HomeBlogWhat Is Lead Scoring? + How to Get Started

What Is Lead Scoring? + How to Get Started

Author: Céillie Clark-Keane
Last Updated: January 23, 2024 | Lead Generation

If you’re concerned about generating more leads, you’re not alone. But if you’re focusing on increasing the quantity of your leads without considering the quality, then you’re going to end up wasting a lot of time. That’s why lead scoring is so important.

Implementing a lead scoring model will help you focus your time on the most likely contacts to convert, so that you can work smarter, not harder.

Table of contents

Plus, we’ll share plenty of templates and examples throughout.

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is the practice of assigning an incoming contact a numerical value based on their demographic information or behaviors relating to your brand. This value aligns with a scoring system that allows sales and marketing teams to quickly identify the lead’s likeliness to convert at this time and their place in the marketing funnel.

Now, this might sound like it makes managing your process for reaching inbound contacts more complicated. That’s correct—but it’s for a good reason. By identifying a lead’s likelihood of converting early during an initial interaction, marketing and sales can prioritize their outreaches.

That could mean marketing sends a guide to a lead that could turn into a great customer but doesn’t have the buying power in their current role. Or Sales reaches out with a phone call to a lead that needs your services, like, yesterday to offer a discount to close the deal.

Take a look at this sales funnel example below. On the left, you’ll see actions that the marketing team takes for each stage of the funnel. On the right, you’ll see the actions from an interested lead as it grows warmer.

lead scoring - marketing funnel graphic

Lead scoring helps ensure that you’re responding to each incoming contact with the most impactful content or action for their needs and for your business, whatever that might be.

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What types of businesses can benefit from lead scoring?

Lead scoring helps businesses prioritize their incoming contacts to make their marketing and sales processes as efficient and effective as possible. This can be beneficial for almost any type of company.

Here are some types of businesses where lead scoring can make a huge impact.


Sales cycles for B2B (or business-to-business) companies are often longer and require more touchpoints between your business and your potential customers. This makes it even more important to quickly identify the leads who have the most interest in becoming customers.


Ecommerce businesses can use lead scoring to prioritize contacts who are most likely to move forward with a purchase. This could be based on browsing behavior, purchase history, or demographic attributes. We’ll talk more about lead-scoring attributes below.

Real estate agencies

We’ve all been guilty of scrolling through Zillow, and some of us even submit an open house form for more information or set up alerts for houses we have no realistic interest in buying (Guilty and guilty.) Real estate agencies can set up lead scoring to avoid wasting time on recreational viewers and focus their time on real potential butter.

Financial services firms 

This industry includes insurance companies, banks, credit card companies, investment platforms, and more. Lead scoring can be helpful for evaluating which incoming contacts are qualified, whether it’s for coverage or credit, and interested in becoming a customer.

Marketing agencies

Marketing agencies with all kinds of specialties can benefit from lead scoring, whether it’s design, websites, SEO, content, branding, paid media, or any combination of the above.

Healthcare services

Healthcare providers can use lead scoring to identify the contacts who are in need of services and prioritize based on health conditions, location, engagement with content, and other factors that might impact the fit for care.

Higher education institutions

Colleges and universities can use lead scoring to rate applicants’ likelihood of attending if accepted and how well they match the institution’s programs.

Keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list. If your business has a flow of incoming leads that you need to prioritize responding to, then you might benefit from lead scoring. Now, let’s jump into how to set up a lead scoring system that works for you.

How to set up lead scoring models for your business

A lead scoring model is the system you use to assign value to a lead based on how likely it is that they’ll make a purchase.

Lead scoring models are identified by the type of parameters used to assess a lead’s value. Those parameters could be about the company like its size and market. Or it could be about how many times a person has visited your website or attended webinars.

The most important part of building a lead scoring model is figuring out which attributes or actions are meaningful in your business.

Here’s how to do that and get started with lead scoring.

1. Review your lead data

The first step in setting up a lead scoring system that works for your business is taking a look at the data you have available to you. This data will look different depending on the complexity of your inbound marketing process.

Let’s say, for instance, that you’re a small, one-person marketing agency with a focus on design and development for dentist websites. A specific niche, but not necessarily a small one.

Your best customers probably learn about you through word-of-mouth, like referrals from existing customers. You also have a healthy SEO strategy with blog posts and guides about website design, and you get a steady flow of incoming leads from your website. The form for your guide downloads asks for an email address, industry, and job title.

Lead scoring - screenshot of a lead magnet

Balance the amount of info you ask for in your lead magnets. Too little is unhelpful, too much scares people away.

That means your website analytics, any referral program info, customer relationship management system (or the repository of your forms, if you don’t have a CRM) are all sources of information about your leads. That’s the parameters you’ll have available.

Here are some examples of the types of data you can use to create lead scoring models:

  • Demographic info: This includes job title, industry, company size, location, age, and even educational background. This might exist in your CRM, if you have one.
  • Company information: Think details like total number of employees, annual revenue, budget, or in-office or distributed team. This might be in your CRM, your customer profiles, or it could be in your email management system or a different tool you use to collect details from forms on your website.
  • Content engagement: Look at data from your whitepapers, blog posts, webinars, events to see who is engaging with your content and how often.
  • Website analytics: Check time spent on your website, visits to product or service pages, repeat visitors, and goal completes.
  • Lead source: This is where your inbound leads are coming from, whether it’s a referral program, paid advertising, organic search, event attendees, or other venues.
  • Email engagement: Look at subscribe behavior, open rates, and click-through rates to consider how interested a lead is in your product or service.
  • Customer feedback: This means ad hoc feedback during calls, formal survey responses, and any testimonials.

And the topic of customer feedback leads us to the next step in the process of setting up a lead scoring program.

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2. Interview your customers

Reviewing all of the data is a crucial starting point. But it’s important to actually talk to your customers, too. They’ll be able to give you a fuller picture of your marketing funnel. Your customers can share candid reactions to your content, provide context to the clicks in email or on the SERP, react in the moment to your website—whatever the path might be, your customers can speak to their perception.

So set up some calls with your best customers, your most active users, and those clients that you just hear from the most often. Ask them feedback questions to give you a better idea of the process for inbound leads and listen carefully. Then use these conversations to start looking for similarities with your other leads and patterns in your quickest, most high-value conversions.

3. Align marketing and sales

If you’re a solopreneur or a small business team of one, then you don’t have to worry too much about making sure everyone is involved in the lead scoring process. But if you work at even a slightly bigger company, with at least one person in each marketing and sales, then you need to make sure you’re having conversations with your counterparts early.

In general, it’s critical for marketing and sales teams to be aligned on the profile of target customers, the stages of the funnel, and the company’s customer acquisition goals. In fact, 87% of sales and marketing leaders say collaboration between sales and marketing enables critical business growth.

For lead scoring, marketing and sales will need to agree on the criteria that makes a lead a strong candidate to convert. Once you have takeaways from looking at your lead data and talking with your customers, share those with your partners on the sales team to get their input. Plus, you’ll be able to get more insights from the company’s process.

For example, maybe that customer recalls a phone call from their rep and a discount that made them sign up—but they actually had a demo, a follow-up phone call, and the discount was the second offer.

That’s incredibly useful context to have as you’re putting together your metric for scoring leads.

While it’s important for marketing and sales to be on the same page to develop your company’s lead scoring process, it’s perhaps even more critical they remain on the same page as the practice becomes a part of lead generation and revenue targets moving forward. So, include sales in the conversations early for a collaborative effort setting up your lead scoring system, and plan for regular check-ins to create a feedback loop as you’re fine-tuning.

4. Choose your lead scoring model

Now that you have the data in front of you, determine which attributes make the biggest difference in your conversion rates. There are tons of different attributes, but most of the ones you’ll find relevant will fall into three buckets: demographic and company information, engagement activities, and acquisition details.

Demographic lead scoring model

These attributes help you build a lead scoring model based on personal or company attributes:

  • Age
  • Gender identity
  • Job title
  • Industry
  • Company size
  • Company revenue
  • Budget

Behavioral lead scoring model

While background information is key, the way your leads engage with your brand are good indicators of how interested they are in your offering. Here are some attributes you can use to build a behavioral lead scoring model:

  • Site visits
  • Time spent on key pages
  • Whitepaper downloads
  • Webinar or event attendance
  • Newsletter subscription
  • Email opens and clicks
  • Shopping cart activity
  • Sales calls
  • Demo requests
  • Reviews
  • Loyalty or referral program participation

Acquisition channel lead scoring model

How someone finds your business can tell you a lot about whether they’ll be a brand fan or a paying customer. These acquisition details consider the path people take to find you:

  • Acquisition channel
  • Referral source
  • Relationship with company
  • Relationship with competitors

This isn’t a complete list—but it is a great place to start to build your model and start assigning values to each attribute. This is the foundation of your lead scoring model, so it’s important to take your time here.

5. Name your scoring thresholds

Once you have a lead scoring framework set up, it’s time to set thresholds.

Lead scoring works by assigning points to certain demographic attributes or activities to come up with a numerical value for each contact. The thresholds that you set determine what your next action should be.

Like the attributes, these thresholds will depend largely on your business—your leads, your marketing activities, your funnel, and your sales cycles. But here are a few common terms that teams use to sort their contacts:

  • Prospect: These are your contacts who meet the basic criteria to do business with your company. It will be the lowest point threshold in your lead scoring metric.
  • Lead: Your leads are your contacts who have engaged with your company, bumping them up from prospects. This will be the next highest threshold.
  • Hot lead: Some companies use this to designate leads who have recently engaged in a high-value activity, like attending an event. Companies that use “hot lead” don’t use MQL or SQL.
  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL): MQLs are highly engaged, active leads who have some or all of the attributes of your ideal customers. These leads may have attended webinars, clicked on links or ads on social media, or downloaded whitepapers.
  • Sales qualified lead (SQL): Your SQL threshold will be your highest. These are leads that have been vetted Sales (and possibly marketing). They are ready for the next sales step.

Now that we’re clear on terms, here’s a quick lead scoring template based on a 100-point lead score for an org that uses MQLs and SQLs:

Threshold Attributes & Activities
Prospect 10 Email signup (+10)
Lead 30 Email signup (+10), Multiple site visits (+5), whitepaper download (+15)
MQL 50 Email signup (+10), Multiple site visits (+5), whitepaper download (+15), key industry job title (+20)
SQL 80 Much of the same activities as an MQL and has been vetted by Sales


In the template above, the attributes and activities build on one another as one prospect keeps engaging more with the company. But remember it doesn’t always happen like this. Sometimes a contact enters your funnel as an MQL, sometimes they enter as an engaged lead who likes your content but will never be a potential customer.

That’s why setting these thresholds for more action—and more investment—from you and your business is important.

6. Determine your tracking method

Now that you have your lead scoring system in place and your thresholds with your action plans, you need to figure out how you’re going to manage calculating and tracking the scores.

There are a few different common methods for managing lead scoring: manual, automated, and predictive.

Manual lead scoring

Exactly what it sounds like—you’re putting pen to paper (ok, dropping numbers in a spreadsheet) to calculate the score for each lead.

If your company has a steady inbound lead flow, this will likely be too much to manage. But if you’re a small business with a super-specific niche and a low lead flow from a few forms or emails, this might make the most sense for you. That way, you have a grasp on everyone who is interested in your product or services.

Automated lead scoring

Here, you’ll use a tool to calculate, assign, and track a score to your leads. If you have any significant incoming lead flow, you’ll want to figure out how to automate your scoring and tracking, including notifications when contacts reach your thresholds.

There are tons of options for tools here, like MadKudu or Fwrd.ai. You might not even need to look for an additional tool, though. Your CRM may offer lead scoring already. HubSpot and Salesforce both do.

Predictive lead scoring

Predictive lead scoring is a method of automated scoring that uses machine learning to assign a predicted value to a lead. This is hosted by a third-party tool—the examples above all offer this—that uses historical data to come up with the estimation.

What’s the benefit? You can prioritize contacts who are predicted to become MQLs and move them down the funnel faster. The drawback is that historical behavior isn’t always predictive of future actions, so there’s more room for error.

7. Launch, monitor, and adjust as needed

Once you have your lead scoring system and your method for managing it all set, it’s time to think through your plan for launching, monitoring, and adjusting over time.

When you’re ready to start using your lead scoring, you don’t need to get bogged down in a go-to-market for this internal tool. But it is a good idea to update your marketing team, the sales team, and make sure key people are aware of the criteria for your most valuable leads.

Lead scoring - lead scoring model matrix

A visual of your model like this one from Move Marketing might be a useful tool for your team. 

Make a plan to evaluate how your lead scoring system is working so that you can refine over time, too. Your lead scoring system should make your marketing more effective and your sales process more targeted. You need to make sure that’s what’s happening—especially after you’ve invested so much time and, likely, money getting started.

It’ll be up to you to determine the success metrics, but here are some things to consider:

  • What are the conversion rates of the SQLs?
  • How do those compare to previous rates?
  • How do the touchpoints compare, in quality and quantity?
  • What are the conversion rates of MQLs?
  • How do those compare to SQLs?

The most important thing is to figure out what success looks like, set a length of time for the test, and then follow-through on your retrospective.

Start lead scoring to work smarter, not harder

We covered a lot, so let’s do a quick recap.

Here’s how to set up lead scoring that will work for your business:

  1. Review all your lead data
  2. Talk to your customers
  3. Align marketing and sales
  4. Identify attributes for your lead scoring
  5. Determine your scoring method
  6. Determine your tracking method
  7. Launch, monitor, and adjust as needed

This might seem like a lot of work, but remember that most—not all, but most—is upfront. And once you have your lead scoring system set up, you can focus your time, money, and attention on the contacts who are most likely to become customers.

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Meet The Author

Céillie Clark-Keane

Céillie is Head of Marketing for Building Ventures, a VC firm focused on funding and mentoring early-stage startups in the built environment space. Previously, Ceillie led content strategy for Unstack and managed the award-winning blog at WordStream.


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