How to score e-mail marketing leads

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Lead scoring, the process of attaching numerical scores to customers based on their value—real or potential—isn't just for the sales department. Marketers can use these scores to help shape their e-mail marketing segmentation strategy. Yet most b-to-b companies are overlooking this powerful tool, said Patrick MacDougall, VP-technology for marketing and technology services firm Sapient.

“Using scoring, you can figure out how to speak to different segments in a way that moves them up the chain and helps you reach your best customers with the communication that is best suited to their needs,” he said. “Today most b-to-b companies are more focused on, ‘Did I acquire another e-mail address, [or] another customer?' versus ‘Did I acquire a good customer?' That mindset has to change.”

If you can attach scores to your e-mail database, you can separate your list into three segments—low-, mid-, and high-value customers—and market to each more effectively, he said.

Creating a customer score starts not with data but strategy—identifying what you are trying to achieve, MacDougall said. For instance, if repeat conversions are the goal, you'll need to gather data related to previous conversions. Looking to add new customers? You'll want to look at first-time buyer data. Some common elements that make up a customer score include frequency of engagement, loyalty, purchase patterns and referrals, MacDougall said.

“You'll have to decide what's more valuable,” he said. “Is it someone who bought a large amount once but hasn't come back, or is it the client who buys from you all year but in much smaller volume?”

This is where a conversation with the sales department is especially useful, he said. You may also need to check in with other departments.

“You may want to include whether or not someone is returning a lot of products,” he said. “A customer who you think falls into a top tier might actually be costing you a lot of money in terms of customer service and returns.”

Once they've determined what should go into a customer score, marketers should think about pruning their data, MacDougall said, to eliminate unnecessary elements. For example, if the goal is to increase sales in a particular region, you might consider including ZIP code data but not specific street addresses.

If you don't have data on some prospects, those e-mail addresses should go into their own segment so you can market to them in a different way entirely because, no matter what, current or former customers should receive entirely different messaging than what a prospect might receive, he said. “As far as segmentation, even your prospect list should be segmented by where the lead came from, and how often those prospects are responding in some way,” he said.

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