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How to Qualify Opportunities with Lead Scoring

Lead ScoreAll businesses need leads, but one of the primary problems is the pressure to generate qualified leads and route the right ones to sales. Perhaps your inbound marketing strategy has helped generate a database full of leads, through varying campaigns. You have a bevy of potential customers interested in your products or services, but are they ready to make a purchase?

It is certainly obvious that not all of your new leads are a the same stage in the buying process. Some will need convincing to move over to the next level. The best way to meet these leads with relevant and appropriate messaging is through lead scoring. This is a technique of segmentation to ensure you send a message that truly interests each lead.

Don’t qualify leads manually

You can’t judge new leads based on a gut method or hit-and-miss. Otherwise, sales and marketing would be quite frustrated. Not to mention, this method is highly unreliable. The reason why manual processes are set up for failure is because humans eventually make mistakes.

If you’re sorting through a large list of mixed-quality leads, you can quickly feel exhausted and demotivated. Soon, you find yourself making snap judgements as you run out of time. What happens is you risk overlooking many leads that might have made a purchase if someone was there to give the lead attention.

In addition, manual lead qualification usually accounts for leads that may be ready to buy in a few months. If a salesperson gets the impression that a lead is disinterested, they might throw that lead a way. Yet, if the lead was nurtured for a few months, they might end up making a large purchase.

Start with marketing automation

In order to quickly and efficiently process leads, you need to deploy marketing automation. This way, you can scale campaigns through a lead scoring model. Moreover, you can integrate your campaigns with your inbound efforts. Marketing automation helps to eliminate human error. You can also use marketing automation to qualify leads based on their online behavior. Of course, it is important to develop a successful lead scoring model.

Think of how you attract leads

What does the marketing department do to attract leads? Online advertising? Social media? Webinars? Blogs? All of the above and more? How can you tell when a lead is ready to purchase? Have they visited your pricing page more than once and watched an in-depth demo? Now think of a lead who is in the researching stage; perhaps they’ve downloaded a webinar two weeks ago.

On a scale of 1-100, how would you score each of those leads? Which lead would you spend the most time with? What types of messaging would you send each lead? This is the basis of lead scoring. You assign a number to a lead based on the types of actions they have taken in terms of buying from your company. A lead that has watched a webinar, downloaded an eBook and looked at your pricing page might be sales ready.

On the other hand, a lead that has opened an email and browsed your site may be ready in a few months if nurtured properly. Your marketing automation tool can assign a score based on prospects’ behaviors and assign numbers based on the parameters you set. Then, leads can be automatically routed to sales when they are close to making a purchase.

Setting up your lead scoring system

You want to formulate your company’s scoring system by having marketing and sales work together. When you set up a scoring system, it would be similar to adding rules. You can also add as many parameters as you like. In fact, the more rules you set up, the smarter your automation system will be. The objective is to set rules that specify a behavior and award a positive or negative number. When a lead takes this specific action, he or she is awarded points or they are deducted. Some rules might include:

  • Email clickthrough
  • Facebook ad clicks
  • Price page visit
  • Downloaded eBook
  • Viewed webinar
  • Twitter clicks
  • LinkedIn click
  • Blog click
  • Phone call
  • Requested information

Then what?

Once leads are rated, targeted marketing techniques can be applied. Also, each lead can be cultivated more accurately. A lead with a lower score might feel overwhelmed if you schedule a one-hour online demo. In contrast, a sales-ready lead would appreciate an in-depth online demo. Yet, you won’t know their level of interest without lead scoring.

Learn as you go

Lead scoring and nurturing takes time and practice to nail down. Although, keep in mind that the wrong message at the wrong time can ruin what could have been a successful conversion. You don’t want your sales team contacting leads who have not shown much interest in your product.

Instead of selling to them right away, nurture leads by educating and leading them through your conversion funnel. Sales should only be involved when their score says they are ready. Sometimes, a lead may disappear for a few months then suddenly pop back in at a different stage. Lead scoring can help you keep a handle on how inclined they have been to buy over the past few months.

Interested in gearing up for Lead Scoring? Request a personalized demonstration, and we’ll show you that capability of our software, plus so much more!

Author Bio

Katrina Manning is a content marketing specialist who has penned thousands of articles on business, tech, lifestyle and digital marketing for a wide variety of global B2B clients. She mostly writes for Leadpath.com  and she is also the author of three books and is currently working on her fourth. In her free time, she enjoys fundraising for charitable causes, playing with her cat and baking.

Buzzwords in Marketing Automation: Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing: its meaning and how it relates to marketing automation. A part of the series Buzzwords in Marketing Automation.

Inbound Marketing

At one time, outbound marketing was all the craze. Then, marketers finally woke up and realized that inbound marketing is the way to get qualified leads. They realized something else, too, though. Inbound marketing is a time-consuming process. Fortunately, folks quickly discovered that combining inbound marketing tactics with marketing automation strategies allowed them to harness the power of inbound marketing without the burden of finding extra time to do so.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Before you dive into inbound marketing with marketing automation tools, you need to be certain you are clear on what this type of marketing is. To put it simply, inbound marketing is the process of using quality content to bring people to your website, and then turning those people into paying customers.

There are three main components of inbound marketing. First, you attract potential customers. You do this with blog posts, white papers, eBooks, and other forms of content. Each piece of content is targeted in order to attract the right people.

Then, you convert visitors into leads. You do this with calls-to-action and lead generation forms on your website.

Next, you go for the close with lead nurturing. During this process, people go inside of your sales funnel.

This is a simplified look at inbound marketing. If you had to go through the process all by yourself, you would have to roll up your sleeves and go through a series of tiresome steps over and over again. Fortunately, things can be simplified with marketing automation.

Marketing Automation to the Rescue

Marketing automation software has the power to track leads as they engage with different types of content. For instance, if they download a piece of content, the software can track that person from here on out. The software also has the power to score leads based on their actions once they arrive at the site. This will help you understand what strategies are working and which ones need to be replaced.

Normally, you would have to submerge yourself in hundreds of pages of data to understand user behavior, but marketing automation software is able to assign scores and provide data in seconds. This information makes it easy to run a powerful inbound marketing campaign.

If you try to manage an inbound marketing campaign on your own, it is incredibly complicated. You have people coming in from multiple traffic sources and once they arrive on your site, they engage with different pieces of information. Utilize marketing automation software to quiet the noise so you can see the real picture – what’s working and what’s not.

 

Buzzwords in Marketing Automation: Lead Scoring – The Fast Way to Convert Leads

lead scoringIn order for marketing automation to be successful, you need to understand the quality of your leads. Leads are evaluated based on their readiness to buy, with cold leads requiring a lot of nurturing and hot leads ready to take their credit cards out and buy. Lead scoring is an effective way to identify hot leads, so that you can send them over to your sales team. Companies that do this properly spend more time focusing on leads that are “ripe”, while “unripe” leads continue to be nurtured through other automations.

Lead Scoring 101 – How It Works

When people visit your site, they complete a series of actions, and each action tells a story. If someone reads your About Us page, it shows a little bit of interest. However, if someone drops something in a shopping cart or downloads a white paper, it tells a different story. Every person who visits your website is a lead but each person is different, and you must treat them as such. You cannot treat the person who visits your About Us page the same as you treat the person who abandons something in the shopping cart.

That’s where lead scoring comes into play. With this marketing automation strategy, you assign a value to each action on your site. For instance, you could say that putting something in a shopping cart is worth 100 points and downloading a white paper is worth 50 points.

Setting a Target Score with Lead Scoring

You will need to set a target score that indicates a lead is ready to go to your sales team. This magic number means someone is ready to talk to a member of the team and make a purchase. Don’t set this number too low, or you’ll aggravate your visitors. Then again, don’t set it too high, or you’ll lose potential customers. This will take some practice. Spend some time finding your industry’s sweet spot. Each industry (and even each company) has its own sweet spot. Finally, don’t pick a number and stick with it. Have sales and marketing work together to always fine tune the lead scoring threshold. Consider creating a sales and marketing service level agreement to identify what should be scored.

Consider Other Qualifications Besides Lead Scoring

For many companies, lead scoring isn’t enough. Qualify your leads further by combining lead scoring with additional criteria, such as age, location, education level, company, and more using concepts like lead grading. It’s possible to adjust the lead score based on these criteria to better represent the quality of the lead.

Lead scoring is an advanced process and one you should not take on by yourself. It’s something that you get set a process for and move on, giving you more time to closing that deal. Automate it with easy-to-use software like Lead Liaison. This lead scoring software will help you identify your leads and convert them into customers.

 

Buzzwords in Marketing Automation: Database Segmentation

Database Segmentation

Database Segmentation: its meaning and how to apply it. A part of the series Buzzwords in Marketing Automation.

Many small businesses use tracking services to find information about their prospects or leads, be it contact information, age and gender, or even things like their buying behavior. Database segmentation refers to the organization of that data in a way that can then influence outreach such as email marketing campaigns, or strategic company decisions like selecting new product lines or determining pricing strategies. A few examples of ways to segment your data could be…

Lead quality – Within marketing automation software, leads can earn a score. Ten points for opening an email, 100 points for downloading content, 500 points for watching an entire video, etc. Lead qualification is a great way to segment. You could have different buckets according to lead score (i.e. 0-100 score, 101-500 score, 501-1000 score).

Ideal Buyers – Who are your ideal customers? Do they have certain job titles, company sizes, demographics or criteria. Ask your sales people, and then utilize your database segmentation tools. Once you’ve done that, you will be able to treat that group differently than you would a group that may not be as inclined to consume your product or services.

Geography  – Maybe certain areas of the world are more important to you than others. Or perhaps they should just receive separate content that is specific to their region. The folks down in Austin might need to know when your new barbecue recipe is available, whereas the crowd up in Chicago are more interested in when your winter boots are on clearance.

What’s even better (and more effective) is that you can then combine these! Perhaps you would like to send a handwritten letter & company t-shirt out to only your highest scoring leads in California. If you’ve utilized the data segmentation features within your marketing automation tool, you can get that personalized content out to that specific group of prospects in no time.

How Marketing Automation Increases Lead Conversion

How Marketing Automation Increases Lead ConversionLead conversion is a vital statistic for any successful marketing and sales team. It can also be a difficult statistic to influence in a competitive world, one where failing to contact a lead at the perfect time can result in a competitor taking the sale. However, according to the Aberdeen Group’s Marketing Lead Management Report,

“Companies using marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates from initial response-to-MQ.”

Read on to learn how some of the essential practices of marketing automation can increase lead conversion.

Lead Scoring

Marketing automation tools, by their very nature, gather a large amount of raw data. From web clicks and form submissions to social media demographic data, your marketing automation software is constantly gathering and analyzing a lot of data about every lead in your database. This data is used to then create an individual profile for each lead – one that is continually being updated. This profile is then evaluated by the metrics that your sales and marketing teams deem most important, and is assigned a lead score. This lead score indicates how likely an individual is to be converted to a client.

Once a lead has been assigned this score, it can go to one of two places. If the lead is warm, it will be sent straight to your sales team, who can try to convert the lead as quickly as they can. If the lead is not warm, it will be sent to your marketing automation software’s lead nurturing tools.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is a marketing automation process of contacting individual leads with promotional and educational material in order to make them more likely to purchase your company’s product or service. Lead nurturing also takes advantage of the large amounts of data that has been collected about each lead so that each lead can be placed on the most appropriate lead nurturing program. Once a lead has been placed on a lead nurturing track, your marketing automation program will continue to gather data on the lead, recording things such as email click through and giving you an even fuller picture of your leads.

If your lead exhibits positive behavior that may lead to a sale, then their lead score will increase, and when the time is optimal, will be handed over to your sales department.

Lead Conversion

When a lead is presented to your sales team, either by exhibiting positive buy signs when assessed initially as a lead or as a result of a successful lead nurturing program, your sales team will have all the information they need to convert the lead. With access to a leads entire history of interaction with your website and promotional emails, you can make sure the right person will know the right thing to say to make the sale.

These are just a few of the ways that marketing automation increases lead conversion. If you want to learn more about the benefits that marketing automation can have for your business, you should check out Lead Liaison’s marketing automation resource blog.

How to Keep Tabs on Your Leads

How to Keep Tabs on PeopleSo you’ve got your marketing automation software in place, but are you utilizing it to optimize lead scoring? Once a lead is qualified by marketing to hop into the sales ring, it is important for the marketing team to transfer all pertinent lead details to sales so that each lead’s score reflects their conversion readiness. Lead scoring is not all equal, and different actions by the lead call for different scores. Make use of social media marketing together with sales and marketing alignment to ensure your sales reps are as ready as can be. Learn how to keep tabs on your leads. 

Know Who’s Coming to Your Site

Identify your leads. Understand who the visitors to your site are by asking a few (not too many) questions when they take certain actions. Find a balance between requiring too much information and not enough—if you allow prospects to browse your online content and even download a white paper without filling in some identifying details, you’re letting the leads slip right out of your hands. On the other hand, prospects can tell when you’re being too nosey, asking for more information than necessary, sometimes even pushing them to click the “x” in the corner and close your page all together. There’s a balance in there somewhere, try implementing some A/B testing to find it.

To capitalize on multi-channel marketing and social media marketing, provide your lead the option for a social media login. It’s not only convenient for the user to simply click once without having to create a new password, but it also allows the opportunity to gather more information from the user via their social media profile and better tailor their experience with your brand. They’ve filled in their preferences and “likes” for the world to see on social media, why not use that information to better understand them?

Let your Leads Know you Appreciate Them

While you keep tabs on your leads make sure to offer special coupons, badges, and other rewards to your leads that take the next step or requested action in the conversion process. Giving them an incentive to provide more information (and potentially even share it with their own network) is an opportunity for your brand to reach new prospects without additional effort on your part. Freebies and other forms of recognition help to build trust and encourage more conversions. Ask your leads to share the love.

Maintain Sales and Marketing Alignment

Use lead scoring to bridge marketing and sales teams. Your marketing team can utilize all of this information—preferences from social media logins, incentives/badges leads have earned, how each visitor interacts with the site—to score each lead, input this information to the CRM, and provide a detailed summary of each lead’s buying readiness. Many features in marketing automation software make it easy to transition a lead from marketing to sales, and even drastically improve conversion because of the transfer of knowledge per lead and the ability to personalize each touchpoint.

Make the Most of Lead Scoring

Finally, be sure to use certain parameters when implementing your lead scoring system. When using the incentive method, let your leads know there’s a deadline or an expiration date on their “points.” Often, you’ll see this will push them to take an action sooner or make a decision about something they were previously on the fence about. Use your marketing automation software to help you keep track of lead scoring as well as the amount of time the lead has been in your system to avoid inflating the lead’s score. This will help authenticate each lead’s score and provide more accurate transferral of information.

Lead Scoring: When a 100 Is Not Enough

Lead scoring is among the top three strengths of B2B lead management/marketing automation platforms. Yet early adopters of marketing automation are still struggling with the nuances and changing buying habits of the digital buyer. Predefined lead scoring models make marketing automation setup easier and provideUnique Lead Scoring Model an architecture for ranking and prioritizing leads. However, we recommend establishing a unique scoring model (based upon a customer persona) that more accurately defines the quality of your leads.

It’s important to recognize that lead conversion, and ultimately close rates, are by their very nature challenging to forecast. Even within a lead management/marketing automation platform, the lead scoring functionality is only as effective as the model that has been built. Lead scoring defines the quality of a lead by its attributes and digital footprints. But even the most finely honed scoring models can leak unprepared and/or unqualified leads into your CRM.

That’s because using the total score (which is typically used to determine lead migration to a CRM) doesn’t tell the whole story. Hidden challenges can be hiding behind any automatically nurtured lead score.

Even a lead that is migrated to a CRM with a score of 100 may not be fully sales-qualified. Look at this example:

A lead enters your CRM with a overall score of 95 (out of a maximum 100). The lead achieved a A grade for intrinsic qualities like company size, revenues, and # of employees. For the behavioral scoring, the lead achieved a 98 score. This lead looks like a sure conversion based upon its overall score. But missing in that terrific score is a factor that wasn’t scored: the contact is finishing a month-long resignation and the purchasing decisions will be transferred to another position. The lead owner does not recognize this transition until first touch after migrating to the CRM.

How did the lead achieve that score? Was it primarily due to lead attributes (industry, contact title, etc.) or due to online behavior? Sales agents using integrated marketing automation platforms now have the capability to review leads as they move through the marketing funnel. Your sales reps should be advised to review the details of the lead’s score early in the engagement process. This will allow them to understand clearly how the lead got to their prospect pools, discover selling opportunities, and uncover deficiencies that may need to be overcome to convert that lead.

One tactic that helps to sharpen your scoring model is to mix in minor sales engagements along the nurturing path. Information gathered through preliminary qualification calls can provide guidance when it comes to adjusting weights or adding variables to your lead scoring model.

Sure, you can’t account for every circumstance and situation but developing an accurate, rigid yet adaptable scoring model – with as many parameters included as possible and appropriate weighting of each parameter – will help prevent ineffective measurement of the quality and interest of your B2B leads.

Why Your Sales Team Needs to Understand a Lead Score

Why Your Sales Team Needs to Understand a Lead ScoreLead scoring is a common component to marketing automation. Often, when a lead achieves a specific scoring threshold, that record is automatically migrated to a CRM for sales contact. However, not all lead scores are the same when they are passed to the sales team. In order for sales to be effective at converting a marketing-qualified lead to a win, it’s beneficial to for each sales agent to understand how a fresh MQL has been scored.

The total lead score is often comprised of a letter grade (A, B, C, etc.) that represents the lead’s explicit attributes (company size, industry, job title, etc.) and a numeric score (70, 80, 90, etc.), which represents the lead’s implicit characteristics as evidenced by its online footprint (web page views, email open, social click, etc.). The lead is graded against other suspects according to how well it fits a lead profile or customer persona then given points for engagement activities with your brand.

Why a Score Breakout is Important

The lead grade is fairly standard. The closer it fits to your typical customer, the higher the grade. CRM users can typically view the information used to generate a lead grade in the CRM interface. It’s the implicit score that a sales agent is typically blind to. If your sales agents see a lead score in the CRM, it is usually the total score. But how did the MA system calculate that total score? If your salespeople can identify what factors contributed to a lead’s total score, they will be better prepared to approach that lead and understand his or her motivators, research strategy, and MA awareness level.

Our Lead Management Automation™ platform breaks your lead score “out of the box”. Users can see what tracks a lead has taken to earn its implicit score. Various point values are assigned for each activity. For example, a single ’email open’ activity may receive 5 points; a web form submission may receive 30 points. Each activity-related parameter is assigned a value which contributes to the implicit score.

This implicit score can reveal a lot about how the lead behaves, where he or she is in the buying cycle, how influential the lead may be in the purchase decision process, and other factors that can be critical to both the salesperson’s approach and the likelihood of conversion.

Scoring Weights

Every digital footstep doesn’t deserve the same scoring weight. Website pricing page views typically reflect a higher level of interest than a home page view. A lead that has engaged in a chat is often more sales-ready than one who has submitted a web form. Therefore, it’s critical to improving sales productivity for sales agents to view the lead scoring baseline in order to get a more complete impression of a sales lead.

Within your scoring matrix, the implicit activities should be weighted to account for the importance of each activity to the buying process.

If you’ve gone to the effort of deploying a marketing automation system, you should be able to view a breakout of the lead score. If your system provides this granularity, make sure your sales team is leveraging the information provided within initial and follow up contacts. Your sales conversion rate will rise and your sales team will become more efficient.

If your lead management/marketing automation system does not have a lead score breakout, take a look at our Lead Management Automation platform!

Out of the Box Lead Scoring

Out of the Box Lead ScoringOut of the Box Lead Scoring – Huh?

What is out of the box lead scoring? According to Wikipedia, “an out of the box feature or functionality, particularly in software, is a feature or functionality of a product that works immediately after install without any configuration or modification.” That’s exactly what we’ve brought to the table. We heard from many of our prospects and customers how other marketing automation systems had overly complex lead scoring techniques that took too long to map out and configure. When you really sit down and think about it, the majority of activities that a marketer and sales person want to capture and use in a scoring model are consistent across companies. The basic stuff like web form submissions, landing page views, email opens, etc.

We’ve introduced the industries most simplistic model – but we did that after introducing the industries most flexible model, our custom lead scoring. Our main goal was to keep things simple and get them working right away without compromising the deep customization that some companies covet. Now we’ve got the power of out of the box, instantly ready, lead scoring that marketers can harness and extend with custom lead scoring capability.

Why Should Marketers and Sales People Care about Out of the Box Lead Scoring?

Marketers come out looking like heroes when new leads are automatically qualified within minutes of implementing Lead Liaison. We’re still providing our Lead Scoring Model Designer which is a great tool to help companies put their lead scoring interests on paper. The only change now is that we’ve simplified the process. Our unique lead qualification capabilities gives marketers about five different individual parameters that get combined into a single priority rating for leads. How simple is that? What’s hot and what’s not, sales just wants to know. For marketers, what we find is that most marketers will use a fraction of the power of a marketing automation platform and often times lead scoring was de-prioritized over lead tracking, lead nurturing and other essential solutions. Our main differentiator in the marketplace is ease of use and simplicity. I think we’ve just upped the annie…brace yourself – or get back in the box 😉

How to convert more B2B leads into customers? Marketing Automation!

How to convert more B2B leads into customers? Marketing Automation!As the post title implies, our answer to the eternal sales question “how do we convert more leads into customers?” is to deploy marketing automation. Is that the only answer? No. But with the amount of data available today, marketing automation will do more to improve your B2B lead conversion rates than social media, PPC, or stale drip campaigns.

It’s quickly becoming apparent that marketing automation can play a significant role in improving your lead conversion ratio. From first touch (initial point of contact) to pass through (migration to CRM), lead conversion for companies in most industries is improving thanks to MA. The first step towards higher B2B close rates is to manage your leads effectively before they are sent to your sales team.

To begin, you should know your customers well. Who are they? What do they like? What do they do? Why do they buy? Much of this information is now available digitally, the key is to leverage the information you collect into effective lead management.

Lead Generation

An often overlooked concept about lead generation is that it should be approached holistically not unilaterally. When you need to convert more B2B leads into customers look to strengthen lead generation efforts. Lead gen starts with first touch, escalates through lead tracking, and winds up with capture. If you’re not focusing on developing good content for your touch points, tracking your website visitors using business intelligence integration, and capturing contact information through digital assets, you’re not effectively generating leads – and you can’t convert leads you don’t have. Make sure your lead gen scope is broader than list buys and PPC campaigns.

Lead Nurturing

Many think lead nurturing equals email drip campaigns. Though partly true, lead nurturing is so much more. Lead conversion through the nurturing process requires that you develop the relationship through escalating engagements. Simply sending the occasional “hi-how-are-you?” note won’t be sufficient to move your leads through the marketing pipeline. Build a campaign that offers more at advanced buying cycle stages: a webinar invite, a product demo. Remember, nurture means “to grow”.

Lead Scoring

There’s nothing worse for a sales agent than to receive a lead that turns out to be a graduate student completing his thesis. MA platforms provide lead scoring and grading capabilities that should allow you to sharpen the sales team’s focus towards the most suitable, marketing-qualified leads. Establish specific criteria that can be scored or graded. Most leading systems grade explicit lead attributes (industry, company size) and score implicit behaviors (webpage visit, webinar registration). Once a scoring matrix has been created, determine a scoring threshold that automatically migrates the lead to your CRM.

Lead Distribution

Lead distribution must be optimized to channel leads appropriately to your sales force. Which sales agents are available to respond quickly? Which agents have high close rates? Which agents know the lead’s industry best? Automated systems distribute leads using parameters that can maximize your sales team’s efficiency. Some MA platforms allow you to assign lead ownership according to predefined criteria, such as geography or seniority. Leads distributed effectively will shorten your average sales cycle and improve sales close rates.

Keep in mind that marketing automation is a tool that will improve sales conversions and help convert more B2B leads into customers. Though MA platforms have improved sales outcomes, much of the success that comes from lead management is dependent on the content you provide. If you don’t have strong creative minds to develop messaging in-house, consider outsourcing.