Defining the Marketing Qualified Lead in the B2B Context

September 20, 2018 | David Cunningham


Today, we know that across the B2B sales cycle, the key to driving home a sale is the quality of the leads in your pipeline.

Yet, lead qualification seems to be a particularly troublesome pain point for marketers and salespeople alike. As we’ve recently discussed, in order to drive ROI for a business, marketing teams need to recognize the importance of lead quality over lead quantity in the modern world of B2B marketing.

Not convinced? Well, think about this for a second:

  • 79 percent of all marketing leads never result in conversion
  • 44 percent of B2B companies use a lead scoring system
  • 61 percent of B2B marketers name generating high-quality leads as their biggest challenge.

 

One of the biggest causes for these surprising statistics? How we as marketers define what makes a lead marketing qualified.

via GIPHY

At a high-level, marketing qualified leads are the leads that marketers have seen engage with their brand. Specifically, these leads have engaged with a brand enough to indicate an interest in their products or services and would likely be receptive to nurturing efforts and eventual conversion.

There’s just one problem—this generic definition has resulted in a serious decline in lead quality at the beginning stages of the sales cycle, which inevitably translates to poor quality leads all the way down the funnel.

Think about it, if marketers flood the pipeline with poor quality leads at the top of the funnel, their nurturing efforts won’t make enough of an impact to facilitate lead engagement. Without lead engagement, sales teams will lack the insights needed to effectively drive home a conversion.

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With this in mind, both marketing and sales teams need to align themselves in order to come up with a new, modern definition for an MQL that fits the unique needs and selling points of their brand.

To help, we’re exploring how to define an MQL, what makes them different from an SQL, and how marketers can improve the quality of their lead qualification efforts. Take a look:

The Differences Between Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads

 

For marketers looking to address the issue of poorly qualified leads head-on, the generic definition of “high engagement equals marketing qualified” needs to go out the window.

In its place, marketers need to formulate their own definition; one that accounts for the individual goals, needs, and solutions of their brand or specific product or service.

Think of it this way: If your car needs new brakes, your mechanic isn’t going to change them the exact same way as the last car he fixed. Sure, the problem is the same: changing a car’s brakes, but the process needed to change those brakes is unique to the make and model of the car being worked on. The same thing goes for marketers looking to define marketing qualified lead.

In other words, marketers need to settle on key identifiers that give them an idea of a lead’s level of interest and propensity to convert. The first step? Look at specific indicators that show genuine interest in their products or services, including:

Buyer Persona: In the B2B space, there are usually specific job titles with the power to make a buying decision. As part of an MQL definition, marketers should settle on the ideal position(s) of a prospective customer and identify the type of problems they are trying to solve. This will go a long way in helping narrow leads and disqualify those that don’t have the authority to make a purchase.

Conversion Actions: Modern marketers know that not all conversions are created equal. A form-fill for a free demo is much more indicative of interest than a generic whitepaper download, for example. In order to clearly define what makes an MQL, marketers need to reach a consensus on the ideal engagements a lead must take that indicates a proclivity to make a purchase.

Disqualifying Factors: While this article focuses on the elements that go into accurately defining and qualifying a lead, marketers need to recognize the importance of disqualifying their leads as well. With this in mind, it’s important to identify and list out the factors that indicate a lead is not interested in converting, doesn’t fit the ideal buyer persona, or just requires too much education and nurturing to provide enough ROI right now.

Once these factors have been distilled into more specific insights, marketers need to establish a lead generation funnel that can help sift through the top-funnel leads. This kind of funnel should serve as a qualification tool for both marketers and salespeople that can help define who your best leads are, where they are within the funnel (lead, MQL, SQL, etc.), and identify opportunities to move those leads down the funnel toward paying customers.

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After marketers and salespeople identify the indicators of prospect interest and have implemented a lead generation funnel to assist them in recognizing those indicators, they’ll be able to accurately define their MQLs.

Improving the Quality of MQLs in B2B Marketing

 

The last point I’ll leave you with when it comes to leveraging better marketing qualified leads for your marketing efforts revolves around one word… quality.

via GIPHY

 

It’s the quality of the leads you drive down the pipeline—not the quantity—that determines whether or not your efforts will lead to improved ROI and successful conversions.

Whether it’s an MQL or an SQL, the higher the quality of those leads, the better they’ll perform.

With this in mind, marketers can leverage the unique insights gained through interactive content to better understand their target audiences, their prospects, and the quality of the leads they generate. With interactive content, marketers can connect prospects with content relevant to their interests and their location within the sales funnel.

Take this interactive assessment for example: leads can use it to receive a personalized snapshot of their email marketing strategy, while being connected to additional tools, resources, and examples of how to improve their own strategy.

For marketers, we gain distinct information that helps us qualify leads. Parameters like business size, reliance on email marketing, and whether or not they have an email marketing solution, all help marketers determine if a lead is ready for sales, in need of nurturing, or simply not going to be a valuable lead.

Final Thoughts

 

Poor lead qualification is doing some serious damage to the bottom line of B2B brands. For marketers looking to address this problem while still keeping the pipeline packed with leads on their way to sales, the definition of what makes a marketing qualified lead needs to be re-examined.

By focusing on the indicators unique to the brand and developing a lead generation funnel capable of bringing those indicators to light, marketers and salespeople will have a more clear path to turn leads into customers.


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