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What Is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)? Strategic Guide for 2023

All leads aren’t created equal, and that’s especially true when it comes to B2B marketing

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) can be defined as a potential customer or prospect that’s demonstrated a level of interest or engagement that informs your marketing team that the lead is genuine, and can be passed on to sales.

In this guide, we’re covering:

  • The difference between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead.
  • The criteria needed to satisfy your team that a lead is ready to be sent to the sales team.
  • Examples of the different kinds of marketing leads that might qualify as an MQL.

Let’s get started 👇.

MQL vs SQL: which comes first, and what's the difference?

What's the difference when it comes to SQL vs MQL?

Many times a sales qualified lead (SQL) and a marketing qualified lead (MQL) get lumped into different categories because they come from different departments.

But when it comes to B2B, sales and marketing need to align to ensure the success of the entire business, and that’s where these two types of sales leads come in.

You see, the difference between an MQL and a SQL is simply where each prospect sits in the sales funnel based on their level of interest.

The term MQL stands for a lead who has engaged with your marketing efforts and might not be ready for your sales team to approach. The marketing team or market development representatives (MDRs) will continue to engage with the prospect until their interest can be gauged and then sent over to the B2B sales team. Sales will then approach and convert the lead into an opportunity. 

A SQL is a lead who has stated they are interested in your product or service and is ready to engage with your sales team.

So, which lead comes first, the SQL or the MQL?

If you look at the level of interest involved, the MQL would come first because they are not ready to leave the marketing funnel and engage with the sales team, while the SQL has shown interest and is ready to engage and enter the sales funnel.

How do you identify and qualify an MQL?

A marketing qualified lead is identified by the marketing team. They will identify who has engaged with their campaigns and marketing assets and then examine the customer behaviour and marketing data surrounding it. 

To make this process easier, each team should have a defined list of criteria determined by past buyer journeys and the total addressable market. This list can include:

  • The type of business or organisation
  • Location
  • Job title
  • Company size

Once you’ve identified a marketing sales lead, you’ll want to establish how much that lead is worth before passing it on.

But how do you calculate an MQL? You can use this formula: 

Cost per MQL = Cost Per Lead (CPL) / marketing spend for total number of new leads

Once your SaaS marketing team determines that the MQL has the potential to be nurtured and converted into a customer, they enter the sales funnel as a SQL. 

Here are a few tips to help you qualify MQL leads:

  • Examine past MQL behaviour - Take a look at how past prospects have acted when they were ready to make a decision and when they weren’t. B2B data you’ve collected over the years from past campaigns will help you identify intent faster and prevent an uptick in closed lost deals. 
  • Get feedback from your customer - Once your SaaS sales team has converted a targeted lead into a customer, have an SDR follow-up and ask them about the process. What made them decide to choose your company? Then do the same with potential leads that backed out to discover what made them go in another direction and to track future MQL performance.
  • Monitor your metrics - If you’re keeping track of your marketing metrics, you’ll easily be able to monitor trends that occur when it comes to meeting MQL targets with successful conversions. Look at what these SQL leads have in common, which lead sources received the most engagement, and what content had the most conversions and the highest quality inbound marketing leads. This data can help you determine what tactics to duplicate and which ones aren’t working. 
  • Establish how you are different from your competitor - Take a look at your competitors and see how your offering differs from theirs. Do you have something to hook a prospect with that they don’t? Use this to gain an edge in your marketing collateral for a higher MQL conversion rate. 

Interested in learning more tips for a successful outbound marketing leads funnel? 📹 Watch this video to learn how Cognism aligns sales and marketing and converts MQLs into SQL sales. 


Examples of marketing MQLs

There are a number of actions prospects take in lead marketing that qualify them as an MQL. 

These actions work hand in hand with lead scoring, campaign analytics, intent data, and demographic data. Here’s a list of some of the most common examples of marketing qualified lead actions: 

  • Clicking on a social media or Google ad
  • Commenting, liking or sharing your social media posts
  • Downloading content such as templates, eBooks and product information
  • Downloading demo software
  • Attending a webinar
  • Signing up for your mailing list or newsletter

🎧 If you’re looking for a different way to attract and convert MQL sales into SQLs, then listen to this episode of Revenue Champions for actionable tactics behind executing a demand generation first sales strategy that delivers month-on-month marketing revenue growth. 

Get more quality leads with Cognism

It’s time to start moving hot leads through your sales funnel faster than ever before!

Cognism can help you attract more marketing qualified leads that convert!

But that’s not all, book a demo today to find out how we can:

  • Maximise your advertising budget with advanced targeting
  • Improve segmentation and scoring with clean, complete data
  • Illuminate the dark funnel and understand what drives buyers forward
  • Transform the stale or incomplete data in your CRM into actionable business intelligence
  • Easily calculate your TAM and find new personas that weren’t even on your radar.

Click 👇 to book your demo today.

better data means better marketing so book a demo with cognism to boost your MQL leads today

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