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What is a Marketing Qualified Lead? The Next-Level Guide

Mark Kosin
12 minute read

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Mark Kosin
12 minute read

Quality leads are vital to businesses. Using the right marketing strategy can help your business drive traffic and receive a high volume of leads so that it continues to grow. But that’s only half the battle: deciding which leads are qualified and how well your marketing efforts are working for you is a whole other unique challenge.

Lead management is an essential part of this process. In order to make sense of all the leads that your business generates, there are different ways to classify your leads so that your organization can be precise as leads move through the sales funnel. This area of your lead management strategy is categorized as lead qualifying and lead scoring.

When you qualify your leads, you are painting a more complete picture of your marketing efforts. Typically, qualified leads are differentiated into two different kinds of leads: Marketing Qualified Leads, known as MQLs, and Sales Qualified Leads, known as SQLs. By separating leads into different sales definitions, you can clarify conversations between your sales and marketing teams—ensuring everyone is on the same page. 

For your business to optimize your lead generation and management processes, it is important to know about the difference between Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads—as well as the process for qualifying and scoring your leads.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

Once your business has set up marketing campaigns that are bringing in lead traffic, you will want to qualify those leads—specifically, you will want to find out how likely they are to become customers. Marketing Qualified Leads are leads that are presumed viable to convert based on demographic information and other lead analytics.

It’s a must for businesses to identify their Marketing Qualified Leads for two reasons. Firstly, once you designate a lead as an MQL that means it can move ahead in the sales funnel and be nurtured by your sales team. A second reason you want to determine how many of your leads are MQLs is to give the marketing team a vision of how well their marketing efforts are performing. Namely, are you pulling in a high volume of Marketing Qualified Leads?

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead

Some defining characteristics of an MQL are that it is someone who has shown an interest in your brand, has visited your site or interacted with your marketing materials, and falls into a demographic category that suggests they could convert. A simple way to understand a Marketing Qualified Lead is that it is a lead that the marketing team has confidence in handing off to the sales team.

Once a lead is designated as a Marketing Qualified Lead, it has the potential to reach another level of qualification: that of Sales Qualified Lead. 

What is a Sales Qualified Lead?

A Sales Qualified Lead, or SQL, is a lead that has been deemed ready by the sales team to enter the next stage of the sales process. An SQL is often defined by having shown organic interest in your brand and appears close to conversion based on other determining factors. 

While MQLs and SQLs may seem similar, there can often be a broad and unpredictable set of circumstances between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead. Some leads may go straight from being MQLs to being qualified as SQLs, while others require much more time spent in the sales funnel before they are near the point of a final sales push and conversion. 

Navigating the interim period between defining an MQL and SQL requires a level of attentiveness and skill. If an MQL is rushed to SQL status too soon it could be very difficult to convert that lead as they may not be fully prepared to take the plunge. Take too long, and your MQL could lose interest. While there is an art to the sales process, you can also quantify and measure your efforts and your leads with your lead qualification process and lead scoring process.  

What is Lead Qualification? 

Lead qualification is a crucial step for any marketing department as it lets you know which incoming leads are going to be worth your time and attention. Leads come in for a variety of reasons: some are simply fraudulent and can be immediately discarded. Other leads may be from individuals who have no legitimate interest in your brand. 

Then there are those who have shown legitimate interest in your brand: these are your Marketing Qualified Leads. The process of qualifying your leads can vary, but it often begins by using lead tracking to view certain demographic information about your lead to confirm that it falls in your target areas.

Information like this can also be captured from call leads by using an IVR that solicits responses from incoming callers. Once you can verify that the lead meets certain demographic criteria, you can qualify that lead as a Marketing Qualified Lead. 

It is very important that leads are qualified before you begin marketing to them. Spending time, energy, and resources on leads that are not MQLs can cost your business precious time and money. The better you are at qualifying your marketing leads, the more strategic you can be in your marketing efforts. In order to get an even greater level of insight into your leads as they become MQLs and SQLs you can turn your attention to lead scoring.

What is Lead Scoring?

Lead scoring is the process of systematically ascribing point totals to your leads to show their value to your business. It is an especially useful way to decide what level of sales effort and attention needs to be paid to each lead. The lead scoring system will (and should) vary from company to company, but in general it should include a process of ascribing value to different elements of your lead.

What is Lead Scoring

Some factors that are commonly considered when scoring a lead include the position of the lead, how large their company is, what industry they are in, and so on. It is worth noting that not every company needs to enact a lead scoring system. Utilizing a lead scoring system when it isn’t really needed by your business could end up costing you time and resources. 

Reasons your business should use lead scoring:

  • If you have a high volume of leads and your sales team needs to know which leads are priority. If you are not generating a high volume of leads, then it makes more sense for marketing to focus on lead generation and not lead scoring.
  • When you have enough data to effectively impose lead scoring. Some businesses aren’t collecting enough data to create a sophisticated lead scoring system. If you aren’t getting significant data from your leads, you may want to adjust your web lead forms or upgrade your lead management system.
  • Overall high lead quality. When you are enjoying a high quality of leads across the board, lead scoring can be an important way to differentiate between leads. But if your sales team is not having much success with the leads you are bringing in, then focus on generating more high-quality leads. 

Lead Qualification Steps

There are a number of steps you can take as part of the lead qualification process.

1. Learn What Past MQLs Look Like. 

It is useful to look at historical data to see which specifics defined leads that passed the muster of being “marketing qualified,” meaning they had value for your sales team. Being able to track the actions of your leads with call or lead tracking software will give you a sense of what interaction your leads had with your marketing efforts prior to conversion. 

2. Decide Marketing Qualified Lead Criteria

After you have a sense of which leads usually make it through your sales funnel and eventually convert, you can decide what criteria is needed to qualify your leads. You may be willing to qualify leads from all fifty states, or limit your MQLs to specific regions. 

3. Consult with your Sales Team

Speaking with your sales team is key because they will not only tell you what kind of MQLs are most useful, but you can also see what it takes to make a Sales Qualified Lead. Coordination is vital, because you don’t want to discard valuable leads or send too many unusable leads to an already-busy team.

4. Measure Effectiveness 

Once you have decided how you will be qualifying your leads, use technology tools to monitor your inbound leads and keep in touch with your sales team to see how well your lead qualification process is working. Keeping track of data can help inform the next time you go over your lead qualification steps. 

Lead Qualification Resources

There is no doubt that being able to follow a tested lead qualification process is critical for your business to effectively move leads through the sales funnel. Making sure that you have data on all your leads and the ability to track the customer journey is necessary for a business that wants to corral their Marketing Qualified Leads. 

The best way to do this is with a lead management system that offers lead tracking and lead distribution. The Phonexa platform equips marketers with lead tracking software and lead analytics software that bring all this key data together in one place. Plus, the Phonexa platform offers call tracking software and call analytics software for inbound call leads. 

Once you have the right resources in place to track and analyze data from your calls and web leads, you can set up your lead qualification process and focus on converting your marketing qualified leads.

Mark Kosin avatar
Mark Kosin
Mark Kosin was a Content Writer at Phonexa, covering topics such as SaaS technology, call tracking, lead generation, and digital marketing.

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