Demographic Gating: How to Score and Qualify Leads More Efficiently

March 3, 2015

In B2B marketing, there’s a vast difference between someone who fills out a form and someone who fills out a form who is qualified—with a qualified company and a qualified background attached to their name. Students and mom’n’pop shops add no actual value to your marketing efforts.

If your database is full of duds, it’s often an indication that your scoring system is weak.

With marketing automation, lead scoring should be treated as a science, so you can get an accurate indicator of both sales readiness and sales fitness. This allows you to prioritize leads effectively and measure marketing effectiveness. Most marketers start with behavioral scoring (which, yes, you absolutely need), and then they throw in some demographic scoring if they have time (and, yes, you should absolutely take the time). However, when it comes to lead qualification, your demographic measures are key.

Behavioral Scoring + Demographic Scoring = Demographic Gating

The demographic gating model is a step up from normal demographic scoring. Rather than just telling you who is qualified, demographic gating informs you exactly how targeted your marketing efforts are based the percentage of people who are demographically qualified. It looks at all of your leads—what initiative they came in through, where they came from (social, paid social, SEM)—and then determines exactly how targeted your efforts are, based on your channels and marketing initiatives.

Demographic Gating relies on complex regression analyses on existing customers and deep systems integration (and, often times, a third party system that can provide more demographic information about existing customers to be able to profile leads.) Specifically for B2B marketers, the most important piece of demographic gating is that it reveals what your actual cost per qualified lead is (and not just your cost per lead).

This is Gating. Not Scoring.

Finding qualified leads is what allows sales to focus only on the best, highest-spend leads while nurturing the others into a self-service product trial and purchase. Unlike normal lead scoring, the Demographic Gating model also houses disqualifications, removing those leads that are not a good fit for your products or services. The program looks at specific data that would be taken into consideration in a “likely revenue” score, like the company growth potential, or recent series funding.

How the Gate Works (I.e., in a world…)

Imagine a lead is created and is put through your current scoring programs (which hopefully consist of both behavioral and demographic… right?Right!? Because it should). At this point, we want to look at the lead’s information and ask ‘what is his/her company’s fitness when matched up to to my ideal target? What’s your revenue? Can we give you points based on other variables and then match these points against our ideal target customers?’

The answer is yes. So let’s give points:

  • Give a ranking for the lead’s company revenue. Gold, silver, bronze. If the company is measuring 1 Billion in revenue, great. If it’s 500 million, thats okay. If it’s 100 million, that’s acceptable. Let’s turn this into points: +10, +20, + 5, etc.
  • We also have a specific bulls-eye for which industries we prefer to work with, so let’s rank them appropriately. High-tech marketing? 20 points. Not-very-tech? 5 points.
  • Don’t forget about role and title: is this lead an intern, or are they the director of the company? Do we want to award more or less points to the Chief Revenue Officer? Howabout a technical user? (Answer: Maybe. Maybe neither. Figure out the title of your target decision-maker and go from there.)
  • Also, don’t discount the Employee number, which is an obtainable proxy for actual revenue numbers.

Finally, we have the pass/fail “target account list.” This is instant qualification for leads who are on your target account list that you’ve already qualified.

How the Gate was Built

When a lead fills out a form, you have options. You can begin by putting them through progressive profiling forms, asking them specific questions one at a time. Alternatively, you can jump into a data enrichment program, such as Marketo’s real-time personalization (or InsideView, ReachForce, Demandbase, a lot of options. whatever you use, get as much information as possible.)

What this does is increment the lead’s overall demographic score. After the lead runs through each one—all of which are daisy-chained together—you direct the lead into an actual gating program, with 3 possible options;

1. The lead score is above the arbitrary threshold (let’s say 30). The lead has lots of revenue, an ideal title, and a solid employee number; lead is marked as demographically qualified and is directed into the Pass Campaign

2. The lead score is on the border of passing, but it didn’t reach your threshold. And, if this were normal lead scoring, we’d be done. However, demographic gating recognizes that a lead’s low score may be due it’s lack of a particular scoring value. Maybe they had a perfect employee number, but they missed the threshold because employee number was only 25 points and the rest of the fields were left blank. In this case, the lead isn’t technically a fail—we just need more information.

So, we spin off a request to a data enrichment. Let’s get more information, fill our blank values, and then send them back through DG again. This time, it will add points with actual values, and leads will either definitively pass or fail.

(This is where you have the choice to bring in 3rd party enrichment. You have the ability track what you’re paying for each lead’s enrichment. Do you only want to enrich leads who are coming in through online advertising? Then do it. Judge an actual cost-per-qualified lead.)

3) Your lead doesn’t make it into the enrichment category (or, they were already in the enrichment stage, didn’t pass, and turned into fail campaign). When you’re first setting up demographic scoring and fine-tuning the system, you already set up a task for one of your development reps to always go back and double-check these individuals. The idea behind this process is that it turns into feedback loop. where you can improve and fine-tune the entire gating process.

Taking Stronger Demographic Measures for Lead Qualification

The purpose of demographic gating is that you can tell how targeted your marketing efforts are, based on the percentage of people who are demographically qualified. You can determine—by both channel and by marketing initiative—exactly how targeted your efforts are.

I spoke more in depth about great lead qualification and lead nurture strategies at the recent Fliptop Champion Panel Discussion. Check out the video here—let’s keep the conversation going about marketing best practices.

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