The Single Most Common Lead Scoring Failure: Not All Content is Created Equal

Most lead scoring models fail — at least initially. It takes a little time to learn the implications of one simple, undeniable fact: not all content is created equal.

Consider the typical program, powered and driven by the marketing automation platform of your choice. Leads are typically scored based on activity and demographics, and in some cases channel. This is basic stuff, marketing automation 101 — you get points for your title, the size or industry of your company, whether you clicked on a link in an email or attended a webinar, etc. In most cases, sales is brought in to brainstorm with marketing on the factors involved in the scoring program. Everyone comes to agree on the lead scoring criteria (sales and marketing are in alignment!) and the program is launched.

It works well initially, but over time sales begins to get too many “hot” leads sent over and we are back to square one. Marketing is upset because leads are not being handled, and feel that since the lead score is good (and sales help build the criteria) they should be in good shape. Sales can’t be bothered because the leads are NOT good, they are not close to a buying scenario, and it doesn’t pay to follow up on these “hot” leads any longer. Marketing’s credibility is damaged because this lead scoring program was supposed to solve this problem.

A few attempts are made at adjusting the program to varying degrees of (short-lived) success, but in the long run the scoring model fails because the implicit score related to their activity and engagement is too high. The problem is that the activity score can be tricky and misleading, and most companies make the same mistake by assigning blanket values to things like ‘white paper downloads’ — assigning a point boost for every download of a white paper regardless to which paper it was.

Content offers that are primarily educational or thought leadership pieces should not get the same point score as the ones covering more advanced topics that would only be interesting to a prospect if they were closer to making a decision.

Consider this scenario, with a hypothetical prospect that clicks on a link in an email newsletter to read a blog post. They are then “cookied” by the platform and each subsequent visit to the blog (or website) is noted against their record. Before long, each subsequent visit to the blog has allowed them to accrue enough points to boost their activity score past the threshold and they are sent to a salesperson — that quickly discovers there is no trigger catalyst for an impending purchase and puts the lead in the recycle bin. The prospect’s title and company were right in line with our scoring criteria, but timing and level of interest were wrong because all of their incremental glances in our direction added up to a false positive on the lead score.

Effective lead scoring needs to exist in tandem with a solid understanding of the buyer’s journey, and that knowledge of the buyer’s journey is what needs to inform the content strategy. Content offers and engagement opportunities need to be tied intrinsically to the needs and requirements of the buyer at each step of their journey, and each step of that journey needs to be served.

blog image 4.3In other words, if your prospect is not really considering a purchase or is just beginning to become interested in your space (the red E-CO engagement content offers in the diagram above) you need to have thought leadership pieces that speak to that state of mind and level of interest. Lead scoring for the engagement with this content should be minimal, as it is not indicative of an impending buying event. Increasing levels of engagement here would push a prospect to the next level of content offer, not into the hands of a salesperson.

Once a buyer has consumed enough of this early-stage content, or has indicated in some way that their level of interest has matured to include content that is related to the priorities and pains associated with a stage further along in the cycle, the value of the content consumption score needs to increase exponentially.  The blue N-CO nurture content offers, for example, would be more valuable, scoring-wise, than their E-CO counterparts. As you move downstream through the engagement model, each interaction becomes worth more to a lead score, until the switch is eventually flipped and the lead is passed to sales.

With a scoring system that considers the audience and intent of a content offer as a part of the final score, your lead scores will be much more accurate and a higher score will be much more indicative of an actual selling opportunity.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 is VP of Demand Generation, ANNUITAS


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