CMOs Need to Redefine MQLs in 2020: Moving from "Passive MQLs" to "Active MQLs"

by Michael Phelan December 4th, 2019

I spoke several CMOs in 2019 who struggled to define Marketing's contribution to revenue by demonstrating how many MQLs were generated. At the same time, when I speak to sales leaders, they show limited interest in the concept of MQLs and do not a see a direct & causal relation to pipeline generation

Some CMOs cannot even define what a MQL stands for: here some of the definitional responses that I get back:

-A response from a prospect to a marketing campaign (downloading a white paper or eBook, opening up and responded to an email campaign) attended a company webinar, dropping by a company booth or attending a company-sponsored event

-A purchased list of prospects by company, name & title

-A list of your competitor's customers with names and titles

-A purchased list of prospect names, titles and emails who downloaded relevant third party content (Best Practices in Cloud Migration from TechTarget for example)

While some of these are worth doing and with the right follow up & engagement strategy, they may drive some conversion to pipeline, however, most of these are "Passive MQLs" who never really engaged with the company in a meaningful, personal and relevant manner. Most CMOs are only measuring "Passive MQLs" and this needs to change in 2020.

The most advanced CMOs are starting to measure "Active MQLs" Active MQLs are prospects who have actually met with your company and have engaged in dialog to solve pressing problems or to discuss relevant industry best practices.

Here is one program example that I led for for a client:


Engaging hard-to-reach enterprise prospects in authentic "Best Practices Research" related to topics of significance to prospects

Rewarding prospects for their time & inviting them back to live research reports-out covering related research findings and implications

Having the client listen live to each prospect and ask questions (but only at the end of each research interview) Such questions need to focus on the client's approach to solving the prospect's stated challenges

Collect and aggregate "Best Practices Research" into credible content for webinars, industry presentations & research reports

Reward and recognize "Peer-Nomimated" leaders at the end of each research project

In one example, this program delivered credible marketing content that further engaged prospects. The program delivered more "Active MQLs" that any other program in the company's recent history.

If you are a B2B Executive or CMO and you want to move from "Passive MQLs" to "Active MQLs" starting in 2020, email me at

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