Every marketing team needs a measure to evaluate the quality of leads. Hence the importance of knowing what an MQL lead or marketing qualified lead is.

The goal of marketing is to drive revenue. The strategy and tactics used to achieve that goal will vary depending on your market, your positioning, and the products/services you sell. However, every marketing team on the planet needs some measure to evaluate lead quality. To grow and scale, your marketing team needs to know who your best leads are and where they come from.

That’s where the marketing qualified lead (MQL) comes into play. An MQL is a lead that marketing believes has a higher probability of becoming a paying customer.

Even if you don’t have an MQL strategy, you should understand the concept behind MQL. It will help you structure your demand generation activities or prepare a product-based marketing strategy. 

Let’s dive deeper into the MQL metric.

What is an MQL lead or marketing qualified lead?

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a lead that marketing believes will become a paying customer based on behavioral, demographic, and firmographic attributes. For example, marketing may define an MQL as someone who meets the following criteria:

  • You have submitted a demo request form
  • It has a good geography
  • It belongs to a good sector

The intent of implementing an MQL lead process is to streamline the way marketing passes qualified leads to sales. Beyond that purpose, you have plenty of room to establish your own definition of an MQL.

Knowing what an MQL lead is will help you understand your customers’ profiles. It’s important to have the data points in your marketing automation platform, like HubSpot. An MQL lead is a potential customer that meets enough data from your profile to justify additional sales follow-up.

Who should follow up on an MQL lead or marketing qualified lead?

Marketers need a metric to evaluate the quality of the leads they generate. An MQL lead is a well-established metric that does this, but you may have other metrics instead. In that sense, every marketing team should track MQL leads or an equivalent metric to indicate the quality of leads.

The need to track MQLs leads will become evident once you have implemented a CRM and marketing automation platform. Your sales and marketing team will need to discuss which team works with leads at certain stages of the lifecycle, and how to facilitate that delivery point, both in terms of external communications and lead management processes.

Why is the MQL lead metric important?

Knowing what an MQL lead is and tracking this metric is important because it serves as a bridge between sales and marketing. 

It tells the marketing department how many leads they have generated for the sales team and can serve as a basis for meeting a certain quota each week or month. For sales, it is used as the first step in the inbound sales funnel, indicating how many new qualified leads are ready to follow up.

The MQL lead metric is really the result of establishing a process for sales and marketing. The count of contacts that reach the marketing qualified lead stage comprises the metric you will monitor, but the process is more nuanced and has implications for sales and marketing teams. 

Since this metric is the transition point from marketing to sales, it should facilitate conversations about quality and quantity. Ideally, MQL leads should be accepted by sales and worked on by sales at a high percentage. If sales reject a high percentage of MQL leads, then the quality is low and the definition needs to be adjusted.

In short, lead MQL is more than a measure or KPI. It has several functions:

  • A forcing function to organize your sales and marketing lead handoff process
  • An optimization metric. You can evaluate the early stages of your sales process and observe the conversion of leads to potential customers to see the degree of conversion of the contacts in your database.
  • Establishing objectives and optimizing programs. For example, optimizing a demo request campaign

How do you track an MQL lead?

Now that you know what an MQL lead is, let’s learn how to track them. It can be in your marketing automation platform or CRM (or both). Tools like HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce, and others provide you with both the means to communicate with MQL leads and implement a process.

The key here is to come up with a business definition of an MQL and translate it into your contact database. For example, if you work at HubSpot you might want to implement a lead scoring program that evaluates the attributes of each contact and assigns scores. Next, you’ll set a “threshold” that indicates that a lead is now an MQL lead. 

One interesting thing to keep in mind about MQL leads is that it is a “transitional” phase. Once a lead is converted to an MQL lead, it should quickly move into the sales funnel. Your MQLs lead list will be quite fluid – each day you will see new contacts added and older contacts deleted. In HubSpot, for example, an MQL lead should progress to the Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) phase. For this reason, you will have to use timestamps to count MQL leads generated during a given period.

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