Everything you want to know about scoring and grading

By: Jon Kane
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If you’re a B2B marketer, I’m willing to bet you’ve had at least one conversation about scoring and grading. Maybe you want to build out a methodology to take advantage of some functionality within your marketing automation tool. Maybe you want to quantify the quality of the audience that your campaigns are reaching. 

It can often be difficult to know how to get started. You’ve probably got lots of questions! What is the difference between a score and a grade? How do I build a methodology? How do I know if it’s working? 

So let’s get into it and dig into why scoring and grading is such a central component of your B2B marketing strategy.

 

Getting started with scoring and grading 

The first step is defining your audiences. For our purposes, we’ll need three groups of people.

First, there is  your ideal customer. Think of this as the customer of your company’s dreams. This customer aligns perfectly with the products/services your business offers and has needs/pains your business provides solutions for. I recommend working with your sales team (or marketing team, if you’re in sales) to clearly define the criteria of your ideal customer profile (ICP).  Haven’t built an ideal customer profile before? Use this template.

Then there are your next best customers. These are customers which satisfy many of the qualities of your ideal customer, but not all. They may be missing the mark in some categories, but in general are still aligned with and can benefit from your business offerings.

There are also opportunistic customers. These are the ones you are not actively pursuing, but if they come to you, you will not say no. Any prospect that is outside of your total addressable market, you need to avoid.

To identify one from the others, you need to start by gathering some important data about your prospects and build out a model that will allow you to do two things: 

  1. Define who in your market you should target
  2. Define who you absolutely need to avoid, no matter what 

You can do that by looking at who they are and what they do. The weight of these two things are calculated through a grade and a score.

 

Who they are

There are certain key data points that help you decide quickly if someone is a good fit with your idea of what your ICP looks like. You can use information like “job title”, “country”, “number of employees” or “annual revenue” to create a full profile of what your ideal customer looks like. 

ideal customer scoring grading brainrider

You’ll find this infographic in the Ideal Customer Template. 

You need to be very clear which values (and which combination of values) are most aligned with your ideal customer. A handy question to ask yourself as you work through this is: “What qualities of  a prospect would make me want to hand them to our sales leader immediately?

Your answers will help define your criteria and will determine the prospect’s grade. For example, if you sell to large-scale B2B healthcare technology companies and you consider this a top criteria for your ICP, a company that falls within that criteria would have a higher grade than say a small B2B healthcare tech company, and more so than a small B2C company. This gives you a grade that can be used to determine how aligned this individual is with your ideal customer profile. But it doesn’t mean anything more than that. 

It doesn’t mean that they’ll be more receptive to your value proposition, and it doesn’t mean they are more likely to be experiencing the challenges that your product or service helps with. For that kind of insight, we need to look at their behavior.

 

What they do

So how do you know that someone is interested in what you have to offer? Simple: you look for signals that they’re experiencing a challenge that you can help them with. This is the foundation of B2B content marketing: figure out what your ideal customer’s needs and pains are, understand how your product or service can help them, and then try to get the word out! 

When you understand your ideal customer and their unique needs and pains, you can then identify the signals that communicate those needs and pains. Once you’ve defined those signals, then you can put a number against it. The nuance is around certainty and urgency. The more certain you are that their activity signals that they have an interest in what you have to offer, the higher the score. The more urgent their need is, the higher the score. 

Building out a scoring methodology is simple: create a list of pain points that define your ideal customer fit and then create a list of actions that may suggest a specific pain point. You can then go through a weighting process and evaluate what determines a good signal (someone going to the pricing page on your website vs someone going to a highly technical blog post about how your organization solves a specific problem), and how urgent their need might be (how much has their score jumped in the last 5 days?). Your model should also include signals that suggest the opposite—for example if they’ve been inactive for a long period of time or if they show interest in your careers page.

 

Implementing your scoring and grading methodology

With a scoring and grading methodology in place, it’s time to decide what to actually do with it. You need to figure out when someone might be ready for a conversation with sales. Unfortunately, this is guesswork, and anyone who says different is lying. The threshold for sales readiness will shift depending on what combination of score and grade someone has. It’ll look something like this:

  • When score is X and grade is B or higher, send to sales
  • When score is X+50 and grade is C, send to sales
  • When score is X+100, and grade is higher than F, send to sales

You then have to have a regular check-in with your sales team about these leads that are being handed over. Are they of good quality? Are there too many? Not enough? Do they truly have the challenges that your model is inferring? Are your signals of urgency accurate? This is where you can begin refining your “guess” as well as where you can start to incorporate nuances, both in how the score and/or grade is constructed and when you define sales readiness.

 

Understanding your ideal customer and their pain points

Put through this lens, the challenge faced by B2B marketers is laid bare. To be effective, you need to have a clear view of your ideal customer, their needs and pains, and how your product or service helps remedy that pain. 

The problem, then, is that marketing is rarely close enough to the customer to have that complete view. Within most B2B organizations there’s a clear hierarchy of who has access to the full picture of your ideal customer. It goes:

  1. Customer support/service
  2. Product
  3. Sales
  4. Marketing

Marketing needs to build relationships with other teams in order to get that clear view, and to know what questions to ask to get the complete picture. This is why sales enablement is so important, but also not enough. You need to go beyond sales and continue to communicate with the teams that deal with customer problems on a daily basis, folding those conversations into your understanding of your ideal customer. 

A scoring and grading methodology is not a silver bullet to drive more pipeline. It’s not going to significantly increase volume. But it is going to influence quality. It’s going to enhance the value of the conversations your sales team are going to have. And it’s going to help bring focus and impact to your marketing efforts. By dialing in on what your ideal customer looks like, it’ll help you find more of them.

 

Where to start?

Now that you understand what a scoring and grading methodology can do, and how it can help, you may be wondering what to do with this information. The best way to figure out a methodology is simply to start. Have conversations with customer-facing teams in your company, make an assumption, test it for a few months, and rework and iterate as you collect more data. Only then can you judge its validity, by seeing what type of prospects are flagged as “good” and comparing that to what your sales team thinks. The goal isn’t to have the perfect model, it is to have a better idea of the common behaviors and traits of your ideal customers. 

 

Next steps:

Not sure where to start to determine the qualities of your ideal customer? This template will help you create your ideal customer profile so that you can drive high-quality leads that generate revenue growth. 

 

About Brainrider

Brainrider is a B2B marketing and creative agency. We provide content, web, and digital marketing services through a flexible resource model to meet your business’s specific needs. We’re focused on helping you achieve your business objectives and identifying opportunities for continuous improvement so you’ll always stay ahead of the curve. Contact us here. 

Jon Kane

Jon Kane

Director of Client Service

Jon has spent his career proving how a deep understanding of customer needs can be combined with creativity and technology to help drive real business results. At Brainrider, a B2B digital marketing agency, he leads a team of B2B marketers dedicated to creating strong client relationships while helping to build their marketing and sales pipeline. Jon’s experience of B2B marketing, web, content and technology allows him to provide key strategic input and guidance to clients of all sizes and in all industries.