What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is a marketing and sales practice designed to determine where your leads may be in their customer journey, and how likely they are to buy your product or service. Each company will have a different lead scoring model depending on its business model and customer base.

Maybe you’ve used a lead magnet to capture leads, or launched a lead generation campaign that brought in a landslide of new prospects, or even met someone and taken down their details at an event. . By organizing these people with a scoring system, you centralize their intent for your offer across your business.

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In short, it’s a score you give your leads to rank them.
Leads with higher scores are much more likely to become closed deals.

Lead scoring models are based on multiple factors.

You’ll need to spend some time refining markers with Sales and Marketing to determine what actions and attributes carry a higher likelihood of a lead becoming a customer.

Benefits of lead scoring

You could look at lead scoring as just another step between you and your potential customers, but the reality is that it stops you from wasting time on ‘leads’ that may never have been leads in the first place; instead, focusing on those that will actually convert into customers.

It isn’t just about separating the good from the bad leads; lead scoring is integral to understanding where a lead is in their customer journey.

I manage lead scoring systems at Turtl and make sure we understand a lead’s intent and efficiently turn marketing qualified leads (MQLs) into sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Our goal is to help the Sales team prioritize those people who are further down the sales funnel. It’s not just better for you but for the leads themselves. If Sales understand where the lead is in their journey, it allows them to be more direct and accurate in their messaging.
Ultimately, lead scoring not only saves your team time but saves the business money by not wasting resources on dead-end leads.

Jenny Howe

Head of Marketing Operations, Turtl

We’re going to show you how Jenny adapted our lead scoring system to identify higher-intent prospects in the sales funnel and improve Turtl’s MQL-to-SQL conversion rate.

First, we’ll talk about what kind of data helps you score leads.

Explicit vs. implicit lead scoring

Scoring leads by using hard, known data, like their industry type or age, is called ‘explicit’ scoring.

Softer information gathered or assumed about a lead is called ‘implicit’ scoring and is based on things like online behavior or activity with your newsletter.

Explicit lead scoring covers everything you can learn about a client from data they provide you or make public.

Things like:

  • Job title
  • Company size
  • Industry

Implicit lead scoring requires data from your sales and marketing teams and anecdotal information based on user activity.

This focuses more on the user’s behavior rather than cold facts, such as:

  • Time spent reading your content
  • Number of reads, visits, and shares
  • Engagement with pages, social posts, or in person
  • Interaction with content such as videos, surveys and webinars

Scoring leads down
Lead scoring isn’t always about increasing the user’s score.

In fact, it’s just as important to know when a lead might be engaging in a way that would suggest a lack of intent to buy.

For instance, does this lead work for a competitor? They’re likely just scoping out the competition.

If they spend time on the careers page, they may be just looking for a position rather than investing in your service/product.

Other negative scores can look like:

  • Email unsubscribes (they don’t want to hear from you anymore!)
  • Spam email addresses (or generic hosts like Gmail/Yahoo if you’re B2B)
  • Company size far lower than your usual sales packages

Firmographic and demographic data

Firmographic and demographic models are almost entirely explicit.

Firmographic data relates specifically to a business, job roles, industry, and size of the company and is often much more important for B2B businesses.

Demographics, on the other hand, focus on the individual’s characteristics such as gender and age group.

Demographics tend to be more important in B2C business models but can play an important role in B2B sales when targeting a specific person within a company.

You begin scoring leads based on firmographic and demographic data, and then you’ll add scores based on behavior and engagement.

Let’s take a look at what this all might look like when you build your lead-scoring templates.

Types of lead stages that match intent

These types aren’t exclusive to one another – you may find that mixing and matching elements gives you the best outcome. You’re going to need to consider buyer or purchase intent, to be able to score effectively.

Buyer or purchase intent

This is a rating of someone’s likeness to buy from you, over a specific timeframe, normally of 6-12 months.

The four types of purchase intent are linked to customer awareness stages. You apply a score to match stages of awareness, a rating that makes sense according to each stage.

You’ll increase your leads’ scores, and speed up the cycle, by designing content that pushes people through each stage to the next.

We’ve added content goals and tips for each stage to help you out.

Stage 1: Informational intent at the awareness stage

Your content marketing goal: brand awareness

People are aware they have a problem and are educating themselves and researching information online.

For example, they might find that their content isn’t performing well and they want to improve audience engagement.

How to do it

  • Address audience problems in your content by using surveys and polls
  • Use engagement and behavior data to learn more about them
  • It’s a good idea to create shareable content that offers value to your audience
  • We’d also recommend user-led and community-led content

lightbulb graphic with green blob behind itAddress audience problems in your content by using surveys and polls and look at engagement and behavior trends to learn more about them

Stage 2: Investigative intent at the consideration stage

Your content marketing goal: Building engagement, relationships, trust, and authority

People are actively researching a solution to a problem and are looking at various solutions.

People spend more time in this stage than the other stages because SERPs return an overwhelming amount of options.

How to do it

  • Retarget prospects with personalized content to make your product/service more relevant
  • Serve content that differentiates your offer from the competition, be original
  • Case studies and client testimonials will build trust in your brand
  • Thought leadership content positions you as an expert

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Retarget prospects with personalized content to make your product/service more relevant and serve content that differentiates your offer from the competition

Stage 3: Navigational intent at the deep consideration and conversion stage

Your content marketing goal: Keep them on-site, and show them content designed to convert

At this stage, people are comparing solutions and thinking about making a decision.

They’re aware of your brand and are checking your website (and glancing at your competitors’ pages)

How to do it

  • Your site needs to be easy to navigate and clearly explain how your solution solves pain points
  • Update CTAs, use clear navigation
  • Build comparison pages – people love to compare before they buy
  • Engage directly with leads by using personalized pages or offers

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Engage directly with leads by using personalized pages or offers and make content easy to navigate

Stage 4: Transactional intent at the conversion stage

Your content marketing goal: These people are ripe buyers. Pick them off the tree

This is your chance to tip people who are about to buy, over the line. You’re going to need to be convincing.

How to do it

  • Show them who’s using your brand and use irresistible offers
  • Serve these high-intent buyers pages that speak to them – personalized pages
  • Persuade with social proof and add your best testimonials
  • Use pricing and comparison tables to help decisions get made

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Get close to closing with social proof, comparison charts, and personalized content experiences

There’s more: Online behavioral lead scoring

Behavioral lead scoring focuses on what someone does, based on their online activity.

This could be whether they spend a certain amount of time reading your content or emails, responding to social posts, or visiting specific areas of your website.

For instance, if someone looks at your pricing page that shows a greater interest in purchasing than someone who bounces after your homepage.

You can also score leads down. Negative scoring happens when someone looks at your career page as they appear more interested in working for your company rather than buying your product/service.  Here, you’d score them down for showing a different intent.

Engagement lead scoring

Engagement is exactly what it sounds like, and this is measured by how a lead interacts with your brand across any touchpoint – digital or otherwise.

They might attend an event or read a digital brochure and would be scored on things like the frequency of interactions or time spent engaging with content.

Both aren’t mutually exclusive and organizations often combine them to come up with a comprehensive scoring model tailored to work really well.

Engagement isn’t necessarily just about engaging with your product, in fact, the likelihood is that people don’t have access to it yet. Engagement can also be found across your content marketing, social media accounts, or email nurture streams.

You can use Turtl’s Analytics Dashboard to see exactly how a reader engages, whether they use certain widgets, and how long they actively have the document open.

I use a combination of known reader data, and content insights extracted from each Turtl Doc, to score prospect’s interest level or sales readiness.

Jenny Howe

Head of Marketing Operations, Turtl

How to build a lead scoring system

The first thing to understand is that, while there is overlap, every business’s lead scoring system will need to be different depending on the industry, scale, and even nature of your service/product.

There are, however, early steps to take before you plunge into the deep end.

Talk to your sales team

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Those with the most direct contact with the customer base – your Sales, and Customer Success teams – have the best idea of your typical customer

They’ll help inform what actions and attributes consistently contribute to strong leads and which behaviors may suggest otherwise.

A successful lead scoring model requires consistent feedback and buy-in from both the Sales and SDR teams.
All scores should be reviewed each quarter by Marketing and Sales in conjunction with conversion analysis to ensure your lead scoring model is producing the highest quality, sales-ready lead.

Jenny Howe

Head of Marketing Operations, Turtl

Analyze relevant data

Much like talking to Sales, using data from your current or previous customers will help inform what a customer’s journey looks like for your brand. This leads us to the next point…

Map your customer journey

This is something you may have already done for your sales process, but if not, being able to visualize the typical journey of a customer will help you score different actions with higher or lower values depending on how likely those actions affect the decision to buy.

This guide will help you do just that.

Click to read No gaps content mapping: How to enable an irresistible buyer journey | Turtl

How we score leads at Turtl 

Now that we understand the core functions and types of lead scoring, it’s time to see an example.

Let’s look at Turtl’s lead scoring model using HubSpot, built by our resident lead scoring expert. Our integration with Hubspot makes lead scoring efficient and hassle-free.

I use an online behavioral and engagement model rolled into one, focusing more on how a potential lead engages with our content and online engagement. This allows me to understand how familiar a potential lead is with our service and brand.”
With this data, our Sales teams can be more direct and accurate in their messaging to potential customers, minimizing the risk of wasted time or over-explaining subjects they may already have good knowledge of.

Jenny Howe

Head of Marketing Operations, Turtl

Adapting our lead scoring model

After reviewing inbound MQLs that had surpassed the lead score threshold but were rejected due to timing issues, Jenny knew it was time to look at our scoring model and see if something was being weighted too heavily.

It turned out that rather than score someone +4 for reading a Turtl Doc for 60 seconds or more, it made more sense to break that particular scoring bracket out into smaller portions, spread across that 60 seconds.

This meant rather than +4 for a minute of read time, we adjusted to:
+1 for 15 seconds of read time
+1 for 30 seconds of read time
+1 for 45 seconds of read time
+1 for 60 seconds of read time

This allowed a prospect to still get the +4 for the full minute of reading as we felt strongly it was an important metric to score.

It also allowed prospects that read for less than 60 seconds the chance to be scored accordingly, where previously they’d receive 0 points until meeting the 60-second threshold.

This resulted in more leads getting scored but also minimized the amount of not-yet-ready MQLs we were passing to Sales.

Here’s our template, you can click it to enlarge it.

Infographic showing an example of a lead scoring model courtesy of Turtl

Unlike the typical scoring out of 100, I use a ‘Golden Number’ of 10 points, which would make the lead an MQL and ready to be passed along to our Sales team.

This could be achieved in one action; for instance – if they visit 10 of our web pages – that behavior shows considerable interest in the product, so they are assigned 10 points and instantly become a marketing-qualified lead.

Jenny Howe

Head of Marketing Operations, Turtl

Automation and integrations

Once you’ve confirmed the best approach and/or lead scoring model for your organization, it’s time to build it.

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Certain CRM systems, such as HubSpot or Marketo come equipped with a lead-scoring tool ready for customization

Turtl has integrations with HubSpot and Marketo, to give us direct analytical data based on user interaction with any Turtl digital documents.

Turtl takeaway

Lead scoring is a priceless exercise. It streamlines the sales process saving time and money, and delivers high-quality leads to your sales team, making their job easier.

The process will also help you to understand your customer base on a deeper level which contributes to your overall B2B content marketing strategy.

And if you want to build a coherent one, that works from your value prop to your content output, we’ve got just a content marketing guide for that.

Read our content marketing guide

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A round up of insights, trends, and tips on the world of content marketing