Lead generation is one of the most important elements of an effective marketing program, but it’s also one of the most fraught with uncertainty. It isn’t enough to guess at what your leads hope to learn from you to make a buying decision; you need to be sure of what they want and capable of delivering it exactly when they need it.
This step-by-step, automation-assisted lead scoring process gives you the essentials for a smoother transition from a prospect’s first visit to your website to the hand-off to sales.
The first step in any lead scoring process is sorting the likely candidates from the maybe-sos, the could-bes, and the never-weres. Marketing automation technology excels at data collection and organization, so baseline lead scores come from this initial flood of information. Anonymous browser tracking lets you see where visitors are going, and over time, behavioral and demographic data will help you separate the potential buyers from those who aren’t in the market at the moment.
Creating Buyer Personas
Some prospects are a closer match than others for what you offer. The customers you already have are an outstanding resource for learning what your leads want. Marketing automation software pools information from multiple sources, including your CRM and site tracking data, to analyze how your customers interact with you. This data paints a customer persona, an idealized and standardized composite image of the people who buy from you. Repeating the process for multiple market segments gives you a group of personas to use as your yardstick of lead quality. By identifying those leads that align most closely with your buyer personas’ demographic and firmographic information, your automation system starts the lead scoring process.
Compiling Behavioral Data
Customer personas are only part of the picture. Behavioral and contextual data gathered as your leads interact with you will tell you volumes about their needs and how you can fulfill them. Behavioral data is a kind of digital body language; with it, you can see where leads are in their buying journey and serve them content that helps guide them down the path to a buying decision. A lead who sends the right buying signals increases in ranking as he or she becomes more markedly engaged with your content. That’s important to understand because lead scores can change dramatically over time based on the interest signals they send through their behavior.
Spotting Stoppers and Taking Shortcuts
Ultimately, the goal of lead scoring is to develop a lead’s interest and guide the buying journey ever closer to the sales team. Sometimes that’s a linear process, but far more often, leads don’t follow a ruler-straight line to get from the top of the sales funnel to its base. When leads unsubscribe from your newsletter and no longer visit your site, it’s often because their buying journey has reached a premature end – they have already made a purchase, for example, or a project was cancelled. Your marketing automation software has to recognize these end-of-the-line events quickly to minimize wasted effort.
Conversely, some leads leap ahead, taking shortcuts that lead directly to sales; your marketing automation system needs to recognize these as well. Your marketing automation administrator can build alerts into the system that re-route a lead straight to sales in these circumstances.
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