Scoring Leads By Email Engagement and Clicks? Big Mistake.

During many hours-long debates about lead scoring, the most controversial topic is inevitably whether to score leads by email engagement (email opens and clicks). Why? Because email engagement is a super common component that I strongly believe is completely worthless.

Obviously any good lead scoring model includes behavioral and demographic attributes. But if you’re a small team or working with a small database, you might not have many form fills or ways for prospects to “raise their hand.”

I understand the temptation to fold in email metrics to increase lead volume, and I see email opens/clicks in 80% of the lead scoring models I work on. But MOPs’ dark secret? We know those KPIs aren’t accurate or reliable. We owe it to Sales (and ourselves) that when we say someone is MQL, they’re really qualified.

>> Related: 6 Ways to Handle Those Pesky Spambot Clicks in Marketo <<

Robots ≠ leads

There is a lot of bot traffic, and bot clicks are getting more difficult to solve for. Tons of spam softwares automatically open and click emails. You can get around this somewhat with a honeypot or text only links, but spam technologies are advancing all the time. We can’t expect email marketers to keep pace with Cisco, Barracuda, or Symantec.

Opening an email ≠ raising your hand

Even if you’ve done your damndest to control for bot clicks, opening an email is not a measure of engagement. I open an email so I can unsubscribe from it!

Open rates ≠ successful marketing

The readymade email performance metrics in Marketo and HubSpot are so convenient. But they’re vanity metrics. They’re also easy to manipulate.

Worse, email marketers (or their bosses) can get obsessed with these KPIs and miss the bigger picture.

Let’s say we had 1000 people in our database, our open rate was 10%, and our click through rate was 1% (just to make the math easy). We do some database cleanup (yay!) and delete half of our database. Without improving our content or emails, we now have a 20% open rate and a 2% click through rate. It looks like we’ve done a much better job nurturing our contacts and have written far more engaging content. But we haven’t improved anything.

In fact we’re sending the same exact number of leads to the Sales team.

Scoring attributes we believe in

So how do we measure interest? I prefer to score off:

  1. Webpage visits
  2. Visiting specific “high intent” pages (i.e. pricing)
  3. Visiting multiple pages within a certain timeframe (i.e. 10 pages in 4 days)
  4. Event registrations
  5. Content downloads
  6. Any form fill

Metrics we believe in

Measuring our success (and value) as marketers isn’t about pulling stats from Marketo or HubSpot. We have to do some analysis because these are hard questions to answer:

  • How much are we contributing to pipeline?
  • Are we improving the MQL to SQL conversion rate?
  • Are we reducing the cost per MQL and SQL?

So one more time for the people in the back? Scoring leads by email engagement isn’t reliable. Form fills and zealous web visits are more significant forms of engagement that show actual intent.

Image via Giphy


Not confident in your lead scoring?  Read 10 Common Lead Scoring Mistakes with Big Consequences >

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