How to identify contact lifecycle stages

I’m sure you have heard the terms; Lead, MQL, Opportunity and so on. But what exactly do they mean and how can you use them to get a better understanding of your current database and where your contacts are in the buyer’s journey.


What is a lifecycle stage?

A lifecycle stage is simply the current stage of the buyer’s journey that a specific contact is in. These stages can be used to determine what level of engagement a contact has had with your brand and where their interests lie.

The most commonly used lifecycle stages are:

  1. Subscriber
  2. Lead
  3. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
  4. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)
  5. Opportunity
  6. Customer

Let’s explore each one.


If you have a newsletter or blog, you may want to keep track of the people who have opted in to receive your weekly or monthly content. 

This contact has shown interest in what you have to say, but you still don’t know much about them. In the case of a subscriber you may just have an email for that contact, and that email address may even be a personal one, giving you no insight into who that person is. 

At this point in time, these contacts have not shown any form of sales readiness, but they have shown a level of interest that is worth keeping an eye on, as it may just take the right content sent to them in the form of your next newsletter that generates a new lead.

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A lead is a contact who has now shown a level of sales readiness more than just a newsletter sign up. This contact has actually converted on your website by either downloading a piece of content given to them via your newsletter or blog, or they have actually filed out a form to gain access to something that you are offering.

These contacts are not necessarily marketing ready as they may not be a good fit for your business. But they have implied interest in your content.

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Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

An MQL can be interpreted in various ways as every business treats what they consider to be ‘marketing ready’ in different ways. 

An MQL can be manually defined by assessing the demographics and company of a contact by your sales team to determine if they are in your target audience, or they may be automatically flagged as an MQL because of their level of engagement.

Downloading gated content regularly on a specific topic may constitute as being marketing ready in the same way that being a CFO in the tech industry may.

Either way, you have an understanding of who this person is and what their interests are in a way where you believe that your product or service may be a good fit for them.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

An SQL is exactly what the name implies. This contact is ready to be sold to! They have officially reached a point in the buyer’s journey where they are not only just a good fit for your product or service by your own qualification standards, but they have actually shown active interest in purchasing what you’re offering. 

An SQL could be defined as someone who has filled out an enquiry form, scheduled a meeting or requested more information from you.

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A quote or invoice has been sent, an NDA has been signed, or maybe a discovery call with the contact has taken place. Either way, a deal is on the table!

The opportunity for a new customer is there as this contact has begun the initial process of engaging in business with you. 

This is where you can build your pipeline and forecasts as you now have an idea of what and how much business may be coming in.


Boom! You have a new customer. This contact has gone through the stages of your buyer’s journey (maybe skipped a few stages), but in the end has purchased your product or service. 

As a listed customer, their buying habits can now be analyzed. Cross-selling and up-selling opportunities and strategies can be identified while you prepare to turn this contact into a fully fledged advocate for your business.