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How to Optimize Account Engagement Lead Scoring Rules and Categories

How to Optimize Account Engagement Lead Scoring Rules and Categories

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A score in Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) is a numerical figure that is assigned to prospects once they engage with a tracked marketing activity. This could be anything from an email open, link click, page view, form conversion or content download — providing you have the correct lead scoring rules or completion actions applied. 

Luckily, Account Engagement (Pardot) offers an out-the-box lead scoring system that is completely customizable. 

Customizing your Pardot scoring rules and categories is a great way to float your hottest prospects to the top of your priority list. You can get a better understanding of how likely your prospects are to buy from you. And that picture will be even clearer because you’ll differentiate your prospects from those who are simply fans of your company from those who are ready to make purchasing decisions.

An Introduction to Pardot Scoring and Grading

You can get a complete introduction to Pardot scoring and grading in this blog post, but here’s a review if you’re already familiar with the concept.

In a nutshell:

  • Account Engagement (Pardot) Scoring = prospect engagement
  • Account Engagement (Pardot) Grading = prospect profile

Pardot Scoring

The Pardot score itself shows implicit interest in a product, solution or service offered by your business. This is information used to assume or suggest a prospects’ level of interest — (the score does not show direct interest expressed by the prospect). Meaning the higher the prospects score, the more likely they are to be interested in purchasing from your business. 

Now depending on your account setup, a prospect’s score can increase and/or decrease throughout their lifecycle. For instance, to improve the quality of your leads you may wish to reduce the score of prospects who frequently visit career type pages on your website.

Pardot Grading

A grade is a letter that is assigned to a prospect based on their profile — and it matches your business’s ideal customer profile. The measurement itself is used to show explicit information provided by the prospect, usually captured through form submissions (don’t forget to use progressive profiling to capture more data). 

These could be data points such as:

  • Job title
  • Location
  • Company size
  • Industry 

Now, depending on how well the prospect profile matches the criteria you’ve set, these data points will determine the prospect’s grade. The closer the match, the higher the grade. The lower the match, the lower the grade will be.

Pardot grades run from F to A and increase and/ or decrease in increments of thirds (C, C+, -B, B, B+, etc.). By default, any new prospects are assigned with a grade of D

The score will then adjust to reflect their closeness with your ideal customer profile. The grade itself should be used to show the quality of the prospect — meaning how valuable they could be to your business. 

So, to summarize, when developing your lead strategy, you are looking to create a process that identifies highly interested prospects (prospect score) who are highly valuable to your business (prospect grade). These are then the type of prospects or potential leads you want to be pushing to sales for conversion.

Optimizing scoring rules and categories

Here’s how to optimize your scoring rules and categories for your specific business needs.

Pardot Scoring Rules

Pardot scoring rules are essentially touchpoints you want to track and score across your marketing funnel or customer journey. They are the marketing interactions mentioned at the start of the article (email click, open, content download, event registration). Scoring rules aggregate toward an overall score or scoring category — more on this later. 

To optimize scoring rules, you really need to conduct a scoring rule or touchpoint audit by asking yourself… what are we currently tracking, what aren’t we tracking, and what should we be tracking? 

Remember, quality over quantity. A few high-quality tracked touchpoints will provide far more value than hundreds of poor touchpoints.

The key is to identify touchpoints that are the most influential and generate the most engagement from your customers. In short, the marketing touchpoints that will affect the buyer’s decision-making process. The more influential the touchpoint the higher the score should be. For instance, a prospect downloading a technical white paper should receive a higher score than a prospect opening an email. 

How to organize lead scoring touchpoints

  1. Map all the touchpoints you want to track (can any be grouped?).
  2. Rank the touchpoints – based on influence and volume of engagement
    • Utilize audits, reports, and prospect activity data.
    • If you have activated Engagement history in Salesforce, you can view activity on the lead and contact level.
  3. Apply an appropriate score for each touchpoint.
  4. Establish a set marketing qualified lead (MQL) threshold to identify interested prospects.
  5. Optimize this based on your customer journey and decision-making process (high or low involvement).

Lead Scoring Categories

Now that you have mapped the touchpoints to track, you may wish to have them aggregate toward a specific product group via a scoring category. Scoring categories can provide your business with very powerful scoring segmentation, thus allowing you to direct scoring rules toward different categories depending on the product type that is being promoted.

This allows you to score prospects on more than one product, making it easier to identify and determine the level of interest per category or product group. This in turn opens opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. You’ll also have more granularity when analyzing prospect activity for lead qualification/ conversion, thus reducing the amount of time sales require to prepare customer briefs.

To start, look at your current business structure and product/ service portfolio. Let’s say you work for a footwear brand selling casual sneakers, boots and running shoes, etc. These would form your specific product groups, meaning you would have a separate scoring category for each type of footwear. 

Technical Setup: How to optimize your lead generation strategy via Automation rules or Engagement Studio Programs

Now that you have scoring rules, grading and categories implemented, you can start to think about developing an automated process that will look for ideal customers and push them to sales for qualification. 

The two most powerful tools in this instance are automation rules and Engagement Studio Programs

This article will focus on automation rules, but the same logic can be applied with an Engagement Studio Program, and a dynamic list to feed potential leads into the program.

Key considerations before setup:

  • Automation rules start in a paused state for the user to review before turning on.
  • Depending on what tier of Account Engagement you have purchased, you will have a limited number of automation rules (50-150).
  • It is advisable to have one automation rule per scoring category to reduce complexity (less to go wrong!)
  • You’ll need to specify if these actions are to repeat. And if so, how often?
  • Remember, actions are executed from top to bottom in automation rules — so structure them in the order you intend them to apply.
  • Finish previewing before starting!!

Lead scoring criteria

Before the automation rule can start, you will need to specify or select the kind of prospect who meets your lead scoring criteria. 

To do this ask yourself these following questions:

  1. What is the minimum score a prospect should have? (Scoring threshold before conversion)
  2. What grade should the prospect have?
  3. Who shouldn’t be considered a lead? (Competitors, job seekers, suppliers, etc.)
  4. How often should a prospect repeat the action? (Customer lifecycle – FMCG vs SMCG)
  5. Who in your organization is going to handle the leads? (a queue or a specific user)
  6. How is your Pardot org synced with Salesforce?
  7. Is contact and lead creation enabled?
  8. Or is task creation the only option? (Does a new lead need to be created or should a task be assigned)
  9. Should the prospect’s score be reset?
  10. Where should this information be stored after the action has been completed? (a list, campaign, or both)

Once you have answered these questions, you can create an automation rule that looks something like the below version. 

Remember this is only an example. Personalize your automation rule to suit your buyer’s journey and business needs.

lead journey for lead scoring

Reviewing and improving your lead scoring strategy

Once your lead strategy has been in circulation for some time, you can start to review it and look for improvements. 

Here are some areas to consider:

  1. How many leads are converting per category, and is this as high as expected?
  2. What’s your opportunity ‘lost vs won’ rate? Are the leads of good quality?
  3. Are certain categories performing better than others? Should the lead threshold be changed per category?
  4. Do any touchpoints need to be reviewed or adjusted? Are some overinflated?
  5. Is the repeat time sufficient? Should this be shortened or extended?

If all targets are being met but you wish to improve your lead process further still, you may want to ask yourself…

  1. How can we shorten the customer journey/ prospect lifecycle?
  2. How can we increase the share of existing customers (cross-selling or upselling)?
  3. How can we win new customers (improve data acquisition)?

MarDreamin’ 2022 Presentation Replay

This blog post is adapted from a 2022 MarDreamin’ session. Check out the recording below.

Further reading

You can use the following resources to dive deeper into Salesforce lead scoring and grading capabilities.

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  • Christopher Meah is a digital marketing professional interested in all things marketing automation, MROI and lead generation/development.

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