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This is Judi Uttal signing back in for my next Technology Marketing Center post.

Last November, I blogged about the marketing machine, discussing the 10 steps for building an SQL Machine. This post focuses on a new model I created to help ensure that our leads turn into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).  For those who always enjoyed building model trains, I think you are going to like this model as it is based on a train. And for us marketing geeks, it is designed to hit our sacred KPIs while enabling the whole team to collaborate, without confusion.

For the last six months my team has been focused on building a marketing machine: developing campaigns and activities to generate leads through advertising, webinars, content syndication, events, new contact repositories combined with email campaigns. We have set aggressive goals for management that require a promise of enough leads to generate the pipeline to meet revenue targets. The KPI for marketing is MQLs.

MQLs are generated in two ways:

  • Prospects interested enough to ask for a demonstration or meeting
  • Prospects who through their interactions downloading papers, viewing videos, and watching webinars, appear to be ready for a sales calls. These activities are scored and summed.  When a prospect reaches a number of points, they are elevated to an MQL

Architecting the Train

This year, marketing was working on our campaign roadmap. I tasked Product Marketing to come up with a visual for the buyer’s journey.  Similarly we wanted to come up with a common view of the lead funnel and the different stages for lead development. 

It was confusing.  There were so many different ways to look at both and they did not tie together well.  I wanted to create a single model that would drive a singular vision, that the entire team could build together.  The answer was the MQL Express. 

The MQL Express is modeled after a train and defines the journey for a prospect. Prospects on-board through a campaign or activity and the off-board upon maturing into an MQL. 

MQL Train


To simplify things, I used the Marketo’s funnel stages as the labels for each car:  Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel. I added Feed the Funnel upfront, to indicate the activities that furnish the leads. 

Each train car has three emails. Each email has an asset that if download, will result in the number of points shown above.

Along the tracks, notice the wheels. The wheels define the key purpose for each car (lead bait, trends, short list, pick us). The bulleted items, outline the key points that must be made to achieve to transform the lead.

The blue boxes at the bottom show a call to action. 

  • Engage: Please respond; click on an asset.
  • Demo webinar: Let us show you what we can do.
  • Meeting: Talk with a sales person.
  • POC: Isn’t it time to do a proof of concept.

The Coal Car:  The Coal Car feeds the funnel.  It either creates the initial activity (lead bait) that attracts a engages the prospect.   It could be a series of communication associated with how the lead finds us.  For example, with a webinar it can start with the thank you, and then maybe drive a few assets associated with the webinar.  It could be the theme for a campaign.

The Trend Car:  This car helps establish the key market trends that will convince the lead that they need to be looking into this product area.  Industry reports, videos, infographics are some content that they help the lead understand what their peers are doing so that they don’t miss out.

The Short List:  We want the technical buyer to place us on the short list evaluation. 

Pick Us:  The last car, is designed to help drive the selection.  Case studies, benchmarks, and competitive reports are good assets for this last phase.

Working on the Railroad

With the train concept defined, it’s time to work on the railroad.  Every time we get a new lead, we put them on a train.  Trains are continuously leaving the station, thanks to integration of Marketo with our lead sources.

We visualize multiple coal cars.  When we have a major event, build a coal car.  We have a major new campaign, build a coal car.

We want to hit a different persona, accessorizes the train cars.  Provide slightly different assets and different messaging.

We want to do Account Based Marketing, accessorize the cars for that target customer.

The MQL Express, gives us a way to compartmentalize our work, making it manageable and the purpose clear.  The MQL Express helps us create a buyer’s journey that will deliver on the MQL goals.

For my team, the MQL Express energized the team. We all have the same vision. And to be honest it added a little fun. We added sound effects to the PowerPoint and made the wheels spin. We even started dancing to songs about trains. Who ever thought that Marketo could be fun.




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