3 Reasons to Adopt a Grading Strategy in 2016Do grades matter? If you’re a student, the answer is: Absolutely! But is the same true for marketers? No surprise, the answer is still yes! If you’re a marketer who has recently adopted grading, you’ll quickly see how grades can make a big difference in your marketing activities.

While many marketers are quick to pay attention to score for lead qualification, less are likely to put the same time and effort into grading. Unfortunately, a prospect’s score only gives sales half of the picture. Yes, scoring establishes that a lead has an interest in your organization, but how will the sales team know if they are a fit for your product or service? Grading provides that insight.

What is especially important to realize about grading is that it does not need to be time-consuming, challenging, or expensive to establish. Here are our top reasons for adopting a grading strategy in 2016:

1. Send better marketing qualified leads to sales

Sending better-qualified leads to sales is the most obvious benefit of grading for any marketer. Anyone in sales can quickly tell you that not all leads are created equal – and grading helps determine who is the proper fit for your organization and who is not.

By using grades as a qualification measure before marketing leads can be passed to sales, you can guarantee the quality of leads being sent over. For any sales team members previously weary of the quality of marketing leads, grading can restore a new sense of faith. Creating a grading strategy should always involve input from your sales team so they will have buy-in for the process and know that an A+ lead means it’s someone they should be truly excited about.

Grading also helps weed out any undesirable leads from ever being assigned to sales by penalizing any characteristics that automatically indicate they are a poor lead. For example, many B2B organizations are quick to penalize a prospect with “student” as a job title with a grade of an “F”, so they are known to be avoided for lead assignment.

2. Align sales and marketing on lead quality

The great thing about creating a grading strategy is that it’s a catalyst for a conversation that may not have happened recently – or at all – between marketing and sales. To create grading profiles, marketing should know exactly what their sales team is looking for in a lead, i.e. which characteristics signify a qualified lead for sales.

By having your sales team describe in detail the exact characteristics they are looking for in a lead, marketing can understand key things to look for in a prospect before assigning them to sales. Usually knowing the job title and industry of a lead is a good start, but your sales team can fill you in on the key data that should be collected. Taking it a step further, sales can also tell marketing not only that characteristics like job title are important but which specific values for that characteristics are key, which are average, and which indicate bad leads. For example, sales may let you know any job title containing “VP” or “Senior” is great, any job title containing “Manager” is good to average, and any title containing “Intern” or “Student” is bad.

This insight can give marketers inspiration for not only new marketing campaigns targeted at these desired audiences but also how they will collect the information. If marketing now knows the four pieces of information that sales needs to qualify a lead, it can be implemented on all of their forms and landing pages to ensure they are consistently collecting the data needed for grading. Pro Tip: All form fields collecting grading data should have predefined values in place (dropdowns, checkboxes, etc.) so grading is a breeze, and marketing does not need to involve guesswork into grading strategies for open text fields.

3. Make the most of sales’ time

The way grading benefits sales’ time management is twofold: 1) By incorporating grading into your assignment strategy sales should receive fewer leads from marketing overall. Because the focus will be on quality rather than quantity sales will not waste time sifting through a large list of potentially unqualified leads and 2) It provides a mechanism for sales to prioritize leads, i.e. they can begin with the most qualified (A+ leads) and work their way down. Pro tip: Combine grading and scoring to begin with the most qualified and most interested leads.

Using grading to prioritize leads is especially helpful to sales when a large influx of leads occurs, like after a trade show. This will enable sales to start with the most qualified leads and feel less overwhelmed because the lead prioritization has been automated. Grading after events can also act as an indicator for overall event quality for marketing. When marketing keeps track of how many A, B, C, D and F leads came out of each trade show or conference they can evaluate if the show’s audience aligns with their own or if they attracted the right audiences to their booth.

In short, grading benefits both sales and marketing in terms of better qualification, better processes and communication between teams, and better time management. For tips on getting started with grading, contact us to learn more.