What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

This is the blog transcript of our video “What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead?”. If you’d like to see more of our videos, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

I just need leads! Shouldn’t that be enough to start working on going out there and getting them?

Well no, you need to know what KIND of lead you’re looking for, and what that means to you.

If you don’t do that, none of your marketing efforts are going to be successful. 

Hey everyone, I’m Ian Campbell, CEO of Mission Suite. Before we jump into today’s video, do me a favor and hit the subscribe button and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos.

After 20 years in marketing, sales, and business ownership, I’ve seen a lot of campaigns – some successful, some not so much

The common characteristic of the successful campaigns is that they’re always hyper focused on exactly what they’re goals are

They’re not trying to get a closed deal right off the bat, they just want people to show enough interest to allow them to market to them (hence the term “marketing qualified”)

But what really is a marketing qualified lead?

Let’s dive in

You may remember us talking about Marketing Qualified Leads or MQLs on a previous episode. And today, we’re going to give that term a little more context, specifically what is and MQL, why it is beneficial to generate MQLs, how to collect MQLs and more!

Many marketing campaigns fail because they are directed to a random audience. Some sales and marketing teams might think that the best way to gain leads is to get their information out to as many people as possible and hope for the best. This is not the best way to generate leads. Mass emails, untargeted content, and the like is just really a wild guess without data. 

A name and an email address are contact information. An MQL is actively looking for something like what you have and is more likely to buy what you are selling than another. A person interested in cooking is more likely to buy a subscription to a cooking magazine than an auto mechanic who eats junk food and receives a random email. 

FYI, the mechanic has already forgotten about your cooking subscription and is not likely to ever be a good connection or lead for you. 

An MQL is also someone who has expressed an interest in what your brand offers based on marketing they have seen. They have provided their information in an attempt to learn more. 

This is really the beginning of a business relationship where someone has expressed an interest and initiated a conversation without going into a sales conversation just yet. It is a time of getting to know each other and building trust.

So, why start with an MQL? Great question! 

And the answer is, it is easier to make a meaningful connection with someone who is intentionally shopping for what you are selling. 

Trying to market to an unqualified lead (or a contact) is like trying to drive a car blindfolded. The odds of finding your way are slim to none because you can’t see where you are going. Starting with an MQL allows you to start the journey with eyes wide open, and the data you have collected provides a co-pilot to help navigate the journey. 

Also, when you and the potential lead are both fully engaged and mutually invested in arriving at an agreed-upon destination, the trip is more efficient and likely to be much more valuable.

Sounds great, right? How do you go about collecting these amazing marketing qualified leads?

There are a lot of ways to generate MQLs. All require time, effort, homework, expertise, and strategy, and the return on investment always pays off in the end. 

Let’s explore a few strategies for acquiring MQLs

Content Marketing

The foundation of every good marketing campaign is built on content that gets in front of the right person. Content marketing is a strategic approach to attracting customers by providing engaging, relevant, and valuable content that leads to a call for action to a particular audience. 

Ideally, your content will compel a person to “sign up,” and when they do, you officially have an MQL – someone who is interested in what you provide. And your journey together begins.

Your content marketing plan must include creative ways to engage the customer to reach out to you, such as a social media ad that leads to your website. Once you have brought someone to your website, you can offer them “gated content” – content that can only be accessed by providing an email address. 

Compelling content marketing can also include current customer interviews, testimonials, and case studies. Reading about another’s success from someone who faced a similar problem constitutes compelling and persuasive content.

You’ll also need to create strong calls to action in your content. Think about your educational content that can offer a solution—a solution you can provide. 

Yes, there is a need for strictly educational content, and that has its time and place. Content that also contains one or more strong calls to action is what you want here. 

A solid call to action will compel someone investigating your ad or website to click on a specific page. It should be something that will leave a memory even after a customer has left the landing page. 

For example, a travel company may have a click box that reads “Get Inspired” for those wanting to view their special packages. Depending on the content and style of your page, you might include multiple calls to action, like taking a quiz to unlock healthy recipes just right for you or an option to sign up for weekly menu plans delivered to your inbox.

As education is part of the sales process, you’ll want to add value for your MQLs, too. 

Valuable tools help retain customers and are a great way to provide an experience that potential customers will remember and return to. Examples of these tools are things like free garden planners or interior design tools, which engage the customer in fun activities that bring them closer to their goal. A live chat feature on your website is a great tool that enables you to help with a problem while looking at your website. For example, a carpet and flooring company can reach out and say, do you have flooring questions I may be able to help you with?

Another type of content is visuals. Compelling visuals should speak specifically to what you have to offer and invoke feelings of trust and positive experience. Most of all, leave an impression about how your company can solve a problem. 

Lead Magnets are another great type of engagement. 

A lead magnet is a reward for a person willing to give up their name and email address. 

For example, a foodie magazine may put out an article and then ask for an email address to unlock the corresponding cache of delicious recipes. If someone provides their information, it’s a pretty sure bet the person is interested in cooking. Effective lead magnets will always offer something useful, like a template, a giveaway, or free consultation. They have to do with what you sell and give a compelling reason to provide an email address and engage in a conversation.

Webinars, tradeshows, and events are also great ways to start a conversation and engage. 

A webinar allows a marketer to invite others to hear their presentation, video, or other multimedia content. Those interested in a specific subject may see an advertisement for the webinar on Facebook or another social media platform. For example, someone might see an ad for a free class in a particular aspect of abstract painting. They provide their email to access the webinar, and then you know you have a person interested in painting and might come to you to buy supplies or take additional, more in-depth classes. Everyone who signs up for the free course is now a MQL.

Trade shows and events will always attract like-minded people. We’ve been without some face-to-face events over the past year, but this is still a viable way to know better if a contact is on their way to MQL. 

Remember in-person events? When someone approached your booth, and you automatically knew that they were interested in your product? 

Last but not least are customer referrals.

Customer referrals are the best kind of MQL. They are looking for the service you offer and have already had someone tell them how great their experience was. 

Of course, you don’t have to do ALL of these things, but you should spend some time and find out what is best for your company. Most of the time, I see companies using a combination of these things, and you may have to engage in some trial and error to find your best fit. 

I’m sure many of you watching are thinking – get to the good part and tell me…

“How do I sell to marketing qualified leads?”

Well…if you’ve done your homework, converting leads to customers won’t be difficult. You will have weeded out those who aren’t a fit for you, and you will have made it fun to get into your world and learn about the way you do things. 

But remember, the goal here is not to sell to a MQL but to move them further into your funnel and convert them to a buyer down the road. 

This is just the beginning of a journey where the destination is the “sales qualified” stage – in other words, don’t try to sell to them too quickly. 

We have more work to do before we can close the deal. Here, we nurture. 

Like any relationship, once established, it must be nurtured to survive. Once they’ve shown interest, you can start to make an offer of whatever your next step is – a meeting, a consultation call, a free trial, etc. and use marketing funnels (more on that later) to get them to “sales qualified” stage.

Remember, not all MQLs are the same.

Just as they came to you in diverse ways, their needs are unique. 

Get ready for some homework: Devise ways to determine if the lead has what it takes to move to the next stop. Understand your most valued metrics – company size, industry, etc and benchmark those. 

For example, if you are looking to sell a corporate training package requiring everyone to have a book, your focus should be on companies of 100 plus rather than companies with ten employees. Can the company afford your training program, and do they have the authority to make the purchase? 

Of course, you’ll want to provide helpful information to anyone who inquires, but your focus will be on securing clients that fit your criteria. 

Quizzes and surveys are a great way to differentiate. A quiz may include multiple questions such as: What is the size of your company? 0-10, over ten under 100, 100-500, more than 500 – what is your position at the company? Owner, decision-maker, employee, etc. Now you can focus on those leads that fit your criteria for an MQL. By all means, though, offer something of value (an e-book or instructional video) to the smaller ones to help them grow into bigger ones that come back to you.

Your homework should also include what your timing expectations are. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about leads turned over to the sales department that wasn’t quite ready. 

Turning a MQL to a SQL can be the most delicate part of the process – a majority of lost sales occur at this junction. Again, by now, you should have an established relationship in which you are now a person of integrity and trust. You are now working as a team toward the mutually beneficial goal of buying and selling to solve a problem.

The main thing to know about MQL generation is that it is a starting place. 

The focus should always be on building the relationship and offers that engage and provide you with valuable information and tools to move them to the next step. 

It’s also about being a valuable and trustworthy ally without trying to sell anything. It’s about building a quality relationship built on a foundation of trust, authenticity, integrity, and most of all, value and letting them know enough about you that they want to engage in a relationship.

I hope you got something out of this video transcript!

And if you did, go ahead and give it a thumbs up and maybe a share so that others can see it too. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and ring the bell so that you’re notified whenever we post new videos and while you’re at it, check out these videos too!

We’ll see you next time around!

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