The Right MQL Goals: How to Decide
How do you determine S.M.A.R.T goals for your marketing team? I think we’ve all heard the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” but just in case you haven’t, it stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound. Sounds simple, right?
It’s one thing to say “we want to generate more leads” but it’s an entirely different thing to say “we want to generate 30% more MQLs quarter over quarter within a specific persona group.” The latter is more specific and therefore more realistic to actually achieve. It’s easy to get more strangers to fill out your Contact Us web form but if they don’t fall within the defined criteria of what your organization considers an MQL and they aren’t categorized by a recognizable, shared set of buyer persona characteristics then did you really achieve your intended outcome?
There is a series of steps and exercises we like to take our clients through before we back into a relevant annual, quarterly, or monthly goal for MQLs. Oh, and if you aren’t sure what that acronym means either, we’re talking about marketing qualified leads. Lead gen is critical to scaling in the short-term as well as gaining stability and a healthy pipeline in the long-term. So, here’s how we approach MQL goal-setting.
Buyer Persona Exercise
If you don’t have documented buyer personas already in place, it’s a key step in building that foundational context to align both your marketing and sales teams. Both teams will be driving their efforts towards the same group(s) of buyers if a shared set of characteristics, interests, and pain points is determined for those groups.
The exercise of crafting your organization’s buyer personas can be hugely helpful in narrowing down the scope of your target audience, understanding how big your interest pool actually is, and then forming specific and measurable goals around unearthing true MQLs in each group.
Insider Tip: It’s best to start with 2-3 solid personas. Harness your marketing & sales power to target 2-3 key audiences first and measure what types of content resonate, what types of talk tracks work best, etc. before expanding into additional personas.
Customer Journey Mapping
Once you have buyer personas neatly defined, map out a linear buying process for your ideal customer. There’s a purchase journey your customers move through as they identify the problem they have, research solutions, develop requirements for their solution, evaluate different vendors who meet those requirements, so on and so forth. The exercise of mapping out those stages in a documented purchase journey roadmap will result in a focused approach to serving your buyers at each stage.
This map will serve as a tool to inform content creation, campaign design, and more. But, it will also help your team to understand how to effectively fill the pipeline with qualified leads.
Remember: Not all customer purchase journeys are linear, in fact most are not. However, when you’re first getting started developing your strategy for top-of-funnel lead generation it’s OK to begin with a linear one-track path as your starting point.
Define a MQL Profile
Lastly, with buyer personas in place and a well-defined customer journey map, you can start to think about what actions would ultimately put someone in MQL-status. For example, at the stage your team is in, does it make sense to simply say that any person who visits your website and fills out any lead capture form is an MQL? Or, perhaps you’re further along and you want to narrow it further by saying that someone has to visit your website at least twice in five business days and fill out a lead capture form to download your 2020 brochure to be deemed an MQL?
Keep in mind, the tighter you make the criteria for your ideal MQL profile - i.e. the more actions a lead has to take to be considered a true MQL - the fewer MQLs your team may be able to generate on a monthly basis which is something to heavily consider when it comes time to set MQL goals.
These decisions are much easier to make when you have the foundational context of your buyer personas and your customer journey map at hand. Based on these tools, you'll have a greater sense for the actions your leads are taking at each stage of their life cycle.
Insider Tip: These decisions around scoring specific lead actions are also much easier to implement with a marketing automation tool. There are many great options for small- and medium-sized businesses and we’re happy to help you determine which one might be best for your organization!