The Marketing Qualified Lead is that coveted pearl in the Sea of Demand Generation: passed on from the marketer who fished for it to the sales rep who does her best to articulate value, differentiate her solution and get a deal done.
Understandably, the MQL has become one of the most prized metrics in SaaS however the indiscriminate appetite for MQLs has cultivated a plethora of problems. Most notably, many of the leads being ‘nurtured’ do not fit any kind of ‘ideal customer profile’ and may not even come from organizations that are a good fit for the product being pushed.
It’s no surprise, then, that many seemingly legitimate MQLs end up ‘trapped’ in the marketing funnel. The result is an increasingly frustrated marketing organization, a thinning sales funnel, and a marketing-sales divide that is costing B2B organizations up to 10% in lost revenue every year according to the IDC.
Test your assumptions, free your MQLs
To prevent so-called MQLs getting trapped in your programs, it is absolutely vital that the underlying assumptions driving your demand generation practice be tested and augmented so you can perform at the highest level and enjoy superior results.
Assumption 1: Every active ‘person’ is a prospect
According to SiriusDecisions, inaccurate and incomplete buyer personas originating from poor data is the biggest hurdle to creating relevant, buyer-centric content.
The pandemic of irrelevant sales and marketing to frustrated, misunderstood individuals is spreading. Yet we’re spending more budget on content marketing to get in front of them with our blog posts and catchy email subject-lines without having first crystallized the answers to fundamental questions that will make us laser-focused and able to cut through the ‘noise’.
Not developing a persona framework means that you are likely to be persistent in marketing to people who will never become customers. In order to move forward, you will need to draw an intersection between your unique capabilities and the organizations (the buyers and users) who would derive the most value from those capabilities. Only those prospects should ever populate your marketing programs.
Assumption 2: Your CRM is helping your cause
In some of the latest research done by IDC analysing prospect and customer databases of B2B organizations, it emerged that on average, less than 20% of the prospects in the databases were VP level or higher.
The challenge that this situation presents is two-fold. Firstly, both marketing and sales are spending the majority of their time engaging and nurturing prospects that do not hold budget or have an ability to sign-off on a purchasing decision. Secondly, having high levels of engagement with people who cannot buy results in spurious marketing performance metrics and has diabolical implications further down the funnel.
You may be wondering what causes the infiltration of ‘non-buyer profile’ prospects into your database: the answer is as simple as it is sinister – sales and marketing professionals are ‘afraid of heights’. Going after VP level (or higher) prospects requires the messaging and value articulation to be sharp and precise because VPs do not suffer fools. Lower level prospects are more likely to give the opportunity to sales and marketing professionals to pitch their products and extol the virtues of their solutions with full knowledge that they lack both the budget and strategic imperative to sign-off on a purchase. These people (lower than VP) make good sponsors if there is executive buy-in but not before that.
Assumption 3: The Buyer Journey is Linear
Prospects are inundated daily with hundreds of information sources, making the B2B buying process not so much linear as it is ‘spiderwebbed’. Armed with fresh knowledge from different research channels and social influences, buyers are now known to only contact a sales rep after 70-90% of the purchase decision has already been made.
What this signifies is the importance of the right message at the right time; not just shooting content blanks towards your prospective MQL because they’ve been active, but sending timed, targeted useful content pieces that meet (hopefully) the needs of their current initiative.
Assumption 4: Your content is articulating value
The main goal of our content marketing should be to get prospects to do two things:
- say YES to change = “defeating the status quo bias”
- say YES to choosing us = “solution differentiation”
If you are attracting prospects to your digital properties and then feeding them the same information as everybody else ( i.e “Content Is King” ) then you are unlikely to enjoy higher conversions lower down the funnel. If your messaging is commoditized, you are unlikely to convince your MQLs to commit to change, to share information about your value proposition within their organization or to choose you as the vendor of choice. This is even more true if these are prospects who have a pressing initiative and budget. These prospects are looking for visionary and differentiated insights that cause them to see themselves differently and that can help them get further faster in their current initiative.
In order to avoid ‘trapping” your MQLs, it’s important that your content be counterintuitive and provocative while exposing the need for change and driving unexpected urgency and uniqueness.
MQLs are valuable, but revenue is what matters
Whilst the above pointers will go a long way to improve the quality of your MQLs, we should remember that the MQL is not the end-game of marketing.
Marketing team members need to create better buyer personas, review who occupies their CRM, understand the new B2B buyer journey and make sure content is articulating value, so that the entire organization can see the end result they’re really counting on: revenue.