What is lead scoring and how to calculate it

Updated: April 9, 2021

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You already know that one of the major advantages of Inbound Marketing is the opportunity to attract a large number of leads to your company. 

But even if you already have a strategy in place and the leads are popping up, you still have another challenge ahead: qualify each of them.

Without the proper qualification, your sales team will waste time with people who are not ready to buy, and you will have a harder job to generate new leads.

This is why lead scoring exists, a technique that helps increase the efficiency of Inbound Marketing and make the companies that use it stronger.

Do you want to know how lead scoring works? In this article, we will talk about:

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is, in simple terms, a way of ranking your potential customers by points. These points serve to determine who is ready to buy and who is not.

Once a lead earns the score that is considered acceptable by the company, it is passed on to the sales team to close the deal.

This score is defined based on the lead profile compared to the company’s buyer persona and by their actions during the buyer’s journey.

Therefore, the closer the lead profile is to your established persona, the more points they earn.

Simultaneously, their actions (such as downloading rich materials, answering surveys, etc.) also count points, as they indicate interest in your message.

How important is lead scoring to your business?

Lead scoring is one of the most important tactics when a company starts to generate many leads from Inbound Marketing.

After all, not every lead is the same, and sellers should not be forced to work counting solely on luck when choosing who to approach.

The better you know your leads, the greater the chances of getting in touch only with those who are already ready to become customers.

Cost reduction

From the moment you invest in lead scoring, your company starts to spend less on sales and marketing. Why?

The answer is simple: the marketing and sales teams will spend less time preparing and approaching leads to have the same conversion rate they had before.

This means reducing the CAC (Cost of Customer Acquisition) by shortening the sales cycle’s average time and spending fewer resources to win each client. 

With the CAC value reduced, the company’s savings are much higher.

Increase in productivity

The time gained in the sales cycle can be used by the professionals to generate new opportunities and build loyalty among the customers.

The marketing team will concentrate its efforts on the leads that are closer to the ideal score but will still be able to monitor the others through automated nurturing efforts.

Thus, the sales team will approach a small number of leads to beat the established conversion goals.

More effective strategies

To generate and nurture the leads, it is necessary to have a series of strategies in place. 

Content Marketing and nurturing flows are among them.

It is also necessary to have a strong social media presence and use email marketing with precision.

As your lead scoring process grows mature, you can apply a kind of reverse analysis to see, for example, what was the most successful content among the leads that actually decided to buy your solution.

It is also possible to discover which patterns in the language used to interact with them on different channels, such as emails and landing pages, are more effective.

This way, you will be able to replicate the most successful actions frequently and achieve better results consistently. This will ultimately lead to what we know as a predictable recipe.

6 steps to make the lead scoring perfect

As you have probably noticed, the concept of lead scoring is not that complicated. But that doesn’t mean the implementation of this evaluation technique should be done without strategic planning.

As in all Digital Marketing strategies, it is necessary to plan well in advance, besides tracking the results afterward and learning from them.

Thinking about it, we have listed 6 steps that you should follow to ensure that your lead scoring effort delivers good results!

1. Define the MQL and SQL

You have probably realized that lead scoring is a strategy that directly benefits the work of marketing and sales teams.

That’s why it is fundamental that the two sectors work together on its implantation. In other words, if the Smarketing is not yet used in your company, this is the cue.

The first step is for the two teams to come together to define what constitutes MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) and SQL (Sales Qualified Lead).

Basically, MQL is the lead that still needs to be prepared by marketing, while SQL is the lead that needs to be passed on to sales personnel immediately.

Defining these two groups early on will make clear the role of each department and facilitate the creation of a scoring system that matches the business reality.

2. Base your actions on the data that your lead bank offers

The second step is to use data you already have on your lead base to set a good rating system and define the score each one should receive.

But here’s an important tip: to have a complete lead scoring, you need to divide your assessment into two main types of data: demographic and behavioral.

It is the combination of these two groups that should form the final score of each lead. See what each one consists of:

  • demographic data: information such as age, income, and job title. It is basically the profile of the lead. The closer to your persona’s description, the better;
  • behavioral data: how much does the lead interact with your company? Have they downloaded any important content? Are they subscribed to the newsletter? This data reveals more about the lead’s interest.

By combining demographic and behavioral data, your score will be more balanced and accurate.

After all, it is no use having the lead with the best profile and zero interest, nor one totally interested, but that does not fit the ideal profile.

3. Determine the activation score

The activation score is nothing more than the cutting line between MQL and SQL; that is when the lead must pass from the marketing team to the sales team.

Again, this decision must be made jointly by the marketing and sales teams to avoid problems later on.

When determining the activation score, it will be easier to move on to the next step, which is to decide which scores will be given for each factor that favors the lead in the buying journey.

4. Create a scoring pattern

Setting a scoring pattern is the next logical step in the journey to perfect lead scoring. But what does it mean?

For each action of the leads, or for each positive demographic characteristic it presents, a score must be assigned.

But the points should not be defined randomly, and certainly not equally distributed for all actions and characteristics.

The one with the strongest influence to push the lead down the funnel has to receive a higher score, while less important activities, lower scores.

This will prevent leads from being ranked as ready only by the number of positive actions they perform and will prioritize more realistic evaluation criteria.

5. Make good use of negative scores

The score doesn’t have to be only positive. In fact, it better not be. Using a negative score is a good practice that is worth following. Why is that?

By using negative points, you can more easily maintain the balance we talked about between lead profile and lead interest, as we mentioned above.

For example, let’s suppose that the activation limit is 50 points, and a certain lead has shown so much interest that it even surpasses this grade.

However, the lead in question does not have the appropriate profile, perhaps because it is not the decision-maker in the company where it works.

This way, no matter their score, it is no use sending them to a seller, since the sale would never be closed.

With the use of a negative score, you could easily lower the grade of this lead because it has a position below what would be necessary, and avoid future problems.

Remember that the goal is to find the people who are already ready to become customers, not simply to make as many people as possible beat a specific score.

6. Continue improving your strategy

The secret for lead scoring to work is that it is an endless process. There is no perfect way to score or evaluate leads.

You need to be aware that this effort is continuous and should always be improved based on previous results.

Therefore, pay constant attention to your lead scoring, and learn how to make it more effective.

All the steps we described here can be performed manually, but there are also excellent tools to automate your work.

A pro tip is: start manual and automate later.

This way, you will better understand the logic behind lead scoring and have even better results in the future.

But if you really prefer to start automating your scoring, or if your number of generated leads is too high to work manually, no problem.

Best tools for a complete lead scoring

Of all the tools we will show you now, it is practically impossible that you don’t know at least one.

Anyway, check now 4 of the best marketing automation tools on the market, which can very well supply your lead scoring automation needs:

  1. Hubspot: the world’s leading Inbound Marketing company, has resources for each step of Inbound, including lead management and scoring;
  2. Marketo: the world leader in automation software for companies of all sizes, Marketo is one of the safest investments in the market;
  3. Pardot: a Salesforce product for B2B marketing automation, Pardot has everything you need to score your leads;
  4. ActiveCampaigna tool that you can concentrate your email marketing, automation, and CRM, all in one place;

All of these tools offer advanced lead scoring capabilities that will make your strategy even more complete.

But before you look for any tools, it’s important to remember the significance of understanding the logic behind lead scoring in practice. Only then will you be able to use all the features that these products offer.

As important as setting up and executing a lead generation strategy is to manage them effectively, and lead scoring is one of the best ways to ensure that this happens, focusing the company’s efforts on the opportunities most likely to deliver results.

Before scoring your leads, you need to generate them, right? So, check out our post with 9 of the best lead generation tools!


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