Way back when, which in the world of digital marketing could mean just a few years ago, marketers focused on numbers like web traffic, social impressions, number of blog visitors, etc. While top-of-funnel metrics certainly continue to play a role in today’s KPIs, as AdStage’s VP of Marketing, Pallavi Sharma, recently pointed out in this LinkedIn post, the need to more closely align marketing’s goals with the sales team’s goals is ever increasing. But as Pallavi writes, the hurdle the two teams have faced is the lack of technology available for marketers to accurately attribute and follow the necessary metrics.
AdStage recently debuted Join, a technology solution to strengthen marketing and sales alignment. Marketers can now look further down the funnel to prove the efficacy of channels and strategies and fully close the loop on every ad dollar spent.
While Join allows marketers to quickly report, optimize, and automate campaigns based on down-funnel metrics like sales closes, it’s important to understand what you should optimize for not just to generate leads, but to generate leads for ROI, which falls right smack dab into the middle of the sales team’s goals (and now marketers’ goals, too).
MQLs and SQLs
We covered this topic extensively in a previous post, but it’s worth another mention here since understanding what it takes to convert an MQL into an SQL is the core of what will help marketers ensure they’re delivering to the sales team what’s needed for a satisfying ROI.
Briefly, an MQL is someone who has shown a level of interest beyond sharing an email address. He or she wants more info and is open to being marketed to. SQL is the next step and describes someone who has all the information he or she could need but might require a little extra push, or tailored education, to say yes. In between this stage could be an SAL-Sales Accepted Lead. An SAL shows greater intent to purchase than an MQL, but is likely still in need of additional information as they evaluate your offering.
In many organizations, the marketing team pushes the customer to the sales team as soon as he or she is deemed an MQL, but for marketers to determine which channels and strategies are yielding actual revenue, as opposed to just leads, they must continue to track the lead throughout the sales process. Once you know what’s truly paying off, you can better allocate your budget to what really matters. In this scenario, marketers optimize for the MQLs that actually become paying customers.
MQL and SQL metrics to track
Now that you know the difference between, and importance of, MQLs, SALs, and SQLs, let’s take a more detailed look at everything you can track to get these numbers to tell a clear story about your campaign. Here’s what else you need to track to ensure your marketing is attracting the prospects that are most likely to turn into customers:
MQLs → Nurture pipeline
In a perfect world, someone is so excited about what you’re offering, they go from MQL to close after one touch. But alas, we don’t live in a perfect world, so once a prospect has been deemed as an MQLs, they enter the nurture pipeline. There, he or she will continue to receive demo offers, follow up calls, informational emails, deals and promotions, etc. The activity and interest of the MQLs in this part of the funnel can help determine which ones are high quality Sales Qualified Leads (SALs) based on their behavior. You can use tools like Hubspot to better understand how they are interacting with your properties. The nurture pipeline numbers can define higher quality SQLs.
MQLs → SALs
Your salespeople want to be able to send an email, pick up the phone, meet face-to-face, with a lead who has enough of the right information to be able to make a decision, whether that’s asking for more tailored info (like a 1:1 demo), or making a purchase. But if the marketing team hasn’t queued up the customer correctly, this might not be the case, and the salesperson could find themselves re-marketing, clearing up confusion, or simply cutting the lead loose. If you analyzed their behavior and identified patterns based on the behavior of past customers, you'll likely increase the quality of your SALs. Work closely with your sales team to understand who the best customers are and map their journey so you can create a path to accelerate other similar leads through the process.
How many MQLs converted to SQLs
This is a pretty straightforward number that will give you a quick-look indication of the success of your campaign.
But don’t stop there, because similar to overall lead generation, there’s still a potential to fall into a quantity over quality trap. The quality should theoretically increase as the leads are filtered through the funnel. Along the way, you can use tools like Google Analytics to measure if they've completed specific down-funnel goals like booking a demo.
MQLs → Closed
This is the million dollar number, and what you’ll use to determine your ROI via cost-per-opportunity (CPO) and cost-per-acquisition (CPA). It's much easier to feel good about an MQL number in a vacuum. Make sure to get data from your sales team and analyze your MQLs performance against sales data. This might be a humbling experience at first, but this is how the best marketers in the business win!
In other words, the entire reason you’ve tracked your leads for so long. Once you’re able to determine where your new customers came from, you can adjust campaigns, reallocate budget, A/B test copy, expand keywords, etc. Ideally optimizing your marketing to attract and convert people who are in true need of your offering and are also ready to buy!
Bonus metric: Pipeline velocity
Just when you thought all the hard work was done! It’s one thing to turn an MQL into a close, but you should also keep an eye on how long that takes, also known as pipeline velocity. This number (measured in time) will tell you how quickly leads travel through the marketing and sales process. You might have a bunch of closes, but if it took triple the amount of time it should, that’s eating into your ROI. Having a pulse on this number will also help you identify holes in the process. Maybe the sales team could use marketing’s help updating their deck. Perhaps the software used to schedule 1:1 demos is creating unnecessary lag time. Pipeline velocity is one more valuable metric to help you turn MQLs into paying customers as quickly as possible.
So marketers, now is the time to shift your strategy from going after quantity of leads to finding and passing on leads that will have a positive impact on company revenue. Your sales team will love you for it.