Setting Up Buyer Cycle Scoring in Marketing Automation

Posted by Edward Unthank in Marketing Automation | April 7, 2014

Buyer cycle scoring is a way to determine where prospects are in the buying cycle. Unlike lead scoring, which primarily takes into account how much content prospects engage with, buyer lead scoring tracks the kind of content they consume.

Marketers define the buying cycle in different ways. Some use four stages, some use three, and everyone has smart names for the stages. Yesler defines four stages for the buying cycle, using the acronym ARCD. It stands for:

Awareness. The buyer is aware that a problem exists.

Research. The buyer is working out how to solve the problem.

Consideration. The buyer is thinking about purchasing solutions to address the problem.

Decision. The buyer is specifically comparing your product to other products. (Note: because the Decision phase is related more to the realm of sales, it won’t be discussed here.)

Once you’ve defined the stages of your buying cycle, you can apply buyer cycle scoring to see where your prospects are in the purchasing process.

Why you should do it

Buyer cycle scoring is based on how your buyers think and behave. To do it right, you need to know the stages your prospects go through on their way to buying your product, solution, or services. Identifying where buyers are in the buying cycle and seeing where they get stuck or move forward helps increase the chances that you and your solution will be there when they finally decide to purchase.

Here are some advantages to buyer cycle scoring:

  • Offer more targeted content. Use buyer lead scoring to guide your editorial calendar and priorities. If you don’t have Awareness content that is bringing people in organically, they’ll never hear about your company. If you don’t have any Consideration content that crafts an enticing argument about your solution, you will see a drop-off in lead nurturing. Instead of randomly creating content, you can guide what gets created and where it will have the most impact on your prospects.
  • Gauge lead readiness more effectively. Buyer cycle scoring provides more insight than linear lead scoring. If someone comes in and views your pricing page, office locations, and your clients, for example, that prospect is probably closer to purchase than someone who visits twice as many of your blogs. Linear lead scoring doesn’t show that, even if you have high-value and low-value page views.
  • Align marketing to your buyers. Buyer cycle scoring is aligned to how the buying cycle works, not to how your company is organized. Using it makes you part of modern marketing, where you can provide buyers with the right content at the right time.

How to do it

To apply buyer cycle scoring to lead nurturing, you need to pivot your marketing automation program to take into account both buyer stage and buyer activity. For example, if you use Marketo and Salesforce, you will need to create three new fields for buyer cycle scoring:

  • ARC – Awareness Score
  • ARC – Research Score
  • ARC – Consideration Score

You then need to weight different kinds of activities based on how indicative they are of prospect engagement. Here are some ideas about activities to track with buyer lead scoring and how to score them:

Click within PDF  is a very strong sign of prospect engagement. It tells you that prospects have downloaded your content and that they’re clicking the links within it. To track this behavior, use URLs within each document with  tracking parameters at the end that are tagged. The scoring is triggered by “Visits web page” and “Querystring contains,” sorting actions into the appropriate stages. Clicking a link within the PDF is also extremely valuable because it means that a prospect is both reading the content and engaged.

Form fill-out is exactly what it sounds like—when a prospect downloads a piece of your content, attends a webinar, or views a webinar on-demand. The tricky part of this is setting it up to easily scale, so that it matches a pattern. Each marketing automation platform has a different way of making this possible. A solution within Marketo, for example, is to add a prospect to a “has downloaded” list with the name of the stage in the title of the list, and then create a campaign that watches for that prospect being added to any list with the stage name. Form fill-outs are also strong indications of buyer interest.

High value page view can vary depending on the category. It is most useful for the Consideration stage. If someone visits the Contact Us page, it’s considered an enormously valuable page view.

Standard value page view can also vary. Categorize all of your website pages into a stage, though some might have overlap. For the overlapping categories, increment both scores. Do this when choosing between the Awareness and Research stages. Be sure to make it scalable. Every time you publish a new page, you shouldn’t have to go back to your ARCD scoring to change anything. In Marketo, it means a wait for “changed program status” to change to “visited” in the programs.

Create scoring campaigns that increment scores for each of the stages. If you are tracking clicks within PDF, form fill-outs, and different kinds of page views, each of these will be tracked within each stage. For example, the buyer cycle scores within Awareness will be

A – Click within PDF

A – Form Fill-out

A – High Value Page View

A – Standard Page View

Each action you track would have a separate score within each buying stage.

Segmentation is where the applicability comes in. Buyer cycle scoring is only useful in that you can use it as a business driver. Use the scoring to segment your database into respective stages. The scores compete against each other and the deepest-funnel-stage wins. Here’s an example:

Awareness: 230 points
Research: 80 points
Consideration: 105 points

In this case, the prospect is considered to be in the Consideration stage because she has crossed the 100 points threshold of the bottom of the funnel. An easy starting point for a threshold is 100 points. This number is found by saying “how many pieces of content does a person have to consume before we think they’ve really moved on to the next stage?” Then you determine the best starting place for incremental scores. It takes some nuance and tuning to figure out the best scoring numbers, ones that are the most representative of reality.

ARCD scoring is a business driver for your marketing efforts. It shows where people actually are in the funnel, not where you put them operationally for the purposes of your own internal organization (which you do with lead statuses). Using this type of scoring is valuable for finding a “new” lead who consumes the entirety of your consideration pieces, showing that this “new” lead is ready to be contacted by Sales immediately.

In setting up buyer cycle scoring within your marketing automation platform, remember two important criteria: robustness and scalability. ARCD scoring, along with behavior and demographic scoring, is ripe for innovation in the future. Be prepared to meet those changes in a way that will minimize your efforts.

Ready to take your marketing automation implementation to the next level? Register to receive the Yesler Marketing Automation Playbook to learn more about how to deploy intelligent lead nurturing, automate tasks for lead development, manage multichannel personalized campaigns, serve up dynamic content, and more.

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