A score serves as an ultimate abstraction or summary.

That’s especially true in sport.

“Who won?”

“The Blue Jays. 11 to 5.”

The Blue Jays won because they moved men more often across one specific plate more often than the other team. This is all very American. A brief period of action. Collect statistics about that brief period. ???. Profit. And it’s easy. Baseball is nice for the 1 to 1 correspondence of points to a single event. American football and basketball are spicier. Cricket, with all due respect to my antipodean friends, is ridiculous.

There’s so much more to the performance of The Blue Jays or the Australian National Cricket Team. But the score is the ultimate summary.

There’s a huge market for scores. People like them. They save a tremendous amount of cognitive load. And there’s a always a market for summary.

A demonstration of complexity below illuminates on why scoring is so popular follows.


The matrix of information below is a hypothetical customer segmentation for a typical SaaS (Software as a Service) company with a free trial.


There’s a lot of information here. Along the top are the number of days since a customer made a purchase, and along the side, the total amount of money a customer paid the company. So, 1 customer paid more than $100 dollars in the past 30 days, 1,000 customers paid between 1 cent and $99.99 between 30 and 90 days ago.

A lot harder to read than a score, right?



Content is very important in persuading people to become customers. It’s a core component of an owned media strategy. The matrix below summarizes whether the content contains the word ‘we’, ‘why’, or ‘how to’. Then, that content is summarized by the number of visits to it.


From the matrix above, you can see that 59 pieces of content contained the words ‘how to’ in the headline. Of those 59, 55 of them earned 10,000 visits or more. Of the 23 that contained the word ‘we’ in the headline, 22 earned less than 100. It’s pretty obvious that ‘how to’ content is killing it.

Content isn’t the only reason why audiences become customers, but it’s a major driver. An existing customer may tell a friend about an experience they’ve had with the product, but it’s far easier for existing customers to tell others about it using a story furnished by the company. A story about a product feature is effective at getting word out about that feature.


And, just to point out the multi-visit dimension of becoming a customer. Such a table, depicted below, is for all intents and purposes commercially impractical to isolate in our multi-device world all the time. In isolated studies with very small samples, there’s solid science to support that higher visit numbers are associated with greater conversion over time (No point in complaining about the constraint, people may begin their journey with you on the mobile site and end it on their work computer, get over it).


In short, segmentations are:

  1. Highly descriptive
  2. Hard to read
  3. Not a score

Scoring is about winning

A great score is ultimately an abstraction of winning. And in sporting, it is.

A score in baseball could just as easily be entirely based on home runs. Or runs. Or strike outs. Points could have been assigned for each of them. Same with snowboarding where they’re awarded by judges. Why is that defined is winning?

That’s the expression of power by the institution that is the sport. The summation of the culture, expectations, preferences, traditions, behaviors, procedures, rules, customs, and so on. Winning is winning because it’s defined as winning.

Segmentations into scores

If a score is defined as winning because you say it is, then say.

If you’re a business, winning the customer segmentation game is about maximizing the number of people in that bottom right hand corner in that matrix. It’s about the count of active customers paying money. Assign an active customer a point. Sum the 1’s in the table. Done. Winning.

If you’re a valley startup, winning the customer segmentation game is about maximizing the install base. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the definition as dictated by the traditions, board games, culture, and expectations of those institutions. It’s about maximizing the upper left hand quadrant in that matrix. Done. Winning.

If you’re a Toronto startup, winning the customer segmentation game is about establishing a paid install base and demonstrating scalability. The goal of a Toronto startup is to grow into a business. You keep score by a paid customer count, even if it is small. Done. Winning.

Winning the content segmentation is about maximizing the number of articles in the bottom row. Sum the 1’s. Done. Winning.

There are all sorts of ways to Cricket up a score, such that participants are recognized in the score for components of performance. In so doing, you’re making the sport a lot less accessible. But, at least it’s a lot more descriptive.

Characteristics of a great score

  1. Simple
  2. An abstraction of real, meaningful, victory


Tell me what you think on twitter @cjpberry