How Do I Score Leads? A Step-by-Step Introduction to Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is a prevalent topic across many leading business blogs.  As companies compete to develop increasingly sophisticated marketing machines, lead scoring finds itself at center stage.

At the same time, the technologies that enable lead scoring, primarily CRM and marketing automation systems, have taken enormous strides.  These systems have become more powerful, affordable, and prevalent as additional vendors have entered the market.

Despite the availability of information and the requisite lead scoring technology, adoption has not followed suit.  According to MarketingSherpa, 79% of B2B marketers have not established a lead scoring program.

So, what gives?

Several factors could explain the lack of lead scoring among B2B marketers.  Look no further than the traditional ‘Big 3’: lack of tools (CRM and/or marketing automation in this case), lack of internal capabilities, and lack of executive buy-in.

In today’s guide, we’ll help you to understand the basics of lead scoring and make the compelling case for the resources to get a program started.


1. What is lead scoring?

As the name implies, lead scoring is the practice of assigning numeric scores to leads, based on their likelihood of purchase.

Lead scoring – a technique to objectively evaluate the attributes and behaviors of potential clients in an effort to judge purchase intent

Lead scoring boils down diverse actions and information into simple predefined values, which can then be added, subtracted, or otherwise adjusted based on organizational policies and procedures.  Cumulatively, these values make up an individual lead score.

Higher lead scores indicate a more sales-ready leads, while leads with lower scores are not yet ready to take that step.  Most companies advance leads in their funnel when their score reaches a certain threshold value.


2. Why is lead scoring valuable?

Lead scoring provides two things: consistency and repeatability.

Evaluating a lead manually – that is, looking at the contract record and the history of engagement to determine sales-readiness – is a complex decision.  You have to consider a number of different factors, most of which aren’t directly comparable.  Each decision is subject to individual preferences, time pressure, and external influences.  It’s exceedingly hard to make these decisions with any sort of consistency, especially if more than one person is evaluating.

This is where lead scoring comes in.  By translating divergent information into numeric values, lead scoring makes leads directly comparable, both to threshold values and to one another.  Whether the values are right or wrong, they provide a consistent frame of reference.

On top of that, with consistent lead scores and feedback from your sales team, you can easily determine what factors producing the highest quality leads.  You can then, in turn, adjust the values you assign different factors to more accurately reflect lead quality.

It’s this ongoing process that makes leads scoring truly valuable.  It allows you to move advance leads in the funnel based on data, rather than speculation.  With some fine-tuning, scoring allows your lead nurture campaigns to quickly advance qualified leads, while providing the not-yet-qualified leads with time to develop.


3. What do I need to score leads?

Lead scoring becomes infinitely easier with the help of a marketing automation system.  Once implemented, the system does the work for you.  It performs all the calculations and keeps records up-to-date as new information comes in.  Some systems can even infer additional information based on the user’s IP.

That being said, it’s not impossible to score leads manually.  The approach requires a fair amount of time, organization, and attention to detail.  Essentially, put your leads in a spreadsheet, determine scoring criteria, and assign values to each record. Advanced Excel users can automate this process to some degree through functions or scripts.  For less advanced users, this simple lead scoring template from Demand Metric is a great starting point.

The downside to manual lead scoring is that it relies on the user to be updated.  This limits the volume of leads that can be managed at one time.  This also means that it’s slower and more difficult to tie actions back to individual contacts.  With a marketing automation system, things like website visits and email engagement are detected and attributed, whereas without one, marketers are largely in the dark for such activities.


4. What are the components of a lead score?

Lead scores are a combination of fit and intent.

Fit is the degree to which a lead matches your target customer.  A good fit will be in an appropriate role at an appropriate company in an appropriate industry.  In other words, they will closely resemble some of your best existing clients.  Barring a change in job status, the fit component of a score will stay the same.

Fit values may take into account:

  • Department
  • Job title
  • Job function
  • Seniority
  • Industry
  • Company size/revenue

Intent is amount of expressed interest in your product or brand.   Users build their intent scores by interacting with marketing communications, consuming important content, or following the brand.  Unlike fit, intent is fluid – this component of scores will go up and down based on engagement (or lack thereof) over time.

Intent values may take into account:

  • Content downloads
  • Opening/Clicking emails
  • Visiting specific web pages
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Attending webinars or events


5. How do I weight my scores?

When it comes to lead scoring, the values themselves aren’t particularly important, what’s more important is their relation to one another.  Specifically, the relationship between the fit values, intent values, and your threshold for qualification.

The easiest way to begin thinking about values is to set a qualification threshold and work backwards.  With a threshold value chosen, you can assign intent values based on their approximate relationship to lead qualification.  For example, if I decide my threshold will be 100, I might decide a content download is worth 10, a blog subscription is worth 15, and an email click-through is worth 5.

Don’t forget that intent values can be positive or negative.  Actions like viewing a careers page are indications that the visitor is not a potential buyer.  Inactivity is another good reason to lower an intent score.

As far as fit values, a good rule of thumb is to cap the maximum possible value at about 75% of your qualification value.  For example, if your qualification threshold was 100, an ideal lead should start with a score of no more than 75, meaning they will still need two to three substantial actions (intent values) to be considered qualified.

Once your values are set, you can then test your system with hypothetical use cases.  Using the values from our earlier examples, a lead that starts out as a good fit, downloads two pieces of content, clicks-through two emails, and subscribes to the blog would end up around a 95.  Though close, 95 isn’t quite to my threshold of 100, if I think this lead is in fact qualified, I need to adjust my values accordingly.  If you feel confident after running several hypotheticals, you can move on.


6. Where do I go from there?

No matter how solid an initial program may seem, it’s impossible to know without testing.  Every lead scoring program needs at least one individual to monitor outputs and adjust scores accordingly.

As you collect data, you’ll notice certain traits, activities, or combinations of activities are frequently associated with your best leads.  When you notice these factors, you can increase the related lead scoring values to more accurately reflect their importance.  Likewise, you can reduce the values of activities frequently associated poorer quality leads.

The only way you get all the information you need to make informed lead scoring decisions is to regularly collect input from stakeholders.  These conversations provide detail that simply can’t be communicated with metrics alone.

To advance a lead scoring program, marketers have to collect, analyze, and adapt. This governance is the key to any sort of long-term success in lead scoring.



Let us know what you think:

  • Do you score your leads?
  • If so, how has lead scoring impacted your organization?
  • If not, do you have plans to implement lead scoring in the future?



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