The ultimate goal of every Sales team is to close Sales Qualified Leads into customers. You know you need x amount of qualified leads in the pipeline in order to close x amount of deals every month. But do you know how many Marketing Qualified Leads you need?
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL’s) are bridging the gap between Marketing and Sales. And due to an increasingly complex buying environment, creating MQL’s is more important now than ever before in order to close more leads into customers.
Before we dive in, what is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
A Marketing Qualified Lead is a prospect that has expressed an interest in your business through some level of meaningful engagement, such as downloading an eBook, reading a blog article, etc.
This engagement is tracked and measured by your Marketing team, who then passes along the information to Sales.
It’s important to stress the fact that MQL’s have shown a level of meaningful engagement. Through your strategic, targeted content, they have effectively qualified themselves. At this point, it is Marketing’s job to further nurture this lead until they are ready to be handed over to Sales as a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). This part, the hand-off, is critical. Together, Marketing and Sales work together to define what makes a MQL and what makes a SQL and when that crucial hand-off takes place.
Let’s look at an example.
Step 1: Converting a Lead Into a Marketing Qualified Lead
Marketing creates a targeted eBook—“Top 5 Trends in Healthcare Technology”—and places it on a landing page behind a form where potential prospects will be able to download it.
Prospect Pete, CEO of ABC Healthcare Tech Solutions, visits your website and downloads the eBook. This is when he becomes a MQL.
Step 2: Nurturing a MQL Into a SQL
Next step: Marketing provides Pete with more engaging content in order to further nurture him through the sales funnel. Remember: lead nurturing is all about helping your prospects uncover and solve their problems. All the materials that Marketing presents to Pete are helpful. Based on the qualifications that Marketing and Sales have agreed upon, Marketing decides that Pete can be passed on to Sales as a Sales Qualified Lead. Generally, this means that Pete has expressed some level of engagement that indicates he is closer to “buyer ready”.
Step 3: Sales Begins to Nurture the SQL
Here’s where Sales finally steps in. Sales is accustomed to getting less than ideal leads from Marketing. But that’s why the MQL-SQL hand-off is so great. Every lead that is passed from Marketing to Sales is guaranteed to be a warm lead, based on the level of engagement that they have shown. Now all Sales has to do is continue to nurture that lead into a sales discussion–with a little help from Marketing, of course.
Step 4: Convert SQL’s To Opportunities With Smarketing Alignment
This last step is crucial in converting a SQL into an opportunity, and eventually a customer. The alignment between Sales and Marketing–Smarketing–is essential in today’s complex buying environment. Both teams must be relied upon to provide insights that will move prospects further through the sales funnel.
In this stage, Marketing continues to aid Sales in nurturing their SQL’s by providing engaging and rewarding content. The only difference here is that this content is now more buyer-specific. Where an eBook on healthcare tech trends would have worked to draw a prospect in, a more detailed, researched, and data-backed eBook is required at this later stage in the buyer’s journey.
For example, a SQL that is getting ready to make a buying decision might find more value (and be able to come to a decision faster) in a case study. The key takeaway here is this: lead nurturing activities will differ depending on a lead’s lifecycle stage. It is crucial that your teams enable Smarketing to optimize insights on leads and close deals more effectively.
Key Steps in Creating MQL’s:
- Create an agreement between Sales and Marketing on what qualifies a lead as a MQL and SQL:
- An eBook download?
- When a prospect downloads an eBook and reads a few blogs?
- A prospect visits your webpage and fills out a form?
- Decide when the hand-off between a MQL and SQL takes place
- Develop content that is intended to nurture leads throughout each stage of the buyer’s journey (Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages)
- Decide at what point a SQL becomes an Opportunity
These are the basic steps in moving a prospect through the decision-making process—from a Lead, to a MQL, to a SQL, Opportunity, and eventually a Customer. These definitions are unique for every business. The most important thing to keep in mind is to get Sales and Marketing on the same page and encourage both teams to work together to define their processes.
Why is the MQL so important?
Today’s buying environment has created a challenge for Sales: prospects have more information available to them and no longer need a Sales to help them come to a decision. In fact, many buyers are already over 50% of the way through the decision-making process before they even consider talking to Sales. This challenge is overcome by creating MQL’s. MQL’s have sifted through all of the noise out there and have finally landed on you. From here, it’s your job to nurture them into SQL’s using Smarketing alignment.