them:

  • Agencies have experience in navigating marketing and sales alignment issues. Those concerns often involve terminology, service level agreements, metrics and reporting, revenue attribution, follow-up times, and really just a host of potentially troublesome issues.
  • They’re familiar with the systems being used. A skilled demand generation agency can make sure that the marketing automation (which is the system marketing usually uses for lead qualification) and CRM (the system of record for sales) are properly integrated and configured to execute on the strategy both teams have agreed to.
  • It’s an approach that drives better lead response. Leads that have been scored and/or nurtured are leads that the sales team really wants to reach out to, using an agreed-upon follow-up that makes marketing happy, too.
  • Agencies provide improved reporting and campaign attribution. When the strategy and execution is done well, marketing has better insight into what’s working and what’s not. They also gain better visibility into how the marketing department is contributing to organizational revenue.

SamBoush-005-Edit(1)“Really, it’s about looking at the bigger picture,” Sam told me. “Many times, organizations focus on ‘lead scoring’ or some other tactical elements of lead qualification. But a skilled agency knows that the goal isn’t just to score leads, it’s to get the right leads to sales. Arming – and aiming – sales is the primary job of a B2B marketing team.” And of course, for the agency, the goal is always to help clients succeed. The more a demand generation agency can be part of the lead lifecycle, the more it can help clients meet their goals.

5 Steps to Better Lead Qualification

According to Sam, the foundation of a successful scoring model relies on a strong relationship between marketing and sales. Here are the five steps they’ve identified to ensure more precise lead scoring:

  1. Form a small committee. Make sure that this group represents (and understands) both your sales and marketing teams. Ask them to define the attributes – both demographic and behavioral – of an ideal lead.
  2. Build a scoring framework. Your committee will need to identify behaviors and demographics that add to a lead’s score—as well as actions and attributes that subtract from it.
  3. Write your lead scoring formula. Assign scores to each attribute and action. These scores will help you create a formula that identifies where a lead is in the buying cycle
  4. Build a service level agreement (SLA). Lay out what happens to a lead once it enters the sales funnel through marketing and the next steps for how sales will follow up – along with a timeline.
  5. Test before you implement. It’s always a good idea to test a program before you open the floodgates. Run a random assortment of leads through your scoring model, including leads from each stage in the buyer’s journey.

The entire process is laid out in this white paper on lead scoring from Lead Lizard, so take a look and get some valuable tips for developing your own lead scoring framework.

Going Negative

Of course, it’s important to remember that not all prospects visiting your website or filling out forms will fit your definition of a qualified lead. For example, if a person indicates her job title is “student,” she’s probably just doing research for a paper (or looking for a job). You can use negative behaviors and traits to your advantage by deducting points from a lead’s score.

But don’t be so quick to discount a prospect who visits your careers page, Sam cautions. “A very engaged prospect will probably want to know all about your organization, which includes looking to see how many job opportunities are posted.” This information can demonstrate whether your company has a strong plan for growth as well as whether or not there are any headcount issues. No jobs might mean zero expansion. Too many might mean the organization is overworked and understaffed.

According to Sam, inactivity can be a better indicator of a negative score. “If a lead doesn’t demonstrate any behavior for a few months, you might want to apply negative points to that lagging interest.” The length of time between behaviors is important. For example, if two leads have the same behaviors, but one is quicker to act, that lead is hotter, which calls for more points.

More Ways to Score

Feedback positive neutral negative on a chalkboard“There are often a lot of stakeholders in an account,” Sam points out. “If multiple stakeholders are coming to a digital property, it should be a flag.” That means you’ll want to increase the score of individuals within that organization if you receive multiple leads from the same company.

“Take a look at creating priority accounts as well,” Sam told me. “Organizations should build a list of accounts that the marketing and sales teams have identified as great prospects that you’d want to do business with. It might be a high-profile company in a certain sector, or a Fortune 500 organization.” A lead from one of these accounts would immediately get a flag attached to them which would lead to an increased score or an immediate contact from sales.

Most of all, it’s important to remember that lead scoring is a dynamic system, not a machine where you assign points for certain behaviors and then expect it chug away. It’s an ongoing process, and if you let it run without fine-tuning it, it will break down. But if you continually revisit your lead scoring program and check in with both sales and marketing to make sure they’re satisfied with the outcomes, you’ll have a powerful lead-nurturing engine that can drive superior results.

Ready to dive in to lead scoring? Download this toolkit to find out how to implement a lead scoring program that can identify and target likely buyers. If you’re just starting to consider leveraging the power of marketing automation in your agency, this eBook outlines the 9 essentials to grow your business and help your clients succeed.