The Troubled Truth with MQLs: Advice for 2020
Is the MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) dead?
Plenty of marketers would have us believe the MQL is finished as a meaningful metric.
Many believe the MQL is outdated in an age of account based marketing.
Instead, commentators argue that we should be diverting our energy to meaningful contact with prospects, letting ‘old fashioned’ pipeline metrics slide. Using new terminologies such as account surge, account intent or removing completely to measure only SALs/ SQLs.
I’d argue that there is room — it depends on your sales process
The MQL absolutely has a place in every marketing leader’s playbook. Rather than moving away from pipeline based marketing, we should look to align sales and marketing more closely in 2020. Why?
Every marketer benefits from a closer understanding of sales. MQLs are a vital part of this process. The sales and marketing alignment piece is a key part of how you deploy MQLs into your metrics.
Sales and marketing should move closer.
In 2020, the CMO and CRO must understand each other better and work towards the same goals. I see huge value in closer alignment of sales and marketing for growing any B2B business.
Sales and marketing alignment is shown best in businesses where the CMO and CRO collaborate. By sharing goals and data, you support each other’s challenges at quarterly reviews and grow together as a team. I have recently talked about this in the Lumavate podcast, available below:
Perhaps because my career began in cold calling, I appreciate the many difficulties involved in sales.
B2B sales in particular is a nuanced job involving multiple processes. As a marketer who understands sales, you appreciate your peers and market the product or service more effectively.
This is precisely why MQLs remain a key metric for success. They are the point sales and marketing overlap. You can’t just jump straight to sales activity. You do need a lens on the start of the pipeline.
The early stage could be defined as account surge or MQLs etc — it doesn’t really matter. But often these two metrics are slightly different. If you become clear on what MQLs mean to sales, you can ensure it’s not a wasted metric.
It brings me onto the ‘death of the MQL’ perspective. As marketers we are often guilty of copying each other’s narrative to sound credible to sales. Asserting the death of the MQL is just another example of what’s happening right now with many speakers and influencers lamenting the point.
This has amplified the notion that the MQL is defunct.
The MQL started as a way of treating marketing funnels as discrete from sales. In the early 2010s, MQLs unfortunately developed into a vanity metric that often didn’t serve the sales funnel. Perhaps this is why many believe the metric no longer has credibility.
MQLs aren’t dead. But they have been misused.
It’s time to reinvigorate the MQL with the value it deserves. Lead scoring must be effective. Marketing leaders should be crystal clear on the real conversion ratio. The same problems will arise with ‘account surge’ or other terms unless we get the process right in the first place. Instead of neglecting or inflating top of funnel numbers, sales and marketing should come together to ensure MQL data reflect reality.
How to rehabilitate the MQL
When positioned correctly, the MQL is a great top of funnel metric that can fuel good sales and marketing alignment.
If MQLs are mistreated in your organisation, it’s not difficult to put right (see below for a cheatsheet)
If you’re a marketing leader, start by:
- Making sure MQLs are set up correctly
- Measuring MQLs against sales and understanding conversion in depth
- Being clear to leadership about the value of MQL
Avoid the temptation to use vanity metrics.
A high top of funnel number might make marketing look good, but without qualification, MQLs can quickly become worthless.
At Modulr, we are mindful of how we use MQL as part of our funnel. It is used in the right fashion. We are always thinking about how to engage in a personalised way across our funnel. Nurture people in the right way and add value.
Ensuring the top of funnel analysis does have a follow through into an engaged potential future customer.
Good CEOs in any industry are interested in long-term growth and do wish to understand the full funnel health (not just opportunities).
MQLs with the right intention matter in board meetings, if you give them the credibility they deserve:
- Ensure the lifecycle journey is correct
- Place importance on accurate lead scoring and lead qualification
- Place MQLs as part of the flow to SQL
Know the conversion rate behind your MQLs. Fewer MQLs at a higher conversion rate are worth more closed deals. Getting this process right is what makes the difference in sales and marketing alignment. When I first began my career as a sales representative in recruitment, I learned the value of conversion rates. Although my peers conducted 150 calls a day, my conversion rates were higher with just 10 warm calls. MQLs in this instance served as a key metric for my own job satisfaction.
MQLs aren’t a vanity metric. They’re a vital part of the entire sales funnel. Leadership teams and salespeople need meaningful MQLs to do their jobs well.
The only reason MQLs might be ‘dead’ in any organisation, is if marketers treat them as we have done in the past.
At Modulr, we’re doing things differently. We have our funnel set up to place importance on every aspect of the sales process, beginning with subscribers, MQLs, SQLs and opportunities.
Every CMO faces the same challenge as I do. How can we better align sales and marketing? How do you ensure each terminology is understood between the CEO, CRO and CMO? It’s not easy.
This begins with educating everyone on the importance of MQLs, a clear marketing journey and the value of long lasting customer conversations.
I believe in a strong strategic and tactical approach to building a consistent pipeline. It doesn’t matter what you call the terminology — don’t obsess about those points. Obsess about creating the right process and articulating how your process gives instant access to awareness of the full sales & marketing funnel.