What Are MQL Leads And Why Are They Critical To Success?

October 25, 2017

mql leads


When is a lead not really a lead? That’s a question any savvy marketing or business professional needs to ask. Even the most fruitful campaign, whether it’s an ebook or some other marketing asset, produces some duds. Marketing qualified leads are the difference between spinning your wheels and developing contacts that convert.


Tom owns his own tire store and he really wants to develop customers that come back again and again, so he goes all out with his marketing campaigns. It’s worth it, too, because he ends up with five pages of names for his sales teams to work. The problem is:

  • About of half of them are under the age of 16
  • Another third don’t own a vehicle to put tires on
  • Half of the remaining leads live in a different state

What Tom has is a bunch of leads that don’t lead anywhere. A tire store isn’t going to sell tires to kids or people without cars. Consumers tend to buy tires locally, too, they don’t shop for them online.  What did Tom do wrong?


Lead generation is tricky. It’s a little bit like mining for gold. If you do it without a filter, you spend a lot of time looking through gravel. A plan to generate marketing qualified leads requires a few filters.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

MQL leads are leads that meet a certain standard. Tom wants customers who need tires, so, one obvious benchmark is that an MQL should own a vehicle. The goal of the MQL system is to identify which leads have enough potential to make it worth Tom’s time to work them. Marketing qualified leads are one in a number of life cycle stages for contacts. The others include:

  • Basic leads and subscribers - These are contacts that offer their email addresses but no other real data. They appear in a number of places. For example, they might subscribe to the tire store’s blog.
  • SQLs - SQLs are leads the sale team deems as worthy and ready to buy.

In between these two life cycles is the MQL -- contacts who say they are sales-ready,  so they are a better target. Maybe they responded to a promotion stating they were considering buying tires. In order to participate, though, they must confirm they own a car. That one benchmark moves them up the scale from basic lead to MQL.

Why Bother Defining MQLs?

It’s a matter of marketing efficiency. Gleanster Research states that about 50 percent of all leads do qualify based on the benchmarks, but might not be ready to buy. These leads need nurturing to move down the funnel and become sales qualified leads (SQL), but without defining the benchmarks, you can’t know which ones are promising.


On the other hand, only about 25 percent of leads are legit, so if Tom simply treats all of them as SQLs, one of two things will happen:

  • He will waste valuable time and resources on a contact that has no promise
  • He will irritate a lead with potential and they move on to the next less aggressive tire store.

MQLs provide a middle ground that allows businesses to leverage leads that offer the most potential.

Finding MQLs That Count

How does a business person like Tom find proper MQLs for his sales team? It’s a matter of defining what benchmarks you need to identify a lead with potential. Some common standards used in most industries include:

  • Location
  • Budget
  • Past sales

Tom might also look at the different behaviors of the lead. Did they sign up for the store newsletter and subscribe to the blog?


What information did they provide when filling out the online form?


Did they offer vehicle data like make and year?


These are flags that Tom can use to pinpoint leads that matter. Some businesses use this data to score their leads, in other words, give them top priority. Someone that signs up for promotions subscribes to the blog and provides all the form information would score high for a tire store.


Tom has just one goal -- to sell tires and that means he must find ways to convert a store browser into a lead and then turn a lead into a SQL. That only works, though, if he knows that his lead is a potential customer. Not all MQLs will be lifelong fans, but can they help Tom build a base of lifelong customers that only go one place for their tires.

Will Cartwright

Will Cartwright

Will specializes in digital marketing and web design with ROI as the determining factor for all decisions. Will makes use of all possible sources of traffic from the web. Focusing also on converting, closing, and nurturing each website visitor.

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