Behavior key when scoring online leads

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Question: How does one best track lead behavior to achieve the best results in an e-marketing campaign? Answer: The Internet has fundamentally changed how people research and buy b-to-b solutions. Buyers today keep tight control over their buying processes and expect to be able to get the information they want without talking with a salesperson. They use search and other online tools to identify their requirements, build short lists and evaluate vendors. As a result, b-to-b marketers meet prospective buyers earlier in the buying cycle than ever before. This means that most leads (as high as 95%, in fact) from e-marketing campaigns are still in the research phase. Prematurely passing these early leads to sales can lead to disaster since it annoys the buyer with an unwanted interruption and makes the salesperson even less likely to follow up on future marketing leads. That's why lead nurturing, the art and science of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, has become such an important topic in the last few years. At the same time, if and when someone is actively looking for a solution, you want to be sure to identify them and pass them to the right sales rep as quickly as possible. Lead scoring lets you find the hottest leads, but too many companies use only basic demographic data (e.g., title, company size, etc.) in scoring. This is useful, but demographic data only tell how interested you are in the prospect—and nothing about how interested the prospect is in you. Even BANT criteria (budget, authority, need and timing) have limited usefulness since buyers' answers to those questions are notoriously inaccurate (only 29% of respondents always fill that information out accurately, according to MarketingSherpa). In contrast, as we all know, people's actions speak louder than their words. This means you should also track and score a lead's behavior so you can measure their interest and engagement in your solution. By setting a cookie for everyone who comes to your Web site (not just known visitors), you can track behaviors for anonymous visitors as well as for known contacts in your lead database. This is especially useful when a prospect does eventually register. At that point, you will already have more complete information on who is hot. For example, say that two prospects fill out the “contact me” form on your Web site. The first has never been to your site before and found you today by clicking on your ad offering a free white paper. The second found you three weeks ago from Google AdWords; they didn't convert at the time but have since been back three times, spent time reading your blog and today got to your site by searching for your company name. Without the ability to track prospect behaviors, the two prospects may look identical, but add the behavioral dimension and there is a clear difference. By monitoring and tracking online behaviors such as e-mail responses, completed forms and Web site visits, you can develop much more accurate and actionable lead scores. Assign a point value to each behavior, just as you would assign a value to each job title. Certain behaviors—such as using your company brand name in a search, visiting your pricing page or returning frequently to your site—indicate higher readiness to buy, so assign even higher weights to those behaviors. Since b-to-b purchases typically involve six to 21 people, add up the scores for each contact at a given company to measure the total level of engagement for that organization. If you have more than one product line in your organization, consider creating different scores for each to track prospects' level of interest in each. Finally, be sure to lower the score over time if engagement goes down—or consider tracking recent engagement as well as total engagement. Lastly, review the point values with the sales team and decide which scores indicate sales readiness. Be sure to also create “fast tracks,” that is, specific behavior paths that indicate a lead should be contacted immediately regardless of score. If the sales team determines a prospect is not yet ready, recycle the lead to marketing for additional nurturing. Finally, be sure to close the lead and refine your scoring rules and point values over time for continuous improvement. Jon Miller is VP-marketing for Marketo (, a provider of marketing automation software.
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