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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Bottom Line with Marketing Qualified Leads

Mark Kosin
16 minute read
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Mark Kosin
16 minute read

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 all 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 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.

sales funnel

Source: Neil Patel 

Before we dig into marketing qualified leads, we’d like to draw 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 draw and convert marketing qualified leads effectively.

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).

Lead Type Key Features
Cold Leads
  • No interest.
  • Fit your general lead qualification criteria.
Warm Leads
  • Moderate interest.
  • Fit your general lead qualification criteria.

These are blog readers, email subscribers, social media followers, and those who previously decided not to buy from you.

Hot Leads
  • High interest.
  • Fit your general lead qualification criteria.

These leads have requested a product demo, contacted your sales team, etc.

Information Qualified Leads (IQL)
  • Fairly high interest.
  • Fit your general lead qualification criteria.
  • Actively researching your products.

These may be your newsletter subscribers, those who downloaded your free guide, etc.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
  • Fairly high interest.
  • Fit the qualification criteria of your marketing team.

These may be your most loyal blog followers, those clicking your ads on social media, etc.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)
  • Highest interest in your products.
  • Fit the qualification criteria of your sales team.

These are customers waiting for your sales pitch, sales rep’s call, etc.

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 products or services, fitting your marketing team’s specific qualification criteria, and having a relatively high chance of becoming your customer. Importantly, marketing qualified leads haven’t yet decided to buy from you, a step that defines sales qualified leads (SQLs).

The criteria for an MQL varies 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, and various opt-ins. MQL leads bear high selling potential, but you still have to go the extra mile to convert them, being ready that at least half of them will bounce.


Source: SAPW Consulting 

How to Qualify a Lead?

To identify marketing qualified leads from MQLs and other leads, you must rely on the qualifying criteria that reflect your business realities and are adopted by marketing and sales departments.

Qualifying Criteria for Leads

Demographics Gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, employment, education
Psychographics Interests, goals, desires, choices, motivation
Firmographics Company’s size, location, revenue, industry
Source of leads Social media, website, blog page, affiliate campaign
Engagement On-site activity, responsiveness to promotions
History of interactions Previous purchases, website visits, social media activity
Feedback Your leads’ impression of your business (is there anything repelling them that you can fix?)
Trends Patterns uniting MQLs that convert and bounce

Detailed lead criteria can help you differentiate between different types of leads and establish which of them fit your buyer persona. At the same time, marketing qualified leads are not there for long: either you spark their interest in them, converting them into sales qualified leads, or they bounce.

Qualified Leads in Marketing: Sales Qualified Leads vs. Marketing Qualified Leads

The main difference between marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL)  is the level of interest in your product.

  • An MQL is a lead who has engaged with your marketing and may or may not be ready to buy from you. Conversely, an SQL is 100% ready for your sales pitch. Your goal is to transform MQLs into SQLs without losing too many MQLs down the road.

MQLs and SQLs are processed by different departments: MQLs belong to your marketing team, whereas QLs are the headache of your sales team, making it crucial to have your sales and marketing teams aligned.

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 the final purchase decision?
  • Need – does the lead genuinely need the product in question?
  • Timeline – how much time 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, but it’s nowhere near optimal. There are quite a few improved analogs to consider.

How to Qualify an MQL?

Step 1 – Make Your Marketing and Sales Teams Work Together

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 marketing and sales efforts.

Step 2 – Clearly Define a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Finding a uniform definition of a qualified lead, whether an MQL or a SQL, will allow your marketing and sales departments to unmistakably define leads and apply appropriate marketing and sales strategies. For better results, you can introduce a lead scoring system to evaluate every lead.

What Is Lead Scoring, and Why Do You Need It?

Lead scoring is assigning points to your leads so you can know which leads are worth how much. 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, you may want to adjust your lead forms or upgrade your lead management system.
  • You need to know which leads are your priority. You might need to change the lead qualification process to your lead processing capabilities and the number of leads you generate. On the other hand, if you don’t have much success with the leads you are bringing in, you might need to reevaluate your lead generation.

Step 3 – Use Analytics to Make 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 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.

Marketing Automation with Phonexa to Qualify and Convert More Leads

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 taking care of every click and call. Phonexa’s turkey software bundle covers lead management through and through, uniting three proprietary software suites:

With Phonexa, not only will you be able to generate qualified leads, but you will get full insight into the customer journey, being able to dissect every touchpoint of your leads. 

Schedule a consultation & book a demo to learn more about LMS Sync and other Phonexa products.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Lead in Marketing?

A lead is someone 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?

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.

What Does it Mean to Qualify a Lead?

Lead qualification is 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, ignoring low-intent leads in favor of 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. MQLs are your blog followers, website frequenters, those clicking your ads, etc.

What Is a Sales Qualified Lead?

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a lead qualified first by your marketing team AND then by 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.


Source: Plezi

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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