Sales Prospecting

Thriller Revival, MQLs Not Dead (Just on Vacation)

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May 2, 2022

9 mins read

Thriller Revival, MQLs Not Dead (Just on Vacation)

Thriller Revival, MQLs Not Dead (Just on Vacation)

Guess who’s back, back again

MQL’s back, tell a friend.


Okay, I’m done. But you who/what isn’t done? MQLs. Yeah (rough segue, I know). Look, as an industry we may have rushed over so quickly to make friends with the new kid on the block — MQA — that we left our friend MQL in the dust. But as an icon from an Old El Paso taco commercial once said: ¿Porque no los dos?

From this collective faux pas, we can move onto more important things, though: Namely, how you can leverage MQAs and MQLs simultaneously for better results.

We’ve known for a while that B2B metrics are due for a much-needed refresh. If you’ve hung around the water cooler for more than five minutes or stayed on top of even a few trending blog posts, you probably heard some of the best minds in marketing going on and on about marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

When I initially wrote this blog, I’d go on to tell you about how from the ashes rises a much better, stronger metric: the marketing qualified account (MQA). But the truth is that neither MQLs nor MQAs are nearly as strong alone as they are together.

It’s true. I had a lot of learning to do, but with a little (or a lot) of help from some of our resident Demandbase experts, I’m back and ready to help steer you clear of my pitfalls and onto some seriously stellar insights.

This funnel ain’t big enough for the two of us — or is it?

There’s been this rejection of MQLs in support of MQAs — as if they were mutually exclusive. If you decide that dropping MQLs is the right move for you, then that’s fair as long as you make sure that it aligns with your business goals.

When you embrace both MQLs and MQAs within your account-based go-to-market strategy, you’re setting yourself up for success because you’re starting with your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target account list (TAL) and figuring out when and how to target and lead those people into the fold as a part of your path to revenue.

And just because someone has a people-based (read: lead-based) funnel doesn’t mean that they’ve abandoned ABX best practices and gone back to the dark days of demand generation spray and pray marketing.

They aren’t.

We can all stay true to our core DNA while also taking the (to our knowledge) most valuable and important accounts on our TAL and going after or targeting them in a variety of ways: inbound, outbound, marketing, sales, etc.

As long as you’re staying true to focusing on the accounts that have the most propensity to purchase, can bring the highest value to your business, and who you can form strategic partnerships with, then your marketing tactics and how you see people through their journeys with you doesn’t have to be one way or the other.

A double-funnel approach for MQLs and MQAs

Part of the issue is that everyone has started to think that having a lead funnel means that your revenue org is desperately going out to the masses in the hopes that a good fit for your business will come your way, but that isn’t it. What you’re saying with a double-funnel strategy is that there might be one or two really active champions within a specific account who are worth reaching out to and having early conversations with. Because what’s the alternative? Twiddling your thumbs while you wait for a larger group to generate enough passive interest for them to reach the MQA stage of your strategy? Pass.

Committees and companies aren’t the only ones that buy technologies and solutions, so it’s important that we acknowledge there can be a single person who is very interested and who also happens to be in the right persona fit. And this person can be a great indicator of potential account engagement.

But where does the MQA funnel fit in, then? Good question.

While you continue to monitor MQLs, you should be building modality and mechanics into your second (account-based, MQA) funnel to acknowledge when multiple people within a TAL or ICP account take enough actions to raise the threshold of an account’s engagement to say: “Now they’re engaged, go get’em!”

Just make sure while you’re building out your double-funnel that you treat MQAs and MQLs with the same level of urgency. For the love of dog, there is no red-headed stepchild here (I’d know, I am one). If an MQL hits their threshold, they should be given the same attention as an MQA. Where you need to make sure that you hold back is when that MQL hasn’t hit the threshold — there’s no reason to go all-in on someone who registered for but didn’t attend a webinar.

A peek behind the curtain: Demandbase’s double-funnel

We decided to build discreet funnels. So, if you’re a qualified lead, your account is never going to hit that MQA stage based off of your engagement alone, and vice-versa. This allows us the ability to track back and track forward in a really clean and clear way

That isn’t to say that everyone has to do it the way that we do — even if we are pretty awesome at it. An MQL could be a leading indicator for an MQA if that makes sense for your situation and environment, but we wanted our funnels to be discrete paths to meetings, engagements, and pipeline for our sales teams.

Instead of pulling our target numbers out of a hat, we worked backwards from our pipeline goal using some assumptions based on conversion rates and historical performance that allowed us to come up with our targets for specific quarters. This way we don’t just get different paths to success within our account set, but we also have metrics that help lead us in the right direction.

How to focus on the MQA using Account-Based Experience (ABX)

With a well-executed ABX –– and, dare we say, Smarter GTM™-focused –– strategy, anyone can supercharge their sales cycle. Unlike traditional demand generation analytics, which try to generate sales pipeline by focusing on leads and opportunities, ABX focuses on accounts and leads at every stage of their respective funnels and focuses on quality — hitting the right accounts with the right content at the right time — over quantity.

But to move an account into your pipeline, you can’t just snap your fingers and make them marketing qualified. The account has to prove they’re invested by showing awareness in your product or service, or have passed an interaction threshold.

We use three main metrics for tracking and measuring the movement of accounts and leads into qualified status and into the pipe: engagement, journeys, and attribution.


Are you creating and deepening relationships with your target accounts and the people who work there? Engagement will tell you. Indicators that you should consider include:

  • Account and lead activities
  • Account and lead engagement minutes
  • Organizational heatmaps for your target accounts
  • Engagement aggregated at the account- and individual-level

With this level of detail, you’ll be able to see exactly when engagement at a target account or with a potential champion dips or spikes. Likewise, spikes in engagement are some of the best ways to see your marketing team’s impact on your account-based strategy.


Measuring journeys is all about tracking how accounts and people move through the stages of your buyer journey and across the finish line.

If you’re looking to increase your pipe or boost funnel velocity (which, who isn’t?), then you should probably be tracking how accounts move through your sales funnel from aware to qualified, engaged, MQL/MQA, opportunity, and customer/post-sale. That way, you don’t just have a finger on the pulse of your funnel, you can actually see where accounts might get held up. With this x-ray vision-like level of insight, you can tweak your strategy before a pileup causes funnel velocity to go up in flames.

Focusing on the MQA accelerates pipeline velocity:

Before an account enters the sales pipeline, the marketing team should have identified and benchmarked what qualifies an account as an MQA. Once an account is qualified, marketing and sales work together on personalized outreach to speed up the account’s journey through the sales funnel.

Your target account lists are as essential to your campaigns as the list of accounts that do not qualify. Maintaining an exclusion list as part of your account-based strategy is key to keeping accounts from piling up in your funnel and creating a bottleneck that brings your pipeline velocity down.

Best practice:

Create and maintain an account exclusion list so that your teams don’t spend hours connecting and building relationships with accounts that won’t benefit from your offering and ultimately won’t buy.


To properly identify which marketing programs have the most impact, marketing needs to clearly define MQA and MQL thresholds that indicate an account or individual’s readiness for sales outreach.

We recommend assigning minutes engaged to different engagements across your content and with your competitor’s content. Then, use the aggregation of those minutes to help you make better decisions around budget allocation. That way, marketing can invest more budget in the highest-performing programs and decrease budget in the lowest, thereby maximizing overall return on investment.

When you switch to account-based metrics (engagement, journey, attribution, ROI analytics) across your revenue org and align behind an actionable strategy, you set sales up for big wins.

Check out this video where Beki Scarbrough, VP and ABX Evangelist at Demandbase, shares how account-based metrics improve ROI:

Another account-based marketing metric: Intent

So if we aren’t focusing on form fills, webinar RSVPs, and butts in event seats, what do we focus on?


With intent insights, sales and marketing can align to focus on personalizing outreach according to an account or individual’s unique interests — to nurture them through each stage of the sales pipeline and through the purchase in a natural, non-pushy, helpful manner.

“If somebody offers you something that’s in your price range when you need it, and it’s what you need to solve your problem, then you don’t feel like you’re being sold to. You feel like somebody is helping you solve your problem.” Heidi Bamburg, I’m Thinking of: Sales Intelligence

When we rally around intent in combination with other account-based metrics, we can pinpoint the exact “magic moment” when a qualified lead or an account’s decision-making team is ready and willing to engage with sales. This way, when one of your target accounts becomes marketing qualified, you can get down to business and work on winning the account.

Still wrapping your head around it all?

The double-funnel can be a lot to take in, but don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone!

Read up on more double-funnel goodness from Demandbase CMO, Jon Miller, or schedule a chat with to figure out how you can squeeze the most out of a combined MQL/MQA strategy.

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Jessica Tenedorio (Diedrich)

Senior Video Lead, Demandbase

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