Modern Marketing Blog Influencer Series - Scoring Big: Understanding the Buyer’s Journey Is the Key to Lead Scoring

January 13, 2020 | 3 minute read
Matt Heinz
President and founder of Heinz Marketing
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When it comes to lead scoring for account-based marketing (ABM), marketers have tended to take a binary approach: A prospect’s action adds points to a score. No action, no points. But I think we need to take an approach that is both broader and more nuanced. Broader because technology today allows us to cast a much wider net for buyer intent data, and more nuanced because while individual actions—downloading content, signing up for a webinar, etc.—are interesting, they don’t fully describe the buyer’s journey.

Take the case of a website visit. A prospect’s visit itself constitutes an action, but how much time did they spend there? What type of content were they looking at? How engaged were they with that content? Marketers should be able to prioritize and score these qualitative data points to create as clear a picture as possible in order to pass leads on to the sales team that are genuinely ready to buy.

When Is a Lead Really a Lead?

Many companies focus on what I consider the marketing of more: more likes, more retweets, more volume, and more leads. The problem with this approach is that while you’ll wind up with a lot of leads, only a small percentage will be qualified. At a certain point, you’ll likely lose credibility with the sales team.

Instead, I'm seeing more companies create scoring models that result in fewer leads, but more qualified ones. They’re scoring a lot of actions, but they've placed a higher threshold for when that lead will move to sales. Here are a few strategies I believe lead to more effective leads:

  • Broaden the data: Too often, marketers limit their lead scoring to whatever their marketing automation solution observes directly, such as email opens and click-throughs. If you’re doing that, you’re missing out on a lot of intent data that your CRM and/or event marketing platform is tracking, such as stopping by a booth at a trade show, interacting with your sales team, etc. There’s also activity on your website, social media activity, and demographic data, among others. Your technology solution should be able to pull this activity in and score it according to your model.

  • Consider timing: Fast data is more important than big data. Remember that there is a ticking clock on the behavior you’re scoring, and the longer you wait to react to it, the less relevant your response will be. Technology can help by providing instantaneous updates so you can gauge the momentum of your prospect’s journey.

  • Evaluate the sequence: Sometimes a single activity isn't as important as the sequence it occurs in. That is, if the prospect performs three actions in sequence or within a certain period, their score would be higher than if they performed those actions separately. Why? Because the bundle of activity might be a strong indicator that they’re at the beginning of the buying cycle.

  • Subtract as well as add: Lead scoring is an active measure of engagement with your content, your brand, and your organization, so it should go down as well as up. The longer a lead remains inactive, for example, the more their score should decline.

Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

All of these considerations paint a picture of a buyer’s journey, which you can use to further modify your scoring model in a virtuous cycle of learning, testing, and refining. One effective way of doing this is to reverse-engineer the journeys of your most successful customers: What happened before they talked to sales? What did those prospects do? How did they engage with your brand before they had a positive interaction with sales? The better you understand buyer’s behavior, the more accurately you can score a new prospect’s sequence of activities.

While I don't think marketing can be automated, lead scoring absolutely can. Best-in-class lead management solutions can pull in data from multiple sources in real time and evaluate actions according to sophisticated scoring models. These solutions can then leverage those results to perform the appropriate next step to help increase velocity and conversion.


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Matt Heinz

President and founder of Heinz Marketing

Matt Heinz is president and founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty. He is a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers.

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