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25+ New, Newly Updated, and Timeless Books Content Marketers Love

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25+ New, Newly Updated, and Timeless Books Content Marketers Love

Updated Nov. 28, 2022

Content marketers love their books.

That’s apparent year after year when Content Marketing Institute compiles its holiday gifting list.

It was also apparent to anyone who saw the long line of Content Marketing World attendees waiting to get an autographed copy of Ann Handley’s new release. No surprise, the second edition of Everybody Writes was the most nominated tome on the list.

Whether you’re giving a gift or needing some titles to add to your wish list, consider these 25 options – seven published in 2022 – recommended by your peers in the #CMWorld Slack channel and on LinkedIn.

The books on the list aren’t about content marketing only. They also cover creativity, writing, personal branding, and other topics sure to inspire, motivate, and teach marketers who are all about content.

Each entry includes an excerpt from the Amazon description and a comment (if provided) by the recommender.

Make short work of your team gifting with this list of new and timeless books recommended by #ContentMarketing pros via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Recommendations for new and newly updated books

Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing (2022), by Andy Crestodina

25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: The result of thousands of conversations about web marketing with hundreds of companies, this handbook is a compilation of the most important and effective lessons and advice about the power of search engine optimization, social media, and email marketing.

Recommended by Heidi Cohen, chief marketing officer, Actionable Marketing Guide: “This book is a textbook for several graduate programs. Andy quietly updates it so that it’s up to its sixth edition.”

Also recommended by Sarah Mitchell, founder, Typeset, and Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods.

The Content Puzzle and the Missing Piece (2022), by Andi Robinson

1669717203 611 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: “The content itself is one part of content marketing, but in many respects, it is not the most important. Before you start thinking about what types of content you need to create, you need to lay the groundwork. Think of this as the edge of the puzzle that holds the whole picture together. As you will learn, there are a lot of steps that you need to take into consideration before you get to the actual creation of content.”

Recommended by Jeremy Bednarski, content strategist, Salesforce: “Not only does Andi provide you with the basics to understand the pieces of the content puzzle, but she brings the psychological aspect to help you take your content strategy to the next level.”

Everybody Writes: Your New and Improved Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content (2022), by Ann Handley

1669717203 236 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: In this brand-new edition, Ann delivers all the practical, how-to advice and insight you need for the process and strategy of content creation, production, and publishing.

Recommended by Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods: “The content marketing bible.”

Also recommended by Michelle Garrett, founder, Garrett Public Relations; Jeremy Bednarski, content strategist, Salesforce; Danielle Love, content marketing strategist, AmerisourceBergen; Heidi Cohen, chief marketing officer, Actionable Marketing Guide; Gina Balarin, founder, Verballistics; and Michelle Araiza, senior global marketing manager, demand generation, IQVIA.

I’m Not a Copywriter, But …: Lessons Learned from a Late Bloomer (2022), by Joshua Womack

1669717203 722 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Stand-up comedy. Speechwriting. Pro wrestling? Somehow, these oddball life choices led Josh Womack to copywriting. In his debut book, he talks about these experiences and more.

Recommended by Jeremy Bednarski, content strategist, Salesforce: “If you’re a writer who needs some tips or inspiration, this book is full of them. Josh made his way to copywriting by way of stand-up comedy and shares stories about how he found his way.”

Lights, Camera, Impact: Storytelling, Branding, and Production Tips for Engaging Corporate Videos (2022), by Tony Gnau

1669717203 676 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Make every video-production dollar count with Tony’s short storytelling tips for digital marketing and internal communication professionals. You’ll learn DIY shooting suggestions for work you do without the video pros. This guide gives you the insights from top thought leaders in corporate communication in order to create a solid video-marketing plan.

 Recommended by Lisa Dougherty, director, blog operations and community, Content Marketing Institute: “Tony’s book is for anyone wanting to create exceptional video content. His guide is filled with helpful information so you can finally create your video marketing strategy.”

Making Numbers Count: The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers (2022), by Chip Heath and Karla Starr

1669717203 620 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Making Numbers Count outlines specific principles that reveal how to translate a number into our brain’s language. This book is filled with examples of extreme number makeovers, vivid before-and-after examples that take a dry number and present it in a way that people click in and say, ‘Wow, now I get it!’

Recommended by George Stenitzer, founder and chief content officer, Crystal Clear Communications: “It will enable you to communicate numbers without confusing your audience, who may or may not understand fractions and percentages. This improves your content and your results reporting. You can read my in-depth review of the book on my blog.”

Prove It: Exactly How Modern Marketers Earn Trust (2022), by Melanie Diezel

1669717203 843 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Using real-world examples from trusted brands across dozens of industries, they’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of identifying and categorizing your business promises – even the ones you don’t realize you’re making – gathering the right evidence and backing up each style of claim.

Recommended by Andi Robinson, consultant, Hijinx Marketing: “Consumers are savvy about marketing. We can no longer make claims that we can’t back up with proof. Melanie lays out a roadmap for how companies can show their audience why they should buy their products or services. The easy-to-read format, with commentary from Phil Jones, should be on every marketer’s bookshelf.”

Using Behavioral Science in Marketing: Drive Customer Action and Loyalty Prompting Instinctive Responses (2022), by Nancy Harhut

1669717204 513 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: The book shows how to apply behavioral science principles in key areas of marketing, including marketing communications, email, direct mail and ad campaigns, social media marketing and sales funnel conversion strategies. Highly practical and accessible, it includes case studies and examples from AT&T, Apple, Spotify, and The Wall Street Journal.

Recommended by Shubhangi Mittal, founder, Blackboard-Digital: “It lists real-time examples where Nancy and her team have used proven behavioral science principles to influence decision-making.”

Also recommended by Jeremy Bednarski, content strategist, Salesforce, and Danielle Love, content marketing strategist, AmerisourceBergen.

Recommendations for timeless books

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994), by Anne Lamott

1669717204 973 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer … a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

Recommended by Danielle Love, content marketing strategist, AmerisourceBergen: “This book reminds us that writing is a journey. If we truly savor all the steps along the way, we will create a richer experience for ourselves and our readers.”

Building a Story Brand (2017), by Donald Miller

1669717204 168 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Donald Miller teaches marketers and business owners to use the seven universal elements of powerful stories to dramatically improve how they connect with customers and grow their businesses.

Recommended by Hanush Kumar, content and brand marketer, Kissflow: “He gives a seven-step framework to write compelling stories and offers adequate examples. Once you know the framework, it is likely that every movie becomes pretty much predictable.”

Buyer Personas: How To Gain Insight Into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business (2015), by Adele Revella

1669717204 161 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: This book provides comprehensive coverage of a compelling new way to conduct buyer studies, plus practical advice on adopting the buyer persona approach to measurably improve marketing outcomes. Readers will learn how to segment their customer base, investigate each customer type, and apply a radically more relevant process of message selection, content creation, and distribution through the channels that earn the buyers’ trust.

A new edition with co-author Jim Kraus debuts in late 2023.

Recommended by Sarah Mitchell, founder, Typeset: “The whole book is good, but she has a fantastic section on interviewing and extracting information from buyers.”

The Content Fuel Framework: How To Generate Unlimited Story Ideas (2020), by Melanie Diezel

1669717204 485 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: This simple framework catalyzes the brainstorming process, making idea generation effortless and nearly automatic. No more writer’s block. No more asking, “what should I post?” No more waiting for that “big idea” to show up in its own time. This system allows storytellers from any industry to produce fresh story ideas on demand, at any time.

Recommended by Daniel Foley, founder, Daniel Foley SEO: “Her book provides a straightforward structure for idea-generating and brainstorming that can help you develop a marketing strategy. The book is organized around a matrix with 10 distinct ‘focuses’ and 10 distinct ‘formats’ at its core. The approach in this book enables digital marketers, content producers, and anybody else who interacts with an audience to regularly deliver original new content.”

Also recommended by Danielle Love, content marketing strategist, AmerisourceBergen.

Content, Inc.: Start a Content-First Audience, Build a Massive Audience, and Become Radically Successful (With Little or No Money) (2021), by Joe Pulizzi

1669717204 606 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Content Inc. provides an ingenious approach to business based on a profoundly simple concept: Having a singular focus on the audience, and building a loyal audience directly, provide the best, most nuanced understanding of what products ultimately make the most sense to sell.

Recommended by Heidi Cohen, chief marketing officer, Actionable Marketing Guide: “Here’s a great author interview.”

Also recommended by Karine Abbou, founder, Marketing Leaders, and Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods.

Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (2013), by Steve Krug

1669717204 559 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: It’s the guide to help … understand the principles of intuitive navigation and information design. Witty, commonsensical, and eminently practical, it’s one of the best-loved and most recommended books on the subject … And it’s still short, profusely illustrated … and best of all – fun to read.

Recommended by Jennifer Best, vice president, marketing, All American Entertainment Speakers Bureau: “We should always use language that’s compatible with the reader’s level of understanding while staying as simple as possible to get our point across.”

Epic Content Marketing: How To Tell a Different Story, Break Through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less (2013), by Joe Pulizzi

1669717204 916 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: This book takes you step by step through the process of developing stories that inform and entertain and compel customers to act – without actually telling them to. Epic content, distributed to the right person at the right time, is how to truly capture the hearts and minds of customers. It’s how to position your business as a trusted expert in its industry. It’s what customers share and talk about.

A new edition with co-author Brian Piper debuts March 7, 2023.

Recommended by Paul Somerville, editor-in-chief, Electric Scooter Guide: “Joe Pulizzi, a content marketing expert, demonstrates how to captivate potential clients by producing content that they actually want to engage in. Fortune Magazine listed Epic Content Marketing as one of the five must-read books.”

Also recommended by Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods.

How to be Great at Your Job: Get Things Done. Get the Credit. Get Ahead., (2018) by Justin Kerr

1669717204 169 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: From an author who climbed to the top of the corporate ladder before reaching age 40, this book takes the guesswork out of career success and breaks down what it takes to excel at your job.

Recommended by Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods: “Not a content marketing book. However, Justin has some great tips everyone could learn.”

Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in a Digital Age, (2017) by Mark Schaefer

1669717204 42 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: In today’s world, there is a permanent advantage to becoming known in your field. Those who are known get the customers, the better jobs, and invitations to exclusive opportunities. But can anybody become known? This path-finding book provides a step-by-step plan followed by the most successful people in diverse careers like banking, education, real estate, construction, fashion, and more.

Recommended by Karine Abbou, founder, Marketing Leaders: “I do think personal branding will soon be the only marketing that is left – and to build a strong personal brand without a massive content strategy is nearly impossible.”

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Thrive (2007), by Chip & Dan Heath

1669717204 316 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: The authors reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the human scale principle, using the Velcro Theory of Memory, and creating curiosity gaps. Along the way, we discover that sticky messages of all kinds – from the infamous ‘kidney theft ring’ hoax to a coach’s lessons on sportsmanship to a vision for a new product at Sony – draw their power from the same six traits.

Recommended by Laura Bakopolus Goldstone, senior director of communications and branding strategy, AdDaptive Intelligence: “It’s not brand new but has provided a fantastic framework for making content marketing simple, clear, relevant, concrete, and sticky.”

Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It (2019), by April Dunford

1669717204 914 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: This book shows you how to find your product’s ‘secret sauce’ – and then sell that sauce to those who crave it. Having spent years as a startup executive (with 16 product launches under her belt) and a consultant (who’s worked on dozens more), the author speaks with authority about breaking through the noise of a crowded market.

Recommended by Heidi Cohen, chief marketing officer, Actionable Marketing Guide: “This book shows people how to implement positioning. It’s a new classic. Without understanding this, the rest of your marketing strategy and content aren’t aligned.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), by Stephen King

1669717204 740 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.

Recommended by Michelle Garrett, founder, Garrett Public Relations: “His personal stories and practical advice make the one a must-read for any writer.”

Practical Content Strategy & Marketing: The Content Strategy & Marketing Course Guidebook (2017), by Julia McCoy

1669717204 322 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: This book lays the ‘hows’ of content marketing and strategy out, in a step-by-step approach, book form. Each section has written exercises built to solidify what you’re reading and learning – you’ll be able to fill these out with a pen.

Recommended by Alex Armstrong-Paling, managing director, ToolFit: “Finally, a practical, real-world guide to content marketing is available with built-in exercises to strengthen and expand understanding and learning. The author exhorts you to understand the operational idea that forms the cornerstone of marketing and strategy.”

Also recommended by Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods.

RE:Think Innovation: How the World’s Most Prolific Innovators Come Up With the Great Ideas That Deliver Extraordinary Outcomes (2021), by Carla Johnson

1669717204 590 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: This book answers the question of how to tie individual competence with innovation techniques to direct corporate outcomes. It shows how to create a unified, idea-driven employee base that delivers more ideas in a shorter amount of time.

Recommended by Jeremy Bednarski, content strategist, Salesforce: “For marketers looking to get out of a creativity rut or getting past ‘this is how we always do things,’ Carla outlines a process to apply new ideas. By better capturing everything we observe, you’ll learn how to apply it to get to new ideas that help you reach your marketing goals.”

Also recommended by Danielle Love, content marketing strategist, AmerisourceBergen.

The Secret Army: Leadership, Marketing and the Power of People (2017), by Gina Balarin

1669717204 913 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Bringing together beautifully told stories, real-life examples, thorough research and the wisdom of credible business leaders, authors and thinkers, this book dives beneath the surface of modern corporate life to expose the hidden humanness that drives us.

Self-nomination by Gina Balarin: “It contextualizes the power of communication in our workplaces, with an emphasis on how our ‘secret army’ (spoiler alert: customers, leaders, and employees) can make work meaningful and, quite frankly, better.”

What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best From the Rest, (2014) by Denise Lee Yohn

1669717204 665 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Delivering a fresh perspective, this book teaches an innovative brand-as-business strategy that enhances brand identity while boosting profit margins, improving company culture, and creating stronger stakeholder relationships. Drawing from 25 years of consulting work with such top brands as Frito-Lay, Sony, Nautica, and Burger King, the author explains key principles of her brand-as-business strategy.

Recommended by Rachel Duthie, communications specialist, Shearer’s Foods

Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean (2013), by Josh Bernoff

1669717204 307 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: In this practical and witty book, you’ll learn to front-load your writing with pithy titles, subject lines, and opening sentences. You’ll acquire the courage and skill to purge weak and meaningless jargon, wimpy passive voice, and cowardly weasel words. And you’ll get used to writing directly to the reader to make every word count. At the center of it all is the iron imperative: treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own.

Recommended by Danielle Love, content marketing strategist, AmerisourceBergen: “This author urges you to think critically about clarity in your writing. What is the true message hidden behind the corporate-speak and how can you make it more evident for your readers?”

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help, Not Hype, (2013), by Jay Baer

1669717204 41 25 New Newly Updated and Timeless Books Content Marketers LoveFrom the Amazon description: Drawing from real examples of companies who are practicing Youtility as well as his experience helping more than seven hundred brands improve their marketing strategy, the author provides a groundbreaking plan for using information and helpfulness to transform the relationship between companies and customers.

Recommended by Mike Myers, senior consultant, CEO stakeholder and integrated executive communications, Nationwide: “I got my start in content marketing because of this book. The mix of sound advice and practical, real-world examples helped me understand this ‘new’ thing (which, of course, wasn’t new at all) so clearly and inspired me to get involved!”

Even more book ideas

If you’re still shopping for just the right book, consider these additional recommendations mentioned by readers last year:

What book would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments below.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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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.

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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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