on December 1, 2020 (last modified on January 13, 2022) • 15 minute read
When does a visitor on your website turn into a qualified lead?
We all know that not everyone who visits your website will end up buying your product. They could be a student learning about a topic you wrote about on your blog, a candidate applying for a job, or someone who is just browsing.
MQLs are supposed to define the point when a person goes from just learning about your company to establishing clear intent that they are interested in your product or service. However, the reality is that the criteria for an MQL is nuanced. It can vary based on your company and average sales cycle. In this post, we’re going to take a much closer look at what an MQL is, including:
An MQL stands for Marketing Qualified Lead. This is a lead that shows a higher likelihood of becoming a paying customer in the future. These leads have been vetted in some capacity by the marketing team.
Whereas an MQL is vetted, a sales qualified lead (or SQL for short) demonstrates they are not only interested in becoming a customer, but are also a good fit for your product or service.
In B2B sales teams with a high lead volume, this is usually when sales steps in and jumps on 1:1 demo and sales calls.
Related: 9 Tried and Tested Ways a Sales Analysis Can Help You Generate More Revenue
According to our survey, over 89% of marketers have clearly defined MQL criteria.
Most of these teams will have some form of lead scoring in action. For example, someone who reads 4 blog posts and then comes back to your website 2 days later to view 3 case studies and see your pricing page will be weighted higher than someone who reads one blog post and then leaves your site.
However, the actual criteria for what is an MQL can vary widely between companies. In fact, the biggest debate is around whether or not to gate content. On the one hand, it is an easier way to measure MQLs.
Joey Campbell of Sundae says, “Marketing Qualified Leads are the best types of leads to ensure that you end with a conversion. One tip to gain MQLs is through gated content. Whether you have a whitepaper or an eBook that will be beneficial to your readers, gate that content with a request for an email address. This creates a great MQL to pass on to your email marketing team.”
On the other hand, just because someone downloads an ebook doesn’t mean they are going to become a customer at any point in the future. For example, Trinity Nguyen of UserGems says, “This is probably unusual, but we don’t gate our content and therefore only measure demo requests as MQL.
We generate demo requests through a tightly-orchestrated account-based marketing & sales program. Both sales and marketing align on a list of target accounts (based on the Ideal Customer Profile ICP) every quarter, then orchestrate the execution: running targeted ads and offering personalized digital experience (marketing) while simultaneously prospecting and multi-threading those accounts thoroughly (sales).”
Regardless of where you stand on the gated content debate, the average percentage of leads that become marketing qualified is around 35%.
In addition, here are 15 tips to help you generate more qualified leads.
If you want to discover how visitors engage with your website, and which content drives the most engagement and conversions, there are several on-page events and metrics you can track from Google Analytics that will get you started:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Analytics experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing the most important KPIs for monitoring visitor engagement on your website. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
“I see a lot of people making this mistake of treating all leads the same way,” says Jamil Aziz of PureVPN. “This has negatively affected them more than they think. Segmentation of leads is extremely important and we have seen our percentage of MQLs increasing from 3% to 8% once we sorted out our buyer’s journey and created funnels accordingly.
Leads must be segmented according to their buyer’s journey and which stage of the funnel they are present, for example, if someone is present in the consideration stage of your funnel you should send them the message which should provide value and help them in moving forward to the next step.”
Stephen Fiser of Leadjetty adds, “Instead of just collecting contact info and then following up, you can start by asking one or more simple questions. Then you can use that information to provide much more relevant information and offers.
For example, a contact of mine runs a large home improvement business. One of their main questions is whether the lead wants to improve their kitchen or their bathroom.
By asking that single question up front, they can get people the info they want faster and close more deals.”
“My #1 tip for driving more MQLs is to have clearly defined criteria then setup your automation processes to move them in that direction,” says Ariel Lim. “By clearly defining implicit and explicit data you need to qualify an MQL, you can build all your processes to nudge them there.
Let’s say you defined an MQL as having the role of CEO/Founder, a company size of 20+, and within the SaaS industry. Or, if they explicitly said they want a consulting call with you. Those are your qualifications for an MQL.
An example of what you can do is create a series of emails that drive a normal newsletter subscriber (a lead) to download a case study which has a longer form with the fields you need so you can identify them as an MQL.
In that series, you can also add a direct booking link to your calendar.
That way, if they either download the case study or booked a consulting call, you would already have an MQL.
So it all starts by defining clearly what MQLs are then designing your processes to move them in that direction.”
“Consider the full marketing funnel and create content that is designed to cater to each part,” says Adam Rizzieri of Agency Partner Interactive. “Don’t go after that sale or lead at the top of the funnel. Use that as an opportunity to start a relationship by offering a low-risk piece of value in exchange for an email opt-in.”
Sara Mughrabi of The Yes Ladder says, “Design different lead offers for different stages in your audience’s decision journeys.
For example, a visitor to your blog is unlikely to request a price quote or book a free session, but they might download a PDF version of your blog post or sign up to receive blog updates. Conversely, a visitor to your pricing page is further along their decision journey and might benefit from a live chat session or product demo.”
Trina Moitra of Convert.com agrees, “When are they looking to learn, when are they looking to take action, what does a free trial mean for your brand.
For example, with Convert, a free trial goes a long way. It is a clear indication that visitors have covered a significant portion of their journey to purchasing a new A/B testing tool on their own. For items that cost less than $10,000 a year… this may not be the case. An intention journey is personal to each individual, but also to the brand.
Wrap your head around that.
Then define clear stages to quantify progress and assign these metrics. When do the leads become an MQL? What’s a SAL? What’s an SQL?
This is the blueprint that can begin to define and guide both content creation & distribution – the two key spokes of consistent growth in my personal opinion.”
Brendan Hufford of SEO for the Rest of Us adds, “The biggest mistake most people make is trying to convert people at the top of the funnel.
Understanding what level of product awareness somebody is at when they’re on your site, is the KEY to driving more MQLs (versus just opt-ins or leads). For example, when somebody is reading a TOFU article, don’t try to convert them, especially not just to spam their inbox. Spend that article EMPATHIZING with them and send them to another article at a deeper level of product awareness. Then, you can start looking to turn them into an MQL.”
“An inbound lead isn’t instantly an MQL,” says Levi Olmstead of 2ndKitchen. “You must first nurture that lead throughout the funnel. The biggest tip I can give is to create middle and bottom-of-the-funnel content (ie. gated ebooks, case studies, webinars) to educate your leads, create demand for your product or service, and nurture them into a hot lead that your sales team can convert into a customer.”
Dani Peterman of Lusha agrees, “MQLs are not worth much unless you have a way to warm them up before handing them over to sales. So make sure you have a system in place, or else you’re just throwing away your efforts.”
“Providing clear added value in the marketing messages and content is key for driving better MQLs,” says Nicole Fortunaso of Ctrl+Alt Marketing. “When you are offering something of value to your target market it is a winning strategy, you targets learn and collect the information they need to become closer to that 50% committed stage in the sale funnel and you win by getting their contact information.”
For example, Jason Wong of Doelashes adds, “Guides, tips, and/or tutorials, pretty much anything that helps towards helping people become better educated about what your business and/or services can do for them. This should always be the core of any content that you create. This type of content is a great way to engage with your audience while making it fun for both parties involved.”
“Try to solve your audience’s problem,” says Chris Wilks of BrandExtract. “If you help them solve their problem, as opposed to selling them something, then they’ll be more likely to consider you when the time comes for them to make a purchase. Always be providing value and the leads will follow.”
“Make sure you create multiple touch points because research shows that the average B2B sale takes more than 10 marketing touch points from the top of funnel to a closed-won deal,” says Paige Arnof- Fenn of MavensAndMoguls. “To avoid turning off prospects, vary these touchpoints and ensure they’re relevant to where the contact is in your buying cycle. Touch points could include blog posts, emails, whitepapers, quizzes, calculators, games, and social media competitions.”
It sounds obvious, but many brands try to be clever and bury the action that they want people to take next. Clarity over cleverness always wins,For example, Alex Keyan of goPure Brands says, “Suppose you have a good marketing funnel that you’ve put a lot of effort into getting your clients into and stage of the funnel. You’ve built each stage carefully, built your customer personas, and done thorough analysis on each touchpoint. Don’t make the mistake of not being strict enough and then leaving action up to your clients. To drive your clients in the way you want them to go, use your most effective CTAs.”
“To increase MQLs, pick one channel and own it,” says David Ciccarelli of Voices.com. “For each channel, such as paid social, organic search, or video marketing, there’s so much to learn that it’ll take a year to become a master and own the majority of the traffic and qualified leads coming from that channel. Avoid the distraction of a new channel, ad format, or platform change that leaves you chasing the algorithm. Instead, focus both your time and energy to a single channel and deliver outsized results.”
“Start connecting with the most active clients you have,” says Robert Applebaum of Applebaum Beverly Hills. “Interview them individually to find out what kind of progress they have accomplished with your product or service. Based on their outcomes, create case studies and share these studies with leads in the assessment and comparative phases. Reading about your other clients’ progress, especially those facing similar challenges, would probably drive those prospects into positions where they are ready to convert themselves.”
“We all are aware of the power of visuals for engaging our leads,” says Sam Browne of Find A Band. “I believe one of the most powerful and valuable tips to improve engagement throughout the funnel is by integrating interactive visuals in the form of Infographics, quizzes, and videos.
Because the human processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text and you can easily communicate a lot more information in a 30-to 60-second video than you can by having someone read a long copy.
That is why marketing videos on landing pages are all the trend now and they have proved to improve conversion by up to 80 percent, and 64 percent of audiences who see video content are more likely to convert.”
“If a client needs to increase MQLs quickly, we recommend targeted ads,” says Tabitha Young of 30 Degrees North. “Remarketing and retargeting ads, along with look-alike audiences, are typically a great (and quick) way to increase the number of MQLs you are bringing in.”
“If you want to drive more MQLs, you need to create the kind of free content that drives instant brand recognition,” says Lily Ugbaja of Dollar Creed. “Trust is what makes people take out the wallet. If your brand establishes itself as a trustworthy subject matter expert on the topic, you are more likely to generate more MQLs.”
“Adding live chat to landing pages helps convert more traffic into MQLs,” says Bruce Hogan of SoftwarePundit. “The live chat widget allows your team to engage potential leads and answer questions, which can increase conversion rates by 5-15%. In addition, there are live chat tools that are entirely free.”
“I would highly recommend you to refine your funnel for driving more MQLs,” says Stewart Dunlop of PPC Genius. “You need to track back and analyze each and every stage of your funnel, as well as the buyer’s journey. you would need to examine your data from your lead generation dashboard to figure out which sort of content and events would be most likely to convert your leads into clients. Evaluate your user activities throughout the funnel, look for points that connect with the highest close rates, and set your conversion path to drive prospects along that same journey to success.”
When you are a B2B company with a longer sales cycle, tracking MQLs and SQLs are a way to visualize the key steps in a customer’s journey. You’ll be able to see what content performs the best at the top of the funnel, the questions prospects are searching for, and at what point they are the most likely to become a customer. As you analyze each stage of the funnel, you can apply any key learnings to improve your sales close rates.
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