Leads are the lifeblood of marketers: more leads mean more sales. But there are some key concepts surrounding leads that are essential to understanding the marketing process as a whole: lead scoring, lead segmentation and lead nurturing. Not only are these terms critical to marketing as a whole, but they are also linchpins of marketing automation, as they are primary functionalities of the tools. What do they mean? How are they different?
A marketing team, especially one with an initial strategy focused on outbound marketing, will invariably generate a number of leads. As the process moves along and more leads go from unqualified to qualified, an intrepid marketer is going to want to assess those leads based on their background, demographics, interest levels, buying potential and whatever other metrics a they may see fit.
Lead scoring is that process. After they’ve been collected, marketers look at all of the leads they have complied that look promising, then, either manually or via an automated solution, rank them based on which will be most likely to turn into a sale. These scores, rankings, or whatever other term works for you, guide the team through their future efforts with that particular lead. Lower-ranked leads receive a little less attention and higher ranking leads generally get the royal treatment. Scores are liable to go up or down throughout the marketing process depending upon that lead’s action or inaction. An increase of interest will raise the score. But on the same token, a decrease in engagement will lower a lead’s ranking.
Lead scoring is a pretty standard feature in automated solutions, and most options in the market give users comprehensive options when it comes to parceling out leads of various qualities. If the one you’re looking at doesn’t, you probably want to look for a solution that will provide more bang for your buck.
Lead segmentation can be the same thing as scoring. Both variations are thrown around a lot, especially when vendors are describing the functionalities of their tools. But the terms are interchangeable in that they are ways to describe the process of assessing the validity of your leads. What you call it is really a matter of personal preference.
Segmentation on its own, however, can be something a little more. More broadly, segmentation is the act of breaking down contacts into demographics. These demos are not always necessarily based on anything they’ve done during the marketing process. Segmentation in this regard can also be an invaluable resource. An automated solution can not only market to segments based on activity, but their job title, their location, their industry, and more. And no marketer worth their salt is ever going to turn down more avenues to market to.
So you’ve got your high-scoring leads and you know they’re interested in your business. Now what? How do you get that lead with a demonstrated interest in your company to become a customer who’s legitimately interested in a purchase?
Nurturing is the next step of the lead management process. By continuing to engage with your leads, you create a personal relationship between them and your brand. This further runs up their lead score and pushes them closer to the next step in the buyer’s journey.
The process of lead nurturing is going to be different for each prospect you encounter; some will require very little nurturing, others may need longer-term engagement. It may be slow, but it’s the final stretch of the marketing process before you hand the lead off to sales. It’s such an important process, in fact, that according to 57 percent of marketers surveyed by Marketo, lead nurturing is the most important feature an automated solution could provide them.
Lead segmentation and lead scoring are essentially the same thing; the process through which you breakdown the most promising leads and assess how to proceed with them. Different vendors call them according to their own preferences, but for your purposes, they are the same and should be assessed as such when looking at solutions. Lead nurturing is the process that begins after you’ve scored/segmented the leads. By nurturing a positive relationship with the leads, you turn them into customers that sales can begin to work with.