Best Practices

Putting the ‘Q’ Back into Your MQLs (Hint: ‘Q’ stands for Quality)

Identifying your most qualified leads in the world of B2B marketing is easier said than done. Improving visitor engagement across all segments of the qualification funnel is such a massive challenge that many marketing teams simply do not know where to begin. The issues inherent in identifying MQLs – truly qualified and sales-ready prospects who won’t waste your Sales rep’s time – are highlighted when marketing teams audit their current marketing programs. Looking under the hood at how programs perform can leave marketing teams feeling more than a little squeamish, as it means they must confront what is not working.

Often, what’s not working looks like this: Marketing is sending too many leads to Sales that aren’t sufficiently qualified. Sales, in turn, is wasting too much time following up with leads that aren’t likely to buy any time soon – when they could be focusing their efforts and time on prospects that are ready to purchase now.

Providing easy access to relevant resources based on the buyer’s journey, having measurable KPI’s and iterating – these things aren’t enough today because this is what everyone is trying to do. Clearly a new approach is needed. Here are some tips on how you can better identify your most qualified leads and keep ahead of your competition by employing new engagement strategies and putting quality first.

More Isn’t Better – It’s Just More
All marketers understand that Sales wants the leads. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, a higher volume of leads doesn’t necessarily translate into more sales accepted leads (SALs) or opportunities, nor does it make a positive impact on revenue. No one wins when your sales team is tied up chasing leads that will never go anywhere.

I’ve sat front row to watch marketing teams focus on communicating their message to as broad an audience as possible and report back an impressive number of net new leads – only to see them rejected by sales because they weren’t sufficiently qualified. We optimistically call this “building our database” and we continue to nurture these cooler prospects, but it doesn’t help Sales blow out their numbers right now in this quarter, now does it? And certainly, the time wasted by Sales following up with and “disqualifying” tire-kickers and casual browsers is bad for business.

Does Your Funnel Look Like a Martini Glass?
In a recent webinar we co-hosted with Marketo, our client RES Software shared how they addressed the qualification challenge. As Baker Egerton, RES Software’s VP Global Marketing & Communications explained, their funnel analysis showed that their inquiry creation and conversion rates performed well against industry benchmarks, but they had an obvious bottleneck with MQL to SAL conversions that made their funnel look more like a martini glass.

Informative image comparing the shape of a regular marketing/sales funnel vs a martini-glass shaped funnel

RES Software knew that the key to better qualified leads is content, or more precisely, getting more people to meaningfully engage with that content – and the more content they read or watch to self-educate the better. They had lots of content, but just like more leads, more content wasn’t translating into more SALs. RES Software implemented LookBookHQ to tell a more complete story to prospects upfront while they have their attention.

screenshot image of PathFactory Content track featuring RES on how visitors can engage with more than one asset in one sitting

With LookBookHQ content experiences, RES can easily package up assets to tell a cohesive story that starts with early stage content and builds all the way to late stage content. By enabling visitors to engage with more than one asset in a sitting, RES Software has found that visitors to its LookBookHQ content experiences engage with 70% more content on average.

Pro-Tip: Think bigger picture, identify the problems, face them head-on and focus on fixing them in context. This takes true alignment of Marketing and Sales and a willingness to admit when the status quo isn’t working and look for creative solutions.

Quality Over Quantity – Every Time
To tackle the lead quality challenge, you must first work with your sales team to determine what is considered a qualified lead. Look over past closed/won opportunities that have come from Marketing sourced leads versus ones that were disqualified. What marketing materials did they engage with, how much content did they consume, what touches did they receive and which channels did they use to engage? In short, what made them different?

If you think of that martini glass we talked about earlier, modern marketers are a bit like bartenders (bear with me…). Some buyers are easy to spot. A patron sidles up to the bar, looks at the menu, waves you over, and orders a vodka martini. Simple.

In Marketing, this kind of buyer is that small handful of people that visit your website and fill out a “contact me now” or “take a demo” form for Sales to follow up. For the vast majority of buyers, you will need to rely on their digital body language, the cues that someone is ready for another martini without flagging you down from across the room and asking outright for one. Let’s face it, most buyers aren’t going to just fall into your lap. You’ll need to go to them, and like any good server, you’ll want to warm them up by bringing some small talk to the table.

Your new definition of a marketing qualified lead should focus on including these behavioral signs in your lead scoring and pairing them with metrics that you will keep track of engagement and assess the performance of your new approach. Set yourself up for success by:

  1. Simplifying your streams – table service or bar service
  2. Removing friction for the buyer – front of house staff to greet and guide buyers the moment they come through the door
  3. Packaging content relevant to each stage in the buyer’s journey – acting as a trusted advisor with the knowledge and experience to suggest meal and drink pairings

Pro-tip: Marketing needs more martinis (shaken, not stirred). Think beyond form fills and clicks, get as close as you can to your prospect by tracking their every move after they click on your content offer (what are they reading or watching, where are they going after they click?) just like my favorite martini-loving secret service agent.

Summing Up
Whether you have a lead scoring model in place today or aren’t quite there yet, many marketers I have worked with over the years are leaving engagement and sales-ready prospects on the table. If you’re looking to put the “Q” back into your MQLs, pay closer attention to content engagement behaviors and signals of serious buying intent, focus on quality over quantity, and stay on top of your KPIs when refactoring your lead qualification process.

When you start passing better qualified leads to sales, it’ll mean more drinks in that martini glass, and that’s never a bad thing!

Stay Tuned
In our next Marketing Matters post, Jacqueline Flinn will show you how to laser-focus your sales team on those prospects and accounts that are most likely to buy. This article will discuss how you can take the sales-readiness insights gained through tracking engagement and make them actionable for Sales.