Today’s marketers are measured like never before. For many, the provision of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL’s) to the Sales team is paramount and one of the key metrics. But what constitutes a MQL? Are all leads equal? Let’s look at this in more detail.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

Your primary goal is generally to provide sales with the details of a person whom you believe is close to making a buying decision. If your buying cycle is complex and protracted, a MQL may be handed to sales after a prospect has been through a nurturing campaign. If your sales cycle is short and transactional, a MQL may need to be passed to sales much earlier.

The definition of a MQL for your organisation needs to be determined in concert with the sales team. If marketing create their own definition in isolation from sales, you’re setting yourself up for failure. That’s when you will hear comments from the sales team like “These leads from marketing are useless” or “This person has no idea what we do”.

To avoid this feedback, you need to get yourself into a room with the sales leadership and work out a clear and agreed definition of a MQL.

Start with an Ideal Client Profile or ICP.

An ICP starts by understanding your installed base, those who you have as customers today. In a digital world, you also want to understand their Digital Body Language™, that’s their online behaviour prior to making the decision to buy.

Remember, an ICP is about your “ideal client“, not every client. You want to focus on those clients who deliver the greatest amount of revenue to your organisation, the clients you love working with and who have a clear understanding of your value proposition. 

Leads that have shown interest

In his blog post, How to Generate B2B Leads, Hugh Macfarlane author of The Leaky Funnel, suggests the following:

Let’s treat the first criteria (ideal client profile) as table stakes. Perhaps Sales wants fewer leads, but would like them to have also shown an active interest. These leads need to have done something. Perhaps they found their way onto your website or clicked on an email with a teaser of your blog to read the full article. They might have accepted an invitation to an event you are running, or have turned up at an industry event.

Lifting the stakes a little, means trying to understand that the organisation has a business problem that you’re in a good position to solve. But how do you understand they have a business problem to begin with?

Good question.

If you’re offering thought leadership, white papers or content in general that speaks to specific “business problems” you can assume that a person’s interaction with that content suggests that they have a business problem that relates.

Macfarlane goes onto suggest:

Later in the buyer’s journey, the prospect admits that the status quo is not good enough. Whether with you, or someone else, they need to change. If Sales wants to spend less time to sell more (don’t they always), then Marketing should be negotiating a smaller lead target, full of these better leads. Tactics like surveys, feedback forms and self-assessment / benchmark comparisons can test how troubled a buyer really is. Done well though, they can not just test, but also influence that pain.

Eloqua customers have access to this insight

Eloqua, a Marketing Automation platform, captures all Digital Body Language™ or engagement across your email marketing and website properties. A Lead Score model is one way to identify both the ideal profile and most valuable engagement of an individual.

A person actively engaging with your email campaigns and your website is one thing, but knowing their profile which you can capture via form submissions using progressive profiling, is another thing all together.

We call this co-dynamic lead scoring. It’s the combination of activity/engagement, their profile and then recency which impacts their lead score and subsequently your ability to deliver MQL’s to the sales team.

Now, what about Lead Assignment?

Once you determine what constitutes a MQL, it’s time to consider the assignment of those leads. Having read many blogs on this point, they’re generally very US specific. This often means many sales territories which are controlled from the CRM.

My experience with many B2B organisations in Australia is that they generally don’t utilise this function available in most CRM platforms. Our market is much smaller than the US and the varying nuances of the Australia market generally means the Sales Manager or Sales Operations Manager will control the lead assignment process manually.

In a B2C world, this is probably different. 

Linking your Marketing Automation Platform and the CRM

85% of our Eloqua customers have their CRM and Eloqua integrated. There are many benefits to this integration. One of our clients in property development, drives enquiry form submissions through to the CRM. These are easily assigned to the salesperson responsible for each project, of which there can be 80+ projects on the boil at any one time.

The salesperson has a 60 minute window of time from the person submitting the enquiry form to when they have to make contact by telephone. The salesperson knows which project the person has enquired about, they also know exactly what that person has looked at on the project microsite. They also know where the lead came from prior to submitting the form e.g., or perhaps from an email campaign his/her marketing team has launched.

In Conclusion

The assignment of leads is the domain of your CRM platform. The development, generation and nurturing of those leads belongs to your Marketing Automation platform. Most CRM’s provide for complex lead assignment rules.

Don’t allow the technology to confuse things. Keep the prospect at the center of your business processes. It’s likely, at least in the A/NZ markets that a little human involvement in the lead assignment process is a good thing. 

Top 5 Tips for Managing Lead Assignment

  1. Build an Ideal Client Profile. Understand your ideal customer and develop a profile to help you identify prospects who fit that profile.
  2. With the sales team, define what constitutes a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). Their agreement of this definition is key.
  3. Use technology to support this business process. Integration of your Marketing Automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms is critical.
  4. Determine which leads should go straight through to sales verses those that should be added to a nurturing campaign to help you build their profile and engagement behaviour.
  5. Finally, be wary of automating too much. Lead assignment can generally be easily managed manually in a B2B world. Remember, people buy from people. The skills and personalities of your sales team need to match the buyer.