Penrod Blog

Lead Scoring and Grading: Why It’s OK to Swipe Left on Prospects

More than ever, consumers are bombarded with information and choices. This is also true for the marketers trying to capture their attention.

With so much data at our fingertips, how can we identify the prospects that are most likely to become customers, and "swipe left" on the ones that won't? Fortunately, there’s a platform that can help – Pardot.

In this post, we'll discuss:

What is lead scoring
What is lead grading
How they work together
Lead Scoring and Grading

Pardot is a great marketing automation tool for lead nurturing, especially when it comes to qualifying those leads. If the concept of ‘qualification’ is new to you, think of it as a combination of two tactics: lead scoring and lead grading.

What are scoring and grading?

Lead Scoring

Lead scoring uses a numerical system to determine how engaged a prospect is with your brand and marketing initiatives. This could take into account actions like opening an email or filling out a web form. Pardot comes with default scoring out of the box, but you have the ability to change the points allotted to each individual asset, like sell sheets, landing pages, emails, and more. This allows your go-to-market strategy to be customized.

As prospects continue to engage with your business, they accrue points which add up to an overall lead score. You can then set a threshold score to determine when those marketing qualified leads (MQLs) should be sent over to your sales team.  

Lead Grading

Lead grading determines how closely a prospect matches your target market. If you are targeting a certain industry or job title, lead grading can help you prioritize engagements with your ideal customers. These attributes can be compiled to create a grading profile within Pardot. This helps determine which leads your sales team should be going after based on the demographics of your prospects, and the firmographics of your ideal industries.

In case you TLDR’d that, here’s a handy chart with the breakdown.


Lead Scoring

Indicates a prospect’s level of engagement across landing pages, emails, and web pages


Lead Grading

Indicates how closely a prospect matches your ideal customer persona

Key Components

What do they look like?
A Number
Pardot assigns default scores for activity, but it can be customized
A Letter Grade
A, B, C, D, F, with D being the default grade
What do they do?
Sets MQL Threshold
Allows marketing to pass over marketing qualified leads to sales at the right time
Determines Persona Match
Allows marketing users to prioritize engagement with ideal customers


Helpful Apart, Powerful Together

With lead scoring and lead grading working together, you can gain a wholistic view about how you feel about a prospect and how they feel about you. For all you Tinder users out there, think of it as both people swiping right ; ) Now that you know you’re both interested in each other, you can start a conversation!

At this point, it’s prime time for your sales team to get more involved, and marketing can continue to assist. Any solution that enhances collaboration between sales and marketing is a win in my book.

Best Practices

So, now that you understand what lead qualification is and the benefits it can have, let’s talk a bit about some key practices that will help you implement this concept successfully:

Experimentation and Patience is Key

First and foremost, think of implementing lead qualification as cooking a stir fry for the first time. You know the main ingredients, but you haven’t figured out the perfect combination yet. Maybe you start out with brown rice, but you realize that takes too long to cook, so you need to cut down the time it takes to get from start to finish. So, you try white rice the next time. Maybe you discover a new ingredient you’ve never used before, and realize it’s a great addition to your recipe (that ingredient is ginger). Long story short, you’re not going to get the perfect combination of a lead score and grade to determine the ideal customer right off the bat – it takes some experimenting and learning as you go.

Look to Your Best Customers for Inspiration

Make sure you sit back and think about your loyal customers and what attributes they share, if any. Do they work in healthcare? Do they live in California? Are they at companies with under 100 people? This involves good data. If you don’t have good data on your current customers, it’s going to be harder to know who to target. Once you can find your ideal customer, then you can breakdown what makes them so ideal. If you don’t know what’s in your stir fry recipe, how do you think you’re going to be able to recreate it?

Analyze Your Most Successful Lead Generation Assets

Determine the primary ways prospects express interest, and what types of engagement you value most. Do you send out a lot of emails? Do you have gated content on your website? Do you post a lot on social media? This will help you determine how many points to award certain assets in Pardot. Maybe you want forms to be the main way that someone shows interest in your company, so you award those actions a lot of points. Don’t send out a lot of emails? Then don’t make an email open worth any points. Again, this will help you determine what the best recipe is for your company.

Don’t Be Too Generous

When it comes to grades, everyone wants an A…but, if everyone gets an A, then the achievement is meaningless. So, keep in mind that you want to make sure your prospects have a way to decrease their grades as well. Maybe you’re not interested in anyone that lives in Canada because your product can’t ship there. When you’re setting up your grading profile make sure you keep limitations or preferences like that in mind, and decrease a prospect’s grade accordingly. If you are going to have a dinner party, you want to know if anyone has any allergies, right? Don’t want to serve mushrooms in your stir fry if someone is going to break out in hives. Make sure you know your company’s limitations and take those prospects out of the equation.

Rely on Experts

Make sure to consult the experts first. If you don’t know how to cook, you’ll probably look at a cookbook or recipe before beginning to tackle a stir fry on your own. The same should go for setting up your lead qualification strategy. Talk to your sales team to gain some insight in who they see as an ideal prospect. Since they usually have a more personal relationship with your customers, they probably have knowledge around certain aspects that help deem a lead “qualified”. Maybe they’ve found that most of the customers who end up doing business with you have attended some of your events in the past. Maybe they have good luck with talking to prospects who are at a middle management level in a company because they are the decision makers. Whatever it may be, find out these details so you can incorporate them in your overall lead qualification strategy.

Swipe Left the Right Way

All of this can be overwhelming, but try to remember your end goal. You’re trying to play matchmaker with your company and your prospects. Keep your ideal customer in mind and know which data points can help you determine that. It’s never going to be the perfect solution right away, but with anything, it takes time. Tweak the recipe as you go, and you’ll eventually end up with a system that allows you to “swipe left or right” at exactly the right time.

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