Monday, January 14, 2008

Why you need lead scoring

In the world of B2B marketing, just about everything happens "on the Net" these days.  More and more trade magazines are going all digital and the number of e-alerts and e-newsletters I receive on a daily basis is now over 100.  Getting someone to click on your ad or email and come to your site is most definitely more art than science.

But, once a prospect gets to your site, how do you know whether they are really interested without having inside sales call every single one of them?  You need to have a serious focus on lead scoring.

What is lead scoring you ask?  It is ability to rank the quality of a lead based on a concise and quantitative set of variables. 

Notice that I said "quantitative".  The world of open source marketing is, in many ways, not unlike consumer marketing.  Because of the low entry fees, the goal of open source marketers is to get as many leads as possible just like a consumer website.  But, the comparison ends there, because converting a lead to a sale in consumer marketing is relatively easily.  For open source companies there is a fair bit of education that must often be done to counteract the current conventional wisdom (read FUD) or lack of education.  The sales process then looks more like a traditional enterprise sale.

For the tried and true enterprise sales folks, the goal is less about quantity and more on quality because an enterprise sale can take 6-9 months or more.  So, quality is very important.  Open source straddles the fence.  Quantity is key in lead generation and quality is important to convert the lead.

That is where lead scoring comes into play.  Assume you get 10000 leads per week.  You don't have the ability to triage all 10000 leads on a qualitative basis, so you must develop a process to measure each lead based on the information at hand and do it automatically.

How do you measure this?  First, you need to make sure you have the right tools to do it.  Good marketing software, like Eloqua or Manticore, can help.  You also need a great CRM package to hold the information and deliver it in an organized and timely fashion to the right salesperson.

Next, you need to come up with the "what", meaning what are you going to measure?

I recommend establishing a point system.  Leads get points based on both fixed and variable data.

Fixed data includes their company name, their email address and their title.  For example, leads from Fortune 500 companies might get 5 points while independent consultants get 1 point.  Likewise, a corporate email address gets 5 points while an email address from Hotmail gets 1 point.  Why?  Because someone who is just browsing typically doesn't want to hear from you and therefor uses a "spam" address while someone who has an active project wants to keep you top of mind and make sure they know what's up, so they use their work address.

Variable data is more important than the fixed data and often more difficult to track without the right tools. 

Variable data includes: 

  • Number of page views
  • Length of visit
  • Product download
  • Participation in online forums*

*Do they participate in your forums?  If so, that moves them right to the head of the line because it implies that they are using your product and might be getting ready to purchase.

Determine the significance of each "action" and assign points for each of them and mix it with the value of the fixed data.  Then assign a threshold, so when a lead reaches a certain number of points, they are flagged and passed to the right person within the organization to follow-up.

It takes a lot of tweaking over time and you may never get it right.  But, this allows you to apply yet another bit of science to what is, in many ways, art.

Of course, there are exceptions for all of these.  After all, that independent consultant I mentioned earlier may be on a major project with Proctor & Gamble.  And I am not saying ignore the lesser leads all together.  I am just advocating that you rank them so the "hot" leads get the attention they deserve WHEN they deserve to get it.  And, if you are really good at collecting the variable data and passing it to sales, the salesperson already knows WHAT the prospect's problem is and what he/she needs.

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