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Hacking HubSpot’s Lead Scoring System

Matthew Deal

Lead scoring is a must for anyone working in demand generation or really any business-to-business marketing. It goes to the core reason of having an eCRM or marketing automation system—you need a systemic way to organize people based on data.

Another point to consider: most organizations need a system that scales. It’s challenging for organizations with low lead volume to manually process leads and, on top of that, objectively grade them. This is critically important towards qualifying HubSpot contacts for sales reps.

Contact lead scoring is challenging for even experienced marketers.

Contact lead scoring is challenging for even experienced marketers.

This allows your lead scoring workflow to evolve with your business and tailor your marketing automation to your unique needs. With that in mind, here’s a guide on how you can hack HubSpot’s existing lead scoring system to streamline data management.

Lead Scoring is the Answer

Lead scoring is an entire topic in and of itself and we’re not diving into that here. The point is that in the same way you have marketing automation workflows or rules that govern your interaction with leads, lead scoring is an automation for deciding which leads are valuable (and which ones aren’t).

Lifecycle Stages and Lead Scoring

Lifecycle stages and lead scoring are two sides of the same coin (but serve different purposes). Here’s how it all breaks down:

Lifecycle Stages

Lifecycle stages are better thought of as a definition of how close someone is to being considered a lead and should be one of the things you most pay attention to in your HubSpot account. You may have thousands of contacts in your database or email marketing system, but likely only a portion of those are considered actionable, realistic leads (e.g, the people that you can actually sell to).

While not perfect, HubSpot’s lead scoring system allows you several options.

While not perfect, HubSpot’s lead scoring system allows you several options.

Lifecycle stages also define the people you can’t sell to: both customers and subscribers that maybe have no intention or capability of becoming a customer.

I tend to think of lifecycle stages as essentially a rough definition for defining how someone relates to your organization.

Lead Scores

While lifecycle stages, as HubSpot defines them, describe a contact’s relationship with your organization, lead scores essentially say:

“Of the people that we’ve identified as leads, here’s how we’d rate them based on their likelihood to turn into a customer”.

Lifecycle stages, by themselves, basically assume that all contacts or prospects are equal (while anyone who has worked in demand generation will tell you they absolutely are not).

Lead scores allow you to quantify the “value” of potential contacts based on marketing goals. Criteria for lead scoring can often include:

  • Specific types of companies
  • Job Titles
  • Page or email interactions
  • Downloads of inbound content
  • Form Submissions

Lead scores are a way to tell you which leads are the most actionable and represent the best opportunity for closing new business (or really any other marketing goal that you want to track). Lead scoring based on multiple attributes often represents a multi factor approach to lead scoring.

HubSpot’s Lead Scoring System

All lead scoring systems work on the same principle: software assigns points to leads or contacts based on their behavior (some action they’ve taken) or within the values set for fields. So, you can score for the type of form that someone sets (behavior) or based on their job title (e.g. marketing director). Ideally, you’re using a combination of both since you likely have an ideal buyer type, but not all of those people that come into contact with your brand will be engaged.

HubSpot is mostly equipped to handle both of these situations, but it’s certainly a little better at one than the other.

A Note on HubSpot Score

Compared to other systems like Active Campaign or Pardot, I find that HubSpot’s lead scoring system is a little buried in the UI. Specifically, it’s within the HubSpot Score field (a default field in HubSpot) under Contact Properties.

HubSpot’s lead scoring system feels buried within the UI.

HubSpot’s lead scoring system feels buried within the UI.

From here, you can apply various sets, which are simply groupings of conditions to increase or decrease someone’s score based on the conditions you create.

HubSpot Fields

Lead scoring based on fields is the easy part, and is obviously how HubSpot designed the scoring system to work. In short, you can take any field you have and say “if this value exists, then give my contact 10 points.” You can adjust for if values do exist, if they do not exist, and every other permutation of string matching you can think of.

Most of the time, this lead scoring data is helpful when your lead scoring relies on data from form submissions—information that would likely only come from your contacts:

  • Location (e.g. city, state, or country)
  • Job Titles
  • Company Names
  • Organizational Role
  • Budget
  • Purpose/Objective

In this case, HubSpot behaves almost exactly as it does with list building and allows you to select attributes and, based on those field values, you can add or subtract scores.

Engagement

There’s another type of lead scoring that’s based on engagement, that frankly, HubSpot is terrible with, and that’s engagement scoring.

I’d define “engagement” as quantifying the number of interactions a contact or lead has with your website.

Let’s say you wanted to increase the lead score of your marketing qualified leads every time they’ve opened one of your emails. Easy enough, right? Not in HubSpot, because HubSpot has no ability to increment values (this applies to other behavior-based events like page views).

HubSpot’s entire lead scoring system is designed around the values of fields or very specific actions. This means you cannot increment each time the contact performs an action and only whether certain values exist (or don’t exist).

Even if you were to manually clear a field using a workflow, HubSpot would actually subtract those HubSpot score points when your contact no longer meets the defined criteria:

If a record meets the criteria set in the Positive Attributes set, points are added to the score. Once they don't meet the criteria, those points will be removed from the score.

This is different than how other lead scoring systems work in that the rules are evaluated once and points are either added or subtracted (but not retroactively).

Hacking HubSpot Lead Scoring

The only real solution for tracking engagement is to rely on fields, especially the default HubSpot fields like “Number of Marketing Emails”, and to create a set of regular sets that check at specific intervals:

Setting up regular intervals based on field is the closest thing you’ll get to incremental contact scores.

Setting up regular intervals based on field is the closest thing you’ll get to incremental contact scores.

In the example above, I’ve setup three regular “checks” for the number of marketing emails opened, each with corresponding lead score values. If you want additional checks, you’ll need to make additional rule sets.

Less Than Ideal HubSpot Scoring

This is obviously a less than ideal solution to the problem of engagement and this is the closest thing to an official HubSpot solution.

The biggest drawback is obviously that your engagement lead score will only continue to evaluate contacts as long as you have a rule setup:

“points will no longer be added for additional clicks, but these contacts will have a higher lead score for continuing to click your emails to indicate that they've consistently engaged with your content”

The other factor is that you’re technically limited on the number of rules you have for lead scoring (typically 100 rules), so you have a hard limit on the number of criteria involved.

Other Limitations

There’s some debate on the validity of this method, because it doesn’t alter values over time. This results in lead scores that are weighing across different time periods the same. So, someone who viewed 20 blog posts last year would, in theory, have the same lead scoring values as someone who viewed 20 blog posts this month.

From one commenter:

“…The interface to build/view the scoring model and way of scoring multiple occurrences of an action is weak and is lagging behind competition. Hard to believe such a serious automation player has such a limited scoring platform that is poorly adapted to any minimally complex scoring scenarios…”

So even in this setup, the inability to discount scores from older interactions isn’t quite as valuable as more recent ones.

Need More Help with Automation?

Of course, these are just a few examples on how to use HubSpot’s lead scoring capabilities to create scalable data management and automation workflow. There are plenty of other ways to really streamline your inbound marketing with HubSpot.

If you need more detailed assistance or want to talk about custom solutions, feel free to reach out to our team. We’d be happy to right-size an approach tailored to your unique needs.

Whether you’re looking to adopt HubSpot to begin implementing lead scoring, or have an existing HubSpot account—contact us to begin implementing robust lead scoring for your HubSpot contacts.

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