Generating leads is at the top of the list of important tasks for most businesses. Generating leads isn’t easy, but it’s generating the Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) that are more likely to work their way down the funnel and convert into sales that most marketers struggle with. Reliable MQL lead generation requires a lot more thoughtful work throughout the funnel while generating non-qualified leads only requires that the top of the funnel and lead magnets be persuasive.
As a marketer with a MQL quota, you are always on the hunt for new ways to generate MQLs and higher quality leads for your company. But to understand how to find these leads, you have to dig into what makes a lead marketing-qualified to your company, to begin with.
Let’s start by defining what a marketing qualified lead is, then examine the issues with MQL lead generation, and provide some tips to help you meet your quota:
What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is, in short, a prospect who is likely to become a customer of your business because their interest has been primed through a variety of strategies during their time as a lead. They may engage with your support reps, content, or take non-planned steps to push themselves through the sales funnel more quickly.
All companies have their own benchmarks and milestones that are used in the lead scoring process to determine whether a lead is marketing qualified, but the general goal is to use the MQL designation for leads that are likely to go farther down the funnel and are more likely to result in a sale.
During a MQL Lead Generation process, marketers must take several steps to foster engagement and warm the lead up to your brand. By developing trust and creating a genuine connection with prospects, you are able to locate and mark more MQLs. This helps not only you as a marketer but will help your sales teams as well, who have to spend less time searching for MQLs through the typical processes. The more MQLs, the more deals.
The Problems With MQL Lead Generation
While the concept behind MQLs and lead scoring is solid and has resulted in many organizations being able to close more deals reliably, there are some issues that come with trying to generate MQLs and the concept in general inside certain organizations. Let’s take a look at some of the common problems that come with MQL quotas:
There is No Universal Definition
The definition of what an MQL is differs from one organization to the next. This is by design. The requirements for becoming an MQL depends entirely upon the company’s sales funnel and customer journey. Many mark MQLs after they take very specific actions within their sales process, which means that their definition of an MQL is completely unique compared to others.
What makes a lead an MQL in one organization does not necessarily translate to another. The main stipulation is that the lead has responded to or engaged positively with marketing materials and is judged to be more likely to result in a sale. Engaged MQLs are ready to receive more sales-focused materials.Of course, the lack of a universal definition can make things difficult for the marketers that are tasked with generating the leads.
Over Time, MQLs Provide Diminishing Returns
MQL-focused strategies often provide diminishing returns over time. Your first 1,000 leads will convert at a much higher rate than the next 1,000 leads. As companies burn through lists of their ideal customers, lead quality will suffer. This means that even those marketers that are hitting their MQL quotas will generate less revenue with the same number of leads, on average. It’s difficult for marketers to keep up a high level of performance with MQLs over time, especially in very niche markets where there isn’t a whole lot of prospecting to be done.
Diminishing Returns Lead to Higher MQL Targets or Lax Qualifications
Because companies that rely solely on marketers with MQL quotas to drive new business suffer as these diminishing returns come into effect, they typically respond in a few ways. In order to reach the growth numbers that they were enjoying previously, they might up the MQL quotas for their marketers. A higher quota means more responsibility is put on the shoulders of marketing teams that are often times already stretched thin. Because companies in this position have already burned through large portions of their “ideal customers” list, higher MQL quotas are often a losing battle.
With higher quotas and increased pressure, marketing departments may face pressure to redefine what a MQL is within their organization and change their MQL Lead Generation process. Scooping more leads into the MQL bucket doesn’t do anyone any good, least of all the sales teams that eventually have to handle these leads. In the interest of self-preservation, high MQL quotas and lax qualifications for MQL classification can end up doing more harm than good.
Too Strong of Focus on MQLs Erodes Marketing-Sales Alignment
Companies that use MQL numbers as a defining metric for their marketing and sales success might be doing themselves a disservice in the long-term. A focus solely on MQLs, as opposed to revenue-based metrics, can actually hurt your marketing-sales alignment. If you blow out your MQL numbers and those leads don’t generate revenue downstream, you haven’t done yourself any favors. In most cases, revenue is a far more important metric than leads alone, although MQLs are still a very useful metric for attribution.
MQL Lead Generation Tips
Despite these issues, marketing qualified leads are still an important metric inside many tech-based companies and being able to reliably generate MQLs is essential to the careers of many marketers in the space.
Reliably generating MQLs requires a complete inbound strategy for attracting, nurturing, and building relationships with prospects. Very few leads will be marketing qualified from the moment that they enter your system. It takes time and engagement to reach that point. According to Marketo, 93% of B2B companies say that content marketing generates more leads for them than traditional marketing strategies.
In this section, we’ll provide some inbound MQL lead generation tips that can help you to grow your numbers, reach your quotas, and generate more revenue for your company in the long-term.
Here are our 10 of our most important MQL lead generation tips:
#1) Create and Share Compelling Content
A huge part of any marketer’s job is getting to know their audience. In researching your customers, you’ll learn about all of the major pain points and how they relate to your product. With those pain points in mind, crafting compelling content around those subjects can be a great way to provide value and improve your relationship with leads as they make their way through your sales funnel.
As your leads begin to search for answers to a problem, providing a continuous stream of high-value content helps to keep your business top-of-mind when a prospect goes to search for answers. Having enough content to ensure that you can pull them into the funnel at the right moment is extremely important.
Don’t just create your content and hope that it is able to make its way in front of prospects, either. You have to share and distribute the content that you create. Sujan Patel, a renowned content marketer, recommends that you spend 80% of your time promoting your content, compared to just 20% creating it. The lesson here is that ensuring that your content gets in front of the right people may warrant more attention than actually creating the content does.
Focusing on creating and sharing high-value content will help to ensure that prospects continue to build a connection to your company and progress into your funnel on their way to becoming marketing qualified leads.
#2) Incentivize Prospects at The Top Of Your Funnel
You have to give prospects a reason to enter your funnel in the first place. The best way to do this is to heavily incentivize entering the top of the funnel. Many marketers who focus on inbound marketing will offer lead magnets to their audience, which are high-value content offerings that are typically presented in the form of eBooks, webinars, white papers, or other resources that your audience will find interesting and useful.
Here’s an example from Kapost, who incentivized visitors to enter their funnel with a webinar as an example:
Incentivizing your audience to enter the top of your funnel through content offerings can be a great way to grow your MQLs and help you to hit quotas each month. They can be used as the primary call-to-action on blog posts and other materials to get more leads into your funnel.
#3) Nurturing and Follow-Ups Are Integral to MQL Lead Generation
As leads opt-in to the top of your funnel, you must engage them beyond your initial offering to build rapport and keep them engaged in the process. Without consistent engagement from your company, the leads will quickly become disinterested and move on, never reaching MQL status. Use email automation to continue delivering new value.
According to a survey conducted by Ascend2, 48% of B2B organizations have a complex sales cycle, with many engagements following the prospect’s first engagement with a new company. For many, the nurturing cycle is the most important asset they have in elevating the score of leads and eventually closing a sale.
The content that you deliver could be a complete lesson delivered entirely through email, or a link to a blog post that you have published. Just make sure that whatever you deliver is speaking to their biggest concerns and pain points that are at least adjacently related to your product.
#4) Use Retargeting to Capture Lost Leads
Did you know that 96% of the visitors that come to your website aren’t ready to buy? Many of the people that come to your website are conducting some initial research and weighing their options. They may be ready to buy in several weeks or months and when that time comes, you want to ensure that your company is top-of-mind.
Consumers generally have a positive reaction to retargeted ads, with 30% saying that they had a positive reaction, compared to just 11% who felt negatively about the ads, according to eMarketer. Three out of every five U.S. buyers say that they notice ads for products that they have looked up on other sites.
Retargeted ads can be a great way to reconnect with lost leads and keep your company top of mind during the research phase of their buying cycle. You already know that these consumers have some interest in your product and some awareness of your brand.
#5) Optimize Your Website and Funnel for Mobile
Did you know that 57% of all internet traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets? While the numbers may differ for your own business, it still stands to reason that a significant portion of your traffic will come from mobile users. B2B queries are shifting substantially from PCs to smartphones. According to Google, 50% of all B2B queries are made from mobile devices.
For these reasons, it is absolutely critical that your website and all funnel interactions are optimized for the mobile experience. Your website should be easy to use on any device, but perhaps just as important — the off-site marketing materials that you want your audience to engage with should be optimized for mobile as well. If you deliver a top-of-funnel eBook or webinar to your audience, it’s important that they be able to engage with these materials from their mobile device.
#6) Use Marketing Automation to Engage with Prospects
High-touch marketing and sales processes can’t be handled completely by hand. You can’t expect marketers to carry on conversations with dozens (or hundreds) of prospects on their own. Marketing automation tools are the marriage of email marketing, CRM, and web publishing tools that give marketers the tools that they need to engage with prospects regularly and facilitate connected relationships.
Thomas Reuters was able to increase their revenue by 172% when they adopted marketing automation as a core strategy within their business. Most marketers already attest to email being their most effective lead generation tactic. Marrying the two gives marketers the ability to continually connect with prospects and deliver materials based on the actions they have taken, not just the fact that they are a lead in the system.
#7) Develop Relationships with Influencers and Micro-Influencers
Consumers implicitly trust influential people. 70% of millennials are influenced by the recommendations of their peers. Developing relationships with key industry influencers and micro-influencers can be a great way to not only get your company in front of a larger audience but help you with the distribution of your content and marketing materials. Having a well-known influencer Tweet out your latest blog post can grow its reach and send more leads into the top of your funnel, resulting in more MQLs.
#8) Leverage Successful Customer Engagements
There are few things that have a bigger impact in influencing a buying decision than social proof. As a marketer, the best way for you to provide B2B social proof is to connect with customers that have had successful engagements with your company in the past. Reach out to them, interview them, and get a better understanding of the kind of successes they enjoyed from your product or service.
Use those experiences to put together case studies, testimonials, or casual anecdotes that you can use in your marketing materials for prospects. The more positive stories that leads hear from similar companies, the more trust they will have in your company to deliver a solution to their problems.
#9) Use More Video
Video is the most effective channel for delivering content to prospects. Use video throughout your funnel to improve engagement and facilitate your MQL Lead Generation . Even short, 1-2 minute videos can convey a lot of information and make it easy for your prospects to retain. Videos that are present on landing pages have been shown to increase conversion rates by as much as 80 percent and can allow your audience to build a closer, more personal connection with your company and the people that work within it.
#10) Constantly Split Test
Have faith in the data that you have on hand. Whether you are looking at your web forms, calls to action within emails or some other piece of your sales funnel — continually work to improve your conversion rates. Without proper A/B testing, you are letting leads leak through the cracks of your MQL Lead Generation program and there is no telling how many of those would pan out to become MQLs given a proper nurturing process.
Meeting MQL Quotas Consistently Requires a Foundation
Marketers that have MQL quotas to meet have a big task in front of them. Generating leads on its own can be tough enough, but meeting MQL quotas requires that you are able to generate a certain quality of leads and nurture them through the sales funnel as well. To do this, you’ll need a solid inbound foundation that constantly attracts new prospects into the top of your funnel. Use compelling, high-value content to engage with leads and stay top-of-mind during the nurturing process while employing the other tips outlined in this article should give you a great start to MQL Lead Generation, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of hitting your MQL quota each month.