In today’s new world of marketing, your revenue teams will be asking tough questions. We’re all analyzing our budgets and following updated plans to achieve predictable revenue growth. But in the rush to figure it out, some teams might fall back on old lead generation metrics such as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to track success — even if they’re running account-based marketing.
As the chief marketing officer of an account engagement platform, I believe marketers should avoid hampering their own teams’ success with outdated metrics like MQLs. Now is the time to examine your pipelines. That’s where the keys to predictable revenue growth lie.
MQLs are not a security blanket.
We’re all familiar with MQLs, so they might feel like a trusted blanket to curl into when updating your revenue plans. If that’s you, know you’re not the only one. My company’s research into predictable revenue (download required) found nearly 60% of account-driven organizations are still mostly focused on generating leads like MQLs, despite using an account-based marketing strategy in their marketing mix.
Furthermore, 80% of companies failed to exceed revenue goals in 2019. This is similar to Gartner's findings that "over half of B2B marketing functions have missed their account growth goal targets at least once in the past 3 years.”
With added pressure this year to meet revenue goals in a new marketplace, I believe MQLs simply won’t do because they ignore the most important parts of successful demand generation.
To really build yourself a successful and predictable revenue plan, you have to think about the whole pipeline. Real demand generation means you focus on a prospect’s end-to-end experience, the content they engage with and the journey they go on as they move through the decision-making process. That is your pipeline.
Leads don’t capture the information you need to create that end-to-end experience. MQLs only tell a sliver of the whole story. You can lose out on key details needed to move prospects into the purchase stage — or you can miss the purchase stage altogether.
Intent data creates your pipeline.
Your leads are not truly in-market. Sure, MQLs make for a convenient measuring stick, but not an accurate one. That data is still tied to outmoded ways of doing things, like forms, cold calls and spam. You’re letting the crowd lead you along with lead-based marketing, rather than account-based intent data driving your decision making. It’s like how Margaret Thatcher put it: “Don’t follow the crowd; let the crowd follow you.”
My company specializes in intent data, and through this experience, I've learned firsthand that using fresh intent data can be especially helpful in the uncertain market we’re coming back into. All those MQLs you had two months ago? Those surefire leads are definitely not surefire anymore. The game has changed; so have the intent signals. And MQLs don’t show you intent.
Instead, you can consider leveraging intent data to understand your accounts and where they are in the buying process, not to mention what they actually want from you nowadays. Your prospects’ buying plans have changed dramatically, and they might have a brand-new set of factors.
This might leave you worried about quantity and quality. If you ditch MQLs and start cutting prospects at the top of the funnel, that can’t be best for your bottom line, right? But that’s not what happens when you use intent data to power your pipeline. If you start with quality as your focus, it breeds quantity. You get to the point earlier and focus on the right things for your customers. You weed out the prospects who will go no further, but you still start with a good number of prospects — and you know those prospects are in your pipeline for the right reasons.
'Find the red' to nail pipeline goals.
Once you drop attribution metrics and move prospects down the funnel as a revenue team, you’ll find gaps in the pipeline you’re building. Those gaps are the same questions your best business development representatives are already asking. They’re wondering how a deal could fall through, so expand that thinking to the whole pipeline.
It’s something I call “finding the red.” Yes, of course you want to add prospects to the top of the funnel. But then I’ll ask my team about where we’re losing these opportunities later in the pipeline. This is the “red.” We’re using intent data to start with good prospects, but there’s a lot of room left in the pipeline to optimize, improve and capture more revenue.
Look at your account-based funnel and ask, “Where are all the places this could be red? Where could we have a leak?” Track conversion rates at each step in your pipeline. When you tinker with your pipeline, your conversion rates will tell you what fixes work and where you’re improving your prospect retention. Then set your revenue goals around your improved pipeline.
As companies adapt to this new world, often with altered or deleted budgets due to the coronavirus, they’ll need to squeeze their pipeline to secure those once-missed opportunities. So stay away from MQLs, and invest yourself in true pipeline development.
Study your prospects’ intent signals to learn what they actually want as they emerge from this uncertain time. Then find the red in your pipeline, and plug those leaks. You’ll be well on your way to building the predictable revenue growth you want.