PowerOpinions: Making Lead Scoring a Success Part 1 [Expert Advice]

Posted by Dan McDade

Find me on:
on Jul 7, 2015 12:18:00 PM

Lead Generation Featured Image


Marketing Automation makes it easier than ever to deliver more poor-quality leads to sales. A key to this trend is lead scoring. According to SiriusDecisions’ Research Brief1, the problem with lead scoring at many organizations is as follows:

  • Lead scoring models are based on assumptions or inadequate sales input.
  • The schematic is overly weighted to arbitrary behavioral signals.
  • The design team has failed to simulate output.
  • The lead scoring team has neglected to establish a baseline or make ongoing adjustments based on feedback and results.

My question to you and top industry experts is this: As we enter the second half of 2015, have companies made the adjustments necessary to utilize lead scoring or is the status quo killing results?

14 industry experts responded with excellent feedback that we'll share in three separate installments (displayed below)—plus one clever response from Jim Obermayer that we felt justified a blog all its own. Let's take a look now at what our first group of experts had to say.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Trish Bertuzzi Kyle Porter Matt Heinz
Ardath Albee Todd Schnick Lori Richardson
Tony Jaros Pam Hege Jamie Turner
Amanda Kahlow Rafe VanDenBerg Chad Burmeister
    Rich Wilson

The Processing Instead of Qualifying Approach

One of the funniest but also most illustrative responses came from The Bridge Groups’ Trish Bertuzzi who nailed it when she said:

Companies are still thinking marketing automation (MA) is the silver bullet. They are still running lead scoring systems based on activity as opposed to fit to Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This forces them to process leads as opposed to qualifying opportunities. Here’s an example:

I am Joe Schmo at ACME Co., and I am a loser. I have no decision making authority, but I get a high lead score because I am on your website a lot and interact with your content, sometimes I even engage in conversation with your sales team.


I am Abe Lincoln at ACME, and I am the ultimate decision maker. But I have no lead score, and no one contacts me because I don’t have any activity on your website. I ask people who work for me to do the research and report back. I am invisible to you.

This is insanity. The lead score should take into account the ideal customer profile fit and force the prospecting team to look beyond who filled out the web form and to proactively go after the right buyer. A lead is an arrow to opportunity if you do the right things with it.

We couldn’t agree more, Trish.

The No Marketing Strategy Approach

Next up is the always on target, Ardath Albee who weighed in as follows:

The simple answer is no. I don’t believe most companies have turned the corner.

Here’s why:

  1. Most companies don’t have a documented content marketing strategy.

  2. If they’re even using lead scoring, they aren’t scoring the activities that are indicative of intent and qualification.

  3. Instead, they are accruing points based on arbitrary activity and static demographics (e.g. form field completions).

Someone may have viewed a variety of resources on your website, but as an aggregate, what intent does their viewing indicate?

Here’s what I mean:

If they visit your blog and read the latest 3 posts written on different topics, are they actively showing progress toward the intent to buy? Or are they just catching up on their reading?

If they register for a webinar, the lead usually gets a higher number of points than if they view a webpage, but did they show up? Did they view the recording when it became available on demand?

If they are never exposed to the material, should the points be taken away as if they’ve never taken any action?

The other issue with lead scoring is that there’s a lack of closed-loop feedback from the sales team as to which leads that scored as qualified actually were worthy of pursuit.

What to do:

  • Marketers need to follow up with sales to find out “why” the lead was qualified.

  • Does the reason they became a sales-accepted lead correlate to the way the lead was scored? If not, why not?

  • What can be changed to start aligning those factors?

Lead scoring can definitely play an integral role in increasing the value of marketing programs and demand generation, but it needs to be implemented in a more thoughtful way that reflects the progression of intent to move toward actually buying from you.

The Flawed B2B Approach

We then spoke to SiriusDecisions’ own Tony Jaros who had this to say:

Lead scoring has often failed to live up to expectations because of the flawed way in which many B2B companies and technology have approached it.

Three flaws:

  1. B2B lead scoring focuses on individuals vs. groups. Groups are often responsible for making purchasing decisions.

  2. Companies score leads via marketing automation (MA) based on interactions that are driven by email; however, MA does not recognize offline behaviors or social if not integrated into the system. This grossly inflates the importance of email and does not recognize other important touch points.

  3. Scoring schematics have been designed by humans; therefore, they have biases based on what individuals "think" is a good lead vs. what the data actually tells us. Many of these schematics are not adjusted on a regular basis to reflect new factual inputs.

Because lead scoring has been disappointing to many, companies have reacted in a variety of ways:

Some have turned scoring on, then turned it off.

  • Some have been reluctant to turn it on publicly, letting it run in the background as a science experiment that has no bearing on the lead management process.

  • Others are making adjustments such as investing in next generation predictive lead scoring systems that address group buying (vs. individual) dynamics, which is so critical in B2B.

When investing in lead scoring: ensure it is agnostic, predictive and realistic. It’s not a get it, set it and forget it exercise. Marketing must make sure they are setting expectations properly with sales. Lead quality will improve after testing and resetting. Begin by having the proper processes and strategy in place.

We liked that. After that, we spoke with a new contributor, Amanda Kahlow, CEO and Founder of 6sense. She gave us her take on lead scoring via marketing automation:

The Lack of Tracking Syndrome

Companies that are still relying on lead scoring for demand creation are increasingly finding themselves at a serious disadvantage. That’s because they are not able to track the buying activity of 90% of their prospects. Here’s why:

  • Lead scoring focuses on a very small subset of potential buyers—ones that have made themselves known by filling out lead forms or otherwise raising their hands in some way. What about all the other prospects that remain anonymous?
  • If you wait for someone to fill out a form, they are deep in the buying cycle. Buyers are spending more than half their time self-educating using third-party sources (search, blogs, review sites etc.)—none of which is tracked by lead scoring solutions. Often when they do make contact, you are relegated to a price point.
  • Lead scoring typically scores the activities of one person. B2B buyers are committees. Sometimes 3-4 and sometimes more than 20. The aggregate behavior of those buyers—inside and outside of your four walls—is something that lead scoring is not able to capture.
  • Even predictive lead scoring solutions depend on static, attribute data—firmographics and demographics about the buyer (title, company size, industry etc.) to rank and score. This data does not indicate any intent or buying signals to show which buyers are highly likely to buy, what they’ll buy and when.

B2B marketers require a new set of enabling capabilities to help them identify “in-market” buying signals and purchase stage indicators of both their prospects and all others who fit their ideal customer profile. They need a full-picture view of every prospect, account, and contact to give marketing and sales teams the ability to more efficiently deploy.

In a recent blog that I wrote, and posted on the CMO.com site in early June 2015 I said:

You might also learn, as we have, that high scores do not actually translate into better prospects. As a matter of fact, just the opposite can be true.

As an example, for one IT security company, consumers of up to five pieces of content were much better prospects than those individuals who consumed six or more pieces of content. In most companies, leads are sent to the sales force too soon. However, in the case of the IT security company, if only those who consumed six plus pieces of content were sent to sales as leads, they would be receiving really poor leads.

Coming Up Next

In the next blog in this series, you’ll hear from these experts:

  • Kyle Porter from the red hot company SalesLoft who says, “Our clients don’t rank leads.” Find out what they do instead.

  • Intrepid’s Todd Schnick talks about the dangers of relying on technology and algorithms when the focus needs to be on building relationships.

  • Managing Partner at Homeport Marketing, Pam Hege, lists the top three reasons marketing has checked the “done” box on lead scoring whether it’s working or not.

  • Rafe VanDenBerg, editor in chief at MindBrew, shares his belief that assumptions, opinions, and guesswork are still the basis for far too many decisions in business today. Find out why he thinks this is true and what can be done about it.

1SiriusDecisions’ Research Brief – Demand Creation: Planning Assumptions for 2015


Tell us what you think!

Topics: Marketing & Sales Alignment, Inbound Marketing

Revenue - Inbound - Nurturing = The GAP. We guarantee you'll be surprised by your actual metrics. Try our Lead Revenue Calculator
Get the Calculator

filter blog posts

  • Search

Top 5 posts

How Much Leads Cost

I review a lot of content on this topic and am amazed at what I find written about lead cost. For example:

What Should the Sales Close Rate Be?

I’ve read and heard (from a well-known industry analyst firm) that best-in-class companies close 30% of sales qualified leads..

Gold Calling vs. Cold Calling

I've written many blog posts on the fact that cold calling isn't dead. In fact, doing the right amount of research, adding a..

Outbound vs. Inbound: The Risk Management Issue in the Complex Sale

Companies providing complex, high-investment solutions are facing a significant risk management issue in light of Sirius..