Lead Scoring: The Shocking Truth You’ve Never Heard Before…

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Here it is: lead scoring, especially from a small business perspective, is almost entirely useless. Is that a shocking revelation? If you’re just getting started with sales and marketing automation, my guess is probably “yes.” But if you’ve actually tried implementing lead scoring in your small/startup/midsize business, something tells me you already know what I’m going to say next.

But before I dive too deep, let’s get a solid definition of what we’re talking about: lead scoring is the idea that you can quantify a lead’s value — or their readiness to buy — by creating a scorecard that assigns different point values based on ways that individual interacts with your business. Why would you do this? Because your sales team (or salesperson’s) time is valuable and it’s difficult to properly prioritize all of your followups and opportunities. The idea behind lead scoring is that I can create efficiencies in my sales organization if I can tell them which leads are most important. Having a numerical score for every lead achieves that goal.

For example:

  • Visiting my website might be 1 point
  • Joining my email list might be 5 points
  • Clicking through an email campaign might be 8 points
  • Downloading a white paper might be 10 points
  • Requesting an estimate might be 15 points
  • Unsubscribing from an email list might subtract 20 points

Easy, right? A lead that scores an 80 is more valuable than a lead that scores 72. Common sense, anyone can do the math.

But there’s a lot more to this than appears at first glance and, believe it or not, lead scoring can actually be an obstacle to my success as opposed to an efficiency-booster.

Two BIG issues with small business leads scoring:

1. How do you really know how to interpret those numbers just by looking at them?

It’s a serious question and it’s definitely more complicated than just saying, 80 is bigger than 72 and bigger is better so the 80 is the better lead.

But what if the 80 points were achieved by:

  • visiting the site 19 times,
  • joining the email list,
  • and clicking through on 7 emails,

and the 72 points were achieved by:

  • visiting the site 8 times,
  • joining the email list,
  • clicking through 3 emails,
  • downloading 2 white papers,
  • and requesting a quote?

Looking at it this way, the 72 looks like a much better prospect, while the 80 point lead looks more like a tire-kicker.

The actual score is much less important than how it was calculated… The interactions that I’ve identified in my scoring theme are obviously important, but the point values I’ve assigned aren’t helping me properly — or efficiently — prioritize my leads in a way that’s likely to improve my profitability.  In fact, this miscalculation may be COSTING me money. This brings me to the second major issue with lead scoring:

2. How do you know how to assign point values anyway?

When I came up with my scoring system a few paragraphs back, I made a lot of assumptions as to the value of different interactions. Certainly joining my email list is a more powerful indicator of interest than simply visiting my website. But is it 5 times more valuable? Maybe it’s 20 or 30 times more valuable — but how would I know?

Large businesses and enterprises have enough data (and enough smart data analysts) that they can calculate what the correlation is between joining an email list and ultimately becoming a customer — and whether a statistically significant relationship exists at all. Maybe the relationship between joining an email list and becoming a customer is virtually nonexistent.

But as a small business owner, A), how would I ever know that?, and, B), how long would it take me to gather enough data that I could draw statistically significant lines between any two actions? Answers: A), you wouldn’t and B), likely YEARS.

Even with the help of big data and big-brained, big-salaried MBA’s, it’s not uncommon that even large businesses would spend a significant period of time — months or longer — trying to figure out the nuances of a lead scoring system that will work for them.

Why is any of this important? A dialogue every small business owner should have:

Lead scoring is often considered a cornerstone of marketing automation and something that business managers, for both large and small organizations, are told to look for when shopping for automation tools.

But if you’re a small business, investing in lead scoring will often make little or no sense. In the best case, you’re probably not getting what you invested in. Worst case? You end up leaving a lot of money on the table.

Why do you want lead scoring?
Because it will tell me which leads we should invest our time in.

But what if your scores are misleading?
We can work with our software provider to help dial them in.

Many software providers offer only limited professional services. What if there isn’t enough time or scope in your setup engagement to cover that?
If we can’t fix it ourselves, I guess we’ll find an outside expert or consultant.

How much will that be?
Probably a lot.

How long will it take you to hire a consultant and work through an engagement?
A few months, probably.

During all that time, how useful will your sales and marketing software be?
Not very.

And so between training, implementation, consulting and all that how long will it be before your marketing software is fully up and running.
I guess somewhere between 5-12 months.

And how long will it be before you are ready to actually start recouping the investment that you put in over those first 5-12 months?
I don’t even want to think about it.

So, why do you want lead scoring again?

Obviously, I’ve dramatized this a little but the idea is that, as a small business especially, you need to be able to build ROI on your marketing investments quickly and lead tracking may be one of those little things — no matter how great it sounds in theory — that stands in your way from achieving that goal.

ORBTR and small business leads scoring

When we built ORBTR, we intentionally left lead scoring out for all the reasons outlined above. But we included Orbits instead. An Orbit is defined in our software as a combination of who an individual is and how they use my site. We allow you to detect a lot of the same types of behaviors that lead scoring systems do, but we don’t attempt to assign a numerical value to them.

Instead, we show you in plain English simply that an individual:

  • visited the site 8 times,
  • joined the email list,
  • clicked through 3 emails,
  • downloaded 2 white papers,
  • and requested a quote…

Or whatever other millstones you decide to configure.

Or, in other words, exactly what a small business owner NEEDS to see without being masked by a confusing, misleading or arbitrary number.


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