Big vs. small: why your MQLs should be MQCs

Marketing Qualified Contacts

I entered the world of marketing because I had to reconcile two opposing passions in me that go all the way back to school:

I loved numbers. I loved writing stories.

Math + creativity. Art + science. However you want to frame it.

It annoyed my teachers because, stubbornly, I wanted to pursue both. Ultimately, they wanted me to focus more on one than the other.

To be fair, they had a point, but the conflict never went away. Marketing: Enter stage left.

What I loved about Marketing was that it’s fundamentally a business discipline – very focused on commercial value and all the critical ‘big’ numbers that ladder up to it (product, pricing, distribution, positioning, promotion, etc.).

But of all the business disciplines, it was the only one that had a really healthy dose of creativity. Particularly on the agency side, where I ultimately ended up after a short but explosively bad stint being client side.

Fast forward to today and people’s ongoing preoccupation with the small numbers instead of the big numbers.

The B2B buyer journey is often dominated by online activity, and we’ve all done a cracking job of tracking reach, impressions, CTR, CPC, and so on. These are important numbers, but they’re ‘small’—they’re not revenue. CFOs don’t care about them.

And then there’s MQLs

MQL is the single most dangerous metric we’ve concocted. It’s a small number masquerading as a big number.

Marketing. Qualified. Leads. Let’s break this down:

  • Marketing: Yep, that’s us. We own this number. It’s our thing, everyone, look at us.
  • Qualified: We’re proud of this. It’ll be great. We’re staking our reputation on this.
  • Leads: I feel like going all Glengarry Glen Ross here; “Hey everyone! Look over here, you lovely salespeople! A whole wheelbarrow full of the bestest opportunities ever! Off you go, ABC time..!”

We’re setting ourselves up to fail.

Think about this from a B2B buyer’s point of view. They’ve seen your ads, emails, podcasts, videos, social posts. They’ve then somehow consumed some content, clicked through to a website (actually a campaign landing page, but they don’t know that), and downloaded something useful in return for their name, company name, job title and email address.

The stats tell us clearly that 95% of buyers aren’t in currently market. Instead, they’re taking a look around to get their head into a challenge they need to solve. Does this make them in any way ‘a lead’? Clearly not.

Let’s start calling MQLs what they really are:

Marketing. Qualified. Contacts.

In other words, a contact who successfully matches against target audience criteria (ICP. Basically the right person to talk to, but it’s not necessarily the right time to talk to them.

That’s where this thing called ‘lead nurturing’ comes in. And, by the way, can we also rename that while we’re at it? ‘Nurture’ is simply unpleasant. Why not ‘customer comms’ or even ‘database marketing’?

Regardless of what we call it, it’s simply not happening because it’s not being taken seriously.

The job here is remarkably straightforward –steadily increase the number of contacts within your ICP, regularly provide useful and interesting content to this database of MQCs (see, I’ve gone there), monitor engagement, score it, and pass over the hot ones to the hungry salespeople.

The problem is that this is not a quick win. It’s also, bluntly, not the most exciting creative task that marketers prioritize. This is one of those big numbers that no one talks about: the volume and calibre of the marketing database.

In B2C, this is a really big deal. In many B2C industries, it’s where a lot of the marketing ROI comes from.

So, drop the quick-win MQLs. They’re not that quick, and they’re not a win.
Take a stand and call a contact a contact.


(Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)