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Four Steps to Setting Your Definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead

Four Steps to Setting Your Definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead 

How do you know when a lead, particularly one generated through inbound marketing tactics, is ready to be sent on to the sales department?

It isn’t “as soon as they convert,” though unfortunately more than 60 percent of marketers do just that. The best answer to that question will vary from company to company, based on a combination of fit and interest level.

Let’s look at how you can build a definition of a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and create a lead qualification checklist that fits the specifics of your business model.

 Two primary criteria rise to the top when creating a definition of a marketing qualified lead:

  • Fit

  • Interest

Marketing qualified lead definition based on fit

Companies with a tightly defined market for their products or services will only move leads to sales if they meet very specific criteria fitting that target market. The contact should have the appropriate title or role, for a company of a specific size and within a certain industry, and the contact needs to have filled out a landing page form, but may not have shown intense interest yet. These companies recognize that the customers may not be as ready to buy, but they definitely fit the profile of an ideal customer.

Example: Director of loss prevention (or equivalent job role) for a retail company with at least 100 locations and/or 5,000 employees in the United States.


Marketing qualified lead definition based on interest

Other companies may have a more broad customer base and prefer to place the priority for qualifying leads on the level of interest displayed. This means that only leads who have demonstrated they are seriously considering the company’s solutions will be handed on to the sales department, letting the sales force focus its energies on closing deals, rather than warming up prospects who need more lead nurturing.

Example: Director of loss prevention (or equivalent job role) for any U.S.-based company that has requested a product demonstration or pricing information.

How to use lead scoring to develop your MQL definition

Determining just how to set your own requirements for a marketing qualified lead will require looking back at past performance and indicators. This is easiest if you are already using a closed loop marketing system, similar to the content and customer management software offered by vendors such as HubSpot.

A lead scoring or lead grading program can utilize data from your closed loop marketing analysis to help you determine the importance of specific activities in predicting a lead’s readiness to buy.

First, examine behavior history of recent customers.

Take a look at the data on your recent customers. How many actions do they typically take on your website—number of page views, number of conversions such as downloading a case study or registering for a webinar—before they became a customer?

Second, find patterns in lead-to-customer behavior.

Look for repeated events or patterns that indicate a lead’s likelihood of closing a sale. For example, if a lead who downloads 10 pieces of content from your website or visits your site more than 15 times in one month is more likely to close, you can incorporate that frequency of contact into your MQL definition.


Third, list all activities leads can take before becoming a customer.

Analyze the close rate for each one of those activities. These could include becoming a blog subscriber, watching a webinar, downloading a case study or requesting a consultation call. Determine the close rate for each individual activity. For example, to determine the close rate for downloading a case study, look at all customers who had downloaded a case study, then divide that number by the total number of leads who originally downloaded the case study. That gives you the close rate for that activity.

Finally, calculate activities with the highest close rates.

Using the close rates for individual actions, calculate the average close rate for all of your marketing activities. Then look for actions that have a significantly higher close rate. For example, if your average close rate is around 1 percent, you might find a handful of items that have a 3-5 percent close rate.

Add these top-closing events to your definition of a marketing qualified lead and include them in your own lead qualification checklist. Any lead that engages in at least one of these activities, and is a good fit for your company, would be considered an MQL.

By sending your sales department only nurtured and qualified leads, you eliminate wasted time spent by sales reps working with leads who aren’t a good fit or aren’t at all ready to buy, a figure reported by many companies to be close to 97 percent of their time. (Click to Tweet)

Having an agreed-upon definition of a marketing-qualified lead is one of five general recommendations outlined in The Complete Guide to Unifying Marketing & Sales. Download our free ebook to open the lines of communication and improve sales closure efficiency by bringing your departments together. Use it in conjunction with our Service-Level Agreement template to formalize how your departments will work together and goals for each one that support overall company objectives.

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