Step aside, MQLs. Buying signals are here to stay. 

Step aside, MQLs. Buying signals are here to stay. Imagine you’re a stellar marketing leader and have generated real results as you strategically execute your go-to-market (GTM) motions. You’re vigorously working to increase your brand’s share of voice within the market. The pipeline looks healthy with marketing-sourced and influenced deals. On top of that, you effectively communicate your department’s results to the board and across the wider organization. It seems like you have it all figured out, and your demand generation engine is humming …

But there’s a shocking statistic: the average CMO tenure in F500 companies is 40 months, which is half that of the typical CEO. So, if everything seems so great, why don’t class-leading CMOs stay in their roles for much longer than three years and what can you do to beat the odds?

Legacy processes do not reflect the modern buyer’s reality

The answer might be hidden in plain sight. Many B2B tech marketing organizations are still running go-to-market playbooks from the early 2000s that focus on generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs). In simple terms: marketing teams are still putting so much effort and focus on generating MQLs, passing them to SDR/BDR teams and then relying on sales reps to close the deal (and, of course, it’s impossible to imagine that Marketing could play a role once the lead is in Sales’ hands!).

However, both B2B buyer behavior and MarTech solutions to support GTM motions were much different in the 2000s than they are today. Buyers prefer researching solutions independently and digitally – recent research indicates that 83% of IT buyers conduct their research away from vendors. And the average buying team has grown to include nine members who have an impact on the final purchasing decision. On top of this, with technological advancements, there are now tools that can provide much more useful context and information to sellers beyond the score and “hotness” of a single buying member (MQL) while also helping sellers uncover more opportunities and close deals faster.

Relying solely on the MQL generation process to drive maximum revenue over time is no longer an optimal option for tech companies. With this approach you risk leaving revenue on the table that your competitors will try to grab. And it’s where marketing leaders can expose themselves to risk when they are held accountable for not delivering the best possible results to the organization and its stakeholders.

Moving away from the MQL-centric approach and tapping into intent signals

If we have to move away from the traditional MQL-centered marketing approach, where should we then look to ensure we are not missing out on potential buyers? Start by looking at the real intent signals that your buyers show by visiting your website, consuming independent publisher content on third-party editorial sites, such as the TechTarget network, or engaging with webinars on specific technical topics. The beauty of paying closer attention to behavioral signals versus traditional MQLs is that you get more context about the buying group and can better evaluate whether there’s a real opportunity to help the buyers solve their problem with the solutions you provide.

Rather than relying on an often arbitrary lead scoring model, intent data allows you to monitor the behavior of a buying group across your owned channels as well as independent publisher websites. This change in how we monitor buying signals allows us to see if the wider buying team is conducting research and evaluating vendors – showing a higher propensity to buy. It will help you to avoid sharing “false positive” leads with Sales while also providing more context about the overall buying group.

On top of that, not everyone in-market will visit your website or engage with your content, so you need to make sure you’re not missing out on capturing active demand. This can be a problem if you only rely on tracking engagement with your known prospects that convert to an MQL. Second-party intent signals from independent publishers such as TechTarget can help you to uncover buying teams that are currently not engaging with you but are researching your direct and indirect competitors.

Navigating organizational cultural shifts

We know MQL-centered processes are ineffective in maximizing revenue potential, and that intent signals have the power to fill gaps by capturing more in-market buying teams. Yet some GTM leaders are still hesitant to adopt this more effective, buyer-centric approach within their GTM strategy.

One reason may be ingrained in the personal and organizational resistance to change. In behavioral science, there’s a debate about the power of changing attitudes versus how context can drive behavioral changes. While some scholars believe that transforming attitudes and beliefs is the main driver for this (i.e., If Marketing, Sales and Customer Success are one big team, they will then shift to work towards the same revenue goals), others argue that it’s not enough and the context must change as well (i.e., Marketing must re-work current systems and processes that share insights with Sales and how marketing success is reported). To take this example further, consider how many marketers have advocated for stronger marketing and sales team alignment. And yet, the attitude and belief that alignment is critical is not enough.  Rather, it’s essential to start taking action towards changing the context and systems in which sales and marketing teams operate.

Although cross-organizational changes, like the ones we’ve highlighted, affect all GTM departments and an organization’s overall culture, marketing leaders should be taking the first step to drive change. Because marketing organizations built the systems that rely on MQL-centric results, to disrupt the current reporting and processes, marketing leaders are in the best position to drive change.

The good news is that an “all or nothing” approach – abandoning MQLs as if they never existed (especially if you have been sharing MQL numbers and how the leads convert to opportunities and closed-won deals with the wider leadership team) – isn’t necessary to get started. This change can be introduced as a transition from the current processes to the future of marketing strategy.

Change is a necessity in this fast-moving world

In the fast-moving tech space, evolving your marketing strategy is a necessity – if you’re not going forward, you might start going backwards and be left behind by your competitors. Making any significant change can feel hard, but taking a candid look at the gaps in your GTM is the best way to evolve and optimize. You might find that there’s some room for improvement on how you drive engagement with buying teams, measure performance and pass prospect engagement to Sales. To learn more about how to start implementing organizational changes in your revenue processes, tune into our webinar Don’t Let Culture Eat Revenue: Building an Intent-Driven Revenue Engine featuring Forrester’s Terry Flaherty.