Wait what? Are you just now getting lead scoring up and running and actually making it work? If you’re using a marketing automation system like Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot, you probably got this nifty feature built in.

It can take a while to make lead scoring successful. But now that you’re really using it, is it doing what you want?

Here’s the methodology of lead scoring and why it might be flawed or at least inadequate. The theory we’ve been working with for a few years is that it takes prospects multiple marketing touches to get warmed up to a company. Further, said prospect might never explicitly ask to speak to your company about your products and services. Lead scoring allows you to assign a number value to each activity the prospect does (i.e: download a white paper-get 10 pts, attend a webinar – 15 pts, visit your website – 1 pt per page etc. you get the idea). Then when their score piles up to your pre-determined threshold, your sales team does a proactive reach-out.

What’s great about lead scoring:

  • Lead nurturing and continued prospect activities are built into the program, supporting the very effective practice of content marketing – yay, big marketing win!
  • Your internal peeps and maybe nay-sayers see the data behind what it takes to convert a looky-loo into a genuine prospect – hint, it takes more than one awesome email.
  • There are some prospects who will never fill out that form on your website, like ever. Lead scoring allows you to keep track of their activities and push them with more direct methods once they reach your threshold.
  • Your sales team’s time is maximized. They need only concern themselves with the prospects that are truly showing digital interest and buying signals.

So this all sounds pretty great and it really is miles ahead of where we were without it. However there are some major shortcomings that make it fall short of its promise of tomorrow land.

Where the lead scoring fun stops.

First, sales reps still spend at least 50 percent of their time researching the marketing-qualified leads that get passed over from marketing. Because, while your lead scoring program tallies up the prospect’s activities, it doesn’t know whether or not that prospect is actually a valid potential buyer of your product or services. The person could just be a super fan of your blog, a student or a looky-loo with no means to buy.

Secondly, that pre-determined score you designated as the threshold for passing the lead to sales is pretty arbitrary. There’s no perfect formula that works for all prospects.

But now there is a solution that makes your old lead scoring model shinier and prettier.

Enter predictive lead scoring.

Predictive lead scoring is technology that allows you to digitally comb your marketplace to suss out the best potential buyers for your product.  It does this by first analyzing the data of your existing client base, and closed-won leads and creating patterns of what your ideal clients look like. Then it finds new prospects that match that model. You can tweak how you like if you’re going after a new market or have a new product to sell.

So now there are two ways to measure a lead’s potential. The first, that you’re familiar with from regular lead scoring is how much are they interested in you, as measured by their engagement with your content and marketing materials. The second and newer component measures how interested should you be in them. To make the most of these two together, create a threshold that must be met on both fronts. The result will create a far higher lead conversion rate and even a higher average deal size. When you’re working the right prospects, your odds of success go way up.

The leading companies offering predictive lead scoring are Infer, Lattice Engines and Fliptop. They are building relationships with the top marketing automation systems as we speak so you can expect this to become mainstream technology. And, thank goodness.

Your sales reps will actually trust marketing and  find they have to spend far less time ensuring they are calling an actual qualified lead. And you and your marketing team can spend far less time listening to complaints about crappy leads. Hurrah for that.

Photo by John McCloy via Flickr