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Every business owner wants leads. Every business owner wants new customers, more revenue, and increased profitability. There are many different ways to get new customers, more income, and increased profitability.

How you view and interpret leads is essential. Clarifying what makes a “lead” or a “qualified lead” is vital.

What kinds of leads are there?

As a digital marketing agency owner and as a former marketing executive working in collaboration with a sales director with a sales team, this is how we look at leads: MQL and SQL. Marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads.

Every business owner, including small businesses and entrepreneurs, should look at leads the same way. Why? It impacts the decision-making process on where to allocate resources when it comes to marketing mediums, sales tools, and the buying process of a consumer.

SQL stands for a lead is a “prospective customer” who has already been researched and vetted. What does a prospective customer mean to you as a business owner?

MQL is a “visitor” or a “prospect” that is likely to be a potential customer or a “prospective customer.” What does that mean to you as a business owner? That depends on your marketing mediums or tactics you are using to attract “leads” to your business.

To understand the distinction between the two is that qualified marketing lead (MQL) is someone who has shown a keen interest in your company and your product/services. Therefore that MQL lead is ready to be moved into the SQL process. In other words, they have a potential to become a customer. MQL is a qualified lead that has met specific criteria. SQL is a qualified prospect that is ready to be ‘closed” or become a client.

Let’s look at two scenarios: Brick and Mortar and Online

Foot Traffic Scenario

A business owner runs a quarter-page print ad in two local newspapers about a new product to be sold within a specified period. The new product is sold at a special price during a particular period. The goal is to bring in new and regular customers into the store to generate foot traffic and product sales of the new product.

A press release and an article about the new product released to a local targeted industry/demographic related online publications/guest blog sites.

The business owner also features the new product on their website but does not sell the product online, only says that visitors must stop in the store to purchase the product during a specific time.

A social media campaign is launched to highlight the benefits of the new product and how people can obtain it at the store.

In this scenario, “MQL leads” are the people – new and regular customers- who walk in the store inquiring about the new product. The sales staff is to ask a few more questions and close the walk-ins who asked about the new product.  Those walk-ins have become “SQL leads.”   Any other walk-ins that resulted from the ads, website and social media, who DID NOT ask about the new product are not MQL leads. They are “leads” nevertheless. We do not ignore those leads. Business owners and sales staff should recognize those leads and identify where they would be more appropriately allocated in their sales funnel.

Online Website Traffic Scenario

Let’s take this same business owner, but this time they are going to sell the product online.

This business owner sets up two pay per click ads – one through Google and one through Facebook. They are being driven to a sales landing page with an opt-in page that includes the checkout page.

Guest blogs are written and sent to targeted industry/demographic related sites. The link in the blog is to the sales landing page.

A vlog was uploaded website about the product, and the link in the vlog is to the sales landing page.

Social media campaign is launched to highlight the benefits of the new product and visitors are driven to the sales landing page.

The MQL leads are all visitors who make it to the opt-in page. (Retargeting ads and email campaign is sent to those leads.)

The SQL Leads are those who make it to the checkout page and complete the purchase.

In the world of marketing, we want to bring the right qualified prospects for sales or conversions.

Any new visitor that comes to your website, or landing page or even a new customer that walks in your store – is a lead. They are not your customers…Yet.

At some point – those leads become a qualified marketing lead (MQL), or they don’t. At some point, the MQL leads become a qualified sales lead (SQL), or they don’t.

Until you understand what a lead is, and what makes a lead “qualified” – the better off you will be when you make decisions on whether or not to hire an agency or what marketing mediums to implement for conversions. This also impacts your marketing and sales processes.

At least within your own business, whether you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you should have a clear definition and processes in place.