Happy New Year to my Marketo friends!
Since I released my Marketing Rockstar’s Guide to Lead Scoring, I have received great comments from the community. Thank you. But something’s been eating at me about Lead Scoring. In the past month, I have worked with a few of you on lead scoring issues. Most of the work stems from scoring models which just don’t seem to work. Initially it seemed that the audience or Sales had changed. Now I think it is the model was wrong from the beginning and it only became clear as it broke down. In fact, I believe Lead Scoring is entirely misleading to salespeople and to marketers.
Lead Scoring Does Not Prioritize Leads Well
Lead Scoring is touted as a way to help Sales prioritize leads, but is often used by Marketing to pre-qualify leads with the assumption that higher scores equals higher priority. I do not think that is logical because the sales process is more complex than that. Each salesperson has his own prioritization system based on his approach to entering an Account. Sure, it’s roughly the same: find champions, supporters, and decision makers. Sometimes it’s better to build up support before speaking to the decision maker; sometimes it’s the decision maker’s call from the start. Marketing can’t know this in advance. As Sirius Decisions pointed out, most people score C-suite at +20 (or higher), but how often does your salesperson work directly with CXOs? Are you sure the busiest person is a priority on the first call?
Marketing’s role is to find leads who are in the target audience and who have indicated some level of interest in the service. In the past few years, vendors and consultants have told marketers that we need to figure out the buying stage and offer content at the right times to leads who poke around our site looking for possible solutions to their problems. That seems like a good set of activities to keep us employed. As a marketer you then track those interactions to determine when a salesperson should call. Call too early and you risk irritating the lead and the sales person who will forget about the lead until it is too late; call too late, and the opportunity is missed.
What a salesperson wants is a pre-packaged deal ready to sign by the end of the day without leaving their home office. Yeah, not happening these days.
What can happen is placing the right leads in front of the salesperson at the right time. The right lead may be a Supporter, Champion, or Decision Maker. But you should let the salesperson decide which one they need to get in touch with and when. Thus, assigning points to titles like “CEO” or “Vice President of Research” is not going to tell the salesperson if that lead is “sales ready” or even the right person to call today. You should show Sales leads who are possible Supporters, Champions, or Decision Makers. Those are people in your Target Audience and who have certain behaviors. That is your group of MQLs. The priority to call is up to the sales person.
Lead Scoring is Unnecessary for Marketing Qualification
Imagine a scoring system where the threshold is 30 points. A Form Fill Out is +10, a Visited Page is +1 and +5 for Multiple Web Page Visits, and a Clicks Link in Email is +2. So it’s pretty easy to hit 30 points after just 1 email CTA since it often sparks a series of actions.
+10 for Form
+2 for Click
+1 +1 for Visits 2 pages
+5 for Multiple pages (a lead will invariably hit up other pages)
Usually two of these are enough to reach a threshold. This problem began to expose itself with Lead Nurturing where we found out it did take 1 or 2 emails to trigger the threshold and then reassign a lead to a sales person.
To me, advancing a lead after two Fill Outs seems too soon unless it is a specific Form, such as Call Me Now. Do we know from the point value or from 2 forms that this person is ready for a sales call? I doubt it. The difficulty with Scoring is it masks the actions taken by a Lead with numbers, abstracting it away from the real intent behind those behaviors. The same is true for the demographic score: if you already know the target audience and have the Smart Lists, why waste time scoring? They are in the audience or they are not! You probably set your MQL flow to say something like
If Lead Score > 30 AND Member of Smart List IN "Target Audience"
Then Sync to SFDC with "Auto-Assignment Rules"
So you are already filtering by Demographics, therefore, don’t duplicate your efforts by adding Lead Scores here.
Replace Behavior Scoring with Behavior Qualification
You can also forget behavioral scoring. It’s pointless. Why abstract the actions with numbers? Use Behavior Qualification instead. This method helps you select the behaviors most likely to get the sales person to call the Lead. If you can, go one step further to select behaviors most associated with a Closed/Won Opportunity.
Let’s examine a possible scenario: If it takes roughly 2 Form Fill Outs for a lead to be worthy of a sales person, then just set a campaign to say:
Fills Out Form IS NOT "Unsubscribe" AT LEAST 2 Times AND Member of List IN "Target Audience"
This Smart List achieves the same thing as scoring each Form Fill Out at +15 and 5 Visits Web Page at +1 or any rough combination of other scores. The flow is also clear and honest about what it does.
Your trigger list could go deeper to specific page and form combinations, specific web visits, and email clicks. You are already doing this with scoring, with a secondary layer of unneeded logic which will tend to mask the behaviors you want to see from the Lead.
What about negative behaviors?
If you look carefully at many firms’ negative behavior list, the only truly negative “behavior” is to be a Competitor or a Student. Those people get excluded immediately through demographics. The next behavior is to Unsubscribe, yet I rarely see a system which strongly deprecates this behavior. And Unsubscribing may not even be all that bad as long as the lead takes other actions you want. Instead, create a Smart List to segment out Unsubscribers and Career Page Visitors from your MQL if you prefer. You still don’t need points here.
There is a better way to handle Marketing Qualification: Behavior Qualification
The better way is to take what you learned from your Sales Survey to establish a series of Smart Lists or a set of triggers around the buying process. This new method is called Behavior Qualification. Once you’ve set clear MQL thresholds based on the Target Audience Smart List and behaviors, you might go even further into the buying process stages, refining that list of behaviors to better time that call from Sales.
If you’ve gone through a Lead Scoring Survey process as I wrote about in the Lead Scoring Chapter of the Guide, then you are ready to implement Behavior and Demographic Qualification for your MQL process.
You can still implement Lead Scoring to drive Marketo Sales Insight’s Stars and Flams, but my experience has been Sales teams often ignore these visual cues.
Is anyone using a system like this, without scores? Tell me what you think in the comments below.
Grégoire Michel says
I fully concur : scoring can only give you what a marketing automation tool can gather : a measure of the person’s engagement in the relationship with the vendor (time spent, information provided by the prospect through forms, …). This engagement in the relationship is only a hint about the readiness to buy, as willigness to engage grows as maturity in the buying cycle increases.
The second type of information such a system can give you is whether some key content has been seen. For instance, it may be relevant to consider that people who look into your pricing page are more ready to buy than ones who does not. This requires some historical information to find out whether there is a corelation between some contents and and actual closing. Assumptions here can be very misleading.
Josh Hill says
Yes, assumptions can be misleading. I wonder if the universal assumption that Visiting the Pricing Page is a buying signal is wrong. When I visit those pages, I’m usually researching things for my RFP or initial comparison of solutions. Few firms ever go with the list price once you begin real negotiations.
Karl Kleinbach says
Agree a one dimensional scoring based lead qualification approach has many drawbacks. We’ve used a hybrid system based on triggers and scoring and had success increasing the percentage of qualified leads that sales engages. Also think it’s important to give options in early communications to allow hot leads to engage rather than walk them through same nurture tracks as someone just doing research etc. Testing various triggers and scoring techniques seems to work well to sort through what we might think is a good buying signal and what is not.
By the way, just recently came across your blog and wanted to thank you for the quality information.
Josh Hill says
Glad to hear your system is working with both triggers, scoring, and acceleration options. I hope more people can talk about what they are doing and what works. And happy to help with what I’ve learned. Stay tuned for more 🙂
Tom Lee says
The problem with Lead Scoring this way is you are still just guessing. If you analyze the closed won/lost opportunity data within your CRM and combine that with your marketing automation data you get an accurate picture of how leads that convert do and don’t behave. You can get even smarter by combining external attribute data and then you pretty much have the full picture. Lead Scoring done this way produces significant results. Marketers have to become way more scientific and stop just making up arbitrary lead scores based on instinct.
Josh Hill says
I agree. To be scientific about this requires an analysis of all available data. Unfortunately some firms don’t have the data to start with, so a Sales survey or something can get you started.
Rachit Puri says
Something funny I found from Adobe, related to assumptions marketers make for buyer behavior: http://goo.gl/DE1ljm
Catherine Finsness says
The links to the Sales Survey (http://jdavidhill.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/how-to-build-lead-scoring-sales-survey.pdf) does not work. Do you have an updated link?
Josh Hill says
Yes, it is here