Lead generation programs are becoming more mainstream. In fact, 74% of B2B marketing professionals are participating in lead-gen practices, with 48% "very" or "fully" involved. While lead generation companies often filter through leads to ensure marketers are receiving high-quality contacts, not every lead will be in the same stage of the purchase process. An effective lead scoring system can help your marketing, sales and lead generation efforts be more successful. Here are 5 steps your business can take to a stronger lead scoring system. Related: Get started with your own lead generation campaign to connect with business buyers. 1. Define Your Lead Scoring Goals Before you even get started with creating lead scoring criteria or building a system to abide by, your business needs to define its lead scoring goals. What is it that you hope to achieve with lead scoring and the corresponding filtering system? Are you looking for ways to rule out poor lead generation campaigns, make the most of your lead generation spend, and/or optimize your current lead generation pool and efforts? Define your goals before moving forward. 2. Understand Your Lead Scoring Criteria Creating and understanding lead scoring criteria is crucial to the success of your scoring system. Going back through the data your business already has available can help you find traits and trends that are closely associated with closed deals and bad leads. While timelines and purchase cycles may differ from one company to the next, you'll want to ask yourself the following questions to establish what criteria your lead scoring system will be based upon: What lead characteristics lead to a close in a short-period of time, moderate period of time, or long period of time? What does our business consider a bad lead? Do we communicate this to our lead generation company to ensure our goals are aligned? What types of behaviors are an essential part of our buyer's purchase process and how are we generating leads and making an impact at each point? Related: Lead Nurturing Through Scoring: Part I 3. Establish a Lead Scoring System A lead scoring system is a must for any business that wants to optimize its lead generation efforts. Most scoring systems fall into two main categories: demographic scoring or behavioral scoring. Demographic: The key demographic factors you'll want to pay attention to are title and department, company size, revenue and industry. More managers are involved in the buying process than ever before so pay attention to demographics to provide each lead and decision-maker with relevant content. Behavioral: The behavior of a prospect includes their website visits, responses to email campaigns, content downloads and willingness to complete an online form. Your system should take into account both of these qualifications and where the buyer is in the purchase process. This is often indicated by the behaviors of the lead and what led them to become a lead in the first place. Decide what does and doesn't matter as some criteria will matter far more than others. Your lead scoring system should have thresholds that take into account the two main categories and the purchase cycle. 4. Create a Plan of Action How will your business put the lead scoring system into place? Having a plan of action can make the adoption of the system much smoother for sales, marketing and your lead generation team. How will the highest scoring leads be delivered to sales reps and with what frequency? Middle tier leads will need nurturing, so you can't disregard these prospects. Studies show that the majority of these leads will make a purchase in the next 24 months. You'll also need to decide what your business will do with cold leads that made it through the filters. Related: Hipsters Beware: Lead Generation Becoming More Mainstream 5. Measure and Refine Your Process After using your lead scoring system for some time, evaluate its success to ensure there isn't disconnect and that ready-to-purchase leads aren't being lost. More sales and engagement, a faster response time from your sales staff as well as marketing delivering the right content to middle-tier leads at the right time are all indicators of whether or not your scoring system is effective. Measure your progress in lead generation and conversions and then determine if your process needs to be refined. Every few months, look for patterns that could indicate a buyer shift. Keep your lead scoring system simple. This process is aimed at helping your marketing and sales team be more efficient. Experiment with your scoring system until you find what works best and analyze your data to ensure the system is truly helping with lead generation and nurturing efforts. Does your business score leads? What criteria do you use?