Thank you for joining me today for the eulogy of the marketing qualified lead, or MQL. Once hailed as the best way to affix a value to a prospective sale in the digital age, we are here to toll the bell to its early demise.
What led to the hastened death of the MQL? A series of innocent crimes, perpetrated by humans who have become too smart and savvy – or simply too absent-minded -- to play the MQL game. Since these leads are typically derived from “mechanical” interactions between human and machine, humans have unintentionally thwarted the system – for example, blindly tapping away on the TouchPad, or leaving a finger or cursor atop an open email, can accidentally score you as a hot lead.
Are you someone who tends to download pictures and collect links from websites while you shop? You, too, may be scored as a hot lead when all you’re doing is a little broad research. Do you like to download multiple documents across multiple websites, or re-Google an item several times just to read the caption? You, too, are gaming – and devaluing -- the MQL system – much to the chagrin of companies and their well-intentioned digital marketers.
In our first blog, we discussed the dark funnel – those hidden recesses that may hold the key to a trove of new and better leads for your company, products, and services. Now, we need to start the conversation around vetting the data in the funnel – and simply declaring everything in your funnel as a legitimate lead means you’re clogging the arteries of your sales enablement machinery with junk food – the Funyuns and Chicken Wings of the lead nurturing process.
You see, companies today are hungry for leaner beef and healthier choices – not just cholesterol-clogging MQLs that can be subverted, but real data that reflects legitimate intentions by a prospective buyer who actually is in the purchasing cycle. Filtering out mindless mechanical activity and discerning intention is part art form, part science – and the Holy Grail for companies who wish to keep and extend their competitive edge.
Even more difficult: Evaluating intention when the elusive purchaser is willfully hiding from you – either using a pseudonym or fake data to obfuscate, clicking “no” on your cookie trackers, or engaging in other behaviors to stay hidden.
The key is the capturing and tracking of a new set of measures that lend some transparency to an opaque process. Looking at these factors will help you elevate leads from warm, to hot, to boiling, while keeping you out of the MQL trap.
Here are some measurements that fit the bill:
Taking a step beyond simply tracking visits, it’s time to drill deeper, scoring leads by their frequency and recency: How often and how long ago did they come to your website. Are they coming often? Is there a pattern to their traffic? What is that pattern?
Using the lead incubation data above, it’s now time to look at what specific content is keeping them hanging around. Where are they visiting? Are they on your product information pages? Are they looking at your partners? Specific videos? Are they watching those videos to the end? Also, how long are they staying? The more time they stick around generally indicates how serious they are.
Are they looking at price? Are they looking at any kind of third-party content – including that of a competitor? This last measurement isn’t necessarily a weakness, but simply a risk to be mindful of.
The last piece of the puzzle is very compelling: How many other people in their company are now also coming to your site? And when did that start? Did you notice a gradual growth of individuals from the same company, or did it occur all at once? Can you correlate this interest against a specific event or other relevant trigger? If so, perhaps whatever issue is impacting them is also impacting their competitors. With this data in hand, you can engage in some proactive outreach to get a clear sense of what is spurring this activity and customize your response accordingly.
It’s not enough today for marketers to settle for a “reasonable response” or “decent traffic.” A lead that will make it through to the desired end result – a sale – must be subject to far more insights, far more development, and far more nurturing than ever before.
Ready to upgrade your lead incubation process and step away from a diet of empty-calorie MQLs? Good. Because in our next blog, we will talk about cultivating loyalty as a means of keeping your best customers around for the long haul.