How to Optimize Buyer Engagement with Personalized Lead Scoring

lead scoring recap

Marketo Summit 2016 Recap: Lessons from Generation Z on Efficiency

“It’s not customization or personalization, it’s individualization.”
— Jamie Gutfreund , Global Chief Marketing Officer, Wunderman

I just returned from Marketo Summit 2016 in Las Vegas. This wasn’t my first tour of duty, so I was pretty much expecting all of the usual suspects to deliver nuggets of wisdom —especially by marketing giants like Sanjay Dholakia, CMO of Marketo. And I wasn’t disappointed. However, I was looking for that rare session or two that is both groundbreaking and helpful. I finally found what I was looking for when I stumbled into Jamie Gutfreund’s keynote on lead scoring, buyer engagement, and Generation Z, which was like a much-needed shot of espresso.

So what was so exciting about Gutfreund’s talk? Well, for starters, Gutfreund, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Wunderman, revealed findings of a recent study on Generation Z produced in conjunction with the Berggruen Institute and Penn Schoen Berland (PSB). Who is Gen Z?

This group is comprised of those who are 11-20 years of age and have lived their entire lives with instant access to massive data on any topic that interests them. In this sense, they are not just digital natives, they are actually “data natives.” Whereas previous generations had to rely on teachers, parents and other authorities for information, these data natives aren’t bound by these constraints and can access info when they need it and get to work. They are also technologically savvy and are more prone to programming video games, as one example, than simply playing them.

But according to Gutfreund, those 18 and under don’t like how the world is going. In fact, 84% of them have no confidence in brands, governments and politicians. So it’s really tough to get them as loyal consumers. To leverage digital marketing and marketing automation effectively for this demographic, you have to have your “data act together”.

The key is efficiency. A 13-year-old, who became an inadvertent spokesperson for Gen Z, once famously said to Mashable in an article about why Facebook is losing teens is that when she was 10 she dreamed of getting a Facebook account of her own, but once she got it, everything started changing. There was too much going on, and the way Facebook shifted to the timeline design was too sudden and made it difficult to use.

She compared Facebook’s poor design to the streamlined design and user experience of Twitter: “Look at something like Twitter, where it’s four buttons — people like the ‘simple’ design better.” Those of her generation felt that Facebook had become too “complicated.” In short, Facebook was inefficient.

So she left Facebook, along with millions of other teens, to social networks like Instagram and Snapchat designed with efficiency in mind. The bottom line is that if you make things too complicated and make your end-user work too hard to do something that can and should be effortless, you will lose them.

Gutfreund eloquently explained: “Gen Z is saying ‘You’ve got my data. What are you going to do? Better make it efficient for me.’ That’s why I want it optimized. I think for marketers, the key shift is not about more transactions; it’s about making transactions easier. There’s a difference.

They don’t want to be sold, but they also want those transactions to be much more seamless. They want it to be efficient.” In short, Gen Z expects a value exchange for their data which is based upon a currency of efficiency. For these reasons, Gutfreund has astutely labeled Gen Z the Optimization Generation.

I know what you’re thinking: “What does Gen Z have to do with marketing to B2B decision makers?” While these findings are critical for marketing to Gen Z, they are also helpful for understanding how to do B2B data-driven marketing in a climate where efficiency, and not perfection, is becoming the key differentiator.

In a time where buyers are increasingly willing to exchange their data for efficiency, connecting with them — indeed engaging with them — means creating “experiences” that are not only consistent, but also go beyond mere personalization: “It’s not customization or personalization, it’s individualization.” Individualization can be summed up via video game experiences. Video games aren’t personalized for gamers — the end user.

Instead, the gamer is in the video game. The product isn’t personalized for the user, the product is the experience. This is how you build consistent and seamless experiences for buyers who were weaned on data, not whole foods. In other words, individualization is not just how you keep the Optimization Generation engaged, it’s also how you keep B2B buyers, who now have instant access to data, engaged.

Part II: How Do You Get Your Data Act Together?

The question really becomes how do you create consistent and seamless experiences for your buyers? How do you make personalization or individualization a part of your everyday marketing campaign to help generate quality leads, grow pipeline, and drive revenue?

Of all the sessions I attended, I felt Heidi Bullock’s session, “Marketing Analytics to Optimize Each Step of the Buyer Journey from Acquisition to Advocacy” best answered this question. As VP of Demand Generation at Marketo, Bullock is responsible for increasing pipeline and growing revenue. Bullock began her talk with a simple but obvious truth — which is that buyers have changed, so our marketing needs to change.

lead scoring buyer engagement

Like Gutfreund, Bullock argues that buyers today, who are data-rich, have high standards, which makes it particularly difficult to engage them.

Bullock also suggests that analytics are essential to marketers because it is our job to “get the best return possible with your budget” and to “know what works” so we can get the best possible ROI. In short, Bullock presents a compelling case that optimization in and of itself is critical for great marketing. Put another way — marketing is now optimization.

Although Bullock’s talk was ostensibly on marketing analytics, from my perspective it was really a crash course on how to engage your buyer to generate high-quality leads that will turn into opportunities — or how to get your “data act together”.

For Bullock, getting your “data act together” really begins with personalization based upon buyer personas and a well-mapped-out buyer journey coupled with segmented nurture tracks continually optimized through lead scoring.

The first part of this equation is actually quite simple and is pretty much common practice in most modern marketing departments. You develop 3-5 detailed buyer personas and then map highly targeted content to specific stages in the buyer’s journey.

By serving up unique, highly targeted content for a specific buyer at their specific stage in the journey, you effectively “personalize” their journey. There are a number of tools and techniques data-driven marketers can use to generate entertaining, educational, and inspirational content.

However, this journey is broken down into 3 general stages: (1) Early Stage or Awareness, (2) Middle Stage or Evaluation and (3) Late Stage or Purchase. I actually break it down even further into nine discrete stages, but three is a great place to start. As a data-driven marketer, your goal should be to serve personalized content at each stage:

Buyer Journey Content Map
Stage Type Gated
Early Stage:
Research Data, funny videos, curated lists, infographics, thought leadership, blog posts No
Middle Stage:
Buying Guides, RFP templates, ROI calculators, whitepapers, analyst reports, webinars, training videos Yes
Late Stage:
Pricing, demos, services information, 3rd party reviews, customer case studies, custom executive presentations Mostly No

But in their quest to “personalize” the buyer’s journey, most marketers stop there. They don’t take the next step which is leveraging data to truly “individualize” the buyer’s journey. And that next step is Lead Scoring.

According to Bullock, Lead Scoring is “the shared sales and marketing methodology for ranking leads in order to determine sales readiness”. Going further, Marketo’s Big List of Lead Scoring Rules claims that leads should be scored based on the interest they show in your business, place in the buying cycle and their fit with regard to your business. It sounds really basic, but it’s actually quite powerful.

lead scoring methodology

So how do you develop a lead scoring methodology? You start by considering 4 main criteria:

  • Lead Fit: How well does a lead correspond to the ideal profile sales and marketing have agreed on? Is the company the right size? Do they generate enough revenue?
  • Lead Interest: Based upon explicit interactions with the lead, how interested do they appear to be in purchasing your solution?
  • Lead Behavior: What implicit behavior have you observed? How many times have they visited your website? Have they downloaded a whitepaper or report? Did they submit a “get more information” request?
  • Buyer Stage and Timing: How far along are they on their buying journey? Are they early, middle, or late stage? Do they need to purchase marketing technology in the immediate future?

Notice that buyer stage and timing is only one of four criteria. The system you use to score a lead could be points, alphabetical (ABCD), or temperature (Hot, Warm, Cold), but the important point is that as a buyer travels through their journey, their “score” will change over time. By carefully analyzing your data, the lead will accrue points as any one of the four conditions changes. If nurtured correctly, a buyer’s lead score should increase/improve the further along they are in their journey.

But lead scoring cannot stand alone. Bullock recommends developing two types of nurture programs that will help you leverage the data — one for acquisition and another for retention marketing.

While many marketers currently have functional nurture tracks, they usually only have one for both acquisition and retention and they restrict their program to email. In contrast, Bullock recommends developing an email nurture track for retention marketing, but then developing a separate multi-channel track for acquisition.

lead scoring nurture track

So how do you develop a multi-channel nurture track? You want to get out of your email comfort zone and employ a few different channels to optimize your nurture program. Below is a sample of what a multi-channel acquisition nurture track might look like:

90-Day Multi-Channel Acquisition Nurture Track
Day 1 — Website personalization based offer
Day 10 — Follow-up with introductory email
Day 15 — Email offering new content related to first download and subsequent web site activity
Day 30 — Personal email from sales rep
Day 45 — Email best practices whitepaper
Day 60 — Social campaign on email best practices
Day 75 — Website personalization and banner ads to promote webinar series
Day 85 — Personal email from sales rep offering a product demo
Day 90 — Personalized ad on facebook using targeting

What you notice in this acquisition nurture track is that website and not email is the first communication and that social media and display ads are used. When email is employed, it is often highly personalized and coupled with other assets or events to create a truly personalized and engaged experience.

What’s more, as you continue to measure and analyze your program data and update your lead’s score, you can then serve different content at each stage of this nurture, effectively optimizing it while simultaneously providing not just a customized or personalized experience, but a truly “individualized” experience.

One critical channel that can help data-driven marketers deliver both personalized and “individualized” experiences that you can then integrate into your cross-channel marketing campaigns is in-person events. If you really want to get your data act together, you’ll want to review this infographic which shows exactly how to integrate attendee session interests and engagement scoring into marketing automation to increase buyer engagement and drive demand for your solutions.

It is through lead scoring and the careful management of data, that you can go beyond merely personalizing content for your audience to actually individualizing it — making the experience so seamless and so efficient that buyers are willing to exchange their data for it.

Marketers have to think of new ways for their prospects to engage with their content without making them have to work for it. Generation Z teaches B2B marketers the importance of the buyer experience, and how to leverage the data captured from that experience to inform and implement effective lead nurturing campaigns. By optimizing the event experience, B2B marketers let data-natives inform their marketing strategy and most importantly, get their data act together.

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