Swapping MQLs for Intent Data Could Ease Your Marketing Troubles, as seen on Toolbox | Marketing

June 1, 2020 Latané Conant

Marketers might feel the familiar Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQL) is the best way to generate revenue during this time of economic uncertainty. But, if MQLs weren’t working before, they definitely won’t work now. Instead, it is time for marketers to examine their pipeline to unlock predictable revenue growth in an unpredictable situation, says Latané Conant, chief marketing officer, 6sense.

Over the last few months, we’ve entered a new world of marketing – and it has left everyone with a lot of questions. Today, teams have to generate revenue in a landscape they’ve never experienced before. This sudden shift in operations is forcing them to reevaluate their budgets and update their marketing plans to achieve predictable revenue growth during a time of increased unpredictability.

Yet, in a rush to navigate uncharted territory, some B2B revenue teams have resorted to the old ways of marketing: letting single-thread lead generation metrics like MQLs be their guide to account-based marketing.

And those teams are finding more problems than answers.

As marketing leaders, we can’t jeopardize our own team’s success by relying on the outdated MQL. While we’re pushing through the challenges of this new world, we need to examine our strategy. The key to creating predictable revenue growth lies in our pipeline.

MQLs Aren’t the Solution

Marketers might feel the familiar MQL is the best way to generate revenue during this time of economic uncertainty. But relying on MQLs simply doesn’t work: Despite over half of account-driven organizations focusing their strategies on metrics like MQLs, 80% of companies failed to exceed revenue goals in 2019 – and 38% of companies didn’t even get 90% to goal.

Did those results hit close to home? Then stop limiting yourself with single-thread metrics! If an MQL-based strategy wasn’t working before all of this, it definitely won’t work now.

As sellers and marketers, we’re under even more pressure to reach our goals given the current situation. If you really want to build a successful and predictable revenue plan, you need to consider the entire pipeline, not just one sliver of the process. Successful demand generation means focusing on the full prospect experience, from the time they start their research to when they’re ready to make a purchase. MQLs don’t provide the information you need to build that end-to-end experience.

Harness the Power of Intent Data

Sure, MQLs might be a convenient way to measure a prospect’s journey, but it’s not an accurate way. MQLs rely on outdated ways of getting data, such as form fills, spam, and cold calls. When you take this approach, you’re letting the crowd lead you instead of letting valuable buyer insight drive your decision making.

If you’re relying on MQLs from a month or two ago, you’re wasting your time. Those “sure-fire” leads are already outdated. Things are moving fast.

Real-time intent data can help you optimize your efforts in an uncertain market.

Intent data helps you understand what your accounts care about right now and where they currently are in the buying journey. Just like your plans often change, so do your prospects’. They might need something completely different than they did when they filled out your form last month. MQLs won’t capture that.

Using intent data to power your pipeline ensures you’re focusing on what matters to your prospects today. Most online research is done anonymously and your ideal prospects may not even be visiting your website. Capturing intent data allows you to spend your time focused on the accounts that are researching your product or service (or your competitors’) and are actually ready for a conversation.

Find “The Red”

Once you ditch MQLs and use intent data to move prospects through the funnel, you’ll uncover gaps in your pipeline, which indicate the deals that could fall through. This is something I refer to as “the red.”

To fill these gaps, you have to look at the entire funnel and find all the places a lost deal could hide. What leaks can you identify? I like to call this process “finding the red.” Plug those leaks by adjusting your processes. Then, by tracking conversion rates at every step, you can see what adjustments work and where prospect retention is improving so you can set revenue goals based on your new and improved pipeline.

As we continue to adjust to this new world of marketing, it’s even more important to optimize and maximize our pipelines so we can capitalize on those once-missed opportunities. Moral of the story: steer clear of MQLs and turn your effort to true pipeline development.

By studying your prospects’ intent signals, you will be able to know what they actually want right now – not what they wanted before everything changed. Once you do that, find the red in your pipeline and fill those gaps. You’ll then be well on your way to generating predictable revenue growth with confidence.

About the Author

Latané Conant

Latané Conant is the Chief Market Officer of 6sense and author of the bestselling book, No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls. She’s passionate about empowering marketing leaders to confidently lead their teams, company, and industry into the future. Latané is laser-focused on leveraging technology and data to build marketing programs that result in deals, not just leads. She’s known across the industry for her creativity, competitiveness, and boundless energy.

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