Lead scoring and how to use data to nurture leads more effectively

Lead scoring and lead nurturing

Sales and marketing teams are gathering more data than ever as digital transformation, omnichannel strategies, and real-time data capabilities become widely available. But more opportunities and more data can quickly get overwhelming, and many teams are now faced with too much of both to meaningfully organize their lead programs.

Lead scoring is not a new solution, but it’s one that has scaled up with automation and AI-powered platforms. That means that lead scoring is still one of the most effective strategies for putting all that data to work and turning more of those opportunities into new business. This post will help you improve your lead scoring by looking at:

  1. What is lead scoring?
  2. Why lead scoring is important
  3. How to calculate a lead score
  4. Where to get lead scoring insights

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is a marketing and sales strategy for evaluating prospects based on a numerical point system. Points are assigned to each lead according to how well they match a target buyer persona and how they interact with the brand. A higher lead score indicates that an individual is further through the buyer’s journey.

You can score leads in a variety of ways. Explicit scoring adds points to a lead’s score based on information they give you directly — usually through form fills. Implicit lead scoring adds points for activities like website activity, social media engagement, email opens, and more. Finally, most marketers assign additional points based on how well a particular lead matches an ideal target persona.

Why is lead scoring important?

Establishing a scoring system is one of the most effective ways to improve lead management, but the benefits extend beyond the sales funnel.

Sales and marketing alignment

Lead scoring requires and facilitates cooperation between marketing and sales teams. The two must first work together to determine the characteristics of leads that are ready for sales and establish a point system for scoring.

Regular feedback loops are needed to make sure the scoring system is working. As marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) are handed off to the sales team as sales-qualified leads (SQLs), the two teams should meet regularly to discuss the quality of those SQLs and determine if the system is working well. If the sales team is getting a high percentage of leads that are not ready to purchase, the lead scoring process should be reevaluated.


Better sales and marketing strategies

Establishing a lead scoring system requires the marketing team to give serious consideration to each interaction a prospect has with the brand. They need to decide how valuable a visit, social engagement, and download really are. This forces a review of the current marketing strategy and can help identify weaknesses and gaps.

Once the criteria for MQLs and SQLs is established, and the ideal portrait of a sales-qualified lead is established, the marketing team can also start designing new communications to drive audiences toward the goal. This provides a simple, straightforward framework for new campaigns.

Finally, as sales and marketing teams come together for regular reviews of the lead scoring system, marketers get regular rounds of feedback on how effective their efforts have been at creating new SQLs. If the leads being handed off to the sales team are not qualified enough, the marketing team knows there are still gaps in the strategy. If the number of qualified leads has slowed, the marketing team knows that while the scoring is working, the campaigns are not nurturing well.

Increased revenue

Lead scoring prioritizes sales operations by concentrating on opportunities that have the best chance of converting. This allows sales teams to direct resources toward individuals in the funnel who are most qualified and interested in making purchasing decisions.

This also means that lead scoring makes sales ops more efficient. Companies that use a lead scoring system see significant improvement in return on investment (ROI) from lead generation efforts because they don’t waste time and resources on unqualified leads.

How to calculate a lead score

The benefits of lead scoring are clear, but it can be difficult to establish and maintain a system. In fact, an Openprise report revealed that only 35% of revenue operations leaders have complete confidence in their ability to effectively score leads.

A good lead scoring system takes some trial and error, but there are some simple steps that can get you started confidently.

  1. Decide which data points to focus on. Use a combination of explicit and implicit data, as well as demographic and company data, to create a holistic view of each lead.
  2. Review historical wins. Look at leads that closed new business in the last year and identify similarities. This will help identify which characteristics and touch points are valuable for converting prospects.
  3. Review historical losses. Review deals that fell through and look for similarities. Those consistencies will highlight touch points and demographic data points that are not as valuable in your buyer journey.
  4. Weigh each data point carefully. Assign a point value to each data point you decided to focus on, giving greater value to those factors that generally lead to conversions.

So a good lead scoring model relies heavily on choosing the right factors to consider and weigh. There are five main types of data that might be valuable for your lead scoring process.

Demographic information for lead scoring

1. Demographic information

Demographic data on each lead is a simple way to begin scoring leads and provides a helpful starting score for each new contact.

Scoring demographic information starts with your existing buyer personas. It should also be deeply informed by the sale’s team outline of an ideal SQL. Some of this data can be gathered from public profiles like LinkedIn. Additional details are easily gathered in download forms.

For instance, if you exclusively sell to a specific region, you may assign low scores to any leads that don't fall within the correct geographic area. Additionally, leads with senior job titles and roles might get higher scores than entry-level team members who don’t have as much buying power.

2. Company information

Company information is another type of demographic data point that can be easily gleaned or collected to provide a meaningful score early in the customer relationship.

For example, B2B businesses would assign only a few points to consumer-side leads. Or if your solution is specifically designed for case studies within a few target industries, you would assign more points to leads within those verticals.

3. Inbound engagement

How a lead engages with your site content is a key indicator of how they are moving through the sales and marketing funnel. Assign points for each interaction, based on insights from historical data.

Content engagement points might look like:

You can also subtract points from a lead’s score based on behavior. A lead may no longer be interested if they stop downloading your offers or visiting your website after a certain amount of time. The length of time before you start deducting points will vary based on the average length of your sales cycle, but the disinterest should be reflected in a falling lead score.

4. Social engagement

You can get an idea of a lead's value by monitoring how involved they are with your business on social media. Assign points for actions like clicking into a social media post, sharing your content on their social networks, following or subscribing, and more.

You might also consider giving more points to leads with a high number of followers, if your target customers are social media users. Leads with social media influence are more valuable conversions because they often share their purchases and engagement with their audiences.

5. Outbound engagement

As you review historical data, consider the value of a lead’s engagement with outbound marketing efforts. Email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing channels, so those touch points should be carefully evaluated.

Assign points for email opens, email clicks, and engagement with paid ads. Establish a time frame for subtracting points as well. If a lead stops opening emails after a few months, their score should reflect that.

Where to get lead scoring insights

Historical data is the best source for insights on how to score leads. Keep your sales and marketing teams focused on data first. But as you refine and perfect your lead scoring model, there are other sources that can be helpful.


Capture analytical information about each stage of the marketing funnel. You need to understand not only what led a client to make a purchase but also what led that individual to start out as a lead.

Keep in mind that the first impression a lead receives could influence whether or not they decide to buy. Knowing this impression might help you identify the variables that impact your conversion rate.

Sales team experience

All sales-focused businesses have personnel on the front lines. Their expertise and knowledge are priceless when it comes to observing and understanding your audiences. They understand buying behavior and can help identify which marketing materials and campaigns have the greatest effect on leads.

These insights allow marketing teams to improve the scores given to a lead for exposure to key content or information. It also helps focus marketing plans around campaigns and content that help leads move through the funnel.

Customer feedback

Customers and sales teams may have different perspectives on the factors that contributed to a transaction. You can learn more about the closing factors of an agreement by hearing from the customers themselves.

Ask a few customers why they made their purchases. Each piece of information contributes to a clearer picture of who uses your product or service and why. The sales team might be surprised. Once trends start to emerge, you can assign numerical value to those factors and add them to your lead scoring process.

Be sure the clients you speak with are diverse. For precise data, you need a good representation of clients who have experienced both long and short sales cycles.

The bottom line

Sales and marketing teams use lead scoring to estimate how likely it is that a lead will eventually convert. A higher score signals a position further down the funnel and a higher buying intent. The sales teams can use these scores to prioritize spending time with the most important leads first.

Lead scoring is crucial for businesses operating in digital transformation and using omnichannel strategies, but scaling can be difficult. When you’re ready to optimize your lead scoring system, you need software that can help.

Adobe Marketo Engage has been a leader in B2B automation for more than a decade. Marketo Engage allows marketers to target known and unknown site visitors, create custom lead scoring models that update in real time, automate lead nurturing based on scores, and more.

Watch the overview video or take an interactive tour to learn more about how Marketo Engage can help improve the ROI of your lead nurturing programs.