On NoMQLs, soft paywalls, PQLs and the winning demand gen formula

The great Scott Brinker recently took an “end of forms” blog post by Drift (startup from the also great David Cancel, whom HubSpot has to thank for their Gen 2 product reaching prime time) and coined this the NoMQL movement.  In short it’s:

  • Produce great content
  • Give it away
  • Let your prospect self-educate and continue to consume your great content….
  •  … and they’ll seek you out when they are ready to try your product

Here’s my take on this:

The concept is sound but it’s too extreme. With the gated vs. non-gated content debate, I’ve always said you need to do both and that applies here too. 

I’d rather land on a model akin to soft paywalls of online publishers that goes like this:

  • Produce great content
  • Give it away  to start … and…. Ensure there are conversion paths as prospects move through the buying process. For example:
  • Article that introduces a topic (for free) and as prospect goes deeper into a detailed guide require some info capture
  • Give away a certain number of articles per month and then require info capture on a certain number of articles or specific “later stage” content

I’d also add another wrinkle which is ensure “later stage” content is promoting Free Trial or Freemium product trials. Another compelling trend in the demand gen circuit of late is the Product Qualified Lead or PQL (blurb here from OpenView Labs).  This dovetails well with the above as it says diligently focus on your free trial experience AND analytics such that:

  • Free Trial/Freemium become a strong pathway for purchase
  • Analytics on in-product usage allow you to monitor prospects through key product ‘gates’
  • Such that you can nurture prospects with content to best support the trial experience
  • And this product usage becomes a key element (along with other scoring criteria such as target demongraphics) in qualifying leads for sales, hence the “PQL” moniker

Not a surprise but the winners will be those who:

  • Maniacally define their target audience (company criteria, roles)
  • Maniacally work with customers to understand the buying process – how it started, who was involved, the questions asked, where they went for information -- and document it
  • Consistently product quality content to attract and engage this target audience – balancing quantity and quality (video content is increasingly effective)
  • Employ strategies to convert this audience at the right point in the buying process, and leverage SDR/Sales teams to build a relationship with prospects and accelerate them through the buying process (first in has an advantage - and does usually win)
  • Have engaging trial product experiences with the analytics and process to both nurture and qualify for sales
  • Have a bevy of customer stories aligned to each stage of the buying process to support the above process (ranging from “Why Change?” to “Why Now?” to “Why Us?”), delivered through blog, website and sales enablement

Did I miss anything?