Lead scoring is a qualification methodology developed by marketing and sales teams to rank prospects by their perceived value to the company. Typically, marketing will score leads according to their levels of interaction with the company’s emails, website, content, and social channels.
After a marketing team has identified a lead, it will often start nurturing them. Nurturing usually occurs through what’s called a ‘drip’ campaign--a regular cadence of emails that include an offer like a white paper or webinar. The offers are often, but not exclusively, thought leadership pieces meant to build trust by demonstrating industry knowledge or familiarity with the kinds of challenges the lead is experiencing.
If there is alignment between the company’s offering and the lead’s pain, and the company’s communications are effective, then the lead may engage with the offers in the campaign. As engagement occurs, the lead’s ‘score’ will increase. In other words, if a lead responds to every email they receive from the nurture campaign by downloading white papers and registering for webinars, then they’re signaling their interest in the company. Depending on the actions they’re taking, the lead may also be signaling their intent to buy, and their lead score will increase accordingly.
Interactions that are typically scored include:
- Email messages the lead responded to
- Web pages the lead visited on the company website
- How long the lead visited a webpage
- Forms the lead completed
- Content the lead downloaded
- Blog posts the lead read
- Social media posts the lead read or responded to
Once the lead’s score reaches a certain point, as determined by the sales and marketing teams, the lead is termed a ‘Marketing Qualified Lead’ or MQL. At this point, the lead is passed over to sales to further qualify. The sales organization will work to convert the opportunity as part of the sales process. The essential difference between MQLs and Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs is their readiness to buy.
To ensure that lead scoring is effective, sales teams and marketing departments need to agree on the definition of a qualified lead. Sales will want information about the lead like their role in the company to determine whether they're appropriate to sell to. As part of their process, sellers will typically also want to know the SQL’s budget, authority, need, and timeliness. In other words, sales will want to know if the SQL has the money and authority to make a purchase, the SQL’s level of need and time scale--really desperate, need it now; or just thinking about it for next year, maybe.
Lead scoring is an important methodology because it allows sales teams to separate a customer's interest in products from their intent to buy. For example, certain website views or content downloads may reveal that a prospect is interested but isn’t ready to buy. Marketing will score these actions lower than those of prospects who signal their intent to buy by requesting a trial or viewing a pricing page. To successfully assess the value of a lead’s interactions with a company requires input from both the marketing and sales teams.