Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ

If you’re like most organisations, chances are you have a leaky waterfall. According to MarketingSherpa, more than 79% of marketing leads don’t convert to sales.

Why is that?

Are they not really as qualified as your team thought or is it your SDRs fault for not converting them?

Either way, it nullifies all the effort your marketing team put into them: getting them into the funnel, setting up detailed tracking campaigns, nurturing them through carefully created content, qualifying them and sending them through to sales. With 53% of marketers reporting they spend half or more of their budget on lead generation, it’s a huge waste of money, too. 

Stop letting your hard work go to waste. Here’s why your MQLs don’t convert and what you can do to sure up that leaky waterfall.

The Big Problem: Marketing is Tracking the Wrong Metrics

Marketers use a lot of metrics to measure their success. The vast majority of them focus on top-of-funnel KPIs like lead generation and MQLs. But the truth is marketing is only as successful as the amount of revenue pipeline they drive for the business. 

But, not everyone sees it that way. 

Some marketers will complain this isn’t a fair assessment and that they have little to no control over what happens at the bottom of the funnel. They settle for KPIs based around MQLs as a result, rather than measuring their success on a $$ value as they see what happens further down the funnel as out of their sphere of control. In fact, the vast majority of old school marketing departments are run this way. It’s also the reason why there are so few CMOs on the boards of companies. Marketing is regarded as non-revenue generating because of the way they measure their success.

But this doesn’t make sense. As Simplr CMO Daniel Rodriguez says, if you have a product with a high average annual contract value, then the purpose of marketing is to get penetration into “a few hundred accounts each year.” If so, then marketing’s success should be measured on the meaningful relationships created between sales reps and the accounts. 

“I can’t help but think that the spray and pray, broad-based approach that yielded 2% customer conversion missed the point of marketing’s role: help the sales team get into a few hundred high value accounts this year,” he writes. “We were so eager to conquer the universe that we forgot to create real relationships with the few hundred people in the world that mattered to us.”

The wrong things get rewarded, too. If marketing still succeeds even when MQLs don’t convert and their success is measured on the volume of MQLs they produce, then it’s in marketing’s interest to generate as many MQLs as possible, irrespective of quality. The approach of quantity over quality in a world where account based marketing results in the best return on investment, is a backwards approach. 

There’s a Disconnect Between Marketing and Sales

When marketing tracks the wrong metrics, they produce thousands of MQLs and paint a picture of success to executives. That might satisfy the marketing department, but sales won’t be happy that these leads don’t translate into pipeline. Even worse, SDRs and BDRs who sit between sales and marketing get the blame when leads don’t convert. The longer this goes on for, the more likely sales are to disregard marketing’s value. You don’t need us to tell you that this won’t be good for marketing in the long run.  

Unfortunately, many marketing and seals teams are already out of alignment. A Sales and Marketing Sentiment Survey by Callidus Software Inc., found the vast majority (84%) of marketing and sales teams are misaligned. Worse still, only 35% of salespeople were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their marketing department. The biggest complaints of all? Not enough leads and low quality leads.

A flood of poor-quality MQLs only makes matters worse. 

Bigger issues can also occur. For instance, says Scott Gelber, a Marketing Manager at New York Shipping Exchange, SDRs become less excited about marketing campaigns. 

“When you’re constantly notifying your sales team about unqualified leads, they start to expect that marketing will only send them a good lead once in a while,” he says. “They become less excited for any campaign that you run and the marketing team loses credibility.”

Marketing Lack the Tools to Qualify Prospects

All this isn’t to say that it’s marketing’s fault that MQLs don’t convert. EmphasizingMQLS, as opposed to metrics that sit deeper down the funnel, doesn’t help, but most teams lack the tools to qualify the prospects they generate correctly. 

The data simply isn’t there. Or if it is there, it’s unaffordable. Premium solutions typically charge six figures to layer in the kind of purchase intent data needed to qualify marketing leads properly. 

To make matters worse, marketing directors are tasked with doing even more with less budget. There simply isn’t room in the budget to buy the tools that marketing teams need to send better quality leads to sales. That’s even more true if your organisation has an inside sales team, who marketers can lean on to do the grunt work of sorting through leads — even if it does deepen the disconnect between the two departments.

It also doesn’t help that some of the best quality leads are currently unavailable to marketing teams, either. B2B technology firms regularly find high quality leads through in-person events and conferences. These have been off the table for some time (and may continue that way in the future), which means marketing departments have had to invest more in less effective strategies like digital marketing and webinars.   

When you’re constantly notifying your sales team about unqualified leads, they start to expect that marketing will only send them a good lead once in a while,

The Solution: Empower Marketers and SDRs with Intent Tools

Proper qualification is the key to plugging the leaks in your marketing waterfall. A large number of MQLs might look good on paper, says Modulr CMO Edwin Abl, but they’ll become worthless if you don’t properly qualify them. 

Marketers should be qualifying leads to understand whether they have an intent to purchase the products or services your company sells. But it is still up to SDRs and BDRs to fully BANT qualify leads and, in some cases, identify purchase intent, too. Unfortunately neither marketers and SDRs are equipped with tools needed to streamline purchase intent or carry out the BANT qualification process.

Somewhat understandably, marketing directors would rather spend budget on programmes they are familiar with and that fulfil a direct marketing need. The problem is that if you aren’t enabling SDRs to do their job, you are hindering. Those 300 unqualified leads you push through each month won’t help unless you also give them the tools to qualify them properly. 

Specifically, SDRs and marketing departments need high-quality purchase intent data to give refine, sort and improve MQLs.

Intent Data Helps SDRs and Marketers Focus on the Best Leads

The MQLs you send to your inside sales team are not created equal. Some are significantly more likely to convert. Others will be sent back to marketing after a quick qualification or discarded completely. The trouble is identifying which is which is a tricky business. Without any additional information, there’s no way to score leads other than by calling into them. 

That’s why B2B inside sales teams are increasingly turning to intent data. Purchase intent data provides detailed information about each lead and will help to give inside sales reps and marketers a better idea of the lead’s likeliness to convert. 

The more data markets and SDRs have about each lead, the better they can prioritise them. For instance, purchase intent may inform a rep that one particular lead is actively in the market for their solution. It may also inform them that the contact for another isn’t a decision-maker. With such knowledge at their disposal, it’s not hard for the rep to decide who to call first.

Intent Data Helps Marketers Deliver Better Leads

Purchase intent data doesn’t just help inside sales teams; it also helps your colleagues in the marketing department. The quicker the SDR team can feedback on what ‘good’ leads look like, marketing teams can use this feedback to optimise their demand gen campaigns to produce better quality marketing leads that will lead to better conversion rates. 

Marketers can also use the feedback from SDRs and the information within purchase intent data platforms to influence marketing decisions going forward. For instance, marketing budgets could be segmented more intelligently to deliver a better return on investment. Data could be used to inform better converting content and campaign strategies, which would increase the quality of MQLs going forward. The result for the marketing team could be transformational.

Why Marketing Managers Should Care About SDRs

Let’s end with a question we’ve heard from more than one marketer: why should marketing managers care about SDRs? 

The truth is that even with the disconnect that is often present between marketing and sales departments, marketing managers and directors should have an interest in the success of sales and specifically SDRs. 

Firstly, the SDR is increasingly being managed by the marketing department so the business can make marketing ‘own’ the full top-end of funnel lead production. This newfound responsibility, either with or without an SDR manager, means that marketing is increasingly in the firing line for sales and are directly responsible for the SDR performance — and therefore the output of this department measured with $$s in opportunities.

Secondly, if the SDR does not perform, neither does the marketing team. If the marketing team don’t deliver, then they risk their bonuses and their career plans and, ultimately, the success of the company.

Stop putting up with a leaky waterfall, invest in your inside sales team by investing in purchase intent data. 

Images by: Diggity Marketing, Austin Distel, You X Ventures, Lukas Blazek, Kaleidico