Lauraramos [Posted by Laura Ramos]

Recently I saw a preview of Eloqua’s spring release and it got me thinking about the role lead scoring plays in determining campaign effectiveness.  I hadn’t seen the product in a while and was impressed with the UI improvements the Eloqua team has produced. They have added new capabilities for delivering highly personalized direct mail, SMS/voice reminders, and on-demand fax and RSS delivery – interesting stuff that, while I’d need to talk to a client or two to be convinced of their specific usefulness, show that Eloqua is delivering a broader range of lead nurturing, drip marketing capabilities. Lastly, new campaign design UI will help shorten the time it takes to get first campaigns up and running.

With these changes, I see Eloqua – like many of the other firms I mentioned in my prior post – moving the B2B marketing conversation ahead in an important direction. The key to getting a campaign up and running quickly is not to make it easier to launch more campaigns but instead to focus marketing attention on the results – well qualified leads. And this is where I think the marketing rubber hits the sales road.

As an analyst who has written about lead management extensively – I am still amazed at how many marketers feel challenged to produce leads that sales appreciate. The bickering between marketers (who feel sales doesn’t follow up on the great leads they generate) and sales (who feel the quality of said leads is subject to debate) seems to continue unabated. The few marketers who end the arguing figure out early that quantifying lead quality is essential.

In my view, these marketers live by four best practices. They:
1) Sit with sales, talk about leads, and come to an agreement about what is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). What are the characteristics of a lead that make it worth working from sales perspective?  And they are prepared to have this conversation every quarter.

2) Assign numeric scores to the different criteria – both explicit (size, industry, title, budget, etc.) and implicit (behavior, activity, interest, etc.) – that both sales and marketing believe distinguish hot leads from the rest. Specific criteria carry specific point values, like +5 for downloading a white paper and +15 for attending a webinar.

3) Use these criteria and weights to score raw leads (contacts, inquiries, replies, etc.), and set a numeric threshold that leads must attain before they earn the MQL status and get passed to sales. They also adjust scores downward as contacts go inactive or age.

4) Rescore contacts place in nurturing, education, or development campaigns. They work to understand what optimum scores are for each category of lead type.  This score can vary by product line or geography or other company-specific factors, so they don’t assume that one size fits all. Again, scores change with activity levels and age.

Is this all there is to demonstrating campaign effectiveness?  No, but it’s a start. Using numerical, quantifiable scores to grade leads turns the art of marketing into a science and marketers who use this approach tell me numeric scoring is one of the biggest factors in raising marketing’s value to the sales organization. But like most good science, it takes time and effort to perfect.  So I commend Eloqua on their next generation of marketing software and their efforts dedicated to the process of making marketing more accountable.

I would like to hear about your scoring approaches and what you have done to achieve a common definition of qualified leads with sales.

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