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Everything about Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • Apr 02, 2022
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Any company that wants to make money needs to generate leads. Ideally, these leads will turn into customers who buy from the company. Marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL) are two types of leads. In this article, we will understand everything about Marketing Qualified Leads and the main differences between MQL and SQL.



What is MQL?


A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a lead that has been determined to be more likely to convert into a customer than other leads. This qualification is based on a person's web page visits, downloads, and other similar interactions with your company's content. 


So, what is a qualified lead?


The point at which marketing determines that a lead is ready to be passed on to sales is referred to as a "qualified lead." The first and most important step is to gather the sales and marketing teams to figure out (and agree on) what this entails. Without a common definition, the two teams will be operating under different playbooks, which is no way to win.


A lead becomes an MQL, then a SQL, and so on, working their way down the funnel until they become a customer. As previously stated, if a lead becomes an MQL, it has been thoroughly vetted by the marketing team. To put it another way, the marketing team determines whether or not sales have a good chance of nurturing and converting a specific lead into a customer.


If the sales team agrees with the marketing team and believes they have a good chance of converting an MQL into a customer, the MQL is referred to as a sales-qualified lead (SQL).


The difference between MQL and SQL:


We already know what MQL is, let us now know what sales qualified lead or SQL is, to understand the difference between them both. 


A sales qualified lead (SQL) is one that the sales team has determined is worthy of further investigation. They've completed the consideration stage and are now in the decision-making stage of their buyer's journey, where sales-focused content and support will be beneficial.


The intent to buy is the most significant distinction between MQLs and SQLs. While other factors influence whether a lead is marketing or sales-ready, the intent to purchase is the most important indicator for marketers when deciding whether or not to pass a lead on to sales. That's a sure sign they're ready to speak with sales, and it means passing them along to sales is the best way to serve that lead.


Here are a few examples that qualify MQL vs SQL:


  1. Top of Funnel vs Bottom of Funnel:


A lead who downloads and converts on top-of-funnel content offers is known as an MQL. They're looking for information that teaches and educates them about the product you sell in general.


An SQL, on the other hand, will download offers from the bottom of the funnel. SQLs are at the bottom of the funnel; they've done their homework, they know they want a car, and they know which one they want. All they have to do now is figure out how to pay for it.


  1. First-time site visitor vs. Returning visitor:


A potential MQL is someone who comes for the first time. They've only just begun their buyer's journey and are gathering information that will eventually assist them in making a purchasing decision.


An SQL, on the other hand, is a repeat visitor who has visited your site several times and is browsing key pages and downloading bottom-of-funnel content offers. They keep coming back because they like the information you're providing. And if they keep returning, they're most likely ready to speak with your sales team.


Which leads tend to be higher quality: MQL or SQL?

There is no conclusive answer to this question. Qualified leads are important to the market because they are much warmer. Someone has already learned about your brand and values if they have read three blog posts, opened eight emails, downloaded an eBook, or submitted an inquiry. However, anyone, even for personal reasons, is free to inquire.


SQLs, on the other hand, tend to be higher quality if your salespeople are targeting people who are natural fits for your service. However, if your marketing is distributed correctly and your messaging is clear, your MQLs may prove to be of higher quality than your SQLs. There are numerous factors to consider, including your industry, company size, ideal target, and so on.


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Why is it necessary to distinguish between MQL and SQL?


Knowing the difference between an MQL and a SQL is one thing. It's another thing entirely to understand why properly categorizing each lead is so critical. The distinction between an MQL and a SQL  is critical in providing the appropriate content and lead nurturing experience. 


You don't want to send a lead basic content that outlines all of your products if they've already decided what product is right for them — it's no longer relevant to their buyer's journey. 


Similarly, you don't want to send a lead on a sales call if they are still learning what your product does, how it works, and why they might need it. They aren't ready to make a purchase decision yet, and they aren't likely to get company approval. A sales call would appear pushy at this point in their journey, and would ultimately be a waste of your sales team's time.


The success of your overall inbound marketing and sales strategy is highly dependent on correctly identifying whether a lead is marketing or sales qualified. Knowing whether a lead is an MQL or a SQL helps you streamline your lead nurturing process so you can get the best results with the least effort.



How to create an MQL for the company?


  1. Establish a working relationship between the marketing and sales teams.


The process of maintaining open communication and alignment between the marketing and sales teams is a critical component of MQL success. Without sales alignment, marketing will not be able to target or identify high-quality leads. Without marketing's assistance, sales will not have access to MQLs.


Start by emphasizing the importance of this relationship to the marketing and sales organizations, so they understand the benefits of cross-team collaboration. Then you could schedule regular meetings to discuss alignment, roles, and potential growth areas.


During these meetings, there may be time set aside for discussion about how to improve the marketing and sales relationship and alignment, as well as time for feedback, ideation, and fact sharing.



  1. Make a list of potential leads.


Lead definitions for your business should be developed collaboratively by marketers and salespeople. Meaning, marketing, and sales should meet to identify, explain, and document the main characteristics and traits that define an MQL on your team.


You can go a step further and assign point values for various MQL qualifications based on the lead definitions you create, forming the foundation of a lead scoring system. This will ensure that your sales team receives high-quality leads on time, allowing them to remain as productive as possible.



  1. Re-evaluate your lead definitions regularly.


Not only does the size of your company, internal teams, and customer base grow over time, but so do your prospects, buyer personas, and leads. That's why it's critical to revisit your lead definitions regularly and update them as needed.


For example, perhaps your marketing team reviews your lead definitions quarterly — they might review them as a group and then present any changes to sales for feedback. In a collaborative meeting, marketing and sales could review the definitions and update them as needed. In any case, keep in mind that just because something works for you now doesn't mean it will continue to work in the future. Be aware that your lead definitions will need to be updated to ensure that marketing is identifying, targeting, and presenting high-quality leads to sales reps.


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How to Convert Leads to MQLs to SQLs?


Because all leads can become MQLs if they meet certain criteria, many businesses may consider marketing to all of their prospects in the same way. It's easy to get caught up in MQL data when determining whether or not marketing efforts were successful, but this ignores the nonlinear nature of what happens in the real-world buyer's journey.


Companies can better understand buyer actions and use that data to optimize the customer journey with a solid scoring system. Here are some guidelines for determining whether a prospect is a marketing qualified lead:


  1. Create an MQL for the company: 


The requirements for a prospect to qualify as a marketing qualified lead differ from company to company. Before moving a prospect through the funnel, sit down with your marketing and sales teams to determine the ideal score they should have.



  1. Buyer personas should be used to categorize leads.


Most of the leads you generate should match your ideal buyer persona if you're doing your marketing right. However, if a prospect takes the desired action but does not match your buyer persona, they may not be ready to be classified as an MQL at this time.



  1. Compare historical behavior: 


Just like your ideal buyer persona, the customers who have made it to the end of your sales funnel will have distinct characteristics. Compare and contrast the factors and actions taken by these buyers with the actions taken by your prospect.



  1. Inquire of your customers: 


Asking a prospect if they are an MQL is one way to find out. Simply asking a prospect on one of your forms if they want to be contacted by sales is an easy way to classify them as an MQL and continue to provide them with relevant information.



  1. Insert the MQL into marketing campaigns:


Once your marketing department has identified an MQL, they should be entered into a few lead nurturing campaigns, whether it's through targeted email marketing or casual, helpful marketing outreach. That MQL should ideally keep taking qualifying actions, such as downloading more content offers, asking your marketing team a few questions, and subscribing to your newsletter.



  1. Qualify the MQL as SQL:


The marketing team should pass all of the information they have on that lead to the sales team once the MQL has taken enough actions to qualify as a SQL. The sales team can then reach out to connect and qualify that lead as a SQL, ideally within 24 hours of the lead's last conversion action.


The sales team may discover during their qualifying call that the lead isn't quite ready for the decision-making stage. At this point, your marketing team should have a plan in place to convert that lead back to an MQL and nurture it until it's ready to be converted back to SQL.


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In any case, keep in mind that just because something works for you now doesn't mean it will continue to work in the future. Be aware that your lead definitions will need to be updated to ensure that marketing is identifying, targeting, and presenting high-quality leads to sales reps. 


Marketing Expertise Leads express an active desire to learn more. They aren't just staring at you passively; they have taken some sort of action to satisfy their curiosity. 


Returning to our shopper in a shopping mall example, regular leads would be anyone who walks past your storefront. They're around, and it's possible that they'll notice you and even walk in the door at some point, but they don't pay attention.


In this article, we have discussed mainly qualified leads and marketing qualified leads and ways to convert leads to MQL and further to SQL.