marketing qualified leads mqls

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By Jeremy Balius
10 September 2021

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): Everything you need to know

Finding or being found by potential prospects who can be qualified as leads that your team can nurture is an important aspect of efficient marketing and sales strategies. Analysing your strategies in place is crucial to prevent high ad spending with low conversions. 

When you understand your buyer’s journey, you will be able to determine what your next course of action should be. It starts with vast marketing efforts that can be funneled in with a set of criteria. 

Creating a systematised marketing lead qualification process will help you properly pin down your audience and help you figure out if pursuing a lead can result in a sale. 

These leads are called Marketing Qualified Leads.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)? 

Marketing Qualified Leads or MQLs are those leads who have taken some form of action or combination of actions with marketing activities that indicates interest or intent. 

Their activities and level of engagement, like website visits, email sign-ups, or content offer downloads, show that they have the potential to become prospective sales opportunities according to marketing. 

Marketing Qualified Leads represent an important stage of a lead lifecycle. The MQL stage generally comes after the unqualified subscriber and general lead stages, and comes before Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and Opportunities stages.

What is the purpose of Marketing Qualified Leads?

MQLs are great investments for a business to achieve potential growth. Because MQLs have made initial contact and taken the first steps to learn more about what you’re offering, they are promising leads and more likely to become a paying customer than a cold lead. 

MQLs are acquired through the right nurturing and retargeting strategies, and doing so can help them transition from MQL to SQL.

What an MQL is not

Keep in mind that MQLs work best to a certain extent but: 

1. MQLs aren’t automatically sales 

Although MQL shows a clear interest in your efforts, there are considerations before they move down the sales funnel and be a full-fledged customer. It takes time to nurture MQLs, and knowing that they are not in the buying stage yet can help you approach these leads accordingly. 

2. MQLs aren’t Target Accounts

A marketing qualified lead is better than a regular lead because that there is more engagement for your business based on their behaviour. For example, a regular lead would probably scroll past a social media post online, but MQLs are invested in knowing more about a product’s feature which is shown on their site activities and engagements. 

3. MQLs are no better than SQLs (and vice versa)

All leads play a role in growing a business. Regardless of the type, the goal for sales and marketing should be to acquire high-quality leads. Once you hand over MQLs to become Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs, converting will be more seamless. When marketing has a system to qualify leads, it can help sales do what they do best: winning deals and earning revenue.

How to qualify leads to identify MQLs

Establishing qualification criteria will determine how to effectively qualify MQLs.

Marketing tactics are needed to attract and monitor the level of engagement of these leads. This is usually achieved by registering some form of interest or intent from your target audiences and prospects. Interest or intent is commonly recognised by actions taken by your audiences.

Examples of actions that display interest or intent in the qualification process 

The ideal actions taken by target audiences need to be recognisable by your marketing systems.

  • Signed up on your lead form for a discounted product offer
  • Engaged with your ad that directs them to your site
  • Watched a demo video of your product
  • Downloaded a free ebook or product trial
  • Signed up for your regular newsletter 
  • Spent ample time to visit your site and navigated through multiple pages
  • Clicked through your CTA to find out more information 
  • Interacted with a chat representative 

Identifying the specific user activities is vital in order to categorise the efforts that work and analyse each activity’s performance. 

Generally taking a single action doesn’t mean a prospect is qualified as a Marketing Qualified Lead. You will need to determine what combination of actions need to occur for your business to qualify an MQL.

How to keep track of MQLs using a CRM and lead scoring

Using marketing automation tools such as HubSpot CRM will ease the burden of tracking your MQLs. In fact, 80% of marketers believe that marketing automation will help them get more leads (and conversions). 

With automation tools, there is less manual preparation for sales calls and personalised emails and give more opportunities to scale up practical strategies. 

Tracking your MQLs should come after setting qualification criteria. This way, you will be able to maximise channels that drive revenue more than just leads. 

A buyer’s journey progresses from one stage to another. You may be able to develop metrics for your MQLs like: 

  • Tracking conversion rate from MQLs to SQLs. Determine how much of your MQLs have become SQLs. 
  • Determining sales opportunities for your MQLs. SQLs become sales opportunities when the sales team gauges the lead to an actual prospect to nurture. 
  • Converting MQLs to your work-in-progress pipeline. Once it’s identified that the sales opportunity is highly likely to buy through any form of commitment from the potential buyer, it moves to the work-in-progress pipeline. 
  • Turning MQLs into closed/won. Closing deals is the main goal of the business. Leads are moved here when they make the payment. 
  • Specific marketing channels where the closed deals come from. Monitoring the channels that get the highest conversion is vital to leverage your strategy on those.

Another way to best track your marketing effectiveness is through lead scoring. Lead scoring will help you identify how you can shift your MQLs to SQLs. 

Using your marketing automation platform and CRM, prospects increase in lead score progressively as they take action on your website, interact with content and interact with your people. Setting lead scoring thresholds means that once a lead passes a score, they advance in lead lifecycle, for example transition from MQL to SQL.

Determine implicit and explicit lead scoring strategies to narrow down the scoring process. Implicit lead scoring could go as far as the lead’s IP address and location to help you gather more information before making them an explicit lead. With explicit scoring, it’s a straightforward approach and can proceed to sign-up forms where you get their data for your marketing efforts.

How to define an MQL for your business 

There are different definitions of MQLs depending on the nature of the business and you will need to consider what criteria constitute an MQL for your business. 

Define an MQL for your business by taking the following steps: 

  1. Sales and marketing should agree and work together on a clear definition of MQL
  2. Go back to your buyer persona to build your audience profile and buying cycle
  3. Align with the sales team and determine what a qualified lead is for them
  4. Identify the key factors like demographics and psychographics on a qualification basis
  5. Be open to changes — revisit the MQL definition regularly 

What do you do with MQLs?

Whether it’s a content strategy, social media, or any type of ad, marketing is always the initial stage to establish your target audience, prospects and leads.

Engagement is the ROI for marketing so it’s imperative to filter prospects and determine the highest-quality leads based on the criteria that were set for the business. 

Once the marketing team gathers MQLs, they can now devise a handoff process with the sales team. Sales will then do their qualification standards and pick out the top-tier prospects from the pool of MQLs and assign SQLs.

Through MQLs, the sales team can work hand in hand with the marketing team in qualifying leads.

Don’t forget that aside from this, MQLs will also identify what type of marketing content helps bring the right prospects for your business.

How many prospects or leads do I need to find to uncover an MQL?

There isn’t an exact figure to determine the number of prospects to lead you to an MQL. Setting your targets is pertinent to reaching a definite number of leads. 

For example, if the goal of a business is to reach X new customers each month, what needs to be done is to factor in specific variables of the sales process, and relate them with each other. The specific and accurate percentages can be calculated through historical data using CRM tools. In addition, using a lead calculator to get a specific number will give more direction to your lead’s buyer journey. 

The hard part’s always at the beginning. But with the right strategies and tools, investing in identifying and tracking MQLs to achieve highly qualified leads, shorter sales cycles, and more closed deals is well worth the investment.

Want to discuss how qualifying marketing leads can help your sales?

Contact us to discuss how we can help you take a strategic approach to through channel marketing.

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