Banish the MQL? Four Fears and Five Breakthroughs from B2B CMOs


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This past week we kicked off a new series of CMO breakfasts across North America starting with Seattle and San Francisco.

These “no slides, no pitches” breakfasts feature networking and vibrant discussions on highly relevant topics for B2B marketing leaders.  Special thanks to 6sense and Hushly for joining us and making this series possible.

For these breakfasts, we chose a particular challenge for CMO attendees to discuss inspired by 6sense CMO Latane Conant’s “no forms, no spam, no cold calls” approach to prospect experience and the breakthrough this created for her organization.

The topic:

Let’s say in your next job, the CEO banished the venerable marketing qualified lead (MQL).  You weren’t allowed to use it as a marketing metric.  Would this excite you?  Frighten you?  How would you create a marketing strategy and model that changed the way your team operated, prioritized tactics, and reported on their impact?

The response already has been strong and varied (check out and participate in the LinkedIn community’s discussion ongoing here).  And from what we’ve already heard (online as well as over bacon and avocado toast in Seattle and San Francisco), responses to this question can be summarized in four initial reactions (or fears) and five potential breakthroughs to guide new thinking and performance.

Four Fears

  1. Who gets credit?: MQLs for so long have been a primary measure of marketing’s contribution to sales.  If these no longer exist, how do you measure and give credit to how marketing generates interest and demand?
  2. How will (or should) this change our culture?: Does this mean marketing and sales actually have the same goal (vs variations on that goal)?  How do I manage change within my marketing team when the cheese has been moved so dramatically?
  3. How do we measure it?: if not MQLs, then what?  What should be our primary measure of contribution to pipeline?  How do we value top-of-funnel engagement as well as influence at the middle and end of the sales process where marketing may materially impact prospect velocity?
  4. Is “influence” on pipeline really working?: Even before “banishing” MQLs, marketers have struggled with the difference between direct (lead) contributions and activity that influences pipeline activity (content, field events, etc.).  Since marketers still struggle to accurately and comprehensively measure influence (vs where the leads come from), can we show or prove that influence really works?

Five Breakthroughs

  1. Eliminate attribution entirely: Especially for large and complex sales that take months or quarters to engage and close, if we assume that an integrated body of work is what it takes to get the deal done, does it matter who gets credit?  Other than figuring out which channels are more impactful than others, does it really matter how to “weight” sales vs marketing attribution if the deal gets done?  Big-time culture change shifts required to operationalize this of course, but it’s a concept we’ve seen get more airtime with executive teams selling complex solutions.
  2. Operate as a “in this together” revenue team: Sales does this already today.  When inside sales teams partner with account executives or field sales counterparts, then don’t worry about who generated the opportunity.  They work as a team to get the right opportunities created and done.  They execute together, struggle together, celebrate together.  Can’t we extend that spirit to the broader sales and marketing collaboration?
  3. Prioritize experiences vs conversions: If you think about it, conversions are a seller construct.  They’re artificial at best and disingenuous at worst to buyers.  So instead of worrying about point-in-time catalysts, how about thinking through the broader buyer experience that gets and keeps them engaged, motivated and moving towards a mutually successful, beneficial decision?
  4. Prioritize accounts vs leads: This seems obvious to some, but based on new research (teaser – coming soon!) the majority of companies who claim to be running account-based marketing programs still prioritize individual leads and MQLs.  So what if as a function of banishing MQLs, you eliminated the idea of an individual lead altogether as well?  Contacts as a function of the account are more valuable anyway.
  5. View, and manage, the whole buying journey and experience instead of moment-in-time actions: Technology has advanced well beyond what is capable in the standard marketing automation platforms.  Form fills give us something to send to sales, something to measure, something to celebrate.  But it’s very clear we put way too much emphasis and value on something that is a single action, a point in time, and often not nearly as much of the “buying signal” we make them out to be.  With newer technology we can understand – in real-time – how prospects are thinking and acting (even when they research anonymously).  So instead of highlighting those “form fill” moments in time only, why not measure and value multi-action, full prospect experience momentum?  Watch and manage the body of work a prospect engages in to more accurately track and ascribe value to their true intent?

If you think about banishing MQLs at your company, what fears does that surface?  And with some time to think about it, what potential breakthroughs could it catalyze for your organization?

By the way, if you’re a marketing leader and want to join us in Denver, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Washington DC, Boston or New York City in the coming weeks, request your breakfast invitation here.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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