The Internet has made today’s consumer into a very different animal than his counterpart of a decade or two ago.
Today, both consumer and business-to-business buyers have access to a wide range of product information options. Industry Web sites, vendor sites, blogs, social media and search all make the required data readily and easily available.
The challenge this leaves for marketers is that they must observe the buyers’ online behavior — their digital body language — and use lead scoring to understand when a prospective buyer is ready to interact with sales.
The art of lead scoring is evolving as marketers better understand today’s buyers. Originally, scoring models were borrowed from database marketing and looked mainly at demographics and “firmographics.” Is it the right level of executive? Are they in the right industry? Does the company have the right level of revenue? This information, although valuable, did not indicate anything about whether the buyer was ready to buy.
Realizing this, marketers began to add activity metrics into their scoring algorithms. By observing whether a buyer was responding to marketing campaigns and showing significant Web activity, marketers were able to understand whether there was a buying interest and if the individual was the right buyer.
Merging these two aspects of scoring, however, led to an interesting challenge. If you had a 100- point scoring range with 50 points for the “who” (right executive) and 50 points for “how interested” (Web activity showing buying interest), it would be difficult to tell an uninterested executive from a keenly interested intern.
Because of this, today’s marketers mostly split lead scoring into two dimensions. One dimension scores the “who” and one dimension scores the “how interested.” From there, leads are categorized as A, B, C on the “who,” and 1, 2, 3 on the “how interested.” A1 leads are immediately passed to sales, while A3 leads (right executive, not showing buying interest) are nurtured, and C1 leads (not the right person, but very interested) are engaged as influencers to gain access to the right executives.
This two-dimensional scoring is extremely powerful and leads to significant revenue benefits, as only sales-ready leads are passed to sales. This allows sales to focus on active opportunities, while marketing nurtures earlier stage buyers who are not yet ready to buy.
Setting the stages
The focus on nurturing the leads that are not yet sales-ready is leading to another evolution in how marketing thinks about buyers.
Prior to being sales-ready, buyers go through a series of stages unique to each business, and that may involve awareness, education, sampling or comparison. Some of today’s most innovative marketers have begun using the same sales-lead scoring approaches to determine what earlier stage each lead has reached in the buying process.
By mapping the insights gained from looking at a buyer’s digital body language to each phase, it is possible to determine whether a buyer is looking for general education on the industry, is determining the list of potential vendors that may be able to solve his or her business challenge, or is validating whether your solution will be the best option.
Scoring against this and determining each buyer’s phase in his or her buying cycle allows you as a marketer to map your messaging to exactly what that buyer is seeking, which makes your messaging significantly more effective.
Today’s buyers are very different from the buyers of 10 years ago in that they have easy access to all the information they require in their buying process. Because of this, today’s marketers must work to understand each buyer’s digital body language and use that to guide each interaction. Lead scoring is the discipline that allows us to do this, and it continues to evolve to give marketers more insight into their buying audience.
As the lead scoring evolution continues, marketers can now determine the exact phase of the buying process each buyer is in — and digital body language plays a critical role in this process.
Steve Woods is cofounder and CTO of Eloqua, a provider of marketing automation technology.