B2B Articles - September 21, 2022

What is an MQL, and How Do You Spot One?

By Matt Pilon, Content Specialist

Your B2B marketing team just launched a gated e-book through paid Google and LinkedIn campaigns, and leads are starting to roll in. Now what?

First things first: Don’t just forward all those contacts to the sales team.

More work is needed to whittle down the list to include only high-quality, desirable targets who are mostly likely to ultimately buy your products or services. That process, known as lead qualification, is a discipline, and it all starts with identifying Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).

If your qualification process is sound, your sales team will produce better results.

If your qualification process isn’t thoughtful or yields too many low-value leads, the sales team will struggle. Out of frustration, they may even start to ignore your MQLs altogether – a dysfunctional dynamic few companies can afford.

Despite those high stakes, plenty of companies aren’t doing a good enough job. In fact, only 56% of B2B companies report that they generate enough qualified leads.

Only 56% of B2B companies report that they generate enough qualified leads.

What is an MQL?

To whittle down a group of initial leads into a higher value list of MQLs to be pursued with further nurturing or sales outreach, a company must first define what an MQL is for them.

That definition can be different for every company, even if they’re in the same industry or sector. 

But it’s not subjective for subjective’s sake. It’s crucial that MQLs be defined through critical thought, testing, and collaboration with sales regarding past experience.

Whatever the definition turns out to be, it won’t be static. It can evolve over time as the business or its broader market evolves.

So what is an MQL? In general, these leads:

  • Have shown an interest in your products or services, perhaps by registering for a webinar or filling out a form to access a content offer that speaks to their specific challenges and needs.
  • Fit within a range of early-stage criteria set by your marketing and sales teams using past conversion success rates.

However, additional data can be used to further define MQLs specific to your business.

Defining Your MQLs With Data

Lead forms are a marketer’s friend when it comes to answering the question “What is an MQL?”

You’ll want to gather as much relevant data about leads as possible, in as few questions as possible (so that potential customers don’t get annoyed and abandon the form).

Here are some questions that could be worth asking of anyone who wants to download your gated content or register for your webinar:

  • Company name
  • Company email address
  • Job Title
  • Industry or vertical
  • Annual revenue
  • Which pain points they are experiencing (these are challenges your company can help to alleviate)

Try to avoid open-ended questions in your form fields, as they create challenges when trying to aggregate answers into actionable sales and marketing insights. 

However, if you’re still learning about your customer’s pain points, you can include an “Other” option in this section and scan those submissions for common answers that could be added to your list of pain points.

Automation is another key consideration in the process of defining and handling MQLs.

Software such as HubSpot or Salesforce allows you to set criteria for when a lead should be sent to sales, nurtured with email workflows, or sent down another path. Automation can take a lot of work off the marketing team's plate.

Set Your Sales Team Up for Success With Data-Backed MQLs

Be sure to stay aligned with your sales team as your qualification process evolves and matures.

They, along with data and key performance indicators such as conversion rates, should help the marketing team better understand which types of MQLs are working and which types aren’t, allowing the definition to evolve over time.

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