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Leads are your most valuable resource, but not all leads are equal. Cold leads, warm leads, hot leads, information qualified leads, sales qualified leads, and marketing qualified leads (MQLs) require different conversion strategies.
You can’t generalize but must devise a strategy allowing you to cater to the right leads at the right time with the right set of tools, not to mention you must coordinate your marketing and sales teams so they can smoothly move your leads down the sales funnel.
Before we dig into marketing qualified leads, we’d like to highlight some statistics:
- For 65% of businesses, generating quality leads is the biggest marketing challenge.
- For 68% of B2B professionals, increasing the quality of their leads is the top priority.
- 53% of marketers spend half or more of their budget on lead generation.
Numbers don’t lie: the quality of your lead management, including marketing qualified leads, defines your business. Read on to learn everything you need to effectively generate and convert marketing qualified leads.
Types of Leads in Business
Marketing qualified leads are not the only leads out there, so it would help to put them in context. The table below shows all types of leads you might encounter and the place of marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
|Cold Leads: People without connection to your business or product|| |
|Warm Leads: Blog readers, email subscribers, social media followers, and those who previously decided not to buy from you|| |
|Hot Leads: Those who requested a product demo, contacted your sales team, etc.|| |
|Information Qualified Leads (IQL): Newsletter subscribers, those who downloaded your free guide, etc.|| |
|Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL): Your most loyal blog followers, social media ads clickers, etc.|| |
|Sales Qualified Leads (SQL): Customers waiting for your sales pitch.|| |
What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
The definition of a marketing qualified lead may vary depending on the company and how a particular sales funnel is designed. However, it’s essential to make your marketing and sales teams understand when a lead becomes a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and then a sales qualified lead (SQL).
Here’s a reasonably accurate marketing qualified lead definition:
- A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is someone showing interest in your product or services, fitting your marketing team’s specific qualification criteria, and having a relatively high chance of becoming your customer. Notably, marketing qualified leads have yet to decide to buy from you to become sales qualified leads (SQLs).
The qualifying criteria for an MQL vary depending on the company.
The most popular qualifying factors are:
- Website visits
- Submitting contact information
- Demo download
- Adding items to a wishlist or shopping cart
- Any other opt-ins
MQL leads bear high selling potential, but you must go the extra mile to convert them all the same, being ready for a not-too-pleasant 50% bounce.
Source: SAPW Consulting
Marketing Qualified Lead vs. Sales Qualified Lead
The main difference between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads is the level of interest in your product.
- An MQL is a potential customer already engaged with your marketing content and may be ready to buy from you. Conversely, an SQL is a customer who is 100% ready for your sales pitch. Transforming MQLs into SQLs without losing too many MQLs down the road is a dream for any business.
The other substantial difference is that different departments process MQLs and SQLs. Simply put, MQLs belong to your marketing team, whereas SQLs are the priority of your sales team, making it crucial to have your sales and marketing teams aligned.
How Do You Qualify a Marketing Qualified Lead?
To identify marketing qualified leads fromother leads, you must rely on the qualifying criteria that reflect your business needs and are adopted by your marketing and sales departments.
Marketing Qualified Lead Criteria
|Demographics||Gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, employment, and education.|
|Psychographics||Interests, goals, desires, choices, motivation.|
|Firmographics||Company’s size, location, revenue, and industry.|
|Source of leads||Social media, website, blog page, affiliate campaign.|
|Engagement||On-site activity and responsiveness to promotions.|
|History of interactions||Previous purchases, website visits, and social media activity.|
|Feedback||Your leads’ impression of your business.|
|Trends||Patterns uniting MQLs that convert and bounce.|
Detailed lead criteria can help you differentiate between different types of leads and establish which leads fit your buyer persona. At the same time, marketing qualified leads are only there for a short time — either you spark their interest, convert them into sales qualified leads, or they bounce.
SQL Leads Qualification Process
A typical qualification process for SQL leads is called BANT, an acronym for four key lead qualification criteria:
- Budget: How much is the lead expected to spend?
- Authority: Who will make a purchase decision?
- Need: Does the lead genuinely need the product in question?
- Timeline: How long will it take for the lead to make the purchase decision?
The BANT framework continues to be extremely popular with sales teams for its simplicity and practicality, allowing marketers to measure marketing qualified leads, but it’s not optimal. Click to read more about efficient lead qualification frameworks.
How Can You Generate More Marketing Qualified Leads?
1. Learn Your Marketing Qualified Leads Through and Through
Understanding your leads is crucial to finding the most effective conversion pathways. Knowing your MQL’s demographics, psychographics, and history of interactions may help you optimize engagement and budget allocation.
With the idea of what content resonates best with your marketing qualified leads, you can tailor your marketing content more effectively. Whether you sell insurance, real estate, or clothing, there’s only one king in the town: segmentation.
2. Leverage AI-driven Data Analysis
Technologies such as AI-driven data analysis platforms will allow you to pinpoint MQLs by uncovering patterns in customer behavior that you would likely have missed otherwise. Likewise, AI-powered analytics will help you create tailored messaging to address your audiences’ needs and wants (not just marketing qualified leads), drawing a full lead management picture for your business.
3. SEO-optimize Your Marketing Content
Qualified marketing leads don’t require special SEO optimization – you don’t have to do what you always do:
- Definite your target audience and goals for each marketing campaign.
- Periodically conduct competitor research and organic content audit.
- Conduct keyword research while keeping in mind the search intent.
- Keep it clean: stick to the white-hat SEO practices.
- Create your unique data-driven SEO strategy that drives leads.
SEO-optimized marketing content must be semantic and keyword-based while not sacrificing the quality of content in favor of keyword stuffing and other tricks that you think may appeal to Google. They likely won’t — Google goes the extra mile to highlight quality content while banishing dirty practices.
4. Use Paid Ads
Paid ads will allow you to target specific demographics, interest groups, and geographic regions with tailored content through search ads and display ads:
- Search ads appear at the top of search engine results when users enter relevant keywords, aiming at potentially high-intent leads searching for a product or service like yours.
- Display ads appear on websites, blogs, and social media to target individuals who have visited your site before or shown an interest in similar products or services.
To maximize the efficiency of paid advertising, analyze your ads’ click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate (CVR), cost per click (CPC), and other marketing metrics. Likewise, you can test different versions of ads (for example, A/B testing) to identify which one resonates with your target audience.
5. Embrace Social Media
With around five billion users up for grabs, social media has become the most popular and effective digital marketing channel, ahead of website, blog, and email marketing. Not only can you use it to promote your products and services, but you can also build relationships and trust with potential customers.
From Facebook to Twitter to YouTube to Tiktok, you can use various marketing tools to generate marketing qualified leads, including:
- Interactive content: Not only is interactive content engaging on its own, but it enables cross-channel marketing by transferring your leads from, for example, your social media page to your landing page or YouTube channel.
- Freebies: Providing value for free and with no or few strings attached is a great way to generate marketing qualified leads and increase customer loyalty. Freebies go viral quickly, enabling ever-increasing exposure and brand recognition.
- Influencers: Leveraging influencers means creating content that resonates with their audience and – most importantly – they use themselves. Influencer marketing largely appeals to social proof, a psychological phenomenon where people follow authorities from peers who, in their opinion, conform to the social norm.
- Instant response: Addressing your customers’ needs and wants via one-on-one interaction is a surefire way to generate marketing qualified leads. Proactively answer questions, engage in relevant conversations, and provide value to your customers whenever possible to make your leads love you.
How Is Generating Marketing Qualified Leads Different From Generating Leads?
Before we move on to converting marketing qualified leads, it’s worth clarifying that generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and generating leads are two closely related processes that pursue the same goal of identifying potential customers for a business.
However, the difference between generating leads and generating MQLs is the focus of the efforts:
- Generating leads focuses on increasing the number of potential customers, whereas generating MQLs involves more specific targeting of prospects who have already indicated an interest in the product or service (for example, attended a webinar or signed up for a newsletter).
But then again, although leads and marketing qualified leads are different, you can generate them using similar marketing tools and techniques (while tailoring your content individually for each segmented group).
How Do You Convert an MQL?
Now that you know how to generate an MQL, let’s move on to converting the latter to a sales qualified lead (SQL), paying customer, and – ideally – brand advocate.
You can do it in three steps:
- Defining a marketing qualified lead.
- Synergizing your marketing and sales teams.
- Analyzing the result for timely updates and necessary tweaks.
Step 1. Clearly Define a Marketing Qualified Lead
Finding a uniform definition of a qualified lead, whether an MQL or a SQL, will allow your marketing and sales departments to unmistakably define conversion-prone leads and apply appropriate marketing and sales strategies.
For better results, you can introduce a lead scoring system.
What Is Lead Scoring, and Why Do You Need It?
Lead scoring is assigning points to your leads so you can know the value of marketing leads. Among other things, lead scoring can give insights into the sales funnel, revealing your most and least valuable touchpoints.
Lead scoring can be effective if:
- You have enough lead data to score your leads. You need data to create a sophisticated lead scoring system; the more, the better. If you aren’t getting enough data from your leads, consider adjusting your lead forms or upgrading your lead management system.
- You need to know which leads are your priority. You may need to align the lead qualification process to your lead processing capabilities and the number of leads you generate. On the other hand, if you have little success with the leads you are bringing in, you might need to reevaluate your lead generation.
Step 2. Synergize Your Marketing and Sales Teams
No matter how strong your sales techniques are, you must generate interest first. For that, you need a comprehensive plan specifying the roles of your marketing and sales departments and ensuring open communication between the two.
- To move your leads effectively down the sales funnel – warming them to marketing qualified leads first, then to sales qualified leads, and ultimately convert – you must keep the right balance between your sales and marketing efforts.
The synergy of your marketing and sales efforts involves devising:
- Lead routing criteria: When do marketing qualified leads become sales qualified leads? Devising failproof lead routing criteria will allow you to contact sales-ready leads unmistakably.
Here’s a lead routing logic for the financial sector:
- Follow-up deadlines: When must your sales team contact the lead after the latter becomes a sales qualified lead? More often than not, you must contact sales-ready leads right away not to lose their purchasing power. Calling a lead within the first five minutes is 20 times more effective than calling them in half an hour.
- Accountability criteria: What are the benchmarks for assessing your marketing and sales teams’ performance and cross-department cooperation? At the same time, you must transfer customer data in real-time to your sales reps so they can get a head start in the conversion.
Step 3. Analyze for Timely Updates
As your business evolves, you need constant adjustments to reflect the changes. Even if everything works like clockwork now, there’s no guarantee it will work tomorrow just as well unless adapted to the current marketing realities.
The good news is that you don’t have to resort to manual work in your lead management cycle. Automated lead qualification and management software, such as Phonexa’s LMS Sync, can do all routine work for you while channeling your energy to things that a human can only handle.
Generate and Convert More Marketing Qualified Leads With Phonexa
In today’s over-competitive online sales, automation is king. As many as 80% of marketers use automation in lead generation to save time, increase customer engagement, and enable timely communication and upselling opportunities.
Phonexa’s LMS Sync, an all-encompassing lead management system, will automate your lead management while handling every click and call. Phonexa’s turkey software bundle covers lead management through and through, uniting three proprietary software suites:
With Phonexa, you will be able to generate qualified leads and get full insight into the customer journey while dissecting every touchpoint of your leads.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about LMS Sync and how it can help you optimize your marketing campaigns and streamline lead capturing, nurturing, and scoring.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a lead in marketing?
A lead is a consumer who has interacted with your brand and has a fairly high chance of becoming your customer. Leads are your regular readers, blog followers, email subscribers, store visitors, and anyone with a solid connection to your business.
What is a qualified lead in marketing?
A qualified lead is someone who fits the criteria of your marketing or sales team. The requirements may include specific demographics, firmographics, psychographics, and other parameters.
Lead vs. qualified lead in marketing
|Have some interest in your company||Have some interest in your company|
|Not qualified as a potential customer||Qualified as a potential customer|
|Not a part of your sales process||A part of your sales process|
What does it mean to qualify a lead?
Lead qualification is the process of evaluating leads to establish whether they fit your marketing or sales team’s criteria.
Why is qualifying leads in marketing important?
Qualifying leads enables better resource allocation by shifting focus to high-intent leads. Qualifying leads for sales ultimately grow your ROI, among many other business benefits.
What does MQL stand for?
MQL stands for a marketing qualified lead, meaning they fit your marketing team’s criteria and can be transformed into a sales qualified lead (SQL) and then converted to a customer.
What is an MQL lead?
A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a lead that fits the criteria of your marketing team. An MQL (marketing qualified lead) may be your blog follower, website frequenter, ad clicker, or email subscriber.
What are specific marketing qualified lead examples?
The most popular MQL examples are:
– Filling out your online form.
– Adding items to a wishlist.
– Subscribing to your newsletter.
– Using a demo version of your product or service.
– Downloading free material or software.
But then again, whether a specific lead is considered a marketing qualified lead in your particular case depends on your qualification criteria, which vary from business to business.
What is a sales qualified lead?
A sales qualified lead (SQL), or a qualified sales lead, is an MQL that meets the requirements of your sales team. These are sales-ready leads. Sales qualified leads are usually ready for your sales pitch or direct contact with your sales rep.
What is the expected MQL to SQL conversion rate?
There’s some evidence that the MQL to SQL conversion rate benchmark is around 13%, varying for different traffic sources.