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Pipeline Marketing Blog

To Measure Marketing Impact, You Must First Retire the MQL

By Alexis Getscher
Feb 12, 2016
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In the traditional mindset, visitors come to your site, eventually take an action that turns them into MQLs, and are then nurtured until they become SQLs. But times have changed.

Sometimes “that’s how we’ve always done it” isn’t the best way moving forward. That thinking hinders growth and improvement. As new technologies are added and more companies are catching on to the benefits of sales and marketing alignment, it’s easier to track buyers and communicate with prospects through the entire journey.

That’s why we should do away with the MQL.

marketing impact, retire mql

Funnels are Divisive

Having a separate indicator for marketing (MQLs) and sales (SQLs) almost guarantees misalignment between the two departments.

When leads flow into the funnel they should not be qualified and then handed off to sales never to be thought of again by marketing. This creates an atmosphere where marketing is optimizing for a lead number and sales is receiving a bunch of leads who may not yet be ready to buy.

Which marketing pieces has the lead touched? What landing pages? What forms have they filled out? Are there prospect questions that can be answered through content? How can we better educate our audience?

When sales and marketing are involved throughout the entire buyer journey, they can work together to answer these questions. Ultimately, discovering what qualifies a lead as ‘ready to buy’ and what can be done to get them there.

There should be one funnel with sales and marketing involved in every stage of the process from first touch to closed deal. Cross communication ensures everything is being done to nurture the lead until it becomes a customer.

Marketing Should be Accountable to a Revenue Goal

MQLs are just a number. A vanity metric like social likes and page views. They devalue marketing’s role in the sales process.

A high number of MQLs sounds nice, but really, as a singular number they don’t do much for the business.

Hundreds of MQLs don’t mean anything unless those same hundreds go on to become closed customers. Cut the middle-man goals and make marketing responsible for a revenue number.

The focus should be on quality over quantity. Closed deals over lead numbers.

A marketer’s ultimate goal is to connect with prospects and turn them into customers. It only makes sense, then, to track their efforts back to revenue.

This is done through multi-touch attribution.

With attribution, you can easily see which channels and campaigns have a hand in creating the most customers. Varying in percentage by which attribution model you use (u-shaped, w-shaped, or custom) a portion of that closed deal will be attributed to the marketing touchpoints along the way.

This means that marketing can set revenue goals just like the sales team. And instead of focusing on MQLs, they can focus on closing deals.

With an entire company focused on customer acquisition, you’re sure to see business improvement.

telescope, marketing impact

Multiple Stakeholders Requires Better Targeting

Today’s buyer journey is complex, especially in the B2B space. Multiple stakeholders may research your product before the business is ready to buy, which means the individual doing the product research for a company may not be the same person who has the power to make the buying decisions.

For example, say prospects visit your site a few times, take a good look around and then never return. It may seem like you’re attracting a lot of MQLs who are never turning into opportunities and closed deals.

However, those visitors may only be a touchpoint in the greater company decision to purchase your product.  Because of this, a more targeted approach is needed. That approach is account-based marketing (ABM).

If you’re spending all of your efforts targeting individuals, you’re leaving valuable information on the table.

What if that individual is only the researcher? After a certain point, spending time retargeting them with ads and phone calls is wasted effort. They may have already passed your company info onto their boss, who will review and then may pass on to another stakeholder at the company.

With ABM, you’d recognize this and begin targeting that next persona in the process.

Using historical attribution data, it’s possible to see the average number of people, at a given company, who research your product before a buying decision is made. You can also use the data to discover any correlation in personas who do the research.

Say you discover that most deals contain touchpoints from the CMO, CTO, Marketing Operations Manager and the CEO. Then, during your targeting process, you notice that the CMO and Ops Manager have researched your product, but you don’t have any touchpoints from the CTO or CEO.

This is where you would now focus your marketing and sales efforts.

As your business grows and deal sizes get larger, you know the type of company that’s your ideal customer. Don’t wait for them to come to you, flip the funnel and go after them. Be proactive instead of reactive.

Through use of marketing attribution and ABM, you’re able to target the right people, at the right time, in the right companies.

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