It is no secret that there are numerous different types of leads, from phone numbers to email addresses to stronger interactions. Any business wants to focus on the leads that have the potential to convert into customers, which is known as a marketing qualified lead. Using marketing qualified leads (MQLs) helps ensure you spend your marketing funds on the right audiences — those that have the potential to convert.

What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) refers to a lead with a greater chance of converting into a customer than your other leads. Most companies determine an MQL based on downloads, website visits, and other engagement with content.

Many companies choose to develop a lead scoring system to determine MQLs and the leads that are most likely to convert. This would involve giving point values to each MQL qualification. 

The idea behind MQLs is that by identifying the leads that are the most qualified, you can focus your marketing budget and resources on them. This should maximize the ROI.

The following are some examples of MQLs: 

  •   using a software demo.
  •   filling out an online form.
  •   adding an email address to a mailing list.
  •   providing a phone number.
  •   downloading a free e-book.
  •   signing up for a free webinar.
  •   downloading a trial version.
  •   putting items in a shopping cart.
  •   repeatedly visiting the website.
  •   requesting more information.
  •   clicking ads to visit the website.

 To figure out what MQLs are for your company, look at the behaviors of current customers as well as the buyer journey.

How to measure the impact of marketing with MQLs?

The way you will choose to measure the impact of your marketing with MQLs will depend on the type of MQL in question and your goals.

1. Using software demos or trial versions

For the MQL of using software demos, you can measure its impact by paying attention to the leads that turn into customers after using the demo.

2. Filling out an online form or providing contact information

To measure the impact of this type of marketing, you could pay attention to future engagement rates. For example, if the MQL in question is signing up for a newsletter, you could measure the open rate, which is the rate at which people click links in the newsletter.

For those who provide phone numbers, you could measure the rate at which people answer the phone or call back after a missed call or respond to a text.

3. Visiting the website multiple times or for extended times

You could estimate the impact of this particular MQL by looking at other website analytics you should be tracking. For example, you could pay attention to changes to the average time spent on the page, the click-through rate for CTAS, the conversion rate, or progress toward your goals.

When creating goals, make sure they are smart.

periodic table of b2b digital marketing metrics

4. Clicking ads to visit the website  

There will likely be a lot of overlap between measuring the impact of this MQL and the previous one. In fact, the number of people who visit the website multiple times or spend a lot of time on it, the previous MQL, could be a method of measuring the impact of people clicking on ads.

5. Requesting more information

For the MQL of requesting more information, you can use some of the same measurements you would for any other situation where the lead provides contact information. Additionally, you could pay attention to future engagement, levels of interest, number of messages sent, response time, or future sales.

6. Downloading a free e-book or signing up for a free webinar

When it comes to downloading a free e-book as an MQL or general marketing method, you typically ask for something in return, such as an email address. In this case, you would use similar measurements as you would for providing that contact information. In the example of asking for an email address, you could look at engagement with e-newsletters, such as the open and click rates.

7. Putting items in a shopping cart

For the MQL of placing items in a shopping cart, you will likely want to pay attention to measurements regarding abandoned shopping carts. One of the most important factors is how long it takes the customer to check out. Another is the value of abandoned shopping carts. You will also want to pay attention to the device usage, traffic source, required information and forms, and payment methods.

8. Tracking the roi of the MQLs

Regardless of the marketing qualified lead you want to track, there are some common factors to keep in mind as you measure their impact. Think of them as tips or suggestions that will help you get the most from your MQLs.

Always choose specific goals

Start by setting your goals for leads carefully. The best ones will be specific. Remember the smart goals already mentioned above.

Look at the number of MQLs

Pay attention to the number of qualified leads that you generate as well as fluctuations in this figure. Look at the figures annually, quarterly, monthly, and at whatever other intervals make sense for your company.

Monitor monthly website traffic

Don’t expect your MQLs to convert immediately. Instead, look at the traffic every month, as it will likely take a bit of time to convert a marketing qualified lead into a sale. Some positive signs in this respect can include decreasing bounce rates, more social media shares, increasing page views, and web traffic increases.

Track lead generation per business day

You may also want to look at the number of leads generated for each business day. This helps account for the variations in lengths of months. After all, a typical February would only give you 28 days to generate leads, while January would give you 31 days. Looking at average figures per business day in addition to or instead of monthly figures makes the comparison fairer.

Check if MQLs fit your buyer persona.

In addition to tracking the number of leads, pay attention to how well they fit the marketing personas your sales and marketing team created. This helps you adjust your strategy for generating leads in the future.

Pay attention to the source.

You will also want to look at the sources that most commonly generate your MQLs. Knowing whether it is a free trial, a webinar, or another source lets you focus your marketing efforts.

Monitor the conversion rate from leads to customers.

Of course, you also want to check how many of your leads convert to customers. The lead-to-customer conversion rate will help you confirm that your marketing qualified leads are actually qualified. It helps prevent misidentifying MQLs.

What is the difference between MQL and SQL?

When discussing marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads (SQLs) also commonly come up. Given the somewhat similar terms and abbreviations and the importance of both in marketing and sales, it is common to need some clarification between the two. After all, they both fit in the following chart under the same logo of “qualified leads” within the buying cycle.

inbound sales methodology

Quick definitions

We already established that an MQL is a lead that seems to show promise as a potential customer. A sales qualified lead (SQL) is even more qualified to convert into a sale, assuming you provide them with the right stimulus or information. 

You want to convert MQL to SQL in the buying cycle.

MQL vs. SQL: the big difference

Your goal is for an MQL to become an SQL. Think of an MQL as a business contact that works for the potential client company. They have some level of authority and show promise in becoming a client.

Once they get others on their team on board with your company’s services, they become an SQL. In other words, an SQL is when the big decision-makers all seem likely to convert.

Think of the difference between MQL vs. SQL in terms of the stage in the buying process that the lead is in. SQLs are slightly further ahead in the sales funnel than MQLs. 

Visitor to MQL flow chart

An example of MQL to SQL

To illustrate the difference, consider the customer journey from seeing your company to registering for a webinar or downloading your e-book. At this stage, they are an MQL. Then, assume they request a demo. This would indicate they are an SQL but probably still in the early stage of being one.


A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is likely to convert. You want to move them along even further on the sales funnel to become a sales qualified lead (SQL), where they are incredibly likely to convert and have already shown an interest in your product or service. Measuring your MQLs can provide you valuable insights. Paying attention to the actions of MQLs can help you determine the most effective strategy for converting them to SQLs and beyond.

 To gain more MQL’s or assistance in bringing success to your clients, consider a partnership. The podium partner program lets you, your potential customers, and your current clients remain in contact and scale your businesses.

Thomas Clawson
Thomas Clawson Partner Marketing Manager

Thomas Clawson is a partner solutions professional at Podium, the leading messaging platform that connects marketing agencies with their clients.

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