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How to Get Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) with Web Chat

Micky Deming


Gone are the days where you could simply buy traffic for pennies and expect sales to start coming in. Many of those “methods” were never valid to begin with.

Unfortunately, traffic doesn't cost pennies anymore. Customers are increasingly discerning about where and how they spend their money. Also, competition in just about every niche is significantly higher.

Plus, every new lead that comes through your virtual door needs a significant amount of nurturing until they’re ready to buy. The key to this nurturing process is three-fold; 

  • Providing a better user experience
  • Giving visitors more options to communicate with you
  • Qualifying leads to make sure they truly are a good fit for your business

Enter the website chat. One solution covering all three nurturing criteria.

But before we dive into what a website chat is, strategies you can put in place, and how they can help you qualify leads, we need a quick primer on why marketing qualified leads — or MQLs— are such a big deal.

The Journey From Traffic to Sales

Converting a website visitor into a customer typically involves several stages. Some customers do buy on impulse, but in most cases they need certain key pieces of information. This is commonly known as the “consideration phase”. Learning more about the value of your product/service until they’re ready to buy.

This consideration process is part of the overall customer’s journey. This journey is a framework for businesses, and it comes in handy when defining which milestones and touchpoints a customer needs to go through before buying. 

It’s also handy because it; 

  • Allows us to implement data collection techniques for better insight to both develop and optimize sales and marketing strategies.
  • Clearly shows the types of content needed to educate buyers (blogs, whitepapers, demos, etc.)
  • Allows reps and other communication channels to ask questions and see where a customer is in their journey.

There is no one customer journey model that will fit all businesses. Typically, the customer journey for a specific organization comes through a detailed look at the marketing and sales process. It takes a collaborative effort between sales and marketing departments.

For the purpose of this article, we're going to use these definitions.

  • Traffic: The number of website visitors on your website during a given timeframe.
  • Lead: A lead is a website visitor that has demonstrated some degree of interest in your offer. They have shared their email through a form, requested a call or done some other action on your website.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): An MQL is a lead that has demonstrated interest in your offering and has been determined to fit the criteria of a buyer. This criteria could be a demographic, income range, business industry or additional specific action which was taken by the lead on your website. The key aspect of MQLs is that they are more likely to become a customer and are more willing to accept sales messages.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): An SQL is the next step in the process. After becoming an MQL, this lead has been sales‑qualified and is both willing and ready to engage with the sales team.
  • Customer: They’ve given you money in exchange for your product and/or services. (We want more of these.)

Why MQLs are Crucial

Even though an MQL is not a guaranteed sale, it does something else that's crucial: It sets the tone for the rest of the customer journey.

They’ve both taken action and seen how you respond to them. Now that they have a sense of what it’s like to interact with your organization, they can continue doing so if they are interested.

MQLs are all about trust and measurable intent.

How to Evaluate your MQLs

Depending on how your organization defines an MQL, you’ll realize that not every MQL has the same conversion rate. This is where the practice known as lead scoring comes in handy. 

Lead scoring is a methodology used to rank prospects so that you can get measurable feedback on which marketing strategies are working and which ones aren’t. This makes the process of optimizing your lead generation much more robust.

Keep in mind that for lead scoring to work you need to collect enough data to make sure your analysis is reliable.

Put differently, lead scoring is perfect for businesses that have so many leads that their sales team can (and should) only focus on the best ones.

Do You Need Web Chat?

Website chats or live chat have become commonplace. Chat is used on so many types of business websites, including:

  • eCommerce
  • B2B products
  • Service-based businesses (e.g. lawyers)
  • Affiliate sites

Whether powered by a bot (chatbot) or a live human, chat has the distinct advantage of giving a personalized user experience. It is an amazing tool for collecting all sorts of data.

Webchat can be used in a myriad of ways, ranging from customer service to marketing and sales. Businesses keep on finding creative ways to make the most out of this tool.

Key statistic: One study showed an average “total order” increase of 10% for those who engaged in a chat before purchase.

3 Ways to Qualify Leads with Chat

How you qualify a lead depends on your organization’s customer journey. Having said that, here are three very effective website chat prompts that can start the lead qualifying process.

1. Broad Questions

If you offer a wide portfolio of products/services, ask broad questions. It’s a great way to start leading your customers in the right direction so that they can find the information they need to make sure they’re in the right place at the right time, or for you to help them find out otherwise. 


Advanced tip: If someone is on a particular product/service page, you can start with a more narrow question. Something like, “Can I answer any questions about [service], today?”

2. Qualifying Questions

Knowing how your lead self‑identifies makes a big difference in what information you present to them. It also lets your lead reconfirm that they’re in the right place. This takes qualifying questions. For instance, a B2B software company would want to ask things like;

  • How many employees do you currently have?
  • What is your current budget for [relevant topic]?
  • Do you currently use a solution for [software type]?

3. Buyer Intent Questions

A "yes" to this question shows real buyer intent. Also, it’s a great segue to connect them to either a real human or the next step in the sales process. Investing time to talk to real humans or watch a demo video is perceived as an indicator of value. The more time a potential customer spends on your website — the better.

Buyer intent questions include;

  • Would you like to book a live demo?
  • I can walk you through set up, if you’d like?
  • Want to join our upcoming webinar about how [product] works?

3 Website Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Human or bot‑powered, website chats are an incredibly useful tool in driving the lead down the sales funnel. Unfortunately, misusing this tool can backfire and make your traffic leave. Here are three webchat malpractices to avoid at all costs. 

1. A bot is not a human and a human is not a bot

Don't’ try to trick your customers into making them believe a bot is a human. It doesn’t work. If a human isn’t available at the time let your customer know, most people are happy to interact with a bot.

On the flip side, bots are entirely capable of answering many questions, solving simple problems and even qualifying leads. Just make sure they ask the right questions and you’ll keep your customers engaged and looking forward to their next interaction with you.

2. Use Prompts

Most site visitors won’t strike up a conversation with your chat interface. That said, many will answer if they see the live chat open up and read the question. Chat prompts are the perfect way to get as many conversations with your visitors as possible.

Advanced tip: Tailor chat prompts on your most important pages. For instance, ask if you can answer questions about pricing on your pricing page.

3. Selling too soon 

Just because your website visitor answered a few questions on the chat doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to buy. Quite the opposite can be true. Selling too soon can distract your website’s visitor from getting the information they need and in the worst of case scenarios, it can end up annoying them.

Remember, annoyed website traffic usually doesn’t turn into customers.

Putting It All Together

Website chats can be a very valuable addition to your website’s marketing toolbox. That’s why it seems like every website is using them nowadays. 

Just like any other tool, making sure you’re using it in the right context is key to unlocking its user experience-enhancing goodness. 

Keep your customer’s needs in mind and you’ll soon see your MQL numbers soar.

Micky Deming

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