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Qualify Leads Using Buying Journey Signals

By Rick LaFond | June 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

MarketingCustomer Acquisition and Retention

In an attempt to more evenly balance lead quality with lead quantity, a growing number of organizations are working to advance the maturity of their lead scoring and qualification capabilities.

Lead scoring typically starts with an assessment of ‘profile fit’, based on attributes that indicate how well the lead matches an ‘ideal customer profile’.  A great complement to profile-fit scoring is ‘behavioral’ scoring, which uses observable customer behaviors to indicate the lead’s readiness to buy.

Despite good intentions, Gartner analysis shows that many commercial teams take a flawed approach to behavioral scoring.

A Flaw in Many Behavioral Scoring Models

Many organizations take a volume-based approach to behavioral scoring.  In this approach, Marketing scores leads based on the amount of content the lead engages with (the more the better) and/or based on the effort required to engage with that piece of content (e.g., sitting through your 30-minute webinar would generate more points than opening your email).

Gartner research has come to prove, however, that scoring leads simply based on volume of content consumed can lead to false positives of a lead’s Sales readiness.

That’s because a lead’s consumption of content reaches its peak early on in the buying journey, when the customer is in information gathering mode.  This typically happens before the lead is ready to talk to Sales.

Later on in the journey, as the lead gets much closer to Sales readiness, the customer shifts their attention away from information gathering and towards evaluation, where volume of content consumption drops.

Instead of scoring leads based simply on the volume of content consumed, leading organizations heavily weight their lead scoring based on the observation of certain behaviors that can reasonably predict true buying journey progress and Sales readiness.

Observing Buying Journey Progress

Here are some of the top ways we’ve seen Marketers successfully use observable behaviors to suggest buying journey progress:

First, if you have a buying journey map, you can conduct an audit of your content portfolio, and identify certain assets that are specifically intended to address questions that customers are more likely to ask later in their buying journey.  A lead’s consumption of this type of content is a good indication of buying journey progress.

Next, to close a complex purchase, we know we’re going to have to win over multiple members of the customer’s buying group—not just one stakeholder.  With that in mind, any observable behaviors that suggest multiple stakeholders are getting involved can also be strong indication of buying journey progress.

If you have the ability to track leads at the account level, then you could offer a spike in lead score as multiple stakeholders start engaging with your content.

You could also score leads higher based on the consumption of any content intended to support consensus creation (e.g., a business case builder document).

Lastly, you can take a more data-driven approach by conducting an analysis of your content and previously converted leads to identify if any demonstrable links exist between the consumption of certain assets and higher conversation rates or deal size.

A customer’s consumption of these assets can serve as another great indicator of Sales readiness and lead quality.

High Stakes

As you continue to build or refine your lead qualification methodology, be sure to ground your behavioral scoring in your understanding of the customer’s buying journey.  Qualifying a lead before the customer is far enough along to be ready to talk to your Sales rep can very easily produce two penalties:

  1. Your customers can punish your brand as a result of unwanted Sales outreach.
  2. Your Sales team can punish you for passing on a lead that isn’t ready to have a meaningful Sales conversation—thus wasting your Sales rep’s time and damaging the reputation of Marketing-generated leads.

The Gartner team is happy to offer feedback on your lead scoring model, as well as to share recently collected demand generation benchmarking data.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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