Simple lead scoring strategies for B2B SMEs

Phil Vallender avatar
Phil Vallender

Mar 27, 2015

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When businesses adopt digital sales and marketing tools, like CRM systems and marketing automation platforms, they also gain access to lead scoring.

But not a lot of effort has been made to make effective lead scoring strategy accessible or applicable to the average B2B SME. Without a sound strategy, however, you can't benefit from what lead scoring has to offer. 

Lead scoring explained

Lead scoring is the process of ranking leads, based on a variety of signals, in terms of their perceived value to your company. This is done in order to identify the leads that are most likely to convert into customers and, therefore, are most worthy of follow-up by sales.

Read our B2B sales and marketing alignment handbook here and start optimising  your business for growth today.

Lead scoring systems can draw upon a wide range of implicit and explicit signals.

Explicit signals are things the prospect tells us about themselves, such as demographic or firmographic information.

Implicit signals are the things that we can infer from actions the prospect takes, such as downloading content etc.

Lead scoring has, in one form or another, been around for a long time. Increasingly it has become digitised, both in terms of what is measured and how it is managed.

The objective of lead scoring, in most cases, is to move prospects to the marketing qualified lead (MQL) or, in some cases, sales qualified lead (SQL) lifecycle stage so that sales can take over nurturing and closing them.

One of the challenges facing SMEs as they begin to use lead scoring is that there is no accepted standard approach. As a result most lead scoring programs tend to be as unique as the organisations using them. This is no bad thing except that they are often set up in a hurry and without any objective data to base them on, resulting in an arbitrary approach that isn't comparable to anything anyone else is doing.

Simple lead scoring strategies are the best

For those just starting out, the most effective lead scoring strategies are the simplest.

The first step in creating your simple lead scoring strategy is understanding your marketing funnel.

If you operate content or inbound marketing strategies ,then you will likely already know what prospect actions align with the top (TOFU), middle (MOFU) and bottom (BOFU) of your funnel respectively. If you don’t operate either strategy, take some time now to align your marketing with this classic model of the lead generation funnel before moving on.

Setting lead scoring goals

Before you start assigning scores to actions, you need to set a goal.

That goal is a number which, going forward, will be used to equal a prospect becoming an MQL.

Setting this number high only increases your chances of your system becoming complex and confusing, so resist the temptation - we recommend you set a lead score of 100 as being equal to MQL.

Bottom of the funnel scores

Let's look at the bottom of your funnel first.

When a prospect performs an action that you've aligned to the bottom of the funnel, such as requesting a demo or a consultation, it goes without saying that they are an MQL.

So, give them 100 points right there.

Job done.

Top and middle of the funnel scores

Many of your leads will never actually convert on your bottom of the funnel offer.

Instead they will remain in the top or middle of your funnel.

If they perform multiple TOFU or MOFU conversions however, they are probably worth a call from sales.

For each form completed award an additional 25 points.

If a prospect converts on 4 forms, they get the 100 points required to make them an MQL. 

Web page view scores

Even when prospects don’t perform enough conversions to become an MQL, if they are highly engaged with your website it may be a sign that they are ready to buy.

You want sales to reach out to these prospects too, so we recommend that you award points for web page views on a sliding scale. Start out with something like:

  • 5 or more pages views - add 5 points
  • 10 or more page views - add 15 points
  • 15 or more page views - add 30 points

Here we assume that your lead scoring system works like ours (HubSpot) and will award these points cumulatively as the prospect passes each 'gate'. Thus, if a prospect views more than 15 pages they score a total of 50 points. 

Note: A lot of the guidance available recommends that you award higher scores for views of key pages, such as pricing. Our recommendation is that, unless you have clear evidence that views of such key pages are a buying sign among your prospects, wait until you have more data before implementing this.

Assigning negative lead scores to demographics and firmographics

No amount of demographic and or firmographic information alone, without behavioural signals, should ever be enough to move a prospect to the MQL stage.

After all, just being in the right country and industry, and having the right job title doesn’t mean a person likely to buy from you - they have to discover you and engage with your business somehow.

For this reason, all demographic and firmographic signals should be used to apply negative lead scores.

I.e. If a prospect is outside the correct country or industry you basically never want them to become an MQL. Decide what demographic/firmographic factors matter in this way and assign minus 500 points to anyone that doesn’t comply with your requirements for a customer. Don't award positive points to those that do, leave it to their behaviour to get them to the MQL score.

MQL - what next?

Once a prospect reaches the MQL stage , what you do next depends on your organisation's structure, its sales process and the software tools you use.

Things you should consider doing include:

  • Adding the prospect to the CRM, if they are not there already
  • Assigning a sales person
  • Sending a notification email to the relevant sales person
  • Adding them to, or removing them from, specific lead nurturing campaigns

Whatever you do, make sure that you have visibility over what happens to MQLs after they are passed to sales.

Knowing which MQLs convert and which ones do not is the best indicator of which marketing channels are performing well.

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