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Lead Scoring Lessons from a Card Counter

5 min

How a BlackJack strategy can turn the odds of closing a deal in your favor.

“The key to getting the most out of your marketing automation process,” says marketing and sales whiz Trish Witkowski, “is to get strategic about the way you keep score of the leads you have.” And Trish Witkowski should know.

You see, Ms. Witkowski spent the last year researching the most efficient lead scoring strategies in the world, and she’s found the answer in the most unlikely of places: Las Vegas. That’s right, Las Vegas, the gaming capital of the world!

lead scoring lessons from a card counter

“The problem with the way most marketers score their leads is that it’s entirely subjective,” Trish says. “It’s emotional.”

For example, a marketer might attribute 10 points for every time someone downloads an e-book or -3 points for every newsletter that isn’t opened by the recipient. “There’s really no rhyme or reason to the points we assign to specific actions. As a result, our lead score totals are also entirely subjective. If you’re going to get actionable insight out of your marketing automation process, your scoring must be objective,” Trish adds.

Too often, we assign score values based on our optimistic aspirations. If you’re accountable for lead generation, you may apply a disproportionate score to an action you hope will result in a better lead. “Some actions aren’t what they seem,” Trish notes. “An e-book download might be a student or competitor gathering research. It’s only continued scoring over time that you can separate the most valuable leads from the chuff.”

Without an accurate and objective scoring of the leads you’ve accumulated, it’s impossible to determine when you have the advantage. It’s difficult to accurately determine what moves to make to advance the lead towards the sale. “If we’re going to be really satisfied with our lead scoring strategy, we must take the subjectivity out of the entire process,” Witkowski exclaims.

So, how do you eliminate subjectivity from your lead scoring strategy? “You have to think like a Las Vegas Blackjack player,” Trish says with an all-knowing grin. “But not just any Blackjack player. You have to lead score like a card counter.”

Turning the tables

If you’ve never played Blackjack, that’s okay. The rules are pretty simple. It’s you against the dealer. Whoever gets closer to 21 without going over, wins the hand.

Trish says most of us play Blackjack the way we lead score. “We play an emotionally-charged game based on the most basic of strategies. We use gut instinct and play hand-to-hand. Playing Blackjack like this leaves the player losing more hands than they win. The Casino has a 3% advantage over you, and playing like this only maintains their edge.”

However, card counters, turn the tables on the casino by keeping a running tally of the cards that have been played. They keep score, and as a result, they know when the odds of winning a hand are turning in their favor.

“Your lead scoring strategy should be designed to tell you when the odds of winning a sale have turned in your favor. Just like a card counter, you need to know when you have the advantage. You need to know when it’s time to bet big,” Ms. Witkowski says.

So how does this work?

Start at zero

Every lead enters your marketing automation process at zero. Just like a card counter sitting down at the table. However, instead of adding subjective scores for each action the lead takes, Trish suggests you only add one, subtract one, or add 0. “Score like a card counter,” Trish says.

For example, instead of attributing a score of +10 for downloading that e-book, just assign a score of +1. If the same lead doesn’t open the next e-mail don’t subtract an entirely subjective number like -3, just do what a card counter does: add nothing. Only when you do something for the lead should you subtract one.

“When you lead score like a card counter your entire list is objectively scored, and you can be sure that those with the highest score are far more likely to buy from you than those with the negative scores,” says Trish.

So, what are Trish’s simple scoring rules?

Rule # 1: the +1 rule of thumb

Add +1 for anything the lead does that has value for you. For example, if you send them a demo video link and they click through to watch the video: add +1 to the lead’s score. “If the lead fills out a form, responds to an email, answers a question that adds to your understanding of their needs, clicks a link to your website… increase their score by one for each of those actions,” says Trish.

Rule #2: the zero sum rule

If no action takes place, don’t add or subtract anything from your prospect’s score. Trish points out that this might be counter-intuitive, but “in card counting, a prospect’s immediate inaction is analogous to watching a 7,8,9 being dealt.” (In more advanced marketing automation processes, Trish does recommend subtracting one only after a pattern of inaction emerges.)

Rule #3: the minus one rule

“Now, here’s the hard part,” Trish cautions. Every time you do something for them, subtract one. “Offer them a free phone consultation, and they take you up on the offer? Subtract one. Give them a free trial of your software, subtract one,” says Witkowski. Here’s where you start separating the “tire-kickers” and “time-wasters” from the ones who are genuinely interested in what you offer.

Follow these three rules, and Trish says that over time you end up with an unbelievably accurate lead scored list.

Objective lead scoring is the key to understanding when you have the advantage. “It helps you know what moves to make when and it clearly delineates the tire-kickers from the real prospects,” notes Witkowski.

“What will start to happen is you’ll see clumps of people start to break into groups by number. Do a simple sort by lead score and you’ll find that the higher the number, the more valuable those leads are to you.” Trish recommends that you spend more time ‘betting’ on those leads instead of those with a score of zero or below.

“Those leads with a deep negative score likely indicate that you’ve invested more resources in managing those leads than you’re going to get back,” she says. In a world where giving away everything for free is the norm, knowing who’s taking advantage of all your resources without showing signs of buying is more important than ever.

“Remember,” Trish says, “anyone with a zero score is still in play.”

The edge

“Keeping score like a Blackjack card counter gives you the edge,” says Trish Witkowski. “And in a noisy, crowded, and fast-paced, relationship-driven, marketing world, who doesn’t need to turn the house odds in their favor?” Trish asks.

Are you lead scoring like a card counter? Trish Witkowski is.