Marketing qualified lead: What is it really?

Companies can’t survive without customers. And every customer is a “converted” lead. But, not all leads will convert. Some may not fit your ideal customer profile and others may not be ready to buy. That’s where marketing qualified leads, or MQLs, come into play. 

You might be asking, “What exactly is an MQL?” “How do you identify an MQL?” and “Why do MQLs matter?” 

This blog post covers all you need to know about MQLs—from definitions to strategies for converting leads into paying customers. You’ll also learn how MQLs compare to sales qualified leads, (SQLs) and how they work together in the sales funnel.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.


What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a person or organization that has expressed interest in your company’s product or services. MQLs are leads your marketing team has identified as having the potential to become customers. 

In other words, MQLs are leads that have met specific criteria that indicate that the leads are more likely to move further down the sales funnel.

These criteria can be based on a variety of factors, including

  • Website interactions: How often does the lead view your website? Are they clicking on CTAs or downloading content? 
  • Paid advertising: Are they responding to your paid ads? Are they clicking through or engaging with them? 
  • Content engagement: Are they interacting with content such as emails, blog posts or e-books?
  • Social media engagement: Are they engaging with your social media accounts? Are they sharing posts and commenting? 

Because MQLs have already taken actions that signal they are likely to become customers, they are more valuable to your business. These marketing qualified leads are likely to become sales-qualified leads (SQLs). And with that confidence, you can prioritize them over other leads—saving you time, money and resources in closing pipeline. 


Marketing qualified lead (MQL) vs. sales qualified lead (SQL)

Now that you know what MQLs are, let’s look at how they differ from sales qualified leads (SQLs).

As the name implies, sales qualified leads are leads that the sales team has deemed worth pursuing. These leads have shown enough interest in your product or service to make it worthwhile to engage them further in the sales process. 

The main difference between MQLs and SQLs is which team sourced them. MQLs are identified by the marketing team, and SQLs are qualified by the sales team. 

While MQLs have the potential to convert into customers, they still need to enter the sales funnel. But, this is not the case with SQLs. SQLs are already in the sales funnel and are ready for sales to engage further.


How a lead becomes an MQL

MQLs have specific attributes that differentiate them from other leads, and much of it can be tracked and measured. 

Some examples of MQL common behavior include:

  1. Regularly visiting your website: MQLs will consistently visit your website, view content and explore different pages.
  2. Completion of web forms: MQLs are likely to fill out web forms, to get more information or request a product demo.
  3. Interacting with online ads: This may involve clicking on ads or engaging with sponsored content. Most MQLs will have interacted with at least one of your online ads.
  4. Downloading content from your website: MQLs will likely have downloaded content from your websites, such as e-books, white papers, case studies and other valuable information.
  5. Requesting more information or demos: MQLs have taken the initiative to request more information about your product or service and may even ask for a demonstration.
  6. Signing up for emails: MQLs will have signed up for emails and newsletters to receive ongoing updates about your product or service.
  7. Engaging with social media posts: MQLs tend to engage with posts and content by liking or commenting.
  8. Subscribing to newsletters: MQLs may also have subscribed to newsletters and other email campaigns to stay up-to-date on your product or service.
  9. Attending webinars and other events: This involves MQLs taking the extra step of attending webinars and other events to get more information about your product or service.

But in order for a lead to become an MQL, they don’t need to engage in ALL of the trackable activities. In fact, that’s why it’s important for sales and marketing teams to align on lead scoring and how to weight engagements. 

Lead scoring is a process that assigns values to leads based on their interactions with your company. This helps you see which leads are more likely to convert and should be given more attention.

To score a lead, assign a point value to each interaction with your website, ads, content and other digital assets. This helps to determine the worthiness of each lead.


High quality vs. low quality MQL

You might be wondering why we’re calling out high vs. low quality MQLs, especially when we just said that all MQLs had to meet a specific threshold in order to become “qualified.” The truth is, lead scoring optimizes for the lowest common denominator. So yes, high and low quality leads get bucketed—equally—as MQLs.

But they’re not equal, really.

Both hit minimum criteria. High quality MQLs, however, are more likely to engage. They have a higher closing and revenue potential and are further along in the buyer’s journey. Low quality MQLs showed just enough interest, but may require a bit more nurturing and time before they’ll be ready to move to the next stage.

Lead nurturing is essential, for both high and low quality MQLs. But right out of the gate, it’s even more important to identify low-fit from high-fit leads. The faster a high-fit lead can be identified, the faster you can book revenue.


How sales and marketing can increase their pool of high-fit leads

All revenue teams—sales and marketing, specifically—need to have a unified strategy in place to bring in high-fit leads. The strategy needs to start at the most fundamental level: the ICP. Understanding who your ICP really is at the deepest level, the exegraphic level, will help revenue teams target and engage with accounts that have the characteristics they care about most. 

After all, when you engage with the wrong account, every step after is wasted.

Don’t be that team.

At Rev, we help revenue teams understand their ICP, and we find and prioritize other high-fit accounts that look just like them. Curious to know what your ICP really looks like so your demand gen team can run a stronger campaign and your SDRs can be more efficient in their outreach? Contact us for your free ICP audit.