A couple of years ago we produced the first ebook that would be used to generate leads for our business, Screwpile Communications. It felt great.

After a lot of hard work developing a content strategy (at least what I had thought was a strategy at the time), writing, working with designers, we had our first ebook ready to go.

And you know what? It was working! Our audience clearly had an interest in the topic and was willing to exchange their contact information in order to get it. We were getting leads and feeling pretty great.

It was time to sit back, relax and watch the leads (and new business) come pouring in. Right? That was certainly what we thought at the time. But we found out it didn’t quite work that way.

Converting Information Qualified Leads (IQLs)

Turns out those initial leads we were getting all had one thing in common. They were interested in the topic our ebook covered, but not necessarily interested in the services we had to offer. And never mind being ready to talk to us about how we could help their company.

What we needed was a way to separate those who were just interested in learning about the topic covered in the ebook from those who were possible candidates looking for the types of services we offered.

The leads at this initial stage were “Information Qualified” in that we were starting to get a picture of what type of information they were interested in. We needed a method for determining how likely they were to become a new customer for our business.

From IQL to MQL to SQL

New customers for any business, whether you or they know it or not, just completed a Buyer’s Journey. The Buyer’s Journey is the path someone takes on his or her way toward a purchase.

Information qualified leads are simply at the Awareness stage in their journey. They are beginning to realize they have a problem or opportunity and start to actively research solutions.

  • Tip: Blog articles and ebooks are great tools for providing information tailored to this stage in the Buyer’s Journey. Like our ebook, high level content helps pique the interest of an IQL, achieving the awareness stage and prepping them to become a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and subsequently, a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).

Converting an IQL to an MQL

The next stage in the Buyer’s Journey is called the Consideration stage. Producing content designed to appeal to buyer’s in this stage is essential in determining which leads may be true candidates for your products or services. Leads in this stage are looking to better understand all of the methods or different approaches to solving their problem or opportunity area.

  • Tip: Content that appeals to these leads may include branded guides or product information specs, comparison white papers, webinars and videos.

Modern marketing software (like HubSpot’s all-in-one marketing platform) enables companies to recognize when leads consume the content developed for the Consideration stage and label those leads as MQLs.

Identifying SQLs (and getting more of them!)

After your leads become aware of a problem or opportunity and have considered different solutions the last step is a decision. The Decision stage is when leads have defined their preferred solution and are actively looking for a partner or vendor.

  • Tip: Case studies, trials, product literature and demos are types of offers appropriate in the Decision stage.

Again, with marketing software, companies can recognize when leads have requested items like free demos, trials or consultations and label these leads as Sales Qualified Leads, or SQLs.

SQLs are ready to be handed off to the sales team for follow-up.

Offers like “Free Consultation” or “Talk to Sales Now” may capture the lowest hanging fruit among Decision stage leads and convert them to SQLs but adding value to these offers can increase their effectiveness dramatically.

A medical device company, for example, may offer a Live Demo With an Expert Technician, as opposed to an offer that simply says, Request More Information. Adding value to your Decision stage offers will help convert more SQLs and keep the sales pipeline full!

Smart companies will develop a feel for the right time for sales to reach out to their leads. Obviously all SQLs should be called since they have identified themselves as being ready to talk to sales. Calling IQLs may come across as too pushy or aggressive. However, reaching out to MQLs may make sense and help get more leads converted into opportunities that the sales team can work with and bring on board as new customers.

The Bottom Line

Nowadays, armed with our new content marketing strategy, we are able to identify leads who may be great candidates for our services, provide content to nurture them along the Buyer’s Journey, and reach out at the optimal time to start a dialog.

To learn more about how to increase your Sales Qualified Leads, download our ebook All Leads Are Not Created Equal.

Originally published Feb 4, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023


Buyer Personas Sales Process