According to an oft-cited report by MarketingSherpa, 73 percent of all B2B leads are not sales-ready. That’s a drag on sales – they spend too much time on leads that will never pan out, or they’re forced to prospect because of a lack of quality leads. It also hurts marketing; why should a company invest more in marketing when it displays a chronic inability to deliver revenue? lead scoring

There’s a way around this, and its name is lead scoring. It’s widely recognized as a vital tool to accomplish two critical marketing tasks: delivering hot leads to sales when they’re most ready to buy, and getting the most from your marketing investment. Even so, studies show that marketers still aren’t seizing the opportunity: depending on the study, between 66 and 91 percent of businesses still don’t have a lead scoring plan in place.

That’s not because they’re ignorant or inept – it may be because they’re simply not automated. A recent study by Direct Marketing News showed that 84 percent of companies with a CRM application had a scoring process in place. Only when automation starts to penetrate sales and marketing organizations, lead scoring becomes possible.

So, if you have CRM and other sales and marketing software in place in your company and you’re not using lead scoring, get cracking! If you are, you’re probably on the lookout for ways to increase how well your scoring system reflects reality. Most early attempts at lead scoring are ripe for improvements; fine tuning a system requires a bit of trial and error, and every company has unique attributes of its selling processes and its customers’ desires that should shape how leads are scored.

However, there are some scoring criteria you may be overlooking. These five can make a major difference in uncovering likely buyers, screening out tire-kickers, and helping marketing seem omniscient in the leads it delivers to sales.

  1. Vertical market

Your scoring system should help you target the people most likely to buy from you. Since you’ve probably already thought through the industries and personas that are your ideal buyers, tailor the scoring system to nudge perfect-fits ahead of possible corner cases. For example, if you have financial institutions identified as a key market, give a prospect some extra points if he identifies that industry in a form, or if her email contains a suffix that indicates she works for company in the finance industry.

  1. Time between activities

The people who interact with your content are telling you something if they download a piece of content in March, and then again in October. What they’re telling you is that they’re in a long buying cycle that’s not really a priority for their company. Knock some points off their score. By the same token, add points when a visitor builds a regular cadence of interaction with your content – that person is circling back for more and more information and is clearly trying to make some kind of a decision.

  1. Changes in content types

Often, the person showing up on your website with frequency is a “champion” for a purchase – in other words, he or she has been tasked with doing all the initial footwork and research before other people in the company become involved in a decision. Most content is written for the champions; they’re the first ones who need to be convinced that your company’s the best choice, after all. But at a certain point, the content the champion is downloading shifts – he’s no longer collecting it for himself, but for the CIO, the CFO and other key decision makers. If you’re creating content targeted at all the influencers in a purchase, make note when a champion’s downloaded content type changes, because the decision process may have just entered a new and critical stage.

  1. Hints that the Viewer Isn’t a Buyer

You’re not just looking for leads – you’re trying to weed out people who aren’t leads, either. A great way to do this is to associate a fairly high negative score with some activities that suggest a visitor is not there to buy. A visit to the careers page suggests the visitor is looking for a job, not to buy your products. A click through your press releases often indicates a member of the media doing research. Generic email addresses or addresses ending in .edu are also suggestive of non-buyers. But don’t totally screen these people out; there are times when a buyer may look to see if you’re growing or if your company’s done something newsworthy.

  1. Points for Participation

Most of what we use to score leads goes on within our own systems, but don’t forget there’s a whole world beyond your walls where prospects are doing things that hint at their readiness to buy. Social media monitoring tools are extremely useful for discovering what people are saying about your company and your market. If you can pair this with the scores they’re amassing within your marketing automation system, you’ll add additional veracity to their score. That counts for positive and for negative comments; it also applies for users of your competitors’ products when they express negative sentiment about their current vendor. If someone’s complaining about their vendor, and they’re building a score with you at the same time, your scoring system should get them to a salesperson pronto.

To learn more about lead scoring and one the best way to refine it – collaborating closely with sales – read our report “Why Your Sales Team is Vital for Lead Scoring Success – And Vice Versa.”

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