I hosted three round table discussions at least week’s excellent Econsultancy B2B Digital Cream event on the subject of Lead Scoring and Nurturing, and the abiding conclusion was that Lead Scoring and Nurturing is - as one observer suggested - a lot like teenage sex: lots of people are talking about it, not so many are actually doing it, and fewer still have the experience to do it really well.
I hope the analogy holds good and if not, I apologise to anyone whose familiarity with the realities of teenage sex is a little more contemporary than my own. But the key point I wanted to make is that Lead Scoring and Nurturing is - according to the experiences of those who have tried to make a success of it - harder work than it at first appears. A number of the round table participants also observed (and maybe this is the point where the analogy breaks down) that their initial attempts had been far too complicated.
Keep it simple at first
Many of the round table participants (who were drawn from some of the UK’s most forward thinking B2B marketers in medium to large organisations) reported that their first forays into lead scoring had been unnecessarily complicated. In part encouraged by the sophisticated mechanisms offered by their marketing automation vendors, they had tried to develop highly complex rules and points allocation mechanisms.
These schemes had taken a long time (months running into years, in some cases) to implement, and had typically failed to achieve the desired results. In some cases, the lead soring initiative had been conducted without the active participation of the sales organisation, which was retrospectively acknowledged to be a foundation for failure. In other cases, the rules had been applied rather too rigidly.
The common consensus was that lead scoring schemes need to start simple, and be progressively refined in the light of experience. Taking ideal prospect profiles into account is often a good place to start - you can download a template here that has proved helpful for other organisations. But whatever you do, avoid the temptation to over-complicate the process - and be sure to closely involve sales in the design.
Data quality is critical
The group also agreed on the critical importance of data quality to both lead scoring and nurturing. Without complete and accurate data, it’s hard to score and evaluate leads. Many of the participants had started to use progressive profiling to capture data about their prospects, in which additional questions are asked each time the reader completes a web form, gradually building up a more complete picture of their situation, interests and needs.
This profiling information is invaluable when it comes to lead nurturing. Armed with a better understanding of each prospects situation, interests and needs - and the current stage of their buying decision process - marketers reported that they were able to target content more effectively, and help to move the prospect along to the next stage in the prospect’s Buyers’ Journey.
Content is king
The final takeaway was the importance of great content. Creating a stream of relevant content was a top priority for many of the marketers I spoke to, and there was a general agreement that content was the essential foundation of any lead nurturing programme. It was acknowledged to be hard work - but worth it. Issue-based content - in the form of white papers, tip sheets and in particular videos was seen as particularly important in advancing the buying process.
Rather than create generic, relatively untargeted pieces of content, the more advanced marketers were aligning each new piece of content to perform a specific purpose at a specific stage in the buying decision process. These highly targeted pieces were proving far more effective in influencing buying behaviour than generic content. The key to success lay in agreeing a clear brief that established the target audience, stage in buying process and desired next step.
More practice required
For a subject that has been getting so much attention, Lead Scoring and Nurturing seems to be at an earlier stage of maturity in many organisations than you would otherwise assume. Those who were doing it successfully highlighted three lessons - keep it simple, focus on data quality and create great content.
Most of all, though, the abiding message is that even if your first attempts don’t deliver the dramatic results your marketing automation vendor might have promised, keep practicing. It’ll get better over time. Start simple and continue to refine what you do in the light of experience. And when you get to be an expert, be sure to share the lessons learned with others who may just be embarking on the journey for the first time. We can all get better!