Marketing Qualified Lead: A Complete Guide to MQLs

b2b marketing qualified lead

Each stage of the marketing funnel has an associated qualifier to indicate what your lead has done so far—and what needs to be done to get them buying. The leads that marketing validates and eventually pass to sales are called marketing qualified leads (MQLs). MQLs are typically leads who have done several—or even specific—actions, but who aren’t quite ready to buy yet. 

Those actions are defined by you. Maybe they signed up for a newsletter, watched a video demo, or traded their contact information to download a white paper, to name just a few. Essentially, once a visitor engages with your brand in some way, they become an MQL.

What Makes an MQL Different from Other Leads? 

A B2B marketing qualified lead has moved beyond the awareness stage at the very top of your marketing and sales funnel. They’ve already displayed interest in your company, products or services—but not enough that they’re ready to make a purchase. They may have read some of the content on your website or even shared an email address in order to download a white paper, eBook or case study. MQLs are important to you because they’ve already signaled that they’re open to learning more about you. 

Your job is to reach out as soon as possible to satisfy their curiosity, which increases the likelihood that they’ll convert to the next step and become sales qualified leads (SQLs). For B2B companies, a good benchmark for MQL to SQL conversion is about 31% when they enter your funnel via your website—and 17% if they’re referred from other platforms such as social media. Not all MQLs become SQLs, but you certainly increase the odds they’ll convert if you have a strong nurturing program in place. 

The 5 Characteristics of a Great Nurturing Campaign 

1. It’s Prompt

Data has shown that you’re 100 times more likely to connect with an inbound lead if you get in touch within 5 minutes after they reached out as opposed to 30 minutes after. Unfortunately, that same data has found that the average response time for B2B companies sits around 42 hours. The reason you want to respond and reach out quickly is there are simply far too many other things that will grab your lead’s attention—from other companies’ outreach efforts to all the other work your lead’s juggling on any given day. Unless they’re seriously interested, they will easily forget about you. 

The challenge for many businesses is there isn’t enough personnel, bandwidth, or budget to man the gates, as it were, all day, every day. A quick work-around is an automated response via email. At the very least, this automated response should acknowledge the lead by name, review their concern, and promise a specific time you’ll reach out. This kind of table-stakes personalization creates a framework for building relationships, which can help MQLs convert to SQLs. 

Personalized nurturing makes a marketing qualified lead feel special and important.
Personalized nurturing makes a marketing qualified lead feel special and important.

2. It’s Personalized

Personalization goes beyond just mentioning your lead by name—though that’s a good start. What really gets to a customer is marketing material that seems customized to their needs and concerns. Steer clear of generic marketing materials you send out to almost everyone—these will get you no traction whatsoever. Accenture found that 41% of businesses lose a client because of a lack of personalization—and those are customers who have already bought in. 

The key to personalization is research. If your lead capture form collects sufficient data, you have this at the very start. If not, it’s easy enough to search for a potential lead on social media—LinkedIn in particular—to get key details. The next step would be to match the lead with content that aligns with their concerns and their industry. If you don’t have these, they’re certainly worth creating and customizing from scratch. You’ll get far more traction with your potential lead when using content that addresses their interests and needs. 

Alternatively, you can use PureSyndication from DemandScience. We offer leads from a B2B database that’s already verified—and therefore heavily researched—which already gives you an advantage. PureSyndication will put your most relevant content in front of these leads—ensuring that relevance is met—and track the progress of your campaigns for you, including checking data markers for intent to make for a quicker hand-off to sales. 

3. It’s Multichannel

You increase your chances of converting an MQL to an SQL with intent to buy if you reach out via multiple channels. After all, with so many options available today, your leads aren’t likely to just be focusing on just one. In fact, it’s more likely that one or a few channels get ignored throughout the day—as often happens with emails. A single-channel mentality won’t cut it when you’re up against companies that offer multichannel options by which a lead can connect and further satisfy their curiosity. 

Apart from email, many marketers immediately think about calls—both are, after all, the most common ways to connect with customers. 

While there’s nothing wrong with email and phone calls, there are several other channels you should consider. For example, you can use paid retargeting ads to reach the same audience that responded well to a first set of ads. Ideally, these should build upon the ads prior to giving them more information to help them make a decision about your products. You can complement your nurturing efforts with a campaign on social media—particularly if you find a cluster of issues and questions that are similar to one another that you can address. Via social media, you can even reach out to and communicate via their preferred platform—LinkedIn, again, is a prime example here. The trick is maximizing both your reach and potential impact by using as many channels as your budget will allow. Content syndication is another effective option, and it’s central to our PureSyndication service. 

Use different channels to increase your exposure to your marketing qualified lead.
Use different channels to increase your exposure to your marketing qualified lead.

4. It’s Measured and Assessed

Ultimately, what determines the best approach to nurturing is how well a particular channel or even a single piece of content performs. That’s why it’s important to keep close tabs on everything you do based on criteria that matters most to your business. There are many metrics to consider, but you should pay close attention to MQL-to-SQL conversions, which indicates if your leads are advancing further down the funnel. To get the conversion rate, simply divide the number of SQLs you end up with by the number of MQLs you start with. 

Of course, it’s far easier if your campaigns are managed and monitored for you. In addition to content syndication services, with PureSyndication you also get an assigned account researcher that continually monitors the campaign. The leads that are further qualified through your syndication efforts are checked for consistency against your benchmarks and relevance to your goals. It spares you having to focus your attention, your efforts, and your people on this time-consuming but key consideration. 

5. It’s Aligned

Finally, it pays to remember your marketing team doesn’t operate in a bubble. They’re just one part of a greater whole that works to bring in business for your company. That’s why it’s critical that all teams involved are in alignment—particularly your sales team. With regard to your nurturing campaigns, this involves understanding and clearly defining the point at which MQLs convert to SQLs.  

Intent has many indicators. The most obvious would be stated intent—that they, in fact, already want to purchase from you. More often, however, leads aren’t as forthcoming with intent. That’s why it pays to take a look at a variety of behaviors, including: increase in research for very specific topics, increased interaction with your marketing teams, social media engagement, and many others. 

With PureSyndication, we simplify intent. Because you’re already showing content that addresses their needs directly, DemandScience tracks how much of your content they consume, which specific areas within your content they gravitate toward, and even whether or not they share your content with others. By the time the leads get to you, they’re already effectively scored for intent, so it’s a lot easier to focus your efforts on leads that will more likely result in a sale. 

In addition to PureSyndication, our PureABM service is perfect for your targeted ads and retargeting campaigns. It combines intent data, trends, and even social media/channel triggers to aid you with refining your leads to those who are genuinely interested to buy. We even help to ensure your ad formatting is on-point no matter what channel you choose. Talk to us today, tell us who you want to reach out to—we’re more than happy to bridge the gaps.