1. Why MQLs are Irrelevant (and How to Make Them Relevant)
Most marketers begin bylooking at ‘how do we build a framework’ around Marketing Qualified Leads. This isn’t a bad thing. But the current MQL framework is in dire need of a shakeup.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are normally determined on what web pages somebody visited, what they’ve downloaded, and engagements through a variety of channels. Normally built from a marketing automation lens. This is a mistake. In my experience you see the marketing leader building an automation funnel and tech architecture with a consultant or MA specialist. This is normal to one extent. But watch out to not fall into the trap of MQL vanity.
The above approach is growing in irrelevance in the eyes of most CEOs.
For MQLs to benefit your business, as marketers, we must change our line of thinking and not purely present MQL numbers reports. Most people in the business don’t even know what they mean. Some marketers don’t even know what ‘they’ mean by MQL.
I think it’s essential when designing your lead score / workflows, you think about the true value to the sales funnel. It’s more important than ever to define more stages in the lifecycle — MQL 1, MQL 2 and MQL3 (for example). The idea behind this structure will allow you define multiple touch-points across the buyer journey. Ensuring greater personalisation.
However, in many companies, there’s a disconnect between marketing and sales that leads to stagnant, one-dimensional techniques like MQLs.
This growing issue is evident in other marketing models and practices, such as ‘adding value’ and buyer personas. As such, many marketing leaders find themselves operating on an island, separated from the rest of their company — as opposed to an indispensable cog in a finely tuned machine.
2. Marrying Marketing and Sales
My sales background has been somewhat helpful in my marketing role. I didn’t have a traditional marketing background, which gave me a different, sales / revenue viewpoint. More marketers (or the best marketers) know this. And I’m not telling you anything new here. But many need to do more to understand the sales funnel.
Proving value and credibility is tricky in marketing. Whereas, in sales, quotas and targets act as marks of success — which is why it’s prioritised by most CEOs and boards. When marketers have a firm grasp and granular understanding of sales, they’re more likely to align campaigns with measurable goals and clearly display their value to CEOs.
Today, unlike 5 years ago, converted sales take precedence over vanity metrics such as pipelines and lead generation. At the end of the day, leads and pipelines mean something, but all they amount to is potential. A business could have the entire world in a pipeline, but without converting, leads are of no use.
It does not mean brand and pipeline are irrelevant. What it means is that you have to think carefully on the assumptions of how you present the pipeline journey. How do you educate the CEO and board that the marketing function is having an impact on the revenue health overall — whether direct or indirect.
Can you show momentum building?
Furthermore, given both disciplines are so closely aligned, marketing and sales departments ought to work harmoniously in driving revenue.
In order to instill such a principle, perhaps it’s necessary for marketers to undergo some form of sales training, to make their approach more layered.
3. Focusing on the Buyer’s Quest
Buyer personas are another marketing model that I’ve found ineffective — mainly due to its limitations and neglecting of the sales process. Personas paint entire segments of people which is generally made up from marketing brain-storming. While great for content production — isn’t conducive to sales and revenue generation.
In my experience, sales departments never use a buyer’s persona. You need to work hard to change that outcome. You really do.
I’d suggest looking at new models. The principles of the buyers’ quest assess each customer’s journey from a variety of perspectives. It treats potential buyers as individuals rather than templates or titles and sees them as searching for an answer to a question.
Persona’s have a bad rep. Look to re-frame the approach to personalisation using the buyers quest approach — I believe the story will be easier to understand from a sales / rep lens.
Buyers’ personas have no real-world application and exist in a marketing vacuum because the information provided isn’t actionable in any other department. Rethink your approach. Explain the buyers quest to sales — get feedback — is it more exciting than a persona?
4. Why conversations are more important than ‘adding value’
My final point is based on ‘adding value’ There has been far too much of a conversation over the last 5 years on adding value. Everybody is doing it. Everyone is dropping value added content. Everybody trains their reps to ‘add value’.
Sadly, the subtle nuances that go into starting a conversation are lost when focusing too much on the marketing practice (or cliché) of ‘adding value.’
While adding actual value is always a good thing, it’s vital that marketers go beyond dropping a link in an email and thinking their job is done. There must be a shift, where instead of simply ‘adding value,’ we’re more thoughtful about prospects and intelligent about cultivating conversations.
You are here to spark conversations with prospects and customers. You are here to coach sales into sparking conversations. You are here to focus on conversion. Adding value will not get you there (it’s just part of a process).
Go away and think about language. Change your approach psychologically. Use language that is direct, succinct and makes people want to start and/or re-start a conversation.
Being lazy with language to add value is too easy and hence why we don’t bother to change.
The CMOs of the Future
In a previous blog, I brought forth a point about CMO’s that received a robust variety of responses.
Some mistook my musings as a call for the extinction of the chief marketing officer. The point I intended to make was that with the focus of most businesses shifting towards revenue generation, CMO’s must carve their niche within that framework. It’s integral that even the most creative, Don Draper-like CMO connects the dots of their campaign to revenue generation.
With the broadness of the job, a high-performing CMO is akin to a chameleon. The position has inroads to nearly every aspect of a business, and therefore, CMOs are forced to focus on areas that aren’t personal strengths. Being a CMO is hard. At the moment the lifespan is about 18 months — which is not a long time. Think about the points above and how you can make that short-life span as impactful to revenue, as possible!
Want to hear more? I discuss these topics in further detail during Mitch Fanning’s Built to Scale Podcast.