Edition 37: Bubble

We live in our own heads.

Its odd coming back to this after an extended break. I took a break because writing it didn’t seem right when the world was dealing with a pandemic & I was also coming to terms with it on a personal level. During everything that was going on, my second kid & daughter was also born June 25th (Hey Leia) so life got busy really fast with 2 kids at home.

Anyhow here we are so let’s get into it.

Why do marketers like to say things are ‘dead’ so much? A few years ago it email & it email again not so distant in the past. Currently its the humble MQL. For those not doing a full mid-market/enterprise sales cycle - you’re probably wondering what the hell an MQL is because ya’ll get those PQL’s going for you.

In essence *and this is where I think most people get it wrong* is an MQL defines what marketing thinks is ‘qualified’ and should be sent to sales for followup/closing or further analysis. MQL’s should be a leading indicator to predict someones likelihood to close.

If you are running an inbound funnel you’re likely getting a mixed bag of prospects through your systems. Some are a better fit than others but how do you help sift through all that noise? Inbound tends to have a high noise: signal ratio. An MQL is that signal that marketing teams use to surface their best leads to sales.

I’ll paraphrase a comment I made on a LinkedIn post by John Short here:

If your just looking for ICP folks buy a list and outbound them you’ll get better results. The one piece I’d add here that this doesn’t need to be a static matrix - as you learn more about who and what your best fit customers are / do - your MQL matrix should change with it. It doesn’t have to be said and done kind of a thing. MQL isn’t the metric to solve your problems but it’s there to help you create a predicable process to turn inbound into pipeline. all this fuss by folks on LinkedIn over “but MQLs are dead” misses the point. Just like email has been dead a few times. You can’t just have a prospect turn into revenue without a few steps in b/w - I.E MQL sql etc. You can call them whatever you want and however you define it. The idea is to have leading indicators to pipeline / revenue

Before John made that post I was so obsessed with this that I wrote down some incoherent thoughts at 12:am (because baby feeding time)

There’s a couple of truisms posts by LinkedIn “thought leaders” like MQL is dead. CPL is a shorty metric and marketing should be only measured on revenue.

Here’s the thing. Without context, these comments are misleading and false.

MQL is not dead nor is it a shitty thing. It’s what you make of it. An MQL is like a 2x2 matrix. There’s an axis for demographics which is your ICP and there’s axis for engagement or behavior which is based on things like web / offline activity and such. You can either grade them on demographic and score them on behavior or do a combined score. Some platforms like HubSpot don’t support grading out of the box but you could custom build workflows for that. Others like Pardot offer grading and scoring.

What you call an MQL wholly depends on how your business process is defined. You can call it a pql a FQL an XQL (like John short said on Twitter) the idea is to create a distinct stage that creates more a predictable funnel. An should be MQL is a leading indicator of a closed-won customer, not some arbitrary number you need to hit. The MQL be based on a predictive Ml model that crunches your traits for closed-won customers and tries to predict based on current behavior and such. These are things like demand base (?) Madkudu and such. Or you could manually make a model of your closed-won deals and try and find the common sort of industries/behaviors and such and build your MQL score off that. The easiest one is to build a best guess educated model and get feedback from the broader revenue / GTM team and tweak as you go through a few sales cycles.

The biggest mistake is not iterating and treating an MQL as a static thing. It should evolve as you learn more. The MQL like any other metric is what you make off it. It can be gamed easily if that’s what the team is incentivized on. Much like Opps for BDr teams leading to an inflated pipeline that never actually closes

Here’s a template I’ve used with clients for MQL scoring frameworks.

I am all for measuring all activity on the ultimate outcome - did it generate a return for the business. But its just that. An outcome of that happened before.

Speaking of 12am notes - here’s what I wrote down about revenue as a metric:

Revenue is not a good metric

Marketing should be measured on revenue but the revenue or pipeline just doesn’t appear out of anywhere. I like Cassidy’s post on how they do it and how he / team monitors the conversion rates b/w stages. He’s honest that it’s not perfect. It’s the last touch before opp that gets credit for pipeline and they’re trying to own a bigger pipeline number. Most businesses don’t even have the last touch model let alone a sophisticated Bizible type W or U shaped attribution. I would argue you don’t even need that.

You can measure marketing contributions to the pipeline by using SFDC campaigns to start with. The fact is that most mid-market / enterprise orgs follow the same playbook and anyone who’s trying to tell you “measure marketing on revenue” doesn’t understand how a predictable funnel is modeled. Before you start with revenue you have to work backwards to opp and Sql and other stages in the revenue cycle / pipeline. As you work backwards from a revenue goal you realize that you need to create distinct stages to understand the bottle necks and map it to the sales cycle. Eventually you end up with the stages that we are all familiar with but depending how you define it for your business.

As you map these lifecycle stages and lead statuses you start to see that the marketing contribution to revenue and pipeline comes from how many leads converted b/w each stage and at what rate and . It becomes a leading indicator of pipeline and cac. This is why cost per (lead / sql / opp) become interesting - they let you predict with reasonable certainty what your eventual pipeline and cost would be. Yes CPL should not be the only metric you should measure - take it into context with conversion rates.

At the end of the day - the customer journey is not linear like the funnel but the funnel is a good enough abstraction model to create a sense of predictable outcomes to marketing. Till we fully understand flywheels or whatever comes next - it’s the best model we have.

🔥Unpopular opinion.

Marketing is an incredibly complex discipline - but if you listen to half of the marketing folks you’d think copywriting is the most important skill marketers can have.

The problem with statements like that is - it perpetuates that marketers live in a bubble where they want to do ‘marketing things’ and don’t understand the broader business context in which they operate.

I had to get that off my chest. Shiv (ex Wild Apricot) has a good short Seth Godin style post on it I’ll try to dig up.

I have alot of opinions on category creation. Here’s what I wrote in response to a marketing vendor MetData who calls themselves ‘Automated Demand Generation’ & they are basically an AdRoll… 👀

I think we need less “category names” and more actual “here’s what we do” - not everything needs to fit into an invented new category Imo - makes it harder for prospects to understand and comprehend what the product does. *2 cents* 🙌🏽

Honestly a huge fish is better then creating a category and naming it yourself. It’s like being the mayor of a single person town. With a huge fish you don’t need to explain what you do - we are like Salesforce for Lawyers is easier to grok then we are a new age data platform for legal pros. Big fish means there’s a market + audience + so many other advantages. You can cut out a nice niche for yourself. Re: your demand platform - it’s the same gripe I have with other marketing tools - they all need a crm / map to run. They aren’t an independent platform. I get what your trying to do but prospects already put you in a box. Better to go with that imo. When I read your website I think of you as something of a ListenLoop + Terminus + AdEspresso + Adstage. Demand platform doesn’t really mean anything to me atleast. But I respect the work and thought that must have gone into it and this is just one persons opinion. :)

Even though X is creating a Y category - you're customers/prospects & competitors are still likely bucketing you in the existing software category ( look at the Adwords against your brand name).

While its important to create and win a new category, it might be easier to play & position yourself in the existing category against the 'old way' on onboarding. This puts less pressure on marketing to create & educate a market which takes time effort & most of all a-lot of funding, positioning in an existing category and makes you more primed to carve out a niche in an existing market because your prospects are problem aware.

This twitter thread *above* was fascinating.

The nugget for me was when April mentioned ‘ the challenge is to make X (whatever category a vendor calls themselves) mean something’ to a critical mass of people.

I am not sure how many words this is but likely one too many.

Till next time & I hope to be more regular this time around.


P.S I am hiring for a Campaign / Marketing coordinator role. Referrals welcome.