A qualified lead is a prospect who matches a certain portion of your company’s ideal customer profile. How much and what aspects of that profile they match is where companies often run into problems.
You see this is one of those definitions that sometimes changes depending on who you talk to. In inbound marketing, lead qualification not only includes lead characteristics like company size and budget but lead actions like engaging with web content or downloading content offers.
There are a lot of factors here, so a qualified lead may be one thing to your marketing team and another to your sales team. This is why it is incredibly important to define qualified leads within your organization through lead scoring and other tools.
Tell me more
Well to start with, there are multiple kinds of qualified leads. Generally, we identify both Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) as stages of the buyer’s journey. An MQL is qualified enough to be directly marketed to, while an SQL is ready for sales communication.
How do we know what kind of communication the lead is ready for? I mean we don’t, we’re not mind-readers, but we can make a reasonable assumption based on both lead characteristics and actions. This is what we call lead scoring and it helps us determine a lead’s qualification level.
Think of these leads as being on a scale from 1-10. One is a lead who maybe fits a couple pieces of your ideal customer profile—say they have the right budget and fall within your geographic selling area—but hasn’t engaged much with your brand. Ten is a lead who has the right budget, falls within your geographic selling area, has an immediate need for your product or service, has subscribed to your email newsletter, read multiple blog posts, opened all of your emails, and filled out the contact form on your website. The lead at 10 is definitely a qualified lead. The lead at one? Not so much.
Now that doesn’t mean you ignore the lead on the low end of that scale, it just means that they need to be nurtured before you call them up with a sales proposal, and that gets us into why we care whether a lead is qualified or not…
Why qualified leads are important to marketers
So, as a marketer your job is just to get as many leads as possible, right? Wrong.
Good marketing works toward achieving overall business goals, as well as marketing-specific goals. You’re working to get 100 new leads by the end of the quarter not because you need 100 new leads, but because you need 10 new customers. This is why the qualification of those leads matters. You could have 1,000 new leads, but if none of them are qualified—or aren’t nurtured towards being qualified—you won’t reach that customer goal.
Determining what constitutes a qualified lead in your company specifically is a huge piece of keeping marketing and sales aligned so that you can reach those business goals. It also helps the marketing team coordinate messaging for different types of leads and allocate time and resources to nurture those leads that are more likely to become customers.
If you skimmed this post…
You probably already know what a qualified lead is (or think you do, at least), so that’s cool. But what you really should take away from this post is that defining a qualified lead within your organization is a crucial piece of your marketing strategy because it helps align marketing and sales toward reaching the same business goals.
Want to learn more awesome inbound marketing terms? Check out our Inbound Marketing Definitions page.