Does Your North Star Create Business Alignment? | Hot Take with Kaylee Edmondson

Kaylee Edmonson

February 2, 2023

Episode Description

Join me as I share my hot take on moving away from MQLs being marketing's north star, and how doing so can create better alignment between sales and marketing. This is a quick and potentially controversial episode, but I hope it can provide some inspiration to maybe think differently about MQLs in your organization!


Show Notes

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About Demand Gen Chat

Demand Gen Chat is a Chili Piper podcast hosted by Kaylee Edmondson. Join us as we sit down with leaders in marketing to discover the key to driving B2B revenue. If you want benchmarks or insights on trends in the market, this podcast is for you!


Episode Transcript

Hey everyone. And welcome back to another episode of demand gen chat. Today, we are doing another rendition of a hot take, so only myself. Um, and today I just want to cover this topic. That's being talked about a lot online, um, around moving away from this motion of marketing's north star being in MQLs. Um, I think for definitely, for as long as I have been, um, running demand gen.

MQL seems to have almost always been my north star, um, except for over the last maybe four years or so. Um, marketing has started to evolve and especially demand gen has started to become much more innovative and, um, further ingraining themselves within the sales process and better aligning KPIs from that regard to sales KPIs.

So that marketing and sales truly are working towards one north star. However that's a little bit easier said than done. So today on this episode, I just wanted to be a little bit vulnerable and talk about kind of what I stepped into when I stepped into this role. Um, as a director of demand, gen some of the challenges that we faced, how we overcame them.

And then of course, like some of the actual tactical actions that we took, um, as a result of being able to move away from MQLs as our north star. So. Um, when I stepped into this function, a previous leader had set up a traditional old school, um, waterfall marketing model, right? As our growth model for our business.

Um, obviously sales, we have a pretty large outbound function here as well. So sales had their own growth model marketing had their own growth model, but marketing's was, anything and everything you can imagine when it comes through a traditional waterfall model, started all the way with, um, website, traffic and moved through typical conversions lead to MQL, Sal SQL, although to close one revenue, right by channel, et cetera.

So that in and of itself has been great for several years. It's worked for several businesses, um, but moving away from having MQLs, be our north star. Um, allows for such greater alignment between us and the sales department. Um, as well as further ingraining ourselves, obviously the deeper in the funnel that you can align your marketing metrics, the better off you'll be long term.

Um, because that way you're not optimizing your funnel based off. Pretty top of the funnel, not qualified MQLs or like leading indicating leads. Um, you're further ingraining yourself in the sales funnel. So you'll have a better understanding of which types of leads, prospects, companies, accounts, industries, et cetera, convert deep in the funnel.

And then of course ultimately convert in actual revenue for your business. Anyways, those are obviously some of our back story, kind of where we started when I first joined this organization. Um, and then of course, all of the area of opportunity that's in front of us. If we can move away from this MQL model and further ingrain ourselves into pipeline and revenue, actually being our north star in conjunction with sales north star.

So that's a little bit about the backstory and kind of where I knew we wanted to move then. How do you actually move past that model? Um, so that you're not looking to MQLs as your north star or your source of truth or your success metric. And so the very first way that we thought to do that would be obviously to start with our growth model.

That was our source of truth for our business. It still is our source of truth today. Um, realigning around this growth model between myself and our sales leader has been pivotal to our success here in terms of alignment and clarity. Um, it's a great source of truth for he and I both to touch base on weekly to just make sure that what he is projecting and what I am projecting are aligned.

Nothing has changed if something has changed in our business, our models, our projections. Um, or our expected outcomes based off of any of the actions that we're taking, hiring, et cetera, all of that can be easily reflected in this one document. So what better place to start in kind of shifting this marketing strategy than there in this growth model?

So we started by actually removing the MQLs as part of our waterfall model. And we now start our top line metric is what we call QHMs which are qualified, held meetings. For any other company, I think this would serve as an SQO. So we don't just want demo requests. We want qualified demo requests that have actually booked a demo and showed up for that demo that now have pipeline dollars attached to it.

So most often I know that there's some level of customization. Uh, within any organization for how you actually classify each of your stages. But majority I think would classify that as an SQL, but for transparency sake, we call it a qualified health meeting. So QHM is probably what I will naturally refer to it as.

Um, so our model now goes QHMs down. So we have QHMs, pipeline, product line. Um, for inbound and for outbound. So this provided a great source of clarity for how much revenue marketing sourced was actually on the hook to provide versus sales sourced or. So that was a good, like leading indicator and alignment exercise for both of us.

And now of course, everything we do is centered around that. So there's no miscommunication or misalignment. Um, and it's just a good natural place for us to come back to and review it weekly at a high level what's working, what's not working. Do we need to adjust, et cetera? Um, from there. Having this clear alignment around, we are here to drive QHMs.

The sales team is also here to drive. QHMs it's freed us from this notion of having to gate everything and drive in MQLs, right? No one like MQLs are a great leading indicator. Um, growing your subscription. Um, in your email marketing database or your marketing automation platform, et cetera, are great leading indicators, but they weren't the pivotable point of success for us.

And so we knew we didn't have to rely on getting a certain number of names every month that were net new to the system. Which allowed us the freedom to actually innovate and update our marketing strategy. Um, we were now not dependent on running display ads, which really weren't working for much of anything other than driving false hope around right.

So we didn't have to lean into display ads anymore. We could ungate all of our content. Um, for us it was ungating all of our content with the exception of. Anything that needed to actually be transactional. So webinars and, um, email nurtures for us. We have a couple of ungating everything, except for those things that needed to be transactional.

So for us, those things are, um, webinars or virtual events and any kind of email course. So things that we actually need your email in order to deliver the value that you are seeking. Whenever you fill out the. Other than that everything was ungated. So this allowed us to shift that narrative to become a company that is truly focused on educating the market and helping our buyers as well as our customers.

Um, before with this MQL model, you're trapped into this motion of having to gate everything so that you are ultimately reaching that MQL number. When at the end of the day, if you ungate everything, you show people the value that you, um, you as a company, but also you as a product can actually bring to their organization or even bring to their own personal and professional growth.

You will see more QHMs qualified demos, further down funnel naturally because you're spending more time educating the market and ultimately convincing them to volunteer, become part of our sales cycle. Whereas. With this MQL model. Obviously what you're doing is gating everything before they even have the opportunity to learn about your product.

The sales team is spending more time educating your buyers. Once you've passed over those MQLs to the SDR organization, that's actually what they're doing. So now we're bridging that gap. Marketing is taking over more ownership of educating the market and letting the sales team do what they do best, which is actually selling our product.

So that's kind of the. Unmentioned like split between why that Delta needs to happen and why the split in work needs to shift. So that comes when you're allowed to not optimize your funnel for , which is great. It's a beautiful shift. It also allows the marketing team to provide more qualified leads and qualified hand-raisers over to your sales organization so that your sales team isn't coming back to use as a marketer and saying, Hey, we're getting all of these leads.

They're not qualified. They're not ready. They're not engaged. They're not even in buying mode. Like the sales team, is then spending a lot of their time chasing down leads that aren't really in the buying process. So moving towards this motion of pipeline and revenue, being your north star, as well as the sales team's north star are helps with so many areas that are often broken between marketing and sales organizations.

And so I feel like we finally gotten to a point. Where we can re, like I was saying, remove the gates, move towards this new marketing model where we aren't dependent on display ads. We aren't dependent on running, uh, three or four webinars a month. We are dependent on attending, um, in-person events, which obviously we haven't been able to be defended on anyways, but it has been a large majority of other marketing teams budgets, um, throughout the course of the last five, 10 years.

Um, and of course over the last year, we've all been forced out of the in-person events world and become less becoming less and less reliant on massive events that allow you to generate leads or names, which become MQLs is a really good cycle to get yourself into so that you can spend your time actually educating the market.

And you aren't relying on all of these different types of marketing activities that force you into being dependent on some type of gate or lead gen form, um, to fill that top of funnel number without them, you shift your mindset a little bit, you shift your goals, you align better with sales. All of those things allow for much more qualified down funnel metrics.

So that's a huge. Mind shift more so than anything. There's a little bit of change management that has to happen internally, but I feel like for smaller organizations, especially organizations that are trying to, um, basically that are positioning themselves as the challenger brand against that, um, category leader.

Definitely have the upper hand in this situation because you are smaller, you're more nimble, you're more innovative. It's going to be faster and easier for you to make this type of marketing change. Versus that category leader that's likely bigger and a little bit more, um, structured has a larger team, bigger lift on the change management front.

It will take them longer to adapt. So this is for all the challenger brands. This is your competitive advantage. Understanding the market, making the shift, educating the market with your content. Um, all of these things will better position you in the long run and just takes a little bit of internal mind shift, right?

To just make that change away from MQLs. Get yourself off of MQLs right? Make that no longer your main north star, but a leading indicator. Um, for how successful some of your campaigns have been, or your programs have been that you're running, et cetera. But anyways, that's a little bit about kind of how we were able to move past this, um, game of MQLs and move to something that's really much more ingrained in our business funnel.

Um, And this is of course, just like a teaser. If this is something that's interesting, this is obviously not, not a topic that we've covered a ton on demand gen chat. It was just something that's kind of been on my mind over the last couple of days. So if this is something that's interesting, I hope that this episode sparks some conversation I'll of course, post this on LinkedIn and would love to hear how everybody else is kind of navigating these waters.

So hop over there and comment if you have any thoughts or suggestions of your own for things you've tried, maybe tried and failed or tried and had success with, um, would love to hear it. And until then, we'll see you on the next episode.

Alex Franco
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Demand Gen Chat is a Chili Piper podcast hosted by Tara Robertson. Join us as we sit down with B2B marketing leaders to hear about the latest tactics and campaigns that are driving pipeline and revenue.
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