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Lead Scoring

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Lead Scoring To Determine Sales Readiness

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts about Lead Nurturing, the essential marketing process for turning leads into sales-ready prospects.

In our previous post in the Lead Nurturing series, “Content Mapping,” we discussed defining your qualified buyers and creating buyer personas for them so you can properly nurture your leads. Buyer personas help you determine the best content to offer each type of buyer, at each stage of the buying process – in other words, content mapping.

Lead ScoringNext, it’s time to create a system for rating leads as you nurture them, to help you determine when they become sales ready (a.k.a. “marketing qualified leads”). Your rating system will instruct your marketing automation platform to score the potential sales readiness of leads based on two factors: how interested they are in the marketing content you’re offering them, and how well they fit the demographic profiles of your qualified buyers.

This post will give you the basics of defining your lead scoring system for gauging interest and demographic fit, and point you to excellent additional resources for going deeper into this.


Scoring Interest and Demographics

How do you know when a lead might be sales ready? Two basic measures will give you confidence: interest and demographics.


When someone searches for your company online, visits your website, fills out forms on your website, downloads your white papers, views your videos and attends your webinars, you can safely consider this person a lead. You can score these actions, awarding points to leads for completing various activities.

The more activities your leads complete, the more points they’ll accumulate. Once a lead has crossed a predetermined point threshold, that person may ready for a qualifying call to see if she is sales ready.

Some activities will more strongly indicate genuine interest than others. For instance, downloading a product brochure may warrant a higher point score than simply visiting the product page or downloading a general industry white paper. Similarly, you may assign one point score for opening one of your emails, a higher score for clicking on its link to a landing page, and a higher score still for completing the form on the landing page and downloading a white paper.

You may also want to subtract points for certain activities, like opting out of your email list, or visiting your careers page (because a job hunter is probably not a lead).

How do you track the activities of your leads, assign points to their activities and keep a running tally of their cumulative point scores? Sounds like a terribly time-consuming, manual task, right? Happily, this is where your marketing automation platform steps in, doing all of this for you automatically. Using browser cookies and link tracking, your marketing automation platform will instantly track and tally every action taken by your leads as they engage with your emails and your website. You won’t have to lift a finger. Just sit back, relax, and watch the scores come in.

Here’s an example of a scheme for scoring interest:

Scoring Interest

Note: Just because a person accumulates a high interest point score doesn’t mean that person is a lead worth pursuing. He/she must also be a good demographic fit with your definition of a qualified buyer. We’ll talk more about scoring demographic fit next.


When your team defines your “qualified buyers,” you’ll come up with a set of specific values for attributes that describe these buyers, such as title, department, purchase authority, industry, company size, company revenue and geographic location.

For example, if you were selling a quality control device for production lines at manufacturers of electronic components, your demographic “sweet spot” might look like this:

  • Title: VP
  • Department: Operations
  • Purchase authority: final decision maker
  • Industry: Electronic components manufacturer
  • Company size: >100 employees
  • Company revenue: >$50 million annually
  • Location: U.S. and Canada

You can score demographic fit just like you score interest. Different titles, departments, locations, company sizes, etc., can get different scores. You’ll assign higher scores to attributes that have a closer fit to your definition of a qualified buyer.

As with interest scoring, some demographic attributes may warrant a point deduction. For instance, college students or research analysts poking around your website aren’t likely candidates for buying your offering. So, as we mentioned above, even if a person accumulates a boat load of interest points, he may still not really be a lead worth pursuing because there isn’t a demographic fit.

Here’s an example of another company, with its scheme for scoring demographics:

Scoring Demographics

Note the different point scores for different demographic criteria. For instance, someone in the I.T. department gets a higher score than someone in the Finance department, and someone from a larger company gets a higher score than someone from a smaller company.

How can you gain the information about a person to determine if she is a demographic fit? Several ways:

  • Say you meet someone at a trade show or networking event, or that person sitting next to you on the airplane, and in conversation you learn that she is a great demographic fit. You get her business card and enter her into your CRM and marketing automation tool so you can start monitoring her activity.
  • You acquire names from a lead database like Hoovers, Data.com or ZoomInfo, selected because they meet your preferred demographic criteria.
  • You entice people to fill out forms on your website in exchange for access to download the informative white papers you’re offering. These forms will collect demographic data from leads.

Note: to encourage filling out and submitting forms, keep them short, asking for a minimum amount of information initially. Then, use “progressive profiling,” a feature of most marketing automation platforms, to ask for additional information when your lead comes back to your site to download another white paper. Your marketing automation platform will remember the information this person filled out previously and avoid asking for that information again, instead asking only for a few pieces of new information. Over time, you’ll incrementally gain a full picture of this lead.


Putting It All Together

How does this all work in practice? And how do you know when it’s time to give a lead a personal call to qualify him as sales ready? You’ll do this by cross-tabulating interest and demographic scores to determine a grade for the lead. The higher the scores for each, the higher the overall grade. When a lead earns an “A,” you can confidently hand him over to your sales team.

Here’s an example of a matrix for determining when a lead is sales ready based on interest and demographic scores.

Grade Matrix

As previously defined in our discussion of the lead funnel (“Define Your Lead Funnel” »), a lead goes from being a name to a suspect to a prospect and then a sales ready lead based on demographic fit and interest level. Theoretically, a lead could accumulate interest points forever. In reality, interest points for a given lead will likely taper off as the lead accesses the majority of your content and advances to the point that he is ready to be qualified. Assuming he has crossed the interest score threshold and is a good demographic fit, in the example above, this person would be a solid “B.” As you talk with him personally, you’ll be able to determine if his interest in your solution elevates him to an “A,” at which point you can hand him off to your sales team.



Now that you’ve:

  • Gotten your CRM and marketing automation platform (see “Marketing Automation” »)
  • Defined your lead funnel (see “Define Your Lead Funnel” »)
  • Defined your buyer personas and mapped content to them (see “Content Mapping” »), and
  • Created your system for scoring interest and demographics,

it’s time to set up your marketing automation platform to, well, automate everything. In the next post in this series, we’ll discuss how to do this and how to build a drip marketing workflow to start nurturing your leads.

Questions in the mean time? Please give us a shout! Leave your comments below or email us at care@zuzamam.com.

Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.



Along with this basic overview of lead scoring, we highly recommend reading these great resources:

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