Content Marketing Blog
How to use content to improve lead scoring

How to use content to improve lead scoring

For marketing nerds, marketing automation is what qualifies as cool. The software that lets you identify users, track them around your site and serve them tailored content can be really powerful. If it’s used in the right way it will help you maximise your return on investment from your content marketing strategy and generate regular, high-quality leads for your sales team.

Lead scoring is a marketing automation fundamental. Once you have the software installed and you’re starting to get traffic and leads, you can use lead scoring to separate the wheat from the chaff. To find the leads most likely to buy your product, if you don’t like biblical references.

You would tailor lead scoring to fit the particular needs of your business. But the principals are always the same. You assign a numerical value to different actions your marketing automation software can track. You then set up workflows that are triggered when certain lead-score thresholds are reached.

Here’s a simple example, You might assign 10 points when you have all the information you need to contact a lead. Another 10 points if the lead’s job title includes a useful keyword. Another 10 points if that lead visits high-value pages on your website. The workflow that gets triggered when the lead score hits 30 might be an email or a prompt for sales to reach out directly.

Now, most lead scoring set-ups are a lot more complicated than that. But this isn’t a post about how to set up lead scoring. It’s a post about the role content can play in improving your lead scoring. So, let’s talk about that. Here are 5 ways you can improve lead scoring with high quality, targeted content.

1. Blog content for users at different stages of the sales funnel

Marketing automation – just like content marketing – should be put to work at each stage of the sales funnel. Users at the top of the funnel, who are still doing their initial research, might not be ready to buy today. But you can still use your marketing automation software to identify them, remarket to them and move them down your sales funnel over time.

Let’s use your blog as an example. If you only blog about your product features, new hires and project wins you’re really only targeting the bottom end of the sales funnel. Users reading and interacting with these posts will quite rightly earn high lead scores and trigger workflows. But you could miss out on a much bigger pool of potential customers.

By also creating blog content that targets the top and middle of the funnel you can use lower lead score thresholds to serve users with conversion goals that are more in line with where they are in the buyer journey. That was quite a wonkish sentence even for a marketing blog, so let’s try an example.

You might create some blog content on broad topics that you know your audience is interested in. Perhaps you target questions they’re likely to ask, or blog about solutions to common problems they might be experiencing. These users are unlikely to be wooed by a free trial or a sales consultation because they’re not ready for that step yet. But a lower commitment goal, such as a whitepaper download, would be more aligned with their needs. They’re looking for helpful, useful information. Not a call from sales.

You can then incorporate whitepaper downloads into your lead scoring. This would allow you to differentiate between users who are sticking at the top of the funnel (only reading your blog posts) and those ready to move down (happy to swap their email address for a compelling whitepaper).

According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017, prospecting remains the biggest challenge for sales teams. That means

a blogging strategy that can reach out to and engage users, supported by a lead nurturing strategy will be really popular with your sales team.

2. Qualifying emails and landing pages to protect sales

Marketing teams will know that there’s just one thing their colleagues in sales hate more than no leads. And that’s too many poor quality leads. Having to pick up the phone or, worse, go out to meet people who will never become customers is a waste of time. These sales reps could be working existing opportunities or doing their own prospecting.

So, if you want to make friends in sales you need to work just as hard protecting them from bad leads as you do generating good ones. Lead scoring – when it’s supported by the right content – can help you do just that.

If you’re in the fortunate position of fielding a lot of inbound enquiries through your website you can use a dedicated landing page and an automated email to help qualify them. When a particular lead score is reached or when users take a particular action, such as completing a form, your marketing automation software can send them an email.

You can then use the body of the email or a landing page to direct users to the most appropriate team. Or you can ask more questions to ensure they want what you’re selling, that they’re in the right space and that they have the necessary budget.

A simple email template or landing page like that can save your sales team hours of wasted follow-up and it can help ensure sales remains an internal champion for you, your content marketing strategy and your chosen marketing automation platform.

3. Rejuvenating leads with declining lead scores

We use HubSpot for our marketing automation. Before HubSpot, we used Marketo and to show there are no hard feelings check out this handy, downloadable lead scoring guide. One of the many valuable tips in this guide is to set your lead scores to degrade over time.

This means a lead score earned today will be worth less in a week or a month. Users have to keep taking useful actions for their lead score to increase or even stay at the same level. If your lead scores don’t degrade over time you’re likely to have an inflated number of users reaching thresholds and triggering workflows.

Degrading lead scores can work really well with regular, relevant, high quality content. A good example of this combination in action is what our inbound marketing team calls “wake the dead” emails. These are emails with targeted content aimed at users who had taken some useful actions in the past but not followed up.

These could be regular blog visitors who have stopped coming back or previously active email subscribers who haven’t opened the most recent emails. The lead scores we apply to these users through HubSpot would be degrading and eventually they would start to drop out of our workflows.

While we don’t want to spam these users into unsubscribing, we do want to leverage our ability to produce compelling, useful content to see if we can win their attention back again. If we can do that, we can move them down the funnel and eventually pass them to sales as qualified, warm leads.

4. Manually triggered drip campaigns for sales

When we talk about marketing automation workflows we’re quite often referring to drip campaigns. A drip campaign is a series of emails sent automatically to users who have been added to the relevant workflow. Users will usually stay in the workflow or drop out depending on how they respond to each email.

Drip campaigns are a good way to combine lead scoring with fresh content. But they don’t have to be triggered by users reaching a lead score threshold. They can be triggered manually by your sales team.

Let’s take another example. One of your sales reps speaks to a prospect and decides that, while they’re not ready to move forward right away, that could change in the next few weeks. Your busy sales rep doesn’t want to have to remember to keep checking in with calls and emails, so instead they manually add this prospect to a drip campaign.

The lead scoring element becomes important again as that prospect interacts with the emails. Opening them, clicking on the links, engaging with your website content would all boost their lead score. When it reaches a particular threshold your sales rep gets a prompt to reconnect with them.

Without the content to send in the drip campaigns it’s very difficult for your marketing automation to really help your sales rep in this situation. Sure, if the prospect comes back and interacts with the site unprompted by emails then they might hit a lead score threshold. But with the regular prompts from the automated emails you increase the likelihood of that happening and your sales rep can concentrate on other, more immediate opportunities.

5. Content that can help leads qualify themselves

Our first tip was about filtering leads and protecting sales from unqualified leads who will never become customers. We’ve also talked about creating blog content for different stages of the sales funnel. This tip is related to both of those ideas but is worthy of its own mention.

If you have the capacity for creating enough fresh content you can run multiple workflows with much better targeted emails. Usually when brands start working with marketing automation they create a linear workflow. Users enter at one end and either move along to the next email or drop out. Each stage is the same for all users.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach. As users gain higher lead scores you target them with higher commitment goals. From a social media follow to a whitepaper download to signing up for a webinar to speaking with sales.

But different leads have different needs, problems and priorities. Users with a strong interest in a particular product or service you provide are under-served by a one-size-fits-all approach. You might be able to move users down your sales funnel quicker if you can meet their specific needs earlier.

This useful post from Pardot, a marketing automation platform owned by Salesforce.com, recommends separate lead scoring models as well as separate workflows for different segments of your target audience. Actions by a user interested in one product might be more or less significant than the same action by a user interested in another product.

This more targeted approach requires more content. If your workflows are going to branch off in different directions based on what users show the most interest in you need content. Not just for each stage, but for each stage on each branch.

Do it well and you not only get users clocking up higher lead scores quicker, but you also help your sales team have more useful conversations. Users who made it to sales via a workflow focused on a particular product, topic or solution will have answered a lot of the exploratory questions your sales reps usually have to handle themselves.

How to use content to improve lead scoring: quick recap

Thanks for reading this far. We’ve covered quite a lot in this post, so here’s a quick recap of our 5 tips to wrap things up:

  1. Blog content for users at different stages of the sales funnel: your blog content can drive your lead scoring strategy, but make sure you’re creating content for users at different stages of the buyer journey, from initial research right through to ready to buy.
  2. Qualifying emails and landing pages to protect sales: lead scoring is meant to differentiate between users, helping you identify the people you should be trying to nurture or reaching out to immediately. Specially-created landing pages and email templates can protect your sales team from too many unqualified leads.
  3. Rejuvenating leads with declining lead scores: your lead scores should degrade over time. With regular, relevant, high quality content you can reach out to users with declining lead scores and prompt them to re-engage.
  4. Manually triggered drip campaigns for sales: lead scoring is great for automatically adding users to workflows. But it can also be useful to give your sales team workflows they can manually add their prospects to. This allows them to keep prospects warm while they focus on more immediate opportunities.
  5. Content that can help leads qualify themselves: the right content can filter out the less valuable leads before they find their way to sales. And it can also help to move users down the sales funnel quicker and arm sales with better information about what they need.

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