Finding a Better Definition of Marketing Qualified Leads

Finding a Better Definition of Marketing Qualified Leads

By Guest BloggerJan 7 /2013

determining marketing qualified leadsLead management has come a long way since BANT was the only game in town, but there’s still a lot of confusion over the basic definition of a quality sales lead. Previously, a lead was thought of as someone who expressed interest in your product or service. Now, that definition is woefully inadequate.

Why “Expressed Interest” Isn’t Enough

If you want to be the least popular marketer your sales team has ever encountered, just do the following:

1. Make a list of everyone who has ever downloaded a whitepaper on your website.

2. Send it to sales with instructions to “follow up.”

3. Forward sales the email addresses of everyone who signed up to “get more information” at the last trade show you attended.

4. Encourage the sales team to contact everyone who entered the “Win a Royal Caribbean Cruise” contest your company ran three years ago.

Defining Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

I think we all understand marketers need to qualify leads before they hand them off to sales. When you vet a lead and feel it’s strong enough to hand off to sales, it becomes a marketing qualified lead, or MQL. The way you define MQLs in your organization can make a huge difference to your sales team’s success, which is why the definition needs to be the result of a collaborative effort between marketing and sales.

Put simply, an MQL is one that is more likely to become a customer compared to other leads based on their demographic information and interaction with your site before they become a customer. In most organizations, MQLs are determined by two major factors: fit and behavior.


When you think about fit, think about the kinds of leads that feel like shoe-ins. In the past, when you’ve felt like you had the sale “in the bag,” what was that customer’s job title? What industry was he from, how much revenue did her company generate, and where was it located?

Which industries have been your best customers? Are you selling well in every region, or is there a specific country that can’t get enough of your product? When you close sales, do you close them with associates or CMOs? 

To determine fit, you’ll want to look the historical sales data on demographics like:

  • Job Title
  • Company Size
  • Company Type
  • Industry
  • Region


Behavior can be broken up into type of interest and activity level.

To determine whether a prospect’s type of interest shows promise, ask how that individual has engaged with your company since his initial contact. Has he opened emails from your company? Has he requested a demo? Has he engaged in top-of-the-funnel activities (e.g., spending time on your blog or downloading an ebook from your site) or more serious middle-of-the-funnel activities (e.g., signing up for a free trial or repeatedly viewing your pricing page)?

To determine whether a prospect’s activity level shows promise, look at the amount of time that person has spent interacting with your company. Has she visited your website repeatedly? How many forms has she completed or whitepapers has she downloaded? Is she still within the time limits of your typical sales cycle?

These are the criteria that should matter when you’re trying to determine the definition of a qualified sales lead. What comes next – scoring your leads – is one of the most powerful ways to change your sales team’s mantra of “These leads stink!” to “Wow, thanks!” once and for all. Check back as we discuss "MQLs vs. SQLs: Where Do You Make the Cut?"

Have you determined your own definition of MQL? Let us know in the comments below.

Stephanie Kapera is a freelance writer and the co-founder of Up All Night Creative, a Raleigh-based content marketing agency that helps B2B and B2C companies develop magazine-quality web content. Connect with Up All Night on LinkedIn and Twitter to find out more!

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