One of the joys of my life is being compelled to conduct Internet searches to determine the ostensible meanings of the latest abbreviations, acronyms, or jargon. Here’s the item that got my attention most recently:

At the most basic level — even for companies with long sales cycles where marketing plays a significant role in the middle and bottom of the funnel — marketing should be bringing potential new business into the top of the funnel. The top is often measured by metrics such as sourced Inquiries or MQLs.

MQLs. Hmm … A quick search turned up myriad results. This is the short list of the most likely suspects:

  1. Metaquotes Language
  2. Minimal Quantity Lubrication
  3. Marketing Qualified Lead
  4. Minimum Quantity Lubricant
  5. Maximum Queue Length
  6. Matrix Query Language
  7. Method Quantification Limit
  8. Malaysian Quality of Life

Since the comment whence the MQLs derived had little to do with or regard for language — or its application in clear communication — I quickly weeded out #1 and #6. Since the MQLs in question were referred to as metrics, I next eliminated #2 and #4; that is, while the comment whence the MQLs derived was unctuous, I imagined it qualified as a grease job in a figurative or semantic sense but not necessarily in any literal sense.

I briefly considered #8. But since the metrics for the quality of life in Malaysia seem reasonably good, I ruled it out.

That left #5 and #3. And since I didn’t imagine people were actually lining up to make sense of the cryptic comment whence these particular MQLs derived, I rather uneasily settled on #3: Marketing Qualified Lead.

I’m uneasy because MQLs are just other examples of the ways in which we’re letting marketing be made complex by those who want to convince us they can do what we can’t — and who want to charge us handsomely for the privilege of doing it for us. That’s why we’re data-rich and insight-poor. It’s why we’re suckered into meaningless objectives (marketing-automation output vs. revenue-generating outcomes). And it’s why we’re becoming self-defeating slaves to our supposititious tools.

Here’s the question that proves the absurdity of all of this: How much business has ever resulted from Marketing Unqualified Leads (MULs)?

We have to get back to common sense, kids. Otherwise, we’ll just keep circling the funnel.

Image by nemo, courtesy of