MQL: Complete guide to Qualified Leads by Marketing

MQL: Complete guide to Qualified Leads by Marketing

Learn all about MQLs and their importance to conquer the best business opportunities by uniting Marketing and Sales

MQL, short for Marketing Qualified Leads, is the category that represents a potential customer that the Marketing team considers most likely to close a sale. It is the ready-to-buy Lead, determined by an automated analysis of the data provided.

When we look at sky marketing marketing strategies, it is easy to identify that one of the main goals is to capture Leads. However, one thing needs to be made clear: although the Marketing teams want to generate the most Leads, in the end, what they really want is to generate new sales for the company. And yes, generating more MQLs, the famous Marketing Qualified Leads, will help achieve this.

Getting the contacts of the people who are closest to closing a purchase is quite a challenge for any company that works with Inbound Marketing. You must not only focus on a target audience, but also analyze the profile of each new contact you manage to capture. This will drive your qualification strategy that ranks Leads.

And is this just a Marketing action? In fact, capturing Leads is the responsibility of both the Sales and Marketing teams:

  • While Marketing professionals are in charge of designing and implementing the Lead Capture strategy, Sales teams must also support this process by communicating their expectations and needs;
  • When these teams work together, it helps to generate high quality Leads, represented by the acronym MQL.

This is just an introduction to check out everything about MQL from now on! Let’s start by describing what they are, how to identify them, what the differences are for other types of Leads and what steps you can follow to attract more and more qualified contacts, improving your sales performance.

And to start working with a focus on attracting Qualified Leads, access below a complete Kit with tools and materials that will help in this process. He will help you at work, putting into practice what you will learn in this post!

What is MQL?

MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads or Qualified Leads by Marketing) are Leads classified as potential customers by the Marketing department and sent to the Sales team. So we can say that it represents a label that a Lead may or may not have.

By this definition, it is clear that these are Leads that the Marketing team considers qualified based on a series of criteria, including profile data and also data based on the activities performed by each person.

Today, MQLs are a key part of sales enablement. Marketing teams generate awareness and interest around a product or service, using outreach strategies, with the ultimate goal of sending MQLs for sales.

However, before distributing Leads and sending them to the next stage of the buying journey, you need to know how to qualify them. Determining the reasons why a Lead is considered qualified or not is an indispensable step.

After all, passing bad contacts – or ones that aren’t ready for a commercial approach – to your Sales team will not bring in new customers or improve your bottom line. It doesn’t hurt to remember that the main objective of marketing actions is to bring new business and revenue to the company.

How important is it to find MQLs?

One of the most important functions for marketing professionals, especially in the B2B market, where the sales cycle is longer, is Lead generation. For some companies, this is still an error in the Marketing job description.

Just generating Leads, even if there are a lot of them, may not be the best strategy when looking at the sales result.

Focusing energy more on the quantity of Leads than on the quality of each one can be an option depending on the final objective of the area. However, if yours is to generate more sales, then you need to know that quality is essential.

  • The ultimate goal of Lead generation is the customers, not the Leads.

Leads shouldn’t just be seen as a pretty number in Marketing Dashboard metrics. They have to contribute directly to sales and, as a consequence, to the company’s bottom line. That’s why we never see lead generation as one of the vanity metrics.

If your company is content with the fact that Leads are treated just like an email list, chances are good that it isn’t making the most of the opportunities. In fact, these opportunities will only be found when you are determined to work with MQLs.

Remember that Leads are much more than emails. Each person who filled out a form on the website or on any Landing Page of your company showed interest in the topic or more than that: they have a pain, a problem they need to solve. Looking at MQLs is important to identify these audience profiles.

How to identify an MQL?

The first step in identifying MQLs is to create a method to assign scores to your Leads. This is a ranking process that works for both the characteristics that make up the Lead’s profile and the level of interest.

Companies can identify MQLs in a variety of ways, assigning points and implementing ratings such as warm, warm, or cold. Another option is to categorize each as A, B, C or D.

Everything will be summarized with a combination of Profile and Interest. If there is low interest, but the profile is adequate (i.e., it’s within your Personas profiles), then Marketing needs to continue nurturing that person. If there is a high interest along with the right profile, the team has a great chance of making the sale quickly.

In the agreement between the areas, it is necessary to define which are the characteristics that make the Lead someone qualified thinking about the Profile. Some items that can enter the ranking list are:

  • Age;
  • Sex;
  • Location;
  • Office;
  • Company size;
  • Company’s operating market;
  • Education;
  • Level of technical knowledge.

When we look at the level of interest, we talk about criteria such as:

  • Number of previously downloaded materials;
  • Type of material you are interested in;
  • Categories of the pages you accessed;
  • If there was any request for contact.

With several different factors to evaluate, the best way is to have a solution that distributes the scores, does all the calculation and even allows you to segment your contact base to carry out Leads nutrition.

For Marketing Professionals, the best option is to create scoring models in Marketing Automation tools such as RD Station Marketing. This is done from Lead Scoring!

Do you know what it is and how it works? We’ll show you in detail from now on.

Lead Scoring: the best way to qualify Leads and find MQLs

The Lead Scoring is a technique that classifies its Leads according to profile and interest and send only those with the greatest potential for purchasing the Sales Team. With proper configuration, the tool takes data inputs into account to generate a score.

From there, the process is simple: if a Lead reaches the minimum score to become MQL (this is specified within the tool), it will be passed on to the sales team for evaluation and follow-up.

Now let’s understand why combining your Lead’s profile and interest scores is the best way to find the most qualified, ready-to-sell Leads.

Important note: all of the example and configuration tips below can be implemented with RD Station Marketing’s Lead Scoring functionality.

Identifying the Profile

Also known as demographics, Leads properties allow you to identify and prioritize which of them are most likely to become customers of your product or service.

By defining grades (1 to 10) for the most effective terms of the main Leads properties, your base will automatically be divided into four groups: A, B, C and D, with the Leads in group “A” being those with the best profile for sales .

Check out some examples:

Depending on the weight of each piece of information (the job title is the most important answer field in this example) and the rating for each answer option, you can determine what the rating of each Lead is.

In this case, Leonardo has the most adequate profile to receive a commercial approach, with greater chances of making a purchase.

Identifying the level of interest

Every time a Lead performs a conversion to access your company’s content, opens a certain email or completes an automation flow , it is possible to add a value to your score and, in this way, measure how much this Lead is interested in your product or service.

The step by step is simple:

  • Create groups with conversion materials, campaigns or automation flows that have the same value;
  • Every time your Lead performs any of the group’s activities, the value assigned to the group is added to the Lead’s interest score;
  • The higher the Lead score , the greater the interest shown in your product or service;
  • By combining this value with the Lead Profile group (A, B, C or D), you can find the Leads most likely to close the deal, that is, your MQLs.

To show you how it works, let’s simulate creating two interest score groups.

Now let’s see the example of the activity of two Leads and the result of the note of interest for each one of them:

In the examples above, you can see that, although Danilo converts into more materials than Leonardo, his interest score is lower as only one of them was from Medium Funnel.

Implement your Lead Scoring with RD Station Marketing

In RD Station Marketing, the leading all-in-one Marketing Automation tool in Latin America, you will find Lead Scoring functionality. It is the most practical way to make your Leads qualification and it is available to all clients from the Pro Plan.

It is one of the most important features of the tool, developed based on the best qualification strategies. Lead Scoring automatically generates notes for your base’s Leads, scoring and qualifying so that only good contacts are passed to the Sales area.

But remember: even if it is an automated process, it must always be optimized and, most of all, very well planned before being put into practice. Thus, RD facilitates this planning, delivering all the information you need.

Therefore, the tip is to now automate the qualification of your Leads for the Sales team, configuring the Lead Scoring profile and interest rules with RD Station Marketing. 

What are the differences between MQL and SQL?

When looking for information about Qualifying Leads, we will always come across another acronym that is common in the areas of Marketing and Sales. We are talking about SQL, which stands for Sales Qualified Leads or Qualified Leads by Sales.

Despite the similarities, MQL and SQL represent the profile of a Lead at different stages of the buying journey. So let’s know the differences?

Knowing SQL

A SQL is a lead that has moved past the engagement stage, been analyzed by Marketing and Sales, and deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process. Often these Leads are actively looking for a product or service that your company offers and have expressed an intention to buy.

As you can imagine, not every MQL that is passed to Sales becomes SQL. There is a new filter between one step and another, with new qualification criteria. In this case, each SQL was approved by the sales team as a viable customer.

If the person responsible for the sale considers an MQL to be an SQL after the evaluation, he/she should continue to work to make the closure. . But what happens if it determines that a Lead is not SQL?

In this case, we must highlight this information within the CRM system (which must be synchronized with your Marketing Automation tool), provide a reason why the MQL was not eligible for sales, and return this information to the Marketing team.

→ See how to use the automation flows for this step by accessing the content: How to Use Marketing Automation to Extract More Opportunities for Sales

Some common reasons why MQLs don’t reach the SQL stage might be:

  • Low budget;
  • Unavailability of time;
  • Impossibility of contact;
  • Incorrect data.

Influence of SQL results on MQL generation

Marketing should analyze this Sales feedback and use it to adjust their Lead Generation tactics. For example:

  • A company considers that Leads with profile A that reach 50 points and Leads with profile B that reach 100 points (profile + interest ratio) are MQLs;
  • Of the generated MQLs, only 15% are approved by the Sales team as SQLs;
  • Among the MQLs that are discarded (85% of all of them), half were returned because of the “Invalid data” reason;
  • During an analysis, the Marketing team identified an error in the conversion form of Leads that convert from Paid Media actions;
  • As it represents a high volume, Marketing should not adjust the form to continue receiving Leads from that source.

To generate maximum revenue from your Leads, the Marketing and Sales teams must work together to clearly decide what constitutes an MQL and an SQL? They must agree to the process of transferring Leads from one stage to another in order to bring as many as possible to the end of the sales funnel.

By forming your MQL definition with your sales team, you are ensuring that their feedback is continuous on established criteria.

>> Read more: What is a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and how to implement the agreement in your company’s Marketing and Sales areas

MQL Journey in the Sales Funnel

An easy way to think about the result generated by the sales funnel is to break the duties of the Marketing and Sales areas:

  • Marketing captures the attention of visitors, arouses interest and presents valuable content through dissemination channels;
  • Sales shows how a solution can benefit the potential customer and drives them through the purchasing process.

To understand this work more specifically, let’s break it down into 3 stages, which represent the stages that Leads, MQLs and SQL go through within the sales funnel.

Step 1: Conversion to Lead

When a Lead first converts to one of your Landing Pages, it will usually provide your contact information in exchange for some kind of useful information, also known as a Top of Funnel offer.

These offers are usually eBooks, whitepapers, free webinars or info graphics. In this case, Lead is just starting to research an issue he has. They often don’t know your company and how it can help.

At this stage, using a Marketing Automation platform, the Lead can be directed to a thank you page with a link to download the offer and also receive a confirmation email with the same download link. A few days later, automation triggers another email with additional information related to what he downloaded.

With each of these interactions triggered by the first conversion, the Lead is also invited to learn more about how your company can help solve the problem related to the material they accessed. Examples of offers for this next stage include:

  • Case studies;
  • product presentation videos;
  • Product Catalogs.

Even with this strategy, many Leads take the initial information they need, but don’t move to the next stage of the buying journey. You can certainly keep in touch with them through newsletters, with new content offers, so that these Leads know in depth everything they can offer.

Leads who have shown not only the ideal profile but also the interest in your offers, the way is to change their status to MQL.

Step 2: MQL

Let’s say the Lead is interested in how your company can solve the problem you are currently researching. He then decides to access information about your company’s product or service. That means you now have an MQL!

After identifying this Lead status change, your Marketing Automation needs to send the MQL information and indication to the Sales team workflow. Thus, Marketing takes MQL to the next stage of the journey, the Decision stage.

To help an MQL move to the closest stage of purchase, you can also offer:

  • Free evaluations;
  • Demonstrations;
  • Free consultations;
  • Investment quotes.

If MQL proactively converts into one of these actions, requesting direct contact from the sales team, it already moves to the decision stage and changes status to SQL.

Step 3: SQL

Now is the time for the Sales team to approach. In this last step, the faster they get a contact, the higher their closing rate on sales. In addition, the openness to make this contact and to respond to the final decision can show the customer’s focus to make a purchase with your company.

By placing your captured contacts in one of these three distinct groups, also based on the interactions they had along the journey, you can be sure that sales will be made with more engaged customers, taking less time with cold calls or failed contact attempts.

Define MQL and SQL delivery targets

With the previous steps already defined, the next step is to define how much of each type of Lead the Marketing team must pass on to the Sales team on a monthly basis.

Much more than the number of followers on Integra or the total number of people registered in your newsletter, these will be the main goals that should guide the work with Digital Marketing in the company.

These goals will vary depending on two important elements: the amount of Leads generated monthly by the company and the current capacity to meet this demand – which takes into account the size of the sales force.

With the goals defined, it is necessary to think of ways to operationalize the actions. So how about a step by step to improve your MQL generation performance?

6 steps to improve the quality of MQLs

When we understand the process to generate MQLs and the tools available to track the results, it becomes easier to identify ways to improve the performance of the Marketing team.

Then check out the 6 actions you can take!

1. Better understand your sales cycle

The generation of MQLs requires a cohesive strategy between Sales and Marketing. While it is Marketing’s job to generate MQLs, involving Sales reps in the process can streamline and facilitate your planning.

To start this work together, it’s a good idea to bring together leaders from each area to bring a vision into how the company’s sales funnel. 

Here are some questions to help you find relevant information about the sales process:

  • How long does it take to close with a customer, start to finish?
  • What are the points your customers have in common?
  • What are the main difficulties reported by Leads before closing a purchase?

Understanding your sales cycle prepares you to better qualify the Leads generated. When you understand the motivation behind what drives potential customers to buy, it’s easier to identify the profile of MQLs. This strategy also helps to establish clear goal expectations with the Sales leadership.

Aligning everyone’s expectations about what information they need to find MQLs also makes it easier to track the Marketing area’s ROI (Return on Investment) and the overall impact on the company’s revenue.

2. Get feedback on the quality of MQLs from the sales team

When defining an MQL, it is essential to ask sales reps questions about its quality. Questions like “Why is this a Qualified Lead for you?” or “which Leads are the easiest for you to contact and qualify?” will help to regulate the Lead Scoring ruler and select only the most qualified MQL.

This doesn’t mean that marketing will have to agree to deliver just these types of Leads, but it’s critical to get as close as possible to defining a profile that the Sales team is willing to work with.

3. Determine eligibility information based on Leads behavior

People leave marks in the digital environment that show what they’re interested in, and sometimes also how urgent their problem is. Through observation of buyer behavior, we can develop new criteria to define which actions qualify a Lead to talk to sales.

For example:

  • Downloading a specific eBook or participating in webinars can be actions that, historically, are related to Leads that will close a purchase;
  • People who spend more time on the pricing page and come back to that page multiple times over the course of a day or two demonstrate a purchase interest.

A question option you can ask on your forms is “Would you like to receive a Sales contact?” for example. This information can make it easier to identify Leads as an MQL who is ready and willing to talk to the sales team.

4. Choose the right channels for generating MQLs

The key to getting the consumer’s attention is getting the right message out at the right time. However, this is not all that influences the success of marketing actions. An important element is choosing the right channel to deliver each message.

With so many consumers looking for information in the digital environment, an Omni channel marketing strategy is one of the best ways to maintain your relationship with Leads.

At the beginning of the operation, it is better to start by choosing some Lead generation channels to test the results. Then focus your efforts on finding what works best for generating MQLs.

Here are some popular channels to attract MQLs:

  • Organic research;
  • Email Marketing;
  • Paid ads;
  • Social media;
  • YouTube.

Assessing the success of your channels in generating MQLs will depend on several factors. A popular strategy used by marketers is to monitor costs in generating MQLs. Measuring your cost helps the marketing team understand how much investment is needed to reach a particular goal.

The lower your cost per acquisition, the more cost-effective your marketing campaigns will be.

5. Identify whether the Marketing framework can provide enough MQLs

If you build very strict qualification parameters, Marketing may not be able to provide the Sales team with enough MQLs to fill the pipeline.

This is a critical part of the definition phase of what each company evaluates and considers as MQL. In some cases, Sales teams will need to accept a broader MQL definition to be able to fill the funnel with enough Leads.

6. Revisit the MQL definition constantly

Each month, quarter or semester, Sales and Marketing should meet to determine if the MQL definition should be adjusted. If your company is planning to launch a new product, to reach a whole new audience, this should be an immediate step.

For companies looking for efficiency in their process, taking the time to look at the results and qualitatively evaluate MQLs will reward both teams with more qualified Leads in the future and shorter sales cycles.

Remember that the goal is to win new business. To do this, you need to have accurate strategies and aligned processes across teams. Only Leads with a better profile and greater interest will arrive ready to close the purchase or the contract in the final sales stage.

Find your MQLs automatically with RD Station Marketing

Now that you know the basics of MQLs and what qualifies these Leads, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice!

Take what you’ve learned in this article to build a complete MQL generation strategy. To find the right Leads faster, use RD Station Marketing and the Lead Scoring feature.