Lead Scoring Best Practices (The Only Framework You Need to Get Started)

Lead Scoring Best Practices (The Only Framework You Need to Get Started)

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    ActiveCampaign lead scoring is a dynamic, flexible tool for your marketing and sales processes, but it can be challenging to know how to get started.

    If you’re unfamiliar with lead scoring, start with the guides we’ve previously created for help understanding what it is, how it aids your marketing and sales strategy, and how to set it up in the platform:

    This guide will walk you through a step-by-step actionable approach so that by the end of this guide, you’ll have implemented a fully functioning lead-scoring framework that you can continue to monitor and iterate as needed.

    Let’s get started.

    Set Thresholds

    The first step in creating your lead-scoring framework is setting thresholds. Thresholds are synonymous with the lifecycle stages of your sales process. Contacts will move “up” or “down” between stages based on their actions.

    For this example, we’ll walk through the framework using standard sales process stages, but remember that you can tailor these thresholds to what makes the most sense for your business.

    • Prospect – potential contacts
    • Lead – more engaged leads
    • MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) – leads showing the most engagement and interest in your business’s marketing efforts.
    • SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) – the primary target for your sales team. 

    The thresholds in this example will be based on a 100-point system, giving plenty of flexibility with the framework so you can easily adjust as needed. In a 100-point system, the sales team should work with any contacts (SQLs) with a score of 100 or above.

    Assign Threshold Points

    Once you establish your thresholds, the next step is to assign points to each.

    It’s easiest to use a fixed-point system, so leads will work their way up to 100 points as they continue to take action throughout the customer journey.

    Begin by identifying the number of free offerings (or lead magnets) you currently have available in order to capture contact information. For the purposes of this framework, let’s assume you have five free offerings in your marketing funnel.

    In a 100-point system, points are distributed as follows:

    • Becoming a Prospect (10 points). A prospect is defined as anybody who has taken action on a free offer.
    • Any prospect that takes action on ALL free offerings will be qualified as a Lead. The point value required to become a Lead equals the number of free offerings you have times the Prospect Score. Therefore: 5 (free offerings) x 10 (Prospect Score) = 50 points. 
    • The point value required to become an MQL equals the Lead Score plus 25. Therefore: 50 + 25 = 75 points
    • The point value required to become an SQL equals the MQL Score plus 25. Therefore: 75 + 25 = 100 points

    To summarize:

    1. Prospect = 10 points
    2. Lead = 50 points
    3. MQL = 75 points
    4. SQL = 100 points

    There will be some trial and error in the process of learning how your contacts behave, but by setting up lead scoring, you’re on your way to learning more about them. 

    Set Lead Score Rules

    Now, let’s identify the actions contacts can take that correspond with each threshold that has been defined:

    • Prospect – Downloaded a free offer
    • Lead – Filled out a contact form
    • MQL – Scheduled Consultation
    • SQL – Attended an event or meeting

    Each action corresponds to the thresholds established earlier. So, every free offer is worth 10 points. If a contact downloads your free offer, they become a Prospect.

    The contact form is worth 50 points. If a contact fills out your contact form or downloads all five of your free offerings, they become a Lead.

    The opportunity to put time on the calendar to talk is worth 75 points. If a contact schedules time to discuss your product with you, they become a MQL. Event attendance is worth 100 points. Once a contact attends a meeting to discuss your product, they become an SQL— a “hot” lead!

    Contacts can move quickly through your lead scoring system by taking specific actions. For instance, if a contact doesn’t download your free offer but does schedule time to learn more about your product, that contact instantly becomes an MQL. That’s because the action of scheduling time indicates a higher level of engagement than downloading a free offer.

    You may be wondering how to build this out in your account. Go ahead and navigate to “Contacts” and then “Scoring”. From here, you will add these rules as conditions that need to be met by your contacts to receive the points established. If you’ve yet to create a Score in your account. Click the “Add a Score” button in the top right corner. You will first need to select if you are creating a contact score or deal score, and then you can build the appropriate rules.

    Segment builder in ActiveCampaign

    Remember, this framework is meant to guide you; it’s important to consider what actions contacts take that are most valuable to your business when setting up your lead scoring system.

    Find out more on how to set your Lead Score Rules in ActiveCampaign here.

    Identify Other Actions Worth Scoring

    There are some actions contacts can take that are worth scoring multiple times.

    It’s safe to assume a contact who opens all of your emails and visits your website five times is more engaged than a contact who only opened one or two of your emails and never visited your website, so scoring these actions more than once can be an element of your strategy.

    Here’s how you might divvy up points among those actions:

    • Email open/read = 1 point
    • Email click = 2 points
    • Website visit = 3 points

    Now, lead scoring rules only run once, but you can use a series of automations to award points every time a contact takes certain actions by configuring automation start triggers to run multiple times.

    For example, if you send a campaign with a link that directs contacts to your website, you can set up an automation to award contacts one point for opening/reading the email, two points for clicking on your link, and three points for visiting a certain page of your website.

    If a contact takes all of those actions, they become six points closer to reaching the next threshold—because of one email you sent. If they continue to engage with your campaigns, that behavior will be reflected in their lead score because of your automation.

    Tip: You can create labels to keep your automations organized. Before you build your automations, create a “Lead Scoring” label so you can easily identify and filter automations based on this purpose. Follow this help article if you need guidance on finding and creating labels in your account.

    You can also leverage automation recipes as you begin building your lead scoring automation strategy. Here are just a few to review:

    You can discover more of ActiveCampaign’s recipes here

    Determine Point Decay

    Point decay is an important part of your lead-scoring framework. If your contacts don’t stay engaged, their scores should decrease in value over time to reflect that.

    You determine point decay when you create your lead score rules and set a time for each rule’s points to expire:

    In general, we recommend setting all points to expire after 60 days. It’s a good practice to allow contacts two months (60 days) of no action before you begin to subtract points from the scores. This provides a flexible starting point so you can change it more aggressively (30 days) or be more lenient (90 days), depending on what works for your business.

    Ultimately, your point decay rate should be based on the length of your sales cycle. So, if your sales cycle lasts six months, you should keep those points intact for six months—a longer decay rate than you would have for a cycle that lasts just 30 days.

    You can also utilize automations to subtract points by configuring the “Adjust a contact store” action step accordingly. 


    By applying the principles in this guide to your business, you should be set up with a foundational lead-scoring framework allowing you to easily identify your most engaged contacts.

    Remember, always start by setting up your lead scoring basics, then spend some time monitoring the scores of your contacts. Do the contact’s scores accurately reflect their levels of engagement? Does the contact’s lead score align with where the contact is at in your sales cycle?

    If not, adjust and refine your system as needed. Whatever the length of your sales cycle, expect it to take at least that long to understand if your current system settings are working. 

    Once you establish a system that’s working effectively for your business, you will find that lead scoring can become a vital part of your marketing and sales strategy!

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