Conversica named a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Conversation Automation Solutions for B2B, Q1 2024

Goodbye Ol’ MQLs: Insights into Next Gen AI-Driven Marketing Metrics

David Greenberg

Chief Marketing Officer

Marketing metrics are outdated. It's time for Digital Metrics 2.0.
Marketing metrics are outdated. It's time for Digital Metrics 2.0.
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Lead ManagementMarketing
Published 03/22/24
6 minutes read

As a CMO, I feel the importance and am accountable to raise the tide across the business, teams and, yes, the industry. And looking at the state of certain marketing metrics—namely, the ways many of us measure engagement and Sales-readiness—I’m putting a stake in the ground.

It’s time for the Marketing world to recognize the paradigm shift we’re already living through.

The New Funnel Reality

If you’ve been in this business for any length of time, you can see that the classic B2B funnel is in the midst of a transformation. 

It’s not 2015 anymore. Today’s consumers are savvy, armed with more accessible data, and, perhaps most notably, expect to engage with brands on their own terms, when and how they want. They don’t need to wait for a Sales rep to give them the information because they can find it themselves. The shift in buyer behavior has given rise to what some refer to as the “Dark Funnel“—a realm where potential customers conduct extensive research long before they engage with a brand, often without leaving much of a trace visible to marketers.

The "Dark Funnel" reflects new trends in buyer engagement with brands

In this exciting era where the buyer’s journey has transformed so significantly and meaningfully, marketing metrics unfortunately are lagging behind. Traditional marketing metrics like click-through rates and visits were designed in an era of a less empowered buyer and are now outdated, holding back the next generation of Marketing.

We have the tools to meet buyers wherever they are in their unique journey. The two-way, hyper-personalized engagement made possible through the latest wave of Conversational AI gives us the fidelity we need to measure Sales readiness on a much deeper level, pushing for and surfacing handraisers whenever they pop up.

The Conversation Revolution is already here. Now our industry MUST evolve and begin to use more valuable, qualitative metrics that reflect the reality in front of us.

Unveiling Hidden Engagement: Beyond Scoring

The inception of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) gave us a helpful midpoint between new lead and Sales. But even with that addition to our toolbelt, there still remains a glaring gap between MQL and actual opportunity. 

Without a precise way to measure the true Sales-readiness of leads, we’ve relied on scoring based on whatever behavior we can track: opens, clicks, pageviews, and so on—the same metrics we’ve been leveraging for decades.

That model leaves a lot to be desired. What good is a click when the majority of the research your audience does falls outside your ability to measure? How is a lead score based on the tip of the interest iceberg useful? If you wait for email opens to tip the scale to MQL, you’ll miss the window of opportunity. And with many buyers educating themselves on your channels long before they’re actually in-market, the value of traditional scoring models is shaky at best.

Industry benchmarks show us how much room for improvement we have. Most CMOs today would be satisfied if 10-15% of their MQLs became opportunities (understanding everyone has their own flavor). Gartner puts the overall B2B average MQL to Opportunity conversion at 12.4%.

Gartner Sales conversion benchmark metrics for B2B

Gartner Sales Development Benchmark Metrics

If you’re hitting the benchmark, you probably feel pretty good about it. But I encourage you to flip that thinking on its head for a moment: that means your MQL scoring method is wrong 85-90% of the time. Where else in our industry are we satisfied with that level of mediocrity?

Imagine a future where conversion rates reach 30% or 40%. That’s the kind of standard I think we should be setting for ourselves, and it’s now possible with modern AI-based tools aimed at identifying handraisers.

Conversica Revenue Digital Assistants close the conversation gap between leads that are interested in talking and the capacity of the sales team to engage each lead

Think of these Conversational AI solutions as a concierge experience for the top of your funnel, engaging each lead at the point they enter their journey and taking them through a guided conversation tailored to their needs, questions, and interests. AI has the ability to deliver that personalized experience the modern consumer demands far beyond the capabilities of any human team.

This development in the tools available to us as Marketers is what enables the shift from using what I’d call the ‘simple’ math of the current scoring inputs to the ‘smart’ math of digital metrics 2.0—deciphering sentiment through AI-driven conversations.

Raising the Bar: Digital Metrics 2.0

So what goes into next-gen digital metrics?

Previously, we had to track what leads did with our one-way email outreach and on our website. With the two-way conversations enabled by conversational AI, we get a much fuller picture of the lead’s engagement, interest, and fit—because we can converse back and forth to ask.

This opens the door for two new key AI-driven metrics like Conversation Rate—how many leads actually respond and communicate with an AI-powered assistant—and Conversation Qualified Rate—when a lead self-identifies as ready for the next step in the funnel, such as a meeting with Sales.

These measurements of engagement are so much deeper than the old-school scoring inputs. There’s just no way to compare a click on a drip campaign email to a lead responding in conversation to say, “Yes, I’d love to meet with a Sales rep.”

Conversica Revenue Digital Assistants use two-way conversations to uncover hand raisers and confirm fit before setting a meeting on behalf of sales

The ability to dig into a lead’s true level of interest and fit gives marketers much more valuable insights into the quality of their efforts and ultimately drives a greater level of control over the shape and productivity of the funnel. When you know where your leads stand, you can take them further through their journey, faster. 

It’s a matter of using AI conversations to interpret the sentiment behind a lead’s actions: engaging them in tailored dialog that extracts valuable insights beyond the binary scoring for a more holistic view of a lead’s engagement level. This is a far more efficient, insightful approach than the old-school scoring models.

Conversica's Conversational AI Platform has over 50 intent models to dynamically respond, alert reps and take the next best action

That’s not to say the MQL scoring is completely dead or useless to marketing effectiveness.  One way to think about it is to build on your MQL scoring. However, rather than using these digital signals as the end-all, be-all, MQL thresholds become an indicator that launches deeper, more tailored engagement.

These insights are equally applicable to outbound strategies like Account-Based Marketing. You can leverage all these metrics and methods in outreach to target accounts, alumni, closed-lost deals, partner customers…the list of true value-add outbound opportunities is endless. And with AI-powered conversations and affiliated metrics in your back pocket, those outbound contacts are sifted through and the true opportunities are uncovered, effectively turning outbound into inbound on your behalf.

Conversica pulls data and insights from CRM, Marketing Automation, AMB Platform and Customer Success Platforms to segment and personalize every conversation

The Conversation Revolution

As CMOs like me have been grappling with the best strategies to address this dynamically changing landscape, we find ourselves past the crossroads of traditional marketing metrics and the need for more insightful measurements. 

Change isn’t slowing down. The Conversation Revolution beckons. Goodbye, MQLs – a paradigm shift is underway, and with it comes new AI-driven metrics that are far more meaningful, a redefined understanding of the buyer journey, and a commitment to higher standards. 

As CMOs, the opportunity is ours to grasp, leading our industry into a future where metrics align with the sophistication of today’s buyers. The stage is set; it’s time to say farewell to the old and usher in the new era of marketing metrics.

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