Leads. No matter how many you generate, you can’t afford to treat them all the same.
Some are like window shoppers, passively browsing what your business has to offer.
And others are chomping at the bit to hop on a call and make a purchase.
But what about the in-betweeners? You know, the ones who might need a little push before being handed off to your sales team?
Enter your marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
These are people who bridge the gap between lukewarm and sales-ready. By understanding what makes your MQLs tick, you can make more informed marketing decisions while also making life easier on your sales team.
The end result of digging into your MQLs? Less wasted time, a fine-tuned funnel, and yes, more revenue.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- the ins and outs of what a marketing qualified lead is,
- how to spot them in the wild, and
- how defining MQLs can give your business a much-needed boost
What is a marketing qualified lead?
Alright, let’s start with the basics: what exactly is a marketing qualified lead?
Marketing qualified leads are people who’ve shown legitimate interest and curiosity in your business based on their behavior.
Whereas sales qualified leads (SQLs) are prime for closing, MQLs need a bit more relationship nurturing on behalf of your marketing team.
By taking specific, measurable actions within your funnel, marketing qualified leads are signaling that they’re ready to take that next step in due time.
What sort of actions are we talking about? For starters, any combination of the following can highlight a marketing qualified lead:
- Opting in to your list to download an ebook, checklist, or other lead magnet
- Registering for a product demo or webinar
- Returning to your site multiple times
- Sharing or commenting on pieces of content
- Spending significant time on-site, especially on product or transactional pages
- Clicking through or responding to your nurture emails
- Asking questions on live chat
Although these aren’t necessarily the only actions an MQL might take, they all highlight behaviors of someone who’s likely to buy in the future versus someone who stumbled on your site.
In short, they know your business and have a relatively high level of sophistication with your product.
Master the art of assessing marketing qualified leads.
Of course, just because someone took one of the actions above doesn’t mean they’re ready to be closed.
Because when looking at any marketing qualified lead, context matters.
After all, there’s a big difference between a mere email opt-in and a returning visitor who’s attended multiple webinars.
Just as top-of-the-funnel leads can be incredibly nuanced, so too can your marketing qualified leads.
But with the help of your CRM, the process of assessing and ultimately closing MQLs becomes a concrete strategy rather than a guessing game.
By better understanding where your leads are in the buyer’s journey and what actions they’ve taken, marketers can be more confident about their likelihood of closing when they hand them off to Sales:
Likewise, sales has a roadmap of the touchpoints that lead has taken and can come up with talking points accordingly. Through CRM data, you can clearly define “what’s next” for anyone and everyone in your funnel.
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The cost of poorly defined leads:
Businesses ignore the act of defining leads at their own peril.
Collecting and analyzing lead data isn’t just a vanity exercise. Failing to properly vet your leads can have long-term negative effects on everything from your bottom line to your team’s performance and morale.
Here’s a sobering snapshot of the high cost of poorly defined leads:
Wasted time (and money)
When your sales team receives a lead that hasn’t been clearly defined, there’s a strong possibility that they could push too hard—and push them out of your funnel. Conversely, getting in touch with leads too soon might also result in a would-be sale bouncing.
Time is money, and both quickly go down the drain when your sales team is left in the dark. Not only that, but losing out on leads also spells bad news for individual performance reviews and needlessly skews your sales statistics in the wrong direction.
Also, spending time with poorly vetted leads means that there are lost opportunity costs with leads that could’ve been closed otherwise.
Breakdowns between your teams
Food for thought: over half of all sales and marketing teams don't feel like they’re on the same page. This gets worse when leads aren’t properly defined and qualified.
When someone from Sales feels that a lost lead wasn’t vetted, the blame is shifted to the marketing team. On the flip side, marketers might feel that the sales team dropped the ball since they spend so much time and effort nurturing leads themselves.
This sort of blame game creates unnecessary animosity between the teams that should be working in tandem. When you have a detailed process for defining your leads, this breakdown becomes less common.
Understanding MQLs can boost your business.
Considering just how simple it is to gather lead data through a CRM, there’s no excuse for businesses to subject themselves to these pitfalls above.
Now that we’ve clearly defined the importance of MQLs and qualifying leads, let’s talk about how defining them can result in a net positive for your business. These five upsides are a byproduct of defining your leads effectively.
1. Discover your leads’ most important actions.
Taking a look at what actions and strategies have closed leads in the past, you can make a clear distinction between what makes an MQL versus an SQL.
And this distinction paints a clear picture of what leads need to do before they’re handed off to sales.
For example, let’s say you realize that the bulk of your buyers close after opting into your email list, attending a webinar, and going through a free trial period. These actions can serve as a baseline for leveling up to SQL status.
You can also begin to rework your funnel to point your content and other marketing campaigns to encourage these specific actions. Remember, your leads’ touchpoints have big-picture implications for your entire business.
2. Fine-tune your lead criteria.
The more information you can gather from your leads, the better. This means setting up your form fields and CRM to collect as much data as possible.
Whereas an ordinary B2B lead might leave just their email address, a marketing qualified lead might offer deeper insight based on factors such as company size, revenue, and location.
If the data points from these fields correlate with higher sales, they can also become part of your lead scoring criteria. This could also mean including more required relevant form fields in your opt-ins to better define your leads as soon as they sign up.
3. Determine and recreate your top-performing content.
Let’s say you have a whitepaper or webinar that totally kills it in terms of conversions.
Doesn’t it make sense to create more of that same content to appeal to future leads?
Knowing what top-of-the-funnel content creates MQLs allows you to replicate and refine that content time and time again. Whether it’s a case study, video, sales page, or ad, your CRM data can tell you directly what’s doing well and what might need to be scrapped.
4. Appeal to the right personas.
If you’ve taken the time to create personas, your lead data can determine whether or not your marketing campaigns are on target.
If you find that your MQLs are mostly in line with one persona and completely off-base with another, it may be time to reassess your marketing or your approach to personas altogether. Either way, gathering data paints a comprehensive picture of what your target customer should look like based on actual sales.
5. Improve forecasting and goal-setting.
Finally, the fine details of your marketing qualified leads make forecasting revenue and setting goals for your business more straightforward.
For example, figuring out what it costs on average to transform an MQL to an SQL can help you better allocate your marketing budget. That cost combined with sales metrics such as average deal size and closing rate can help revenue predictions based on your performance:
That said, none of these upsides are possible until you take a deep dive into your CRM and determine what makes a marketing qualified lead for your business.
What do marketing qualified leads mean to your business?
Serving as the link between top-of-the-funnel leads and those who are ready to close, understanding your MQLs is critical for scoring sales. By discovering the trends that lead people from Point A to Point B, you have a better pulse on what within your sales funnel deserves the most attention, and how to manage it.
By taking a data-driven approach to how your marketing qualified leads behave, making those ever-important changes doesn’t have to be a guessing game.
And given the sheer amount of information afforded by your CRM and analytics platforms, gathering that precious data on your leads is easier than ever.