Marketers love to use abbreviations and acronyms. If you are new to the industry, or even just digital marketing - this can leave you scratching your head. Acronyms particularly come into play when someone is talking about lifecycle stages.
According to Hubspot, lifecycle stages are generally used to track how contacts move forward in your process. So no matter what software you use, it is an important aspect of your data measurement and strategy planning to define the different stages a potential customer will hit during their journey to purchasing your product or service.
Let’s look quickly at those typical stages.
The Different Lifecycle Stages
In my strategy planning, I define the different lifecycle stages of a lead by subscriber, lead, marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, opportunity, and customer.
These are the default stages in HubSpot’s software and what I have the most experience segmenting leads by.
So what are the definitions of these stages? Here is how I define them:
- Subscriber. Someone who has opted into your blog or newsletter subscription. They are officially in your database; however, you know nothing more about them outside of their email address. They can only receive your email updates.
- Lead. Someone who has converted from some type of content and given you at least a little information about themselves. You know some things about them, but not enough to determine if they are marketing qualified or disqualified.
- Marketing Qualified Lead. This is the stage where you must start making decisions based on your buyer personas and journey research. An MQL is someone who meets enough of your requirements to potentially be a customer. This is someone you want to actively market to because they fit your criteria, but they just haven’t taken the step to speak to someone yet.
- Sales Qualified Lead. Someone who meets the marketing qualified requirements and has raised their hand to speak to sales (through a form, call, or chat). Sales is now the main point of contact for this lead.
- Opportunity. Someone actively engaged with the sales team and has not been immediately disqualified.
- Customer. This one is self-explanatory.
While these are basic, high-level descriptions, it is incredibly important that your marketing team and stakeholders decide what these stages mean for your organization.
Defining Marketing Qualified Leads
While all of these stages have an important part to play, today, I want to touch more on marketing qualified leads or MQLs.
If you are working with an organization that is generating a lot of leads, that is fantastic! However, the next step - is making sales’ life more manageable. To do this, we want to deliver hot ready leads to their front door and ensure they are as qualified as possible.
An essential step in this process is defining what a marketing qualified lead is to your organization. This typically means, “What qualifications does a prospect need to have to potentially become a customer?” For example, if you own a dog training business, a marketing qualified lead would need to have a dog.
Once you have these qualifications figured out. You are ready to set up marketing automation to start identifying prospects who meet that criteria.
Marking Leads as Marketing Qualified
We learn more about our contacts the more information we get from them. So how do we get data from there? An equal trade.
In my opinion, content is the best way to get this information. By offering your leads something valuable, you are likely to receive something as valuable in return - more information about them.
The key here is creating forms that ask questions that will give you the information about your lead that you need. In our example, this would be “What kind of pet do you own?” with an option being “Dog.”
If you are using a marketing automation software, you can set up workflows to set the lifecycle stage of your contact if they meet specific criteria. That criteria being gathered by the answers given to you when someone fills out a form to download your content.
Once a contact is marked as an MQL, you can use that information to market to them more intentionally and nurture them to become a sales qualified lead (the point in which you hand over the lead as hot and ready to sales)
Every stage of the lifecycle is important and serves a different purpose. These are all opportunities to nurture leads differently as well. So why am I so focused on marketing qualified leads?
At a certain point, it is crucial to focus on what you can control. For me, that typically falls into the process right before a lead becomes marketing qualified and between the time they are marketing qualified until they are sales qualified.
By marking leads as marketing qualified, you can ensure the leads you are driving to your website are worth the cost. If your digital ads, for example, are driving leads, but they are never becoming MQLs - that is an area for improvement. This can shine a light on a lot of your marketing performance and give you ideas to test for improvement.
Secondly, as a marketer, you are not responsible for closing a lead but for making the sales team's lives easier. How can we do this? As I said above, delivering the most qualified and ready lead to them as possible. We mark these leads as sales qualified leads.
If you are driving a ton of marketing qualified leads, but they aren't converting to sales qualified leads - you have found another opportunity for improvement. Are you not answering a vital question your prospect has? Are you not keeping their attention? There are many reasons why these leads are not converting. But, again, this is a fantastic source of information to find and test hypotheses to improve your marketing performance.
By setting up lifecycle stages and focusing on the performance of your marketing qualified leads, you will be able to identify opportunities to drive more and more qualified leads to your sales team, contributing to your organization's bottom line.
Topics: Data & Analytics