Marketing Qualified Leads: The Beginner’s Guide

marketing qualified leads: a beginner's guide

Leads are at the top of every marketer’s mind. Where to get them, how to find them, what will cause them to convert. But, leads without additional qualification are just names or email addresses. To make them valuable to your team, you must qualify them.

Take your leads to the next level by establishing a standard— marketing qualified leads.

marketing qualified leads: a beginner's guide

What are marketing qualified leads (MQLs)?

Marketing qualified leads are just that, leads that have been qualified as a legitimate prospect based on the information the marketing team has about them.

To become a marketing qualified lead, that lead has to meet certain criteria. That criteria is usually a combination of demographic data and behavior. For example, the lead falls within a certain job function or industry and has interacted with your brand and company in a certain way. Interactions can include clicking on certain emails, visiting certain web pages, downloading certain content, or attending certain events such as webinars.

Determining the criteria for an MQL

The criteria elevating a lead to an MQL will be different for every company. However, every company will begin determining that criteria the same way. Start by looking at your buyer’s journey. What path do your clients and customers typically take? What do they do?

Even though we’re talking about marketing qualified leads, you must talk to sales. After all, if you dub a lead an MQL, you’re saying you believe it’s likely to convert. Make sure you’re right. Ask what types of content their closed won deals wanted or looked at prior to purchasing. Review the lead sources of leads that convert and focus your energies where it makes sense.

If you’re getting hundreds of leads from Facebook and none of them convert, it might be time to reevaluate where you’re spending your time and money.

Set the standard

Standardize your process. Write it down. Make sure everyone in marketing and sales understands how a lead becomes an MQL. If you don’t understand how a lead moves through the pipeline, you can’t understand how to nurture the lead correctly.

While there may be numerous paths a lead can take to become a marketing qualified lead, the conversion points will be similar. Mark the actions that indicate a prospect’s intent to purchase. Automate the process using lead scoring in your marketing automation platform.

Consider how to handle exception

There are exceptions to every rule. Your MQL logic is no different. Determine ways to get around the standard if a situation requires it. Some leads will defy expectations. They may not look good on paper, but they will close and throw all of your assumptions out the window.

We recommend two ways to handle exceptions:

Allow leads to self-select

Enable BANT criteria (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) questions on high-value forms such as demo requests or contact forms. The prospect will know if they are the decision maker and, if so, what their budget and timeline looks like. Eliminate the uncertainty and wasted time by allowing your leads to tell you they’re ready to buy.

Manager Approvals

Sometimes, a lead just needs to be qualified. Perhaps they called in, saw you at a show, or responded to an email saying they’re ready to buy. You don’t really have any information on them beyond that, but the process should help you, not hurt you. Feel free to use context clues and direct conversation to know when to progress a lead down the pipeline. Progress leads when they’re ready, not when you’re ready.


Ready to start optimizing your lead flow processes and not sure where to begin? We can help. Reach out today.

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