A lead generation strategy is central to a business. In particular, this will allow prospects to be better supported in their purchasing journey and to encourage their commitment. For this, it is essential to understand and define the different categories of leads which include marketing qualified leads.
Thanks to marketing qualified leads, the company can precisely locate its prospect in the purchasing cycle and plan adequate marketing and sales actions.
What is the exact definition of marketing qualified lead, and how is it different from sales qualified lead (SQL)? Discover the ins and outs of this concept, as well as our best tips for generating MQLs and then converting them to SQL.
What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?
A marketing qualified lead (or MQL) is a visitor who has shown an interest in your product, your service, or your brand, by leaving their contact details for:
- receive a newsletter,
- put products in your e-commerce basket,
- download a white paper, etc.
These interactions can give you leads on the issues of interest to this pre-qualified lead who is at the beginning of the conversion funnel. But at this point, you don't know if he fits your target and therefore he can become a customer.
This is where the whole point of identifying an MQL lead lies: getting to know him better by observing how he interacts with marketing solicitations (sending content, invitations to webinars, etc.) that he seems willing to accept to receive. This makes it possible to determine:
❌ If it does not match your target and will never become a customer, and therefore if you need to move your efforts to where, they will be most productive,
✅ If it corresponds to your target, it will then be judicious to feed this MQL lead with information and content thanks to lead nurturing actions, to make it progress in the conversion funnel, then pass the baton to the commercial team when the purchase intention is identified.
👉 To identify the highest priority leads to exploit, it is common to use lead scoring. The idea is to award (or subtract) points for each action taken. For example, +5 points if the marketing qualified lead downloads a white paper, +2 points for each opened email, -4 points after 30 days of inactivity, etc. The more points an MQL accumulates, the more chances it will have to convert into a customer.
What is the difference between MQL and SQL?
A sales qualified lead (or SQL) is a lead qualified by the sales team, whose chances of converting into a customer are high. We also talk about prospects.
Distinguishing between MQL and SQL depends above all on good lead scoring. As a reminder, in the buying journey, a prospect goes through different stages. Depending on the type of business, these can be scalable. But as a rule, he is first a visitor, then becomes a lead, an MQL, an SQL, and finally a customer.
However, there are other stages like that of "prospect" or "subscriber" depending on the level of granularity existing in the marketing of the company. Likewise, if there is no sales department, there is no SQL.
An SQL lead is lower in the conversion funnel. He needs, for example, quotes, purchasing information, live demonstrations. He testified to an intention to buy, unlike the marketing qualified lead, which shows only a certain interest in the company.
He can :
- either be an MQL lead on which the marketing team has worked, who has been identified as corresponding to the target, and who has subsequently become more mature in his process,
- or have directly left their contact details in a form that is more engaging than marketing qualified lead (for a demonstration of the tool, for example) without having been identified as an MQL lead beforehand.
So the main difference between MQL and SQL is their level of maturity within the funnel. At the MQL stage, the Internet user has shown curiosity for the company but is not yet a buyer. Indeed, it represents an opportunity that can potentially lead into a sale, but nothing is played yet.
To successfully convert them into a customer, it is necessary to move them forward in the buyer journey and this is when the lead nurturing process comes into play. That is to say, offering the marketing qualified lead relevant, segmented, and profiled content, with the aim of measuring its real interest, convincing it, and confirming it in its purchasing decision.
This will improve the image of the company and gain the confidence of the marketing qualified lead until they want to take the next step. As long as the marketing qualified lead does not show a real and certain interest in buying, it remains in the incubator.
Differentiating between these two categories of leads is essential for the company because it allows better support for leads in the customer life cycle. It's up to you to determine your own criteria to define the contours of what you consider to be MQL and SQL.
How to generate marketing qualified leads?
Being visible and attracting the right visitors to your site (those who match your target audience) is impossible without a good marketing strategy.
Here are some tips for generating marketing qualified leads:
- establish a solid content strategy based on the creation of high added value content for your target audience, and adapt to each stage of the funnel,
- take care of your natural referencing (SEO) by working on the titles, the right keywords, and the internal and external mesh to be visible on the requests that your targets type in the search engines,
- investing in social media is essential to get to know your prospects better and promote your content to your community,
- collect, manage and use the data on your visitors thanks to CRM software, and more easily identify which are MQLs.
How to convert MQL to SQL?
Identifying a marketing qualified lead is good, moving him through the conversion funnel into an SQL lead and then into a customer is better.
Start with intensive marketing campaigns
Against the backdrop of a pandemic, we will see the sales and marketing teams of B2B companies collaborate to launch intensive awareness campaigns to attract prospects.
Before converting marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads, you need to attract MQLs. Due to the effect that the pandemic has had on businesses, B2B marketers and sales reps will need to create a large pool of leads that they can grow into MQL and convert to SQL. Most businesses will focus on tripling or even quadrupling the pool of leads they generate at the top of the funnel.
B2B sales and marketing teams will need to invest more time in educating their target audience during the upturn. These campaigns will be focused on building brand awareness and the issues their offerings solve. Some marketing activities that sales and marketing teams can undertake to drive MQLs down the sales funnel include:
- Assess the content needs of their audience
- Creation of marketing content for different buyer personas and stages of the buying journey
- Promote content posted via social media
Increased involvement in social selling
Social selling has been a buzzword for the past couple of years, but in upcoming years it will be at the heart of selling processes. Marketers and sales reps will use social selling to enrich MQLs by sending MQL-targeted content to regular touchpoints with the aim of driving them down the funnel. Businesses can increase their engagement with MQLs on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
To succeed in social selling, marketers will prioritize the digital customer journey. With the pandemic driving the adoption of remote working, distance selling takes center stage in 2021. The priority will be to rethink the digital path that prospects take to become customers.
Need to drive traffic from target audience to blocked content
The goal is to increase brand visibility in multiple online spaces where the target marketing qualified leads spend their time.
Three strategies can be applied in this approach:
- Social Media Strategy: Marketers will use their targeted account details or CRM listings to launch social media campaigns. Account characteristics such as job titles, departments, and interests will be used to inform these strategies.
- Programmatic Display Strategy: Marketers will launch programmatic campaigns that allow them to display their ads on the sites their target audiences visit. To do this, marketers will use account lists, mailing lists, and even physical addresses to inform their campaigns. The programmatic campaign will build brand awareness of B2B companies among MQLs by getting their ads to appear on every site their MQLs surf.
- Ad Retargeting Strategy: Marketers will use this to display ads on social media or to display ads to anyone in their list of target accounts every time they visit the company's website.
Adoption of aggressive lead nurturing strategies
Sales and marketing teams should take advantage of marketing automation to run email campaigns through support emails, sales drops, and newsletters to guide MQLs through the next steps. Sales teams become more involved in lead nurturing. Sales reps can send personal messages to MQLs to help them take the next step or convert to SQL.
As we have seen, with good lead nurturing on the most promising MQL leads according to the lead scoring, the marketing team can educate them with interesting content to mature their thinking and make them ready to buy. This is where the sales team takes over.
Also, for the sales process to be as smooth and efficient as possible, your marketing and sales teams need to be aligned. They must define a clear and common vision of the criteria so that an MQL can be requalified in SQL, and avoid sending too many prospects without the real potential to the sales team. So bet on quality rather than quantity!
And you? Do you have a strategy in place to generate marketing qualified leads?