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15 Facebook Ad Design Best Practices for Better Social Creative

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15 Facebook Ad Design Best Practices for Better Social Creative

A brand’s ad design is often the first impression it makes on a consumer. And this first impression can be a make-or-break moment on a social platform like Facebook, with millions of other ads competing for a viewer’s attention. 

A frequently-cited Nielsen survey found that 47% of a brand’s sales lift from advertising came from the creative. In contrast, another study found that the image elements of social media ad design significantly (41.6%) impact consumers’ purchasing decisions.

In some marketing departments, creative design can take a back seat to the targeting and audience-building tools Facebook offers. But with more advertisers and audience overlap than ever, testing and optimizing your Facebook ad design is worthy of your careful attention.

Here are 15 ad design and ad testing best practices for optimizing the creative of your ads across Facebook and other social channels.

“Your ad design and testing processes are the cornerstone to moving paid social performance. All these platforms are so visual that you really need to have content that stands out to ensure your brand is being seen and heard.”

 

Avi Ben-Zvi,  VP, Paid Social at Tinuiti

 

1. Set Measurable Performance Goals

 
Before we dive into the mechanics of ad design, it’s important to establish the purpose of the ad. What is the overall advertising campaign designed to achieve, and what are the specific objectives of the individual ad as defined by Facebook? 

Facebook ads can build brand awareness or promote a new product, drive interest in a brand or generate incoming leads. Some of these goals are more easily measured than others, but they should all be tracked to determine overall campaign performance. Facebook offers more specific metrics in its Ad Manager tool, including lead capture, website traffic, local reach and event sign-ups – but note that as of 2023, Meta is taking steps to simplify these objectives.

Ensure all your business goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to your business, and aim to attain them in a set timeframe. This will allow you to quickly assess the performance of your ads and campaigns without putting too much money into campaigns that aren’t resonating with your target audience.
 

2. Make Your Facebook Ad Design Facebook-Specific

 
 Even with consolidation among social platforms, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to your ad creative might seem efficient, but it won’t generate optimal results. Not only are ad specs different for each platform, but the audience and use cases for each social platform are also very different.

 

Depiction of differences in creative best practices for Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest Ads

 

Understanding the nuances of each platform and what users expect to see are important considerations to make when designing your ad. For example, a Promoted Pin ad may have too much text or too many visual elements, making it ineffective as an in-feed Facebook ad. Or, the audience that watches your Snapchat Stories may have different values than those who see your Facebook Stories.

Much like your campaigns should focus on a single audience and goal, your ad designs should also focus on a specific platform, its design guidelines, and the audience using that platform. For example, take a look at best practices for Feeds and Stories on Facebook:

Facebook Feed Ads:

  • Promotion should be communicated in the image/video
  • Text should encompass less than 20% of the creative
  • Reiterate your CTA in the headline copy

 

Facebook Stories:

  • Start with your key messaging and branding
  • Keep your narrative fast-paced
  • Try text overlays, stickers, and polls.

 

Then, compare this to Pinterest Ads and Snapchat Stories:

 

Pinterest Ads:

  • Use text overlays liberally to describe product benefits or styling tips
  • Keep messaging seasonally relevant and update it often
  • Avoid sales-oriented text or creative

 

Snapchat Stories:

  • Use 3-5 second video advertisements to showcase hero messages
  • Develop curated collections with 3 to 20 swipe-able panels

 

Since best practices differ from platform to platform, a Snapchat Story could not double as a Facebook Story without some fundamental changes to its design.

 

3. Design for a Particular Ad Format

 

As a platform, Facebook offers the most comprehensive array of ad formats, and that variety is constantly expanding (currently, eight formats are available). It’s important to familiarize yourself with an available ad format’s unique qualities and advantages, then designing an ad based on the format’s strengths.

Content and intent are two design elements to consider. Compelling, storytelling images work best for Photo ads, while text-over-image may be less effective in Stories. For example, Carousel ads might be ideal for highlighting a suite of products or telling a step-by-step brand story across multiple image “cards.” Ads delivered through the Messenger format are more suited to individualized engagement and soliciting feedback.

Here are the 8 Facebook ad formats and what they’re best utilized for:

 
Photo – The most basic Facebook ad, a clean, simple format to feature engaging imagery and copy. Best for telling a brand story with a powerful image.

Video – These ads come in various lengths and styles—from short, feed-based ads to longer videos. Best for a more comprehensive showcase of your brand, product or service.

Stories – Appearing outside the Feed and opening up to full-screen upon selection, Stories offer an immersive ad experience for the user. Best for capturing attention and making a big splash.

Carousel – Carousel ads let you showcase up to ten images or videos in a single ad, each with its own link. Best for highlighting a range of different products or services or telling a brand story in chapters.

Messenger – These ads are delivered through the Messenger application and can feature individualized content and interactive elements. Best for starting a conversation or driving specific actions.

Slideshow – Slideshow ads are video-like ads made of images, motion, sound and text. Best for reaching users with unreliable connection speeds.

Collection – Collection ads let people discover, browse and buy what you offer. People can tap an ad to learn more about a specific product. Best for displaying products your brand offers.

Playables – Playable ads offer people an interactive preview before downloading an app. Best for promoting or gauging interest in new games or apps.

While each ad should be designed for its intended format, you can get great results from mixing and matching formats within an overall campaign. Always align your objectives with the ad formats you’re using. 

 

4. Create Images for a Specific Ad Placement

 

Ad placement affects ad specs, which determines your ad design space. It also impacts how likely your ad is to be seen and what a user’s intentions are when encountering it. While some ad formats are served to Facebook users in consistent places (Stories, for example, are always outside of the Feed), other ads can appear in different areas.

There are six common ad placement locations on Facebook. These include:

 

  • Mobile Feed – Appears on a user’s Feed when they use a mobile device.
  • Desktop Feed – Appears on a user’s Feed when they use a desktop device.
  • Desktop Right Column – Small and inexpensive image ads that appear to the right of a user’s Feed on a desktop device.
  • Stories – Full-screen advertisements that are less than 15 seconds long and appear when users view user-generated Stories.
  • Marketplace – Ads placed in the Facebook Marketplace, usually promoting a product that’s ready to sell.
  • In-Stream Video – Ads that play before or during a video uploaded to Facebook, similar to those that appear on YouTube.

 

Understanding how your target audience uses Facebook goes a long way toward informing which ad placement is best for your brand. Does your audience mostly use the Facebook mobile app? Do they spend a long time watching videos in their Feed? As with other social media advertising approaches, you can optimize your ad placement to reach your target audience most effectively when you have insight into their existing behaviors.

 

5. Build Creative Assets for Specific Dimensions & Specs

 

Once you’ve chosen which ad placement is best for your brand, keep the relevant ad specs top of mind. Here’s a quick rundown of specs for various Facebook ad types:

 

Single Image Ads with Links:

  • Image Minimum Size (WxH) – 476 x 249 pixels
  • Image Ratio  1.91:1 to 4:5
  • Image Resolution – at least 1080 x 1080 px
  • Headline Text – 25 characters
  • Link Description Text – 30 characters

 

Single Video Ads 

  • Format – .MOV or .MP4 are recommended but other formats are supported
  • Video Ratio — 9:16 to 16:9
  • Resolution – 720p at minimum, upload the highest resolution possible
  • File Size – 4 GB maximum
  • Length Minimum – 1 second
  • Length Maximum — 240 minutes
  • Thumbnail Image – No more than 20% text
  • Vertical videos with an aspect ratio higher than 4:5 can be masked to 4:5

 

Video Story Ads

  • Aspect ratios: 9:16 and 4:5 to 1.91:1
  • Maximum duration: 60 secs
  • Maximum file size: 4 GB
  • Minimum video width: 500px
  • Supported video types: .mp4, .mov
  • Sound: Optional

 

As you consider the image and video specifications for each ad format, think about the kinds of images and videos that work best within those specs. Does it make sense to left-align text overlays for desktop images? Or create a video with more edge-to-edge action for Stories or Reels? In both cases, the answer varies on your creative direction and ad objectives.

 

6. Create Different Ads for Mobile and Desktop

 

Most Facebook users access the social network on their mobile devices, so vertical orientation and a mobile-first approach should be your default. Of course, you should always optimize each ad for its format and placement.

Your brand’s particular audience may differ, so it’s always a good idea to understand their habits and motivations when designing ads. Acknowledging variations in usage type between mobile and desktop also makes a strong case for tailoring your ad design to each format.

Facebook users also access their mobile and desktop apps in different frames of mind, which should also be considered. Mobile users can fill idle minutes by scrolling through their Feeds and Stories or searching for specific information on the go. Desktop users typically engage for longer periods and gravitate toward content that makes use of larger screen sizes. 

 

7. Use an Attention-Grabbing Value Proposition

 

Capturing attention is any advertisement’s first and most important priority. Facebook ads are no different; users will scroll right by an ad if it doesn’t catch their notice or pique their immediate interest. So it’s a best practice to put what consumers most care about – the value the ad represents to them – front and center. 

Your value proposition should be short and easy to understand at a glance and, when possible, be featured within the image or video itself. It should be urgent but in line with your brand image and tone. Most importantly, it should be compelling to the user.

 

8. Always Include a Clear CTA

 

A call to action (CTA) should be brief, provide users with a clear next step after viewing the ad, and contain action-oriented words that encourage a click-through. They should be related to the value proposition communicated in the ad and easily actionable.

CTAs usually appear in the description underneath the image, though in specific ad formats like Stories or Carousel, they can appear within the image or afterward as an overlay. But wherever it appears, every effective Facebook ad needs a clear CTA.

 

9. Capture Attention with Clear Messaging and Concise Text

 

Just as clear and concise value propositions and CTAs are best practices for Facebook ads, so is keeping ad copy and videos short and to the point. There is a place for longer-format text and lengthy video clips in organic Facebook content, but shorter is almost always better for ad design. 

At Tinuiti, we saw proof of this concept when testing video ad length for Strayer University.

 

Example of fast-paced ads with clear and concise messaging resulting in 50% lower CPE and 32% higher CTR

 

Ad testing revealed that the faster-paced 6-second ad drove higher and more efficient engagement than a comparable 15-second ad. The most effective ad featured its value proposition within the first 2 seconds and utilized more concise text overlays. With the Strayer campaign, we learned that 6-second ads resulted in a 50% lower CPE and a 32% higher CTR.

“Ultimately, the brand found that it’s so important to use a faster-paced storyline to communicate your messaging.”

 

Portrait of Kelsey Miller

Kelsey Miller, Director, Paid Social at Tinuiti

 

10. Follow Facebook’s Ad Guidelines

The Facebook Ad Manager incorporates all relevant technical guidelines through the ad-building tool – but it won’t cover every one of Facebook’s content guidelines

If your ad does not follow the guidelines, it will be subject to removal by Facebook.  For that reason, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with both the Facebook Ad Guide and the Meta Community Standards and brand safety information when developing your ad content.  

11. Use Color Theory to Your Advantage

As with any design, color is an essential element of Facebook ads, and it can go a long way toward capturing a user’s attention and directing their actions. There is a psychology behind the use of color, such as using yellow to convey optimism or blue to communicate trust and strength. Contrasting colors also can catch the eye, which is why you often see ads featuring colors from opposite sides of the color wheel. Contrast, when deployed in a Facebook ad, can help your message break through cluttered Feeds and grab users’ interest.

However you approach your ad’s color scheme, the colors you choose should work in harmony to support your brand identity and the purpose of your ad. You also want to keep your color usage relatively simple – two or three colors max, otherwise the ad will feel busy and overwhelming.

 

12. Make Your Ad Design Pop With GIFs and Video Assets

 

While moving images are only central to a few of the ad formats supported by Facebook, our experience helping companies devise and execute effective Facebook advertising strategies shows that they have an outsized impact. When tested against static images and long-form video, GIFs, in particular, saw higher CVR and revenue increases.

Example of two ads with animated offers resulting in a 17% spend increase, 26% more revenue, and 45% higher CVR

Our work with the retail brand Ownable on their US campaign produced GIF ad designs that achieved top performance during a promotion. The GIFs effectively highlighted the offers while keeping the product and brand front and clear.

After optimizing Ownable’s promo ads, we saw the following results:

  • 17% spend increase
  • 26% more revenue
  • 45% higher CVR

 

The GIFs successfully captured consumer attention as they effectively highlighted the promotional offer while maintaining the brand’s and product’s prominence. They were eye-catching while staying to the point, creating an optimal environment to lock in consumers’ focus.

Bare Necessities also saw an enormous performance increase just by altering their ad design to a GIF format to make their offer pop more.

 Example of two animated Facebook ads with animated offers resulting in 2x spend increase, 33% higher ROAD, and 9% higher CTR

In this campaign, our creative and social teams collaborated to transform Bare Necessities’ static assets into GIFs. The new ads’ subtle movement caught users’ attention in the feed and led to higher website traffic and revenue.

 

13. Use Customer Reviews When Possible For Social Proof

 

Reviews can be a key reference point for consumers in their buying journey, so if your brand or products enjoy strong support among reviewers, it’s a good idea to utilize those reviews in your Facebook ads.

For example, when working with Luca + Danni, we compared the impact of positive reviews on Facebook ad performance by testing various ad creatives against each other. 

Facebook ad with review resulting in 26% lower CPC, 19% higher CTR, 11% higher ROAS

 

Ad designs that included customer reviews within the post copy drove more efficient site traffic and purchases than the top-performing evergreen headlines.

We performed a single variable test for this campaign, comparing top-performing evergreen headlines against identical ads incorporating customer reviews. The ad creative that included customer reviews performed significantly better:

 

  • CPC decreased by 26%
  • CTR increased by 19%
  • ROAS saw a massive improvement of 110%

 

When it comes to ad creative, consumers respond better to social proof. By including customer reviews within the ad, we gave the brand and product more social clout than it would have gotten with just a headline and image alone.

 

14. Encourage Product Exploration with Shoppable Collection Units

 

For consumer-facing brands, Facebook’s Collection ad format can be a great way to let people discover, browse and buy what you offer. But do they perform better than the more common image or video ad formats or organic page posts? 

In a campaign for Tinuiti client Maurices, we tested whether Link Page-Post ads or Collection ads drove higher returns for sale periods. To do so, we ran two versions of an ad with near-identical creative: 

 

ad design with shoppable collections on Facebook resulting in 67% higher CTR and 51% higher ROAS

 

 

Collection ads dynamically pulling in products dramatically outperformed link-page posts. The “sell products” ad design collection layout encouraged category exploration and increased purchase conversion rates.

We found that encouraging product exploration resulted in a 67% higher CTR and a 51% higher ROAS. Displaying a collection of products drew customers in and encouraged them to shop more actively for additional products than just those listed in the ad creative.

The key here is to make things easier for your consumers. By displaying collection ads relevant to the user, you’re making it easy for them to find products they’re interested in without the hassle of going to your website and scrolling through all your products.

 

15. Use A/B Testing to Fail Fast & Learn Fast

 

Split testing, also known as A/B testing or single variable testing, has long been a favorite method for marketers to discover which ad optimizations yield the strongest results for a brand.

how to split test graphic

 

Testing the creative variables within your ads is just as important as testing the ad format or audiences. By testing one variable at a time, you can more quickly identify which elements impact your performance in different ways. The Facebook Ad Manager offers A/B testing tools (and guidance on conducting A/B tests within the platform), but you can also implement split testing on your own.

For example, here are some basic split tests for ad imagery types:

 

  • Lifestyle Vs. Product
  • Professional Vs. User-generated
  • Illustration Vs. Photography
  • Light Vs. Dark Colors
  • Text Overlays, Price Badges, and Copy

 

With this testing, you can optimize to make your winning ads perform even better. A/B testing will help you identify which variable is driving performance, then iterate on that variable to see continued success.

 

Conclusion: Prioritize Creative Ad Testing to Improve Ad Design Performance

 

Advertising on Facebook can be highly effective for your brand, but only if you nail your ads’ design elements. With so much variety available in terms of ad format, size, placement and content, it can feel overwhelming to develop the perfect ad campaign for your brand. They all have different rules, specs and utility, so what works on one may not work on another. But Facebook has plenty of tools to help you, and you can make the most of them by following these core principles:

  • Tailor creative for the right Facebook ad format. 
  • Establish your KPIs and testing goals and test often. This way, you’ll be able to collect relevant data to analyze for future campaigns.
  • Keep ad content short and simple to understand. Focus on capturing your audience’s attention and directing them to straightforward actions.
  • Understand your audience. The ultimate best practice for any advertising campaign. Know your audience and what they care about, and effective Facebook ad design will flow naturally.

 

Want to learn how your brand can start enjoying the benefits of performance creative on social platforms? Look no further than our Creative Services team.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 123 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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