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Considering a Move from MQLs to MQAs? Here’s What You Need to Know

Betsy Utley-Marin
November 14, 2023 7 MIN Blog

In the ever-evolving landscape of revenue generation, businesses are constantly seeking new ways to stay ahead of the curve and optimize their strategies. One such approach gaining significant traction recently is the transition from a lead-based approach to an account-based approach.  

The transition from relying on marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to prioritizing marketing qualified accounts (MQAs) is an evolutionary step that presents both challenges and substantial rewards. While an MQL approach primarily focuses on a single individual’s engagement, MQAs instead shift the focus to a holistic approach of qualifying the full account or company. An MQA approach takes into consideration the collective engagement and intent signals from the full buying committee within a target organization, allowing you to qualify potential buyers more accurately. This transition acknowledges the complex B2B buying process, where multiple decision-makers and influencers are involved. 

With data indicating the typical buying committee for a complex B2B solution consists of six to ten decision-makers, marketers need a better approach to qualifying potential opportunities within their target audience. Relying on the behavior of just one lead from an account is not enough to signal the account is ready to buy. While the move from MQLs to MQAs can be a challenging task, the rewards are well worth the effort. In this article, we will explore these challenges more and offer insight to help you make a shift that leads to superior results.  

The Challenges and Rewards of Transitioning to an Account-Based Approach   

Transitioning from MQLs to MQAs is not without its hurdles. A few of the obstacles you may encounter along the way include: 

  • Mindset Shift: Moving from a volume-based, lead-centric approach to an account-centric approach requires a change in team mindset. It’s essential to break free from traditional lead-focused thinking and adopt a broader perspective to qualifying your audience. 
  • Data Complexity: Managing data for accounts can be more intricate than managing leads. It involves identifying and tracking multiple contacts within a target account, ensuring data accuracy, and understanding the relationship dynamics between these stakeholders. Having a system in place that can handle this level of data complexity will be key to your success.  
  • Cross-Functional Alignment: Effective MQA strategies demand alignment between marketing and sales teams. You need to ensure that you have complete buy-in from both departments. Working in harmony to nurture and close accounts requires collaborative efforts and shared objectives. 

The good news? The potential rewards reaped from embracing an MQA approach far outweigh these challenges. By focusing efforts on accounts more likely to convert, you increase the efficiency of your marketing and sales teams, resulting in better conversion rates. And with a more holistic view of accounts, you can tailor your marketing and sales outreach to provide personalized and relevant experiences that enhance engagement. All of this leads to shorter sales cycles, larger deal sizes, and better-targeted efforts contributing to overall revenue growth. 

Tips for a Smoother Transition 

Combat the challenges that can arise when moving to an account-based approach with a structured strategy and stakeholder alignment. Patience is the name of the game here. This shift necessitates a change in mindset and the adoption of new technologies. You cannot expect the transition to occur overnight.   

Here are some ways to make the transition smoother:  

Incorporate Account-Level Insights into Lead Scoring 

Set the stage for better sales and marketing team alignment by easing both teams into the new account-centric mindset during the initial stages of the transition. One way to do this is by introducing account-level insights into your existing lead-scoring process. Instead of just scoring a lead in its own buyer journey and behaviors, look at how other leads from the same buying committee are progressing to create a score for the entire account.  

B2B buying decisions—especially when deals are large and complex—are made by buying groups, not an individual. And the larger the organization, the larger the buying group involved. Good salespeople understand the need to gain support from multiple people across the buying committee. They also know that the MQL provided by your team provides a very limited view of how the buying committee feels as a whole. This leaves it up to sales to identify additional team members and gain consensus across the buying group. Incorporating account-level insights into lead scoring removes this barrier and makes it easier for sales to understand and engage these committee members more effectively. Taking an MQA approach sets your sales team up for success since they have better insights into the overall engagement of the account. 

Adopt a Hybrid Approach 

Change is hard. Adopting a hybrid approach focused on both MQLs and MQAs enables your team to still engage in lead generation activities while prioritizing the overall engagement of prospective accounts. 

In fact, most sales and marketing teams don’t scrap their leads-based approach altogether and dive head-first into an MQA approach. Instead, these teams take more of a crawl, walk, run approach to the shift and devote some resources to exploring or advancing an account-based approach while still using MQLs. The hybrid approach is effective because it allows for a test and learn approach so your MQA strategy can be more effective and limits downtime of campaign delivery. In addition to your sales and marketing teams, your executives and board members have come to expect you to deliver and report on MQLs. Making the shift to an MQA approach requires changes to internal structures that cannot—and more importantly will not—happen overnight.  

Make the most of a hybrid approach by understanding the operational marketing mechanisms in place that need to change with the adoption of MQAs. Next, carve out a specialized team to focus on high-value accounts to work parallel to other lead-focused teams. Ensure clear lines of communication between the two groups to ensure a smoother blending of activities further down the line.  

Develop a Measurement Framework 

While the metrics used to measure MQLs and MQAs are largely the same, the shift requires a slightly different measurement mindset. Sure, you’ll still want to pay attention to actions taken like how frequently someone is visiting your website, when they’re filling out forms, viewing software demos, or downloading content—all of which shows interest. But instead of primarily focusing on these metrics, you also need to develop an MQA measurement framework that defines values for engagement activities across the full buying committee that appropriately increase a target account’s qualification score.  

Account movement and conversion measured through marketing automation tools, customer relationship management (CRM) systems or other analytics platforms will help you understand the progression of these accounts through the sales funnel and identify areas of optimization. With a data-driven approach to optimization focused on full account engagement across your multi-channel campaigns, you’ll gain a clearer picture of how to optimize your campaigns for success, improve the ROI of all your marketing efforts, and increase win rates through more relevant and personalized marketing content. 

See the Shift in Action 

Learn how Beth Redpath-Katz, Global Director, Lead Management Integrated Demand Services at VMware took a “go slow to get smooth, get smooth to go fast” mindset to more successfully transition her team from a leads/MQL approach to opportunity-centric MQA focus. 

Ready, Set, Go! 

The ultimate goal of transitioning from MQLs to MQAs is to fully embrace an account-based approach across your entire revenue team. But understanding that the change won’t happen overnight is the first step in embracing MQAs.  

The pace of your transition will depend on factors such as your organization’s capacity for change, the speed at which it embraces the ABM mindset, and the tools and platforms available to support your ABM efforts. Not everyone is ready to completely transform from a lead-based to an account-based approach. Start slowly by showing the success of account-based strategies and proving the value of your ABM campaigns with small pilot programs. Evaluate how to transition your teams to start focusing on target account leads and gain feedback on how they feel about the shift. By gradually incorporating account-level insights into lead scoring, embracing a hybrid approach that prioritizes marketing qualified accounts, and shifting your measurement mindset, your revenue team can unlock the full potential of ABM.