Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Marketing Automation Requirements for Start-Up Software Companies

Jay Famico at Sirius Decisions posted a blog Marketing Automation Platforms: Minimum Requirements  where he identified 16 key requirements for marketing automation that break out into campaign management, lead management, and platform management capabilities.  That blog inspired me to share some thoughts on a start-up software company perspective on marketing automation.  And since I’m an independent blogger, I’m going to discuss my opinions on some specific solutions.  I’m not claiming to have done a thorough review of all the possible marketing solutions, but I’ve done multiple start-ups and I’ll present some ideas on the kinds of solutions that I would consider based on my experiences.

A start-up’s perspective on marketing automation is that the company has some specific marketing projects or processes that it needs to execute and it’s looking for practical solutions.  The company is constrained by funding and by the expertise of the people executing the marketing programs.  The company usually buys just what it needs (unless it just closed a round of funding and is evaluating platforms to meet future growth). 

From a start-up perspective, the company needs a CRM solution to store leads, an email marketing solution, and a solution for registration on landing pages.  The company may or may not have a website.  As the company gets funding, then integration between platforms, lead scoring, lead nurturing, campaign management, inbound marketing, and analytics become more important.  And there might be other specific needs like surveys, event management, or webinars.

The Stealth Start-up with Quarterly Marketing Budget = $0
Stealth Start-Up Recommendation:  There’s a full range of free marketing tools that you can use

I’ve worked with two stealth start-ups and free was my most important criteria.  The stealth start-up is a pre-A-round company.  The company may be trying to go to market without getting VC money.  They may be using their own money, angel funding, or money from a grant or competition to try to get the business going.  The company might have handful of prospect leads that are involved in providing feedback or beta testing early product releases.  The stealth start-up doesn’t have a marketing budget.  The company needs a CRM solution to track leads, email marketing to keep in touch with leads, and registration (landing) pages to generate new leads.  Integration of these capabilities is not a requirement.

I’d start by looking for a free CRM solution.  I’d look for a basic solution to keep track of contact information, notes, and email opt out.  Since Salesforce.com no longer offers a free version, I’d choose a solution like Zoho CRM that is free for 3 users and up to 5000 records.  When the company grows, we could always migrate the data to a different system.

For email marketing, I’d look at something like Mail Chimp that offers free email marketing for up to 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.  I’d also look for a free landing page solution to support registration and download for lead gen campaigns.  You could also build landing pages as a web forms on your website if you have resources to do that.  My experience with web-to-lead or website web forms is that you also need to add some sort of Captcha solution to avoid generating spam leads.  These web forms usually aren’t integrated with CRM so you’ll have to import the registration data into your CRM system. 

There are plenty of other free tools that you can use for surveys (Survey Monkey), analytics (Google Analytics), SEO (Google Keyword Planner), competitive analysis (Hubspot Website Grader, Google Keyword Planner), and the list goes on.  Of course Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and SlideShare are free places to engage prospects.  If you have a marketing need, there’s a very good chance that there’s a free solution out there.  It may have ads, it may not be integrated, and it may not work perfectly, but it’s free.

The Boot Strap Start-Up with Quarterly Marketing Budget <K$100
Bootstrap Start-Up Recommendation:  Enterprise-class CRM, stand alone marketing capabilities with some integration with CRM, continued heavy use of free marketing solutions.

I worked at one Boot Strap Start-Up and there was some marketing budget, but free and do-it-yourself marketing were very important.  A Boot Strap Start-Up has some investment, but the amount is too small to consider it an A round.  In this case, there is some marketing budget in the tens of thousands of dollars per quarter.

In this scenario, I’d be looking for a CRM solution that is affordable and that can grow with the company.  I’ve used Salesforce.com at every start-up so I tend to recommend that platform.  However, there may be other compelling business or technology reasons to consider Zoho, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM or other CRM solutions.

Your email marketing needs to look more professional, you’re sending email more frequently to bigger lists, the tracking and analytics on your email is starting to become important, and integrating email campaigns with your CRM system is important.  However, the budget still can’t afford a marketing automation platform.  I’d be looking at stand alone email marketing platforms that have strong integration with the CRM system for uploading lists, syncing email opt out, and tracking email campaign history.  I won’t even try to review email marketing platforms, but the last time I was in a start-up with small marketing budgets, I settled on Vertical Response because I felt it had the best integration with Salesforce.com, good email analytics, and a pay-as-you go model.

In this scenario, I’ve used Salesforce.com web-to-lead registration forms as a low cost way to create landing pages.  The only downsides to using web-to-lead forms are that you usually need to add a Captcha solution and a web-to-lead form will generate duplicate leads in your CRM system.  So you need to be prepared to merge duplicates when using web-to-lead forms.

For any requirements like segmentation, analytics, nurturing, or lead scoring, I’d be looking for DYI solutions.  Run reports in Salesforce.com and analyze the data in Excel to create your segmentation.  Then manually create and schedule a series of nurture emails at that targeted list.  Build your lead scoring formulas in Salesforce.com using formula fields and workflow/field updates.  And for more extensive tracking, start using Google URL builder to tag your links with URL parameters that can be tracked in Google Analytics and Adwords.  I would still use all the free tools for SEO and keyword analysis.

The A Round Start-up with Quarterly Marketing Budget >K$100
A-Round Start-Up Recommendation:  Either a basic or full feature marketing automation platform

I’ve worked at two A round start-ups.  With more substantial marketing budgets, there is a much wider range of solutions to consider.  At this stage, I’m assuming you have an enterprise-class CRM solution and I’ve used Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition in those start-ups.  With this level of budget, you’re building more complex and automated marketing capabilities.  Integration between solutions is important.  Analytics capabilities are important.  Easy is also important because even though you have a bigger budget, you still don’t have lots of people with the expertise to drive all these capabilities.

In my opinion, this is where you get into the marketing automation platform decision.  Do you buy into the Hubspot vision?  Do you get an entry level marketing automation platform like Act-On.  Or do you go for a full-feature marketing automation solution like Marketo, Eloqua, SilverPop, or Pardot.

These tools provide email marketing, landing pages, registration forms, tracking, lead scoring, lead nurturing, and more.  They all are tightly integrated with Salesforce.com and with webinar platforms.  They all have some level of integration with social networking.  The pricing for these systems ranges from a couple hundred to a couple thousand of dollars per month (and their sales reps will usually provide a deep discount for first-time accounts).  If you look at one of my earlier posts on my blog, I provided a list of criteria that I used for evaluating marketing automation platforms.

Now, I’ll share my personal opinions on these platforms.  And full disclosure, I’ve used and/or tested Act-On, Marketo, Eloqua, and Manticore.  I haven’t used HubSpot, but I know a number of people that have used it.  For a basic, easy to use marketing automation platform, Act-On is a great solution.  It’s a basic marketing automation platform with a friendly, intuitive user interface.  However, it has limited capabilities.  So if you’re just getting started with marketing automation, Act-On is a great place to get started and then as your needs grow, you can consider migrating to another platform.

For a full-featured marketing automation platform, I’ve been using Marketo for 3 years and I’m very satisfied with that decision.  We migrated from Eloqua to Marketo because Marketo’s capabilities were more accessible to a non-programmer.  A strong marketing person can implement most of Marketo’s capabilities.  Whereas accessing the same capabilities in Eloqua often required javascript programming or outsourcing the development to a consultant.  Eloqua is an impressive solution, but in my opinion, you need to have technical resources or a deep marketing budget to be successful using their platform.  I’ve looked at SilverPop and Pardot and my impression is that these platforms are closer to Marketo in terms of ease of use.

I’ve never used HubSpot and I’ve never really understood what’s differentiated about their platform.  I can build tracking for leads from any channel whether the lead came from outbound, social media, or organic lead sources in any of the marketing automation solutions.  All the marketing automation solutions have landing pages, integration with Salesforce.com, analytics, lead scoring, and lead nurturing.  There are plenty of free and paid SEO and keyword tools.  And from talking to people in my network, I haven’t heard of anyone having a huge success or a huge failure using HubSpot.  So from my perspective, HubSpot is another marketing automation solution and you just have to assess its capabilities relative to your needs and budget.  In other words, don’t get caught up in HubSpot’s marketing message and do an objective assessment based on your marketing automation requirements.

The High Growth Start-up with Quarterly Marketing Budget > K$250

Okay, you just got a big round of funding and you’re planning for big growth and expansion.  In my opinion, at this level of funding, you should really be leveraging the full extent of your marketing automation platform.  I’d be focusing primarily on full featured marketing automation platforms.  I’ve seen a number of companies using Hubspot just for inbound marketing and a marketing automation platform like Eloqua for everything else.  You may start getting into more advanced or specific capabilities like data cleansing/appending (e.g. Data.com, DiscoverOrg, RainKing).  You may look into solutions that automatically populate account names on form fields.  Or you might start testing online retargeting solutions or adding e-commerce and subscription management capabilities.  An enterprise class CRM solution and a full-feature marketing automation platform will be important to integrate more advanced capabilities.  At this point, you’re getting sophisticated enough to figure this out yourself so I’ll end my comments here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How to Add SSL to Marketo Landing Pages

Adding SSL encryption to Marketo Landing Pages

When we wanted to implement SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption on our Marketo landing pages, I found that there was very little information available.  We needed SSL for a free trial registration and account creation process built on a Marketo landing page.  This blog post will share the details of implementing SSL in Marketo.  I’ll save the discussion about building a trial registration system in Marketo for a future post.

What is SSL and why would you want to implement it on Marketo landing pages? 

At a very high level, SSL on a Marketo landing page enables encryption so the information that a user types into their browser onto a Marketo registration form is secure (from the browser into the form).  In our use case, we built a software free trial registration system integrated with Marketo and Salesforce.com.  We built a highly customized Marketo landing page that let the user register for the free trial and generate a password to activate a software license.  Since the user is creating their own password and entering it onto the Marketo form, the password field must be encrypted from the user’s browser to the Marketo form field.  Consequently, you need to implement SSL on your Marketo instance to secure the password creation process.

There’s very little information available on implementing SSL in Marketo

When we went to research this topic, there was little to no information available in the Marketo community or Google search.  Marketo sent us a PDF document describing their service for implementing SSL, but other than that we had to ask a lot of questions and then go through it ourselves to understand all the details.  We contacted Marketo support and they put us in touch with the Marketo Services team.  Even then, the Marketo Services team only has a high-level understanding of the process and we had to reach back into their organization to find the implementation people that could answer our questions.

Implementing SSL on Marketo

At a high level, implementing SSL on Marketo consists of the following:

  1. Purchase the service from Marketo to implement SSL and schedule a date to deploy it
  2. Buy a SSL certificate and give it to Marketo
  3. Update your Marketo landing page templates to prepare for the transition to SSL
  4. Deploy SSL on Marketo and work with your IT department to update your DNS record and TTL value
  5. Fix any Marketo landing page template issues that you might have missed

Marketo says that it will take approximately 2-3 weeks to schedule and complete the process after receiving the SSL certificate from you.  The Marketo team is working in the Pacific Time zone so the window for scheduling the change is during normal business hours Pacific Time.  Marketo says that it takes 30 minutes to complete the process.  Since you probably have a live instance of Marketo, you’ll want to schedule the change at a time when there won’t be significant traffic hitting your Marketo landing pages and give yourself enough time to test and fix any potential issues after the switch is made.  The change is fast, but I would plan for a 2 hr window when traffic to your landing pages is light.  We also set our email marketing schedule to avoid driving traffic to our landing pages on the day of the changeover.  Typically, when we send an email, 98% of the total clicks occur within the first two days of sending the email.  Also, there’s a short availability outage during the transition.  Anyone hitting one of your Marketo landing pages during the transition will be re-directed to your fallback page.  Your fallback page is a setting in Marketo that defines the url that a visitor will be redirected to if Marketo is not available.  So you should check your fallback page setting in Marketo before you deploy.

Our IT department had all sorts of questions about buying the SSL certificate that weren’t covered in the Marketo documentation.  The SSL certificate must be for at least a 2 year term.  Our IT department asked for information on the server that the certificate would be installed on.  Marketo told us that they’re running an Apache load balancing server.  When you switch to SSL you get a dedicated external IP address for your landing pages and there’s a set of IP addresses related to the web servers behind the load balancer.  There isn’t a specific server that the certificate will be installed on.  You just need to buy the certificate and give it to Marketo.  The information that we added on the CSR (Certificate Signing Request) was the common name (CNAME) of our Marketo instance and then all the Org information was our company information.  You’ll also need to give Marketo the private key.

When the switch occurs, you’re on the phone with the Marketo team during the process.  Some of the following detail in this section goes beyond my expertise, but I’ll share what I know.  When you make the switch, the IP address associated with your landing pages changes the CNAME from companyname.mktoweb.com to companyname-ssl.mktoweb.com.  Your IT department needs to change the DNS record from the old CNAME to the new SSL CNAME.  Then Marketo will verify if they can see the new DNS values in their network and make final changes to their systems to allow SSL on your landing pages.  During the change, your IT department will need to lower the TTL value for the DNS record associated with your Marketo url.  Lowering the TTL value is the process that updates the new CNAME (url) across your DNS.  If the TTL is set too high (long), then some DNS might still cache the old CNAME and some visitors might not hit the SSL landing page.  Our IT department was concerned that lowering the TTL value might impact other systems.  It turned out that they were able to lower the TTL value just for the Marketo url and the changes were deployed very quickly.  After you complete the switch, you can return the TTL value to its previous level.

Preparing our landing pages for the switch to SSL also required some effort.  In our case, our Marketo landing page templates were designed by our web team to pull the CSS and images from our corporate website.  We have one set of Marketo landing page templates that pull the header, footer, and CSS from our corporate website so these Marketo landing pages look like you’re still on our corporate website.  When you switch your Marketo landing pages to SSL, if you pull any images or CSS from outside of Marketo into your landing page templates, then that will cause a warning message to appear every time someone visits your landing pages.  The warning message will say:  Do you want to view only the webpage content that was delivered securely?

To avoid that bad user experience, all of the images and CSS for your Marketo landing page templates and landing pages need to reside in Marketo (Design Studio).  In our case, that meant that our web team had to rebuild our landing page templates inside Marketo. That also meant that we had to reapprove every landing page using the revised templates.  Inevitably, we missed something, but it was obvious as soon as we switched on SSL.  It turned out that we missed moving the footer images into Marketo.  That was relatively minor, but it’s an example of how easy it is to miss a small detail in this process.  For us, this also meant that we now had separate images and CSS for the corporate website and our Marketo landing page templates.  And when changes occurred on our corporate website, we didn’t always have the resources to keep the Marketo templates in sync.  Of course, if all the images and CSS for your Marketo landing pages and templates are in Design Studio already, then this won’t be an issue for you.

Some additional questions that might come up

When you switch to SSL, any pre-existing http: links to your Marketo landing pages are automatically redirected to the https: link for the landing page.  So you don’t have to worry about breaking pre-existing links to Marketo landing pages from your corporate website or in old emails or banner ads.

The dedicated external IP address for your SSL Marketo landing pages is completely different from a dedicated IP address for email.  The two have nothing to do with each other.

The cost to add SSL is affordable.  Marketo charges a reasonable service fee to make the change and then it's just the cost of a 2 year SSL certificate that you buy.  Marketo will not buy the SSL certificate for you.

Overall, adding SSL to Marketo was pretty straightforward after getting answers to all of our questions.  However, there are a lot of parts to the process and it was time consuming to get to the right person that could answer all of our questions.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Building Lead Scoring Models in Marketo and Salesforce.com

Building Lead Scoring Models in Marketo and Salesforce.com
The theory, practice, and realities of lead scoring

In this blog post, I’ll share my experience building and using lead scoring models in Marketo and Salesforce.com.  I’ll share what worked and what didn’t work, as well as some insights on organizational challenges that can impact lead scoring models.  Ultimately, one of the primary goals of lead scoring is to get sales and marketing aligned with respect to lead quality.  Lead scoring helps marketing focus on lead quality over lead volume and it helps sales prioritize their follow up on leads.  Getting sales and marketing on the same page with a lead scoring model helps eliminate the classic argument that occurs when marketing says “look at all the leads that we delivered” and sales says “all the leads are junk.”  However, building that alignment and developing a lead scoring model that really works is challenging.

First, let’s start with some background.  I was at a start-up years ago - before lead scoring and lead nurturing were common marketing topics.  I did some analysis on the demographics and behavior of leads that converted into won opportunities.  The behavior data consisted of Salesforce.com campaign data and website page visits.  What I found was that certain sets of demographic values and behavior activity had high correlation with won opportunities.  This suggested to me that if I could acquire certain types of leads and then drive a series of marketing campaigns at them to engage them with the optimum behavior profile, then those leads would have a higher probability of converting into won opportunities.  The behavior activity was a model for what a lead needed to do to understand the value of our solution.  It was a powerful learning experience, seeing this set of demographic and behavior data associated with leads that turned in won opportunities.

Fast forward to today, I’m going to assume that most people reading this blog are familiar with lead scoring.  At a high level, you’re assigning scores to attributes related to individual leads (demographics), their company (firmographics), their behavior (e.g. campaign engagement, pages visited), and BANT attributes.  BANT covers any questions that capture information about Budget, Authority, Needs, or Timing.  Examples of BANT questions might be: do you have a budget, what is your role in evaluating or purchasing these solutions, what is your most critical challenge.  And each of the BANT questions would have a pick list of potential responses.

How do you get started building lead scoring models

Building lead scoring models is a joint exercise with the sales and marketing teams.  You go through a discussion where you define the attributes of an ideal lead using insights and data from both the sales and marketing teams.  You’ll probably come up with a big list and you’ll need to prioritize the questions to define which ones make it into the model.

We built separate demographic, behavior, and BANT lead scoring models instead of one overall combined lead scoring model.  We designed separate lead scoring models because we wanted the sales reps to be able to see what was driving a high lead score. 

Next we defined a point scale range for each lead score model.  The Demographic and BANT lead score models had a maximum value of 100 points.  The Behavior lead score model was uncapped.  I’ll explain later in more detail why we created an uncapped Behavior lead score model.

Then we weighted the importance of each question in each lead score model.  For example, if we had 5 BANT questions on the registration form, a simple approach would be to assign each question a maximum value of 20 points.  However, you can also use uneven weighting.  For example, with a lead scoring model with 5 questions, 2 of the questions could be worth a maximum of 35 points each and the remaining 3 questions could be worth 10 points each (so the maximum possible score is 100 points).  Finally, we discussed each model to decide what would be a meaningful threshold score for the lead to be considered a Marketing Qualified Lead.  You validate your initial models and determine the threshold score for a MQL lead by discussing how existing known leads would score against the lead scoring models.  In our case, we defined score levels for the demographic and BANT lead score models.  We defined A, B, C, and D score ranges across the 100 point system for each lead score model.  A/B were considered good scores and C/D were considered bad scores.

For the behavior score model, we left it uncapped.  As long as a lead kept engaging with campaigns, the lead’s behavior score would continue to increase.  We wanted the behavior score to be able to reflect the history of a lead’s activities.  We went through the same process of determining the threshold at which the behavior score indicated a marketing qualified lead.  We were planning to build an aging factor so any extended periods of inactivity would cause the behavior score to degrade over time.  We also wanted to be able to measure the rate of change of the behavior score.  A lead that engaged in 3 campaigns in 2 weeks might be more valuable than a lead that engaged in 3 campaigns over 3 months.

Finally, we developed two different buyer personas or segments.  We created separate segments for a technical buyer and an economic buyer.  All leads fell into one of these two segments.  Each segment had its own separate point scale system for the behavior score model.  For example, a technical buyer downloading a strategic whitepaper was a low behavior score, but an economic buyer downloading a strategic whitepaper was high behavior score.  For the BANT and demographic lead score models, everyone was scored using the same point system.  However, you could have potentially applied the segmentation to the other lead scoring models.  There are some system considerations in implementing the buyer segmentation that I’ll discuss in more detail later.

Building Lead Scoring Models in Marketo and Salesforce.com

Here are some detailed insights around building the actual lead scoring models in Marketo and Salesforce.com.  We found that certain types of models or formulas worked best in Marketo and others worked best in Salesforce.com.  In general, Marketo is good at adding to a lead score if a condition is met.  Whereas Salesforce.com was better to set a specifc lead score value based on a response to a questin.   We decided that it would be better to handle picklist questions with formulas and workflow/field updates in Salesforce.com.

Build demographic and BANT lead score models in Salesforce.com

Let’s start by looking at how we built lead scoring for a BANT question.  Suppose the question is What is your budget?  And the picklist of potential answers is a) I don’t have a budget = zero points, b) project is approved, but no budget yet = 15 points  c) project and budget are approved = 25 points.

In Marketo, you would build a Smart Campaign.  You would have to trigger on form submits and data value change across a wide range of fields.  Then the Flow logic would be:  if data value changes, value is “project and budget are approved”, then +25.  And you would create flow logic for the other picklist values.  The weakness with applying this flow step for lead scoring because it is an Additive function.  If the lead submitted the form a second time and changed the answer, Marketo would add an additional score value to the lead score total.  What we wanted was a formula that would set a specific value based on the picklist value. 
We chose to implement the scoring for that type of picklist question by using formula fields and workflows with field updates in Salesforce.com.  The Salesforce.com approach to building that lead score calculation would be to create a formula with CASE or IF statements based around the picklist values.

Another limitation of using the Data Value Changes trigger in Marketo is that Data Value Changes only triggers on existing leads.  When a lead is created for the first time in Marketo, it does not trigger Data Value Changes.  In Salesforce.com, I prefer to use formula fields over workflow field updates whenever possible.  A formula fires whenever a record is read.  A workflow will only fire when a record is created or edited.  Consequently, I prefer to build scoring models for picklist questions with formula fields in Salesforce.com.

In the example of the BANT lead score model, we had five separate BANT questions.  Each BANT question had a set of answers built with a picklist on the field.  Each BANT question had a maximum score and the combined maximum value of all the BANT questions totaled to 100 points.  Using the same BANT question example above where BANT question 1 is worth a maximum of 25 total points, we created a formula for the lead score associated with that specific question.  We created a formula field for the BANT lead score using CASE statements in Salesforce.com.

CASE (BANT1_field_name__c,  “I don’t have a budget”, 0, “project is approved but no budget yet”, 15, “project and budget are approved”, 25) +
CASE (BANT2_field_name__c, “….. etc) +
CASE (BANT3_field_name__c, “….. etc) +
CASE (BANT4_field_name__c, “….. etc) +
CASE (BANT5_field_name__c, “….. etc, 0)

One quick tip, Salesforce.com formulas can be picky when special characters are included in the picklist.  For example, we found that if you include a dash in a picklist, it’s important to not have any leading or trailing spaces around the dash for a formula to work.  For example, this picklist value “100 –  500” would fail in a formula.  Whereas this picklist value “100-500” will work in a formula.  In addition, we found problems when we wrote the formulas in Word and then pasted the text into Salesforce.com.  We had to type the formulas directly into Salesforce.com to get them to work properly.

Build the behavior lead score model in Marketo

Marketo was great for handling the behavior score model because the model was uncapped (i.e. it was not constrained to a maximum of 100 points).  We simply created smart list criteria with flow steps to add points to the behavior score field.  We built separate Behavior Score models for lead gen campaigns (e.g. webinars, whitepapers), inbound contact (e.g. submits a contact us form), free trial registration and activation, and page visits to key pages.  Then each of the individual behavior score models was combined into a total behavior score.  This would enable the sales reps to see what kind of activity was driving the total behavior score value.
Instead of having to create smart lists for every single campaign, we standardized the naming conventions of our Salesforce.com campaigns and used keywords in those campaign naming standards as triggers in a Marketo Smart List.  For example:

Smart List:
Trigger – Status is Changed in SFDC Campaign
Campaign Starts with keywords
New Status is memberstatus
Flow: Change Score
Score Name: Behavior Score Campaign
Change: +25

In addition, we standardized all behavior scores as being high, medium, or low point values.  Then we created tokens for those point values and used tokens in the Marketo Change Score flow steps.

We built separate personas or segments for different buyer roles and each persona had its own set of scoring for the demographic and behavior scoring models.  We created segments for a technical buyer and an economic buyer.  If a technical buyer that downloaded a technical whitepaper, that lead would get a high behavior score, but when an economic buyer that downloaded a technical whitepaper, that lead would get a low behavior score.  We worked with Sales to define different behavior scores to each persona.  To implement those segments, we created smart lists in Marketo that assigned each lead to a segment based on keywords in their job title.  Then we added the Role Segment into the flow steps on the behavior score models.

Perhaps the most painful part of building the behavior lead scoring models was the effort to back score all the existing lead behavior.  We had to create Smart Campaigns to score each individual campaign and run the existing Campaign Members through the flow step once to score the existing leads.


Additional Considerations and Lessons Learned

Data quality is important

Your lead scoring models will only be effective if you have clean, consistent data.  That means you need to establish standards for data values and naming conventions.  You may also have to clean your existing data.  For example, our demographic lead scoring model placed a higher score on Country = United States.  All of our registration forms standardized on “United States” as the value in the picklist for country.  And we cleaned all of the data in Salesforce.com and Marketo so that all the country data with USA, United States of America, US of A, etc., would be converted into United States.  As part of this standardization process, we came up with a consistent naming methodology for our Salesforce.com campaigns and campaign member status values.

The lead scoring models must be easy to use for sales reps

Sales reps don’t want to lose precious time trying to interpret a complex lead scoring model.  That’s where the Score Level fields that translate a lead score into a simple A/B/C/D scale make it easy for a sales rep to see which leads to focus on.  However, the details of the lead scoring models are useful for marketing purposes to be able to get a better understanding of what’s happening with your leads.  So we built fairly complex lead scoring models for marketing analysis, but built fields to simplify the complexity of the models for sales usage.

Registration conversion is impacted by the number of questions on your forms

What happens when you put lots of questions on registration forms?  The expected result is that you get lower conversion rates (higher landing page abandonment).  And that’s what we saw.  Marketing was asked to create a process that required leads to answer 14 questions to be able to register for any content.  8 of the questions were the essential contact information that we needed to create a lead and assign it to a business development rep.  The remaining 6 questions consisted of 1 firmographic (# of employees) and 5 BANT questions.  Compared to our previous registration process where we required only the 8 essential fields, we saw a 25% reduction in conversion rate across all of our landing pages.

An alternative might have been to employ progressive profiling to capturing the data.  Progressive profiling lets you display different questions each time a lead submits a registration form.  In our original model, we were using progressive profiling that captured the complete set of data after two registration form submissions.  However, in this case, Sales insisted that marketing require all 14 questions because their goal was to get to the highest score leads as quickly as possible – regardless of the impact on conversion rates.  The rationale was that highest quality leads would be so interested in our solution that they would be willing to answer 14 questions to get our content.  There was also an assumption that people would answer the BANT questions truthfully.

In addition, we created a poor user experience by making all 14 questions required on all of our registration forms.  That means that if a person wanted to download two pieces of content, then they would have to submit all 14 questions both times.  The good news is that if the Marketo tracking cookie was in place, then the form would pre-populate with the same responses that they submitted previously.

Should you include BANT questions on your registration forms?  

There’s research that shows that BANT data captured on registration forms has very low accuracy.  When you talk to analysts that specialize in marketing and sales process research, they’ll tell you that BANT data is best captured in phone conversations with leads (tele-qualification of leads).  After several months of capturing data, there was no correlation between the BANT score and lead quality.  In fact, we saw the opposite trend that the higher quality leads that moved down the funnel tended to have low BANT scores.  So either the BANT score model was wrong or people tend to lie when filling out forms, or both.  

In our case, the Sales team felt that BANT data was the most critical piece of lead scoring to prioritize their efforts despite the low correlation with lead quality.  So we made a decision to require answers to all of our BANT questions on all registration forms.  That is a significant decision when you consider that requiring 14 questions on our registration forms impacted conversion rates.  Faced with a similar decision, you’ll need to decide for yourself whether capturing data with low accuracy on registration forms is worth the tradeoff in lost conversion. 

Over the course of 12 months, we made 3 revisions to the BANT lead score model and none of them showed strong correlation with actual lead quality.  The revisions were driven by subjective input from the sales team as opposed to analysis of actual customer data.  The reality of lead scoring in a start-up is that you don’t have the bandwidth to spend lots of time analyzing data and you have to make your best possible estimate of how to improve processes and then execute.

It’s important to get executive buy-in on the lead scoring strategy

Ultimately, it’s critical to get executive buy-in on the lead scoring strategy.  Despite what the data and industry best practices may show, if you don’t get buy in for a given strategy, your lead scoring models could evolve in ways that prove to be ineffective.  In our case, the Sales team’s emphasis on the BANT lead score model to prioritize their efforts became the primary focus of our lead scoring efforts.

Final Thoughts

We built some pretty cool lead scoring functionality, but the jury is still out on whether it was effective.  At the end of the day, a lead scoring model only works if the sales team uses it.

Developing a lead scoring model is an important process to help get sales and marketing aligned with a common view of how the lead funnel is performing.  Lead scoring should be a process of continuous improvement and it should be a team process with sales and marketing working together to improve the model.  Start by building your best estimate at a lead scoring model, then capture data and continue to refine the model each quarter.

I’d also like to thank Flora Felisberto for her help in designing, building and testing these lead scoring models.