Why the MQL is far from dead

The origins of marketing go back to the first thing ever sold. You needed to tell people about the thing you were selling, whether that was by foot, carrier pigeon or those annoying flyers for the gym down the street tucked under your car’s windshield wiper.

Marketing has been, and will always be about storytelling to build trust.

But marketing has evolved and become more complicated with new technology and even more sophisticated buyers. And because of this, acquiring and converting potential users/buyers/insert-persona-here is all everyone is seemingly talking about.

How do we get more page views, more site visits?

How can we increase the amount of IT buyers that interact with our content?

How do we get more people to fill out that form?

From there, what’s the nurture flow or campaign to qualify them to go to sales?

These questions all surround the MQL, or marketing qualified lead. But to understand the marketing qualified lead, product qualified lead and every other acronym used to describe the value of marketing, we have to start with a quote.

Always provide value. Value builds trust. Once you have that trust, you have the ability to do some selling. —Mike Volpe

Value. Trust. Awareness. Page Visits. Clicks. These were all things marketing talked about before businesses focused more on its impact and accountability. And so marketing’s value had to be proven, with numbers and data, so thus we introduced the MQL.

What is an MQL?

A marketing qualified lead is a subjective grading or qualifying system in which marketing teams deem site visitors and leads worthy of being potential customers based on certain sets of criteria and persona profiles.

Woof, that’s a mouthful. Let’s try this:

Sales needs qualified leads. Marketing interacts with them. Marketing helps sales find which ones they can sell their product to.

In short, it’s a waste of time for sales teams, especially in SaaS to talk to every person that visits the site or interacts with a piece of content or form — so marketing is there to help qualify the ones that have the best chance of closing, and becoming a customer.

The PQL shouldn’t replace the MQL, it should influence it

There have been many articles that a marketing qualified lead is too fluffy and doesn’t tell sales/product enough about what a “good lead” looks like. And that’s a fair critique. Just because someone fits a certain profile, doesn’t mean they’ll be a great customer, or renew their subscription or even upgrade.

That’s why we’ve seen a rise in the PQL, or the product qualified lead approach, which takes actions inside the product or service you’re selling, and scores leads based on what is deemed “high impact” or “key” to becoming a customer. These actions could be around the use of a dashboard, interaction with team members they’ve invited to test the product, or storage limit they’re reaching based on the projects they’re working on (just a few examples based on other SaaS products and their PQL goals).

The PQL is very sophisticated, and it’s an ideal world to live in. But the problem is that not every marketer has the luxury of working with thousands of leads each month to focus most of their efforts on marketing within a product.

That’s why we need both MQLs and PQLs to succeed.

Understanding the criteria of a great customer, or a really active user, should better influence how they’re qualified at the top of the funnel. And this should be a constant cycle of iteration, based on persona, vertical, size of company, etc.

The sky, and the data to be gathered, are limitless.

A smarter, more contextual system

I call it the two A’s and a C. Marketing is about Awareness, Acquisition and Conversion. Every social push, campaign, event, piece of content and trigger based workflow should map back to that.

Because, at the end of the day, that’s how we measure the impact of marketing — and the MQL, or at least the concept and thinking behind it, isn’t going away anytime soon.

Marketing is always changing, always evolving. The best marketers are the ones who can attract and lead score prospects while the customer feels unaware of what’s happening. No email, push notification or creepy ad has completely solved that, which is why we’re all still in the game.

I’d love to know what you think about this. Tweet at me, @rkmac, so we can carry on the dialogue.

Product Marketing at LinkedIn. Ex Twitter, Notarize, Voysis (acquired by Apple), Boston Globe. Alum: HKS, NYU, UMass Lowell. Runs on ☕️ and Celtics 🏀