ABM Basics: How Lead Scoring Lays the Foundation for Success

April 24, 2018

Lead Scoring

Editor's Note: This guest post is authored by Gil Allouche, CEO at Metadata.

Marketers shouldn’t attempt account-based marketing unless they’re willing to put in the work to target the right accounts. In many cases, the ceiling for your ABM success is determined before you make your initial contact with each individual lead.

Account-based marketing only works when sales and marketing build a list of prospects and organize that list to prioritize the highest-value prospects. To do that, you need to use a system known as “lead scoring” to determine the value of each potential client.

Otherwise, you’re shooting blind—and setting yourself up for disappointment.

Understanding Lead Scoring

To help marketing and sales understand the potential value of prospects, those prospects need to be quantified according to a standardized scale. This is lead scoring in a nutshell: A method of calculating the expected value of any potential lead and ranking it in order of priority for your Marketing and Sales teams to engage.

It’s important to recognize that this score is not universal. Rather, lead scoring criteria should be specific to your business interests. Another company’s top qualified lead might not offer much to your business in terms of potential earnings, which means your methodology should consider the variables most important to your company.

For marketers and sales teams that haven’t used lead scoring before, there might be some push-back. And it’s true that you can run many types of marketing and sales strategies without implementing a lead scoring component to your research: According to Marketing Sherpa, only 21 percent of B2B businesses actually use lead scoring to evaluate prospects.

But that’s not practical with ABM, for a simple reason: The amount of time, energy and resources poured into a single prospect is too much to invest unless you are carefully tracking engagement in order to get a reasonable shot at a strong return.

Finding Qualified Leads

Most marketers know better than to spend money on lists of unqualified leads. This is a dubious strategy for any marketing campaign, and it’s even less useful when it comes to account-based marketing.

Instead, ABM strategies should focus on companies that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP). Look at your existing prospects and customers: what common characteristics and activities do they share? Look through your email newsletter lists, scout companies that follow you on Facebook and/or LinkedIn, pay attention if key buyers in certain organizations are interacting with your social content or commenting on your blog posts.

Marketers should also pay attention to lead generation strategies currently in operation—if your lead volume is low, methods for generating net-new contacts may be needed.

Meanwhile, sales team members and even executives should suggest big accounts or businesses with employees they know on a personal level. Those human relationships can be a great starting point for entering a prospect into your system to be scored.

Building a Template for Your Metrics

Most lead scoring methodologies use a 0- to 100-point scale to assess the value of a lead, and take into consideration both demographic/firmographic data and behavior/engagement data. For company size, for example, you might decide that a mid-range business between 500-1,500 employees is your ideal business for your current selling strategy. Companies in that range would receive 100 points, while a larger company might be scored as a 70, and a smaller company might get scored as a 30.

Lead scoring comes with some degree of subjectivity, and it all depends on your ideal customer profile. Remember that the goal is to produce scores that accurately reflect a lead’s perceived value.

Metrics may cover the way a lead was generated—with filled out forms or attendance at a webinar receiving more points than a social follow, for example—as well as whether the company is within one of your target industries. Other criteria to consider include:

  • Number of prior engagements
  • Geographic location
  • The contact’s role in buying decisions (senior level vs. entry, etc.)
  • Estimated revenue potential

As you build your list of prospects, you may decide to order prospects according to their value, and then start with the highest-revenue opportunity. Or you may establish a cutoff score, below which leads are considered too poor to merit targeting through an ABM strategy. More advanced ABM practitioners aggregate lead scores from individual contacts up to the account level, and use account-level engagement metrics as a key success indicator for their ABM efforts.

Over time, your ABM performance may prompt changes to the way you evaluate and score leads, whether that means adding or removing criteria or adjusting the points awarded for certain variables. Don’t get stressed out when your lead scoring methodology isn’t perfect. Start with a simple model, and as you put into operation and see an opportunity to adjust your methodology, tweak your scoring criteria to potentially boost your ROI.

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