The myriad marketing automation companies operating today are doing a great job answering half of the lead scoring question: How "engaged" is the prospect? However, they are generally not addressing the other half, which is arguably even more important: Is the prospect a good fit?
Certain sales vice presidents state emphatically that lead scores don't work. Businesses are moving from automation company to automation company. Some are eschewing the leading marketing automation vendors' tools in favor of totally new lead scoring methodologies. Why might this be the case?
Lead scores are determined primarily by the level of engagement of the prospect. While engagement can be an important factor, it can also represent a false positive. Many times, highly engaged prospects are not serious about buying—they don't have a budget but are simply curious. The best prospects are often savvy, patient buyers—who don't necessarily act in a highly engaged fashion.
Sales managers and sales reps know that sometimes it can be worth the effort to "hunt an elephant," even if it takes a long time. Elephants are traditionally identified as the largest accounts, or Fortune 500 companies. The "diamonds in the rough," however, are the accounts that would highly value our solution but are not easily identified as good fits. It is suboptimal for sales reps to focus on targets that are highly engaged, but are not a good fit. These prospects may ultimately become customers, but the sales cycles may lag, or the deal may be heavily discounted.
So how do we identify a good fit account? The best are those with the appropriate "value drivers."
In the B2C world, value drivers tend to correspond to demographic or behavioral information that may be easily identified. For example, based on my account history, Netflix and Amazon know what I've been listening to, reading, and watching. They create profiles about me based on my propensity to take action, determined by behavioral facts they know about me, such as what I have "liked" before, what I have purchased before, and what other people similar to me who have liked and purchased what I have tend to do.
In B2B, the value drivers are more subtle. For the vendor of a billing automation solution, for example, one value driver is total invoices processed monthly; in other words, a customer will identify greater value in the vendor's solution if they process more invoices per month. The subtlety is that the number of invoices may or may not correlate directly to the revenue of the customer. For the billing automation vendor's marketing and sales professionals, this critical piece of information should be captured consistently. However, it rarely is.
To be clear, leading marketing automation firms do discuss the notion of "determining your ideal target." They recommend that a marketer should build into their lead score the dimensions that correspond to their ideal target. According to one marketing automation vendor's Web site, "the first step in lead scoring is determining your ideal target. Creating this ideal buyer profile requires sales and marketing alignment, as both must agree upon the definition. From there, you can use both explicit and implicit scoring to create a picture of each lead's value. Explicit scoring is based on the information the prospect tells you, whereas implicit scoring is based on the information that you observe, or infer, such as their online behaviors." The problem is that the firm does not give you much guidance regarding how to determine the components of the "explicit score," or in our nomenclature, value drivers.
Identifying your value drivers is part art, part science. Every B2B vendor can claim that they help their customers by generating some combination of higher revenue, lower expenses (both "hard dollar" savings and "soft dollar" or time savings), and risk mitigation. However, determining which combination you impact, and then implementing a simple solution to gather these value drivers and translate them into something usable by sales reps and customers, can be challenging. Capturing these value drivers and quantifying them requires not only a thorough knowledge of your customers and market, but also an easy-to-use solution that is integrated with existing CRM and marketing automation systems to ensure adoption.
In our experience with clients in software, hardware, advertising, and outsourced services, the successful identification and quantification of value drivers results in greater sales effectiveness and greater sales efficiency. More time is spent with the right customers, and those customers buy more often. Going through this exercise is not only profitable, but it will be essential in the years to come, as buyers' requirements for business cases continue to increase.
Mike Genstil is the CEO and founder of VisualizeROI. Previously he has held roles in strategy consulting, product management, business development, and channel sales at SAP, Adobe Systems, Lycos, eCredit.com, Liberty Mutual, and CDI.