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The phrase ‘MQL is Dead’ bubbles to the surface in marketing feeds. Yet, it seems the die-hard label lives on. Here’s why.

What Is an MQL?

Marketing qualified lead (MQL) is the term marketers give prospects who interact with their brand’s content. The MQL’s actions (for example, providing contact information in return for downloading a whitepaper) signal their purchasing potential and readiness to talk to sales. 

MQLs are also critical to an organization’s lead generation marketing strategy.

Consider this:

According to Deloitte, in 2019, 46% of CMOs had said they had a significant impact on C-suite conversations relating to marketing strategy. Fast forward to 2021, and this number has almost doubled to 81%

The time is perfect for marketing to reinforce their organization’s strategy with steady streams of MQLs. 

You do this by zeroing in on the prospect’s needs and providing the right content at the right time.  

In this post, we dig into the ‘MQL,’ from how it works for qualifying quality leads to why the term is far from dead. 



What Is Lead Qualification in Marketing?

Lead qualification is a system marketers use to understand how likely someone is to become a customer. This system is vital for increasing sales and marketing efficiency, converting more leads, and closing deals.

A qualified lead fits three criteria:

  • Need: the prospect has a problem that your product can fix.
  • Budget: the prospect can afford your product.
  • Authority: the prospect is a decision-maker.

When applied early in the qualifying process, the three criteria help reduce the number of ill-fitting prospects. This ‘weeding out’ will clear the path for qualifying leads further, including giving prospective buyers a lead score and segmenting leads into lists. 


What Is the Difference Between an MQL and an SQL?

The main difference between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL) depends on where the lead is in the buying journey. 

An MQL is at the beginning of their journey. They’re exploring how to solve their business problem by accessing a company’s content.

They may read your blog posts, visit the same product page several times, or download a special report.

An SQL is further into the journey and showing interest in making a purchase.

Sales reps might qualify the leads using sales qualification questions, from “Who is responsible for overseeing the budget?” to “How do you feel about our solution?”

That said, the challenge for both teams is knowing when to pass MQLs to sales.


How to Qualify Marketing Leads 

Knowing when to pass the baton to sales can be tricky. Send them too soon, and the prospect might recoil. Send them too late, and the prospect might lose interest.

While qualifying leads is marketing’s responsibility, MQL success lies in aligning sales and marketing teams.

For example, marketing and sales can collaborate to create two simple MQL classifications: hot MQLs and warm MQLs. 

Hot MQLs have requested information, indicating they want to hear from you. That includes downloading a whitepaper or ebook, requiring them to provide contact information, and agree to your privacy terms. 

On the other hand, warm MQLS have not handed over their information. Maybe the prospect read a blog post or watched an ungated product video. 

When marketing gives sales the categorized leads, reps can determine the best approach for making contact.

Dig Deeper with Intent Data

What if you could know more about the person filling out the form? Are they the decision-maker or one of several with purchasing power?  

What about ideal customers who are researching similar products to yours on competitors’ sites?

That’s where intent data comes in. 

With data-based insights, marketers can generate interest by personalizing the content they show leads. 

For instance, you can group leads based on a common pain point (versus your basic demographics and firmographics). This strategy creates an opportunity for showing leads how your product can fix their business problem.

Then, when SDRs make contact with the MQLs, the reps can tailor the conversation using data cues — from the company’s latest round of funding to a recent tech-stack upgrade. 


Why Inbound Marketing Makes MQL Sense

Inbound marketing attracts prospects to your brand, allowing them to choose content that interests them. 

Often referred to as ‘permission-based marketing,’ inbound marketing helps you build relationships with leads — from the first blog post a visitor reads on your site to the industry report you offer them in an email sequence. 

When your MQLs go to sales, reps deepen the connections, increasing the likelihood of a deal.


MQL Is Alive and Well

The term MQL exists because it allows marketers to understand who needs their product, who can afford it, and who has the authority to make a purchase. 

Additionally, when aligned with sales teams, marketing can qualify leads that sales love to close. 

Intent data also plays a critical role in personalizing the lead’s experience with your content. 

When you put all these MQL pieces together, you can create a steady stream of quality leads, knocking your organization’s marketing strategy out of the park.

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About the author

Sharyn Inzunza

Sharyn Inzunza is a Senior Content Writer at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact database and sales intelligence solution for go-to-market teams.

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