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  • Writer's pictureAna Laura Zain

How to Set up Lead Scoring in Pardot (Part 1): Definitions, Step-by-Step Audit & Best Practice Guide

Lead scoring is an essential component of marketing automation and a topic that comes up often when comparing marketing automation tools. Simply put, lead scoring allows busy account execs to focus on their hottest leads while giving marketers insight into which leads to market to and which leads to pass on to sales. 

Why is it effective?

Rather than being bombarded with too many leads and not enough time to deal with them, sales reps are able to focus on only the hottest leads. By doing so, not only is their time better spent, but more leads can result in closed business. 

At the same time, leads which do not yet know enough about your brand to be sales-ready can be nurtured by marketing, until they are ready to speak with sales.

In this guide, we will get you up to speed on everything you need to get going with lead scoring in Pardot, to start setting up scoring in your organization. We will cover:

  • Lead scoring vs. lead grading

  • Performing a lead scoring audit

  • Understanding Pardot’s default lead scoring system

This is a two-part blog series. Be sure to stay tuned for the next part which will cover: 

  • Customizing Pardot’s default lead scoring system

  • Advanced customizations

Lead Scoring vs. Lead Grading

Lead scoring indicates familiarity with your brand

Lead scoring put simply, is a method of assigning a numerical score to your prospects, based on their digital activity. The digital activity includes actions like website page views, form fills, or email clicks. 

lead scoring pardot
Lead Scoring in Pardot

These are automatically tracked and scored as prospects interact with your website and marketing assets. The higher the score, the more interaction, and hence, familiarity with your brand. 

Grading indicates a good fit for your brand

Lead grading is a method of giving prospects a letter grade, from A+ to D-, in order to get an idea of how well the prospect fits with your company’s idea of a target customer. First, target lead profile criteria is established, and prospects are automatically graded based on the information we know about them, to establish how well they fit that profile criteria.

Lead Grading Pardot
Lead Grading Pardot

When Susan Smith fills out a form on the website and submits her data to us, we can see that she is a Netherlands-based Director at a medium-sized IT firm. Susan meets 100% of our criteria for an ideal lead and is graded as an A+ !


Now that we know about scoring vs. grading let’s talk MQLs vs. SQLs.

A MQL, or marketing qualified lead, is a lead that has a decent grade but not a very high score. They match our profile for a good customer but need to be further marketed to before speaking with sales. Hence, marketing qualified lead.

A SQL, or sales qualified lead, is a lead that has a decent enough grade to match our target profile, while also having a high score. This lead has interacted a bunch with our brand and seems like a hot lead. We can pass them on to sales! Hence, Sales Qualified lead.

Blended model

An organization that thinks of their prospects as MQLs and SQLs, normally utilizes both lead grading (to ensure the prospect is on target) and lead scoring (to ensure a prospect is familiar with our brand). This model which combines scoring and grading when looking at prospects is referred to as a blended approach to grading and scoring. We highly recommend this model, when thinking about grouping your prospects.

Now that we’ve talked about a blended approach to grading and scoring, let’s focus on the scoring aspect specifically.

How do we get started with lead scoring?

Performing a Lead Scoring Audit

The first step to a successful lead scoring program is a well thought out audit. An audit involves getting together your internal stakeholders, creating a shared document, and having a discussion about what constitutes an MQL vs. an SQL. 

Follow these steps for a killer audit:

Get everyone involved

Form a lead scoring sub-committee and involve all key stakeholders, to help contribute to your project. A good sub-committee should involve anyone who cares about lead nurturing. This should include marketers, marketing managers, sales reps, sales managers, sales engineers, support technicians, and senior leaders. 

Create a shared audit document

Create a document and list every touchpoint leads could possibly have with your brand as they move through the lead lifecycle - be specific! 

For example:

  • Email send

  • Email click

  • Email open

  • Whitepaper download

  • Case study download

  • Video view

  • Webinar registration

  • Webinar attendance

  • Tradeshow booth visit 

Start thinking about scoring

Once everyone in your group has filled out their shit, cram the numbers, create some reports, and see where everyone stands in their definitions of hot vs. cold touchpoints.  a hot lead. For example, if email open is ranked as 1, it is not very indicative of a hot lead and should not be scored high in your scoring model. On the flip side, if a webinar attendance is ranked a 5, it should score quite high when you build our scoring set.

Cram the numbers and get to talking

Once everyone in your group has filled out their shit, cram the numbers, create some reports and see where everyone stands in their definitions of hot vs. cold touchpoints. 

  • Were some touchpoints unanimously a 4 or a 5 from everyone’s perspective? These will be higher scoring criteria in your scoring set. 

  • Were some touchpoints unanimously a 1 or 2 from everyone’s perspective? These will be your lower-scoring criteria.

  • Were some touchpoints all over the map? This is where you will need to come together and discuss again, until everyone can come to a mutual understanding

Assign point values

Now that you have your list of high ranking criteria and low ranking criteria, give a point value to each one. This will be used in your scoring set. How you score is totally up to you and depends on how your organization does business.

Determine your  MQL and SQL Lead Thresholds

The final step is to figure out MQL and SQL lead thresholds. Have a look at your point values from the previous step and figure out what exact number of points a lead must have before they become an SQL. Is it 50 points? Is it 100 points? 

Understanding Pardot’s default lead scoring system

Now that you’ve performed our audit and are ready to set your scoring system up in Pardot, let’s take a look at what scoring in Pardot looks like out of the box. 

Your Pardot instance comes with a default scoring set, which can be completely revamped and customized. 

salesforce pardot interface
Salesforce Pardot interface

To view your default pardot scoring set and make changes, in the pardot Administration menu, navigate to Automation Settings > Scoring rules. Here you can see the default scoring set within Pardot out of the box.

Lead Scoring Rules in Pardot
Lead Scoring Rules in Pardot

This screen shows you all the scoring rules set up by default. For further explanations of each, check out Salesforce’s help page on this topic.

What's Next?

Next, on this blog series we will review how you can actually customize Pardot's default lead scoring system, including advances customizations and recommended best practices. Subscribe to receive our newsletter to get the second part of this blog series.

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