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Automation Blueprint: Engagement Thermometer

Rutger van der Pol
Rutger van der Pol
Co-founder The Sales Strategist
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How we like to use lead scoring to measure short-term contact engagement

At The Sales Strategist, we like to work with what we call the Engagement Thermometer: a set of rules for lead scoring to gauge the short-term recent engagement of contacts with online assets or digital touchpoints. Instead of a typical set of cumulative points, this is more like a rolling thermometer type of scoring system, as the graph at the bottom of the blueprint shows. The way it is set up, the Engagement Thermometer score reflects very recent engagement of contacts with our marketing and sales touchpoints. In this blog we explain how the Engagement Thermometer works and how you can set it up yourself.

How does lead scoring work?

Lead scoring is a way of automatically assigning scores to leads based on their level of engagement in your product or service and the likelihood that they’ll convert into customers. It is an important tool for marketers to measure the quality of leads and predict future behaviour. It is also an important indication for sales on the level of interest of a contact in a product or service, and therefore allows prioritising of inbound leads.

Lead scoring is a measurement system that helps businesses evaluate the potential of their leads. It should be an important part of your lead generation strategy because it helps you focus on the leads that have the highest potential for closing, while filtering out those who are unlikely to do so. Lead scoring allows you to segment your leads into groups based on their level of interest in your product or service. This helps you target only the most interested leads with your marketing strategies and reduces waste.

Through lead scoring you assign a numeric value — typically between 1 and 100 — to each lead based on its level of engagement with your digital touchpoints. As the lead engages with you over time, the score will increase if they’re showing interest in what you have to offer. Some standard examples of these lead scoring rules are: every time a lead visits your webpage, opens an email, or downloads content, points are automatically added, if a contact unsubscribes from your newsletter, points are subtracted.

In addition to improving the efficiency of your sales team, lead scoring can help improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns by helping you determine which prospects are most likely to convert into customers. The more they engage with you, the better it is for your business. You want to find out what they like so you can continue to deliver that value to them through more content or offerings. In this way, lead scoring helps both salespeople and marketers work together toward common goals – making more sales and generating more revenue from each sale.

A fresh look at lead scoring

We often see that lead scoring is being used to measure engagement over a longer time period. For example, companies set up their lead scoring so that all individual actions score few points, but that over time add up little by little. The problem that arises here is that it does not really reflect an actual engagement score, but it rather shows how long someone has been interacting with your company. To counteract this, rules are often applied that also reduce the number of points, for example by halving the lead score after 90 days, but the design of this way of lead scoring is still very much long-term oriented.

The problem with lead scoring is that it can be difficult to measure short-term engagement in a reliable way. If you’re measuring how long someone has been in touch with your company, it doesn’t say that much about their buyer-readiness. It is not a problem to apply long-term lead scoring, from a marketing perspective that can be very interesting, but we also like to track a more immediate impact lead score. We want something to tell us how engaged our contacts are right now.

That is why we have put together a set of rules for lead scoring that, like a thermometer, provides an immediate insight into the current temperature and, at the same time, can rise quickly and fall again as the temperature changes.

Blueprint for the Engagement Thermometer lead scoring method

How to set it up in HubSpot

One of our preferred tools for streamlining marketing and sales is HubSpot, because the integration of its many marketing and sales features into a single suite is very powerful. We don’t need to go into detail about its benefits now, but you can read more about why it works so well here. There are many different CRMs and marketing automation tools out there that offer lead scoring and it almost always works in pretty much the same way, so the description below is something you can most likely implement yourself without too much modification.

The main idea behind the configuration of the Engagement Thermometer is to program several rules for each individual action a contact undertakes. That is, instead of one rule assigning a point for downloading a white paper, we program five parallel rules that add points for this action, with each rule adding additional points based on the act’s recency. We explain it in an example:

  • 5 points: Recent whitepaper download is less than 3 days ago
  • 4 points: Recent whitepaper download is less than 5 days ago
  • 3 points: Recent whitepaper download is less than 7 days ago
  • 2 points: Recent whitepaper download is less than 10 days ago
  • 1 points: Recent whitepaper download is less than 14 days ago

We see in the rules above that when someone downloads a specific whitepaper, all 5 rules are triggered: the Engagement Thermometer score of the contact immediately goes up by 15 points. At the same time, we also see that each lead scoring rule checks a different historical period: the top rule checks only the last 3 days, while the bottom rule checks the last 14 days. The rule that checks the shortest period awards the highest number of points, which causes the lead score to decrease at a faster rate at the beginning and then at a decreasing rate as time goes by. The reason for this is that in B2B sales, time is very important: we need to be able to identify someone who is engaged now in order to make an impact at the right time. For this type of scoring, we are not interested in a long-lasting score that builds up over months, but we want the lead score to rise very quickly, and also to fall quickly again, depending on the engagement of the contact.

Taking another look at the rules above, the highest number of points can be obtained with the rule that corresponds to the shortest recent time period (the past 3 days). Once these 3 days are over, the top rule no longer applies and the lead score drops by 5 points, 5 days after downloading the white paper the score drops another 4 points. So over time the Engagement Score of the contact drops again.

This way of using lead scoring rules to configure an Engagement Thermometer can be used with any form of lead activity that is normally used for lead scoring, for example:

  • Page views of specific web pages such as your pricing page
  • Recent online form submissions
  • Opens and clicks of marketing emails
  • Registration for and attendance of webinars
  • And you can also set rules for touch points your own team controls within the sales process, such as connected phone calls with a positive outcome, or sales meetings conducted.

Practical applications for short-term lead engagement scores

Lead prioritisation: sales reps can use lead scores to prioritise which leads they should contact first. For example, if they have two leads with equal profiles but one has much higher recent engagement than the other, it makes sense for your sales rep to focus their efforts on that top priority lead first. It is important to emphasise that an indication of engagement should never be a qualification criterion; some contacts know very quickly what they are looking for and go through the buyer cycle faster than others. If you only let sales reps interact with leads when they have a high enough score (i.e. interact often enough with your digital touchpoints), you risk missing out on these fast converting leads.

Sales alerts: If you have target accounts in your CRM (which we strongly recommend), you can use these in combination with the Engagement Thermometer to alert your sales reps when one of these named target accounts starts to engage with your digital touchpoints. You can set a rather low threshold as it concerns a target account you are already interested in, the moment they start to engage you can immediately notify an SDR or AE that they should proactively deal with this account.

Workflow automation: a further possibility is to use the Engagement Thermometer in workflows designed to nurture leads with different branches of content. After these leads have had the opportunity to consume several of these contents, the lead score can be used to create a new branch whereby leads are segmented on if they have sufficient engagement or not, and receive different follow-ups and different content pieces (different content, format, delivery) based on this segmentation.

Sales process analysis: finally, we would like to mention that the Engagement Thermometer can also provide an enormous amount of insight into how well the sales process is working. If at a certain point trends become visible in the moments in which engagement increases or decreases, insights about this can be used to adjust the design of the sales process. For example, after a specific action, such as a webinar or a live demo, it may become visible that the engagement of leads tends to drop off sharply afterwards. In that case, you can look at what needs to be changed in the previous step in order not to lose the interest of these leads.

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