Powering Your Marketing Engine


How to Convert More Marketing Leads to Sales Opportunities

December 15, 2022   Posted By Sarah Gontero

How to Optimize Your MQL-to-SQL Conversions

Perhaps the number one goal for any B2B company is to increase ROI. After all, that’s what makes the company profitable. Your best chance at success lies in knowing who your targeted customer is and reaching them effectively. This requires a strong alliance between Marketing and Sales.  

Each of these teams owns a part of the sales funnel. Marketers play a central role in attracting prospects and nurturing them into marketing qualified leads (MQLs), while sales teams are instrumental in converting sales qualified leads (SQLs) into customers.  

However, the two teams must work together to make this happen. Marketers who send leads to sales teams too early, before the leads are qualified, may damage this critical relationship. 

Marketers should focus on converting MQLs into SQLs, because until MQLs become sales qualified leads (SQLs), then you can’t expect the sales team to value your leads and act on them. If your average buyer’s journey takes too long and too few leads turn into sales, then you’re not alone. We hear that from many of our B2B clients.  

That’s why we’ve devised a proprietary method to help clients convert MQLs to SQLs faster. We call it measurable marketing. It’s based on the premise of combining left brain analytics with right brain creativity to build programs that deliver measurable outcomes results.  

Measurable Marketing: How We Increase Increased Sales Leads for Our Client 

The method delivers results that clients love. Through a combination of website user experience improvements, content creation, and search engine optimization, our client ChemREADY saw a 138% increase in sales-ready opportunities generated from digital marketing in just one year. In fact, organic traffic to the website quadrupled during the year.  

A series of new buyers guides, blogs, and webinars drove the increase in quality lead flow, while advanced “heat maps” of the website pointed the way to a wide variety of website improvements that resulted in more visitors converting to quality leads. 

How Relevant Content Can Increase Sales 

It's critical to provide content for each stage of the sales funnel. This increases the conversion rates on content downloads because the content will be relevant to the prospect’s level of interest. Each time a prospect engages with content, their lead score increases, and a ladder of content moves the prospect to MQL and then to SQL.  

At our agency, we work hand in hand with clients to audit assets and categorize them by funnel stage, address any gaps, and then organize the content into content calendars and workflows. 

Content should be relevant for each stage of the buyer’s journey, but that’s not enough. You should combine that with content relevant to the buyer persona. One technique that has been particularly effective is to send automated nurturing emails having a multiple-choice question. For example, the email could ask, “is your current biggest challenge labor, materials, increased production, or other?” Use the answers to segment the email list by buyer persona. 

For a pharmacy services client, we used quiz answers to identify if the prospect works in a retail pharmacy or a hospital pharmacy... markets with different concerns. Then we could target each segment of the email list with messages tailored to the pain points of each buyer persona. 

How Workflows Can Lead to More Sales Opportunities 

To get contacts to engage with the ladder of content, we create workflows—a series of automated emails. If we followed our methodology correctly, then the emails offer content that is attractive to prospects at all stages of the buyers journey and content that is relevant to the buyer personas.  

As recipients click and download content, their quality score increases. Eventually, their scores become high enough that they are ready to be passed to the sales team.  

Workflows work. For one of our clients we saw that only 9% of their contacts were converting to MQLs and only 4% of their contacts were converting to SQLs. This was below the 2022 goal that we set together.  

We had to convert more of their prospects into MQLs and then into SQLs. We added four new workflow campaigns designed to increase contact conversions from contact to MQL and from MQL to SQL. 

  • Warming Campaign workflow 
  • General Brand Nurture workflow 
  • Product Line 1 workflow 
  • Product Line 2 workflow 

Since the launch of the campaign, the Product Line 1 workflow is converting contacts to SQLs at a jaw-dropping 30% conversion rate. The Brand Nurture campaign is converting contacts to SQLs at a healthy 2% conversion rate. 

Overall, the campaigns increased 2022 contact lifecycle conversions dramatically. About 33% of leads reach the MQL stage and 6% reach the SQL stage.  

Step-by-Step: How to Convert Marketing Leads into Sales Opportunities  

Of course, there is more to success than emails and content. There must be a clear understanding of how leads should flow through the process. We follow four steps: 

1. Lead Flow Analysis 

The best way to build a path to conversion is by understanding the lead flow. First, we analyze the client’s lead flow in terms of acquisition. This means identifying the source of leads coming into the marketing automation platform. Leads can come from trade shows, web forms, advertising, and even from a previous contact management system.  

Next, we analyze how the client is handling those leads. Some client sales teams want to follow-up on leads from any type of form fill. Other clients want only request-for-quote (RFQ) leads go to Sales, and they enroll leads from any other sources into email nurture campaigns. In most cases, leads coming from forms having bottom-of-the-funnel offers become an SQL upon conversion. 

We hash this out in Lead Mapping Sessions working closely with our clients. This step is essential because lead follow-up is as important as lead generation. 

2. Personalized Lead Scoring 

In a marketing automation tool like HubSpot, MQL and SQL status is defined by a lead score. The higher the score, the more valuable the lead.  

At GGC we don’t take a one-size fits all approach to lead-scoring. We personalize it based on the individual lead-flow and internal processes of the client. It starts with a deep dive to identify high-value pages on their website and the buyer personas of their target customers. Next, we have an extensive working session with our clients to determine scoring rules based on their individual business goals and the needs of their ideal customer profile.    

3. The Fundamentals of Sales Funnel Scoring 

Once we’ve determined what the lead scoring properties look like for a particular client, it’s important to define which leads rank as MQLs or SQLs. Of course, that all depends on where the prospect is positioned in the sales funnel.  

Typically, an MQL is considered a middle-of-the-funnel lead that might have a score of 50 points versus an SQL, which is a warmer lead that might have a score of 75, indicating it is ready to pass directly to the sales team. We do a thorough analysis of all forms, types of content, and their relevancy to the sales funnel stage that each buyer is in currently. 

4. Marketing-Sales Alignment  

Ideally, marketers and sales leaders meet weekly to review the leads sent to Sales and what happened. Was the lead truly qualified? Was the lead promoted to SQL too quickly? Then the marketing team adjusts the lead scoring until leads meet the definition of what is a qualified lead. In return, the sale team promises to follow up on all leads meeting their definition. At the weekly meeting, the marketing leader scores the sales team on each SQL lead: did the sales team follow up in a timely way? Unless both teams do their jobs, SQLs won’t turn into closed sales and ROI. 

Many elements must come together to achieve strong MQL-to-SQL conversion: team alignment, lead scoring, workflows, content, and buyer personas. That’s why clients engage with a marketing agency like ours. We have specialists in every area, and we have a proven process.  

We want to hear about your marketing situation. Contact us today.  




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