What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?

DEFINITION
An MQL (or Marketing Qualified Lead) is a term used in marketing and sales to describe a lead that is deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads, based on their engagement with the organization’s marketing campaigns.

Understanding Marketing Qualified Leads

The goal of tracking Marketing Qualified Leads is to identify and prioritize potential customers who are more likely to make a purchase. It’s about discerning, from all the leads generated through various marketing efforts, which ones have shown enough interest and engagement to be considered serious prospects.

By focusing on MQLs, marketing and sales teams can allocate their time and resources more effectively. Instead of pursuing every lead with the same intensity, they can prioritize those that have a higher probability of converting into customers.

Understanding which leads are MQLs allows teams to develop more targeted nurturing strategies, leading to higher conversion rates. These leads can be provided with information and interactions that are more aligned with their stage in the buying journey, potentially moving them further toward a purchase.

In addition, MQLs serve as a common ground for sales and marketing teams. By agreeing on what constitutes an MQL, both teams can work more cohesively. Marketing knows what kind of leads to hand over, and sales understand what to expect and how to approach these leads.

By tracking the journey of MQLs to closed deals, organizations can also better understand the return on investment (ROI) of their marketing efforts. This insight is crucial for justifying marketing budgets and making informed decisions about where to invest in the future.

In essence, MQLs help bridge the gap between broad marketing activities and the specific, focused work of sales teams. By identifying and nurturing these qualified leads, businesses can streamline their sales process, improve efficiency, and ultimately drive more sales.

Takeaway

Tracking MQLs is essential for businesses as it streamlines the sales process and enhances the effectiveness of marketing strategies. By identifying leads that have shown a higher level of interest or engagement, businesses can allocate their resources more efficiently, focusing on nurturing these potential customers who are more likely to convert.

This targeted approach not only improves the conversion rates but also ensures a better alignment between the marketing and sales teams, leading to a cohesive strategy that effectively moves leads through the sales funnel.

Failing to track MQLs can have detrimental effects on a business. Without this focus, marketing and sales efforts may be spread too thinly across a wide range of leads, including those with a low likelihood of conversion.

This scattershot approach can lead to a waste of resources, both in terms of time and money, and can result in lower overall conversion rates. Additionally, the lack of targeted segmentation strategies for potential high-value leads could lead to missed opportunities, as these leads might not receive the attention or specific information they need to make a purchase decision.

What makes a Marketing Qualified Lead different from other leads?

A Marketing Qualified Lead is distinct from other leads due to its higher potential to become a customer, determined by specific criteria and behaviors. Unlike a regular lead, which might simply show initial interest, an MQL has engaged more deeply with a company’s marketing efforts.

This engagement can take various forms, such as downloading eBooks or white papers, frequently visiting the website, engaging with emails, interacting and following on social media, or attending webinars. These actions suggest a stronger interest or a better fit for the product or service, making an MQL a more promising prospect for sales teams.

In essence, while all leads represent potential customers, MQLs are those who have moved further along the buyer’s journey and are closer to making a purchase decision.

What Is A Marketing Qualified Lead? Types Of Leads

What are some MQL examples?

While the exact criteria of an MQL can change from business to business, here are some real-world examples of what an MQL can look like:

  1. Tech-Savvy Terry: Terry is an IT manager in a mid-sized company. He frequently downloads technical whitepapers and attends webinars on the latest industry trends. He’s interested in innovative tech solutions that can streamline operations in his company.
  2. Entrepreneurial Emma: Emma is the founder of a startup and is actively seeking tools to grow her business. She subscribes to newsletters, engages with content about business growth strategies, and participates in online courses and workshops.
  3. HR Hannah: Hannah, an HR director at a large corporation, is looking for new employee engagement and management tools. She often visits websites offering HR solutions, reads case studies, and has recently downloaded an e-book on innovative HR technologies.
  4. Marketing Mike: Mike, a marketing executive, is constantly in search of new marketing tools to enhance his team’s performance. He’s a frequent visitor to marketing blogs, engages with posts on LinkedIn, and has signed up for a trial of a marketing analytics tool.
  5. Small Business Sarah: Sarah owns a small retail business and is keen on finding efficient point-of-sale and inventory management systems. She’s attended a retail technology webinar and has filled out a form requesting more information about a cloud-based retail management system.

Each of these personas represents a different type of MQL, characterized by their industry role, specific interests, and engagement with relevant content and events.

Illustration Of Breadcrumbs Icp Worksheet

Ebook

Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Worksheet

Learn how to create an Ideal Customer Profile and build a successful sales strategy with this Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) Worksheet.

What are some MQL criteria?

Identifying a Marketing Qualified Lead involves looking for specific signs of engagement and interest. Some of these activities can include things like:

  • High level of engagement: Leads who frequently interact with your content, such as opening emails, clicking on links, or engaging with social media posts, show a higher level of interest in what you have to offer.
  • Content downloads: If a lead downloads in-depth content like whitepapers, e-books, or case studies, it indicates they are seeking more information and have a genuine interest in your products or services.
  • Repeated website visits: Regular visits to your website, especially to product or service pages, suggest that the lead is actively researching and considering your offerings.
  • Event participation: Attendance in webinars, workshops, or other events you host can be a strong sign of interest, especially if the lead engages during the event by asking questions or participating in discussions.

What’s the difference between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead?

The difference between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead lies in their readiness to make a purchase and the stages of the sales funnel they represent.

An MQL has engaged with the company’s content or marketing campaigns in a way that indicates interest, but they might not yet be ready to make a purchase. They could have downloaded resources, subscribed to a newsletter, or frequently visited the website.

The key here is that they have taken some actions that signal potential interest in the company’s products or services, but haven’t explicitly expressed an intent to buy. MQLs are still in the earlier stages of the buyer’s journey, and the marketing team usually nurtures these leads further.

An SQL (or Sales Qualified Lead) is a lead that has been evaluated and deemed ready for the direct sales approach. This determination is usually made by both marketing and sales teams. An SQL has shown clear intent to purchase, either by directly inquiring about products or services, requesting a quote or a demo, downloading a case study, or exhibiting behavior that aligns closely with buying signals.

These leads are considered more likely to become customers and have moved further down the sales funnel. They are handed over from the marketing team to the sales team for a more direct, personalized sales approach.

While marketing qualified leads show interest and engagement, sales qualified leads display a clear intention to buy. The transition from MQL to SQL involves a deeper qualification process, ensuring that sales teams focus their efforts on leads with the highest likelihood of converting into actual customers.

How do you rank your leads to know which are MQLs?

One of the best ways to rank your MQLs and SQLs is with lead scoring.

What Is A Marketing Qualified Lead? Lead Scoring With Breadcrumbs

Lead scoring is a method used to rank leads based on their potential value to the organization and likelihood to convert into customers. To create your own model to rank MQLs, you would:

  • Define your lead scoring criteria: Start by identifying the characteristics and behaviors that signify a good lead for your business. These can include demographic information (like industry, job title, and company size), online behavior (website visits, content downloads, webinar attendance), and engagement with marketing campaigns (email opens, click-throughs).
  • Assign point values: Once the criteria are established, assign point values to each. The more indicative a behavior or characteristic is of a potential sale, the higher the points it should receive. For example, downloading a buying guide might score higher than just subscribing to a newsletter.

At Breadcrumbs, we use a co-dynamic approach to lead scoring that ranks both demographics and activity into one combined score.

What Is A Marketing Qualified Lead? Lead Scoring With Breadcrumbs
In this lead scoring model, an 'A1' score represents the ideal prospect: someone who not only aligns perfectly with the company's Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) in terms of demographic and firmographic characteristics but is also actively engaged with the business, demonstrated through actions like reading emails and visiting the pricing page. 

On the opposite end, a 'D4' score indicates a prospect who is unlikely to convert into a customer due to not fitting well with the ICP and showing minimal engagement with the company's activities. This model offers a more nuanced approach than simple 'hot or cold' scoring, allowing for deeper segmentation and personalization, which can be effectively utilized by sales and marketing teams and automated tools.
  • Create thresholds for MQL identification: Decide on a point threshold that a lead must reach to be classified as an MQL. This threshold should reflect a level of engagement and interest that historically correlates with leads that are more likely to convert.
  • Automate the scoring process: Utilize marketing automation tools to track lead behaviors and automatically update their scores. This ensures that the lead scoring process is efficient, scalable, and up-to-date.
  • Regularly review and adjust scores: Over time, you may find that certain behaviors are more (or less) indicative of a lead’s likelihood to convert. Regularly review and adjust the scoring criteria and thresholds to reflect these insights.
  • Integrate with sales process: Ensure that the lead scoring system is integrated with your sales process. Leads that reach the MQL threshold should be flagged for further nurturing or passed on to the sales team for outreach.
What Is A Marketing Qualified Lead? Lead Scoring With Breadcrumbs

How do you pass on good marketing leads to the sales team?

Once there’s an MQL in your system, the Sales team can take over—but how they do that is an integral part of the process. In order to make the handoff as successful as possible, follow these key strategies:

  1. Use your lead scoring system to validate your SQL: Use lead scoring to quantify the actions and engagement levels of leads. This helps in objectively deciding when an MQL is ready to be handed over to sales as an SQL. The scoring system should be based on the predefined criteria and adjusted as needed based on feedback and conversion rates.
  2. Use a CRM System: A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is vital for tracking and managing leads. The CRM should be set up to automatically update lead status based on the scoring model, and to notify the sales team when a lead becomes an SQL. Some teams choose to keep these tasks in the CRM entirely, however also adding Slack notifications to Sales channels or DMs can help alert sales teams the moment a lead is ready to be contacted.
  3. Develop a handover protocol: Create a standard protocol for lead handover. This should include what information needs to be passed along with the lead, such as contact details, history of interactions, content they engaged with, and any personal notes that could be helpful to the sales team.
  4. Train teams on the process: Both marketing and sales teams should be thoroughly trained on the handover process. They should understand the criteria, how to use the CRM for tracking and communication, and the importance of maintaining updated information on each lead.
  5. Create a feedback loop: After the handover, it’s important to have a system for sales to provide feedback on lead quality. This feedback should be used to refine the MQL and SQL criteria and the overall handover process.

How does creating content help in getting marketing leads?

Quality content, whether it’s informative blog posts, insightful whitepapers, engaging videos, or timely social media updates, serves as a magnet for attracting an audience.

When the content resonates with the needs, challenges, or interests of your target audience, it establishes your brand as a valuable source of information and solutions. This establishes trust and authority in your field.

As users consume and find value in your content, they’re more likely to provide their contact information in exchange for more in-depth materials, such as ebooks, webinars, or newsletters.

This exchange marks the transformation of a casual visitor into a lead, giving you the opportunity to nurture them further through personalized marketing efforts. Effectively, content acts as a bridge, connecting your brand with potential customers by offering them valuable information, while also paving the way for a deeper, ongoing relationship.