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4 marketing takeaways from 2022 to help you conquer 2023

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4 marketing takeaways from 2022 to help you conquer 2023

‘Tis the season! The season for all things. For retailers, it’s absolute chaos. No time for strategizing. From here through the New Year, it’s execution all the time.

There is no “try” there is only “do,” as Yoda says. Launch things. Make money. Hit your year-end goals. 

As an email strategist, I got bored after the 15th of November, when my team locked down its holiday campaigns to the end of the year. My job was done. I did things to fill my time, but in the last six weeks of the year, nobody called on me for strategic thinking. Everybody was in execution mode.

Today, my agency’s retail clients are all heads down, launching campaigns. Our teams are helping them get things done. Everybody is in a mad push for the end of the year.

Teams in other verticals fall into one of two groups: 

  • The ones for whom December is just the end of the year. You want to finish strong, and that’s great. 
  • The ones, especially B2B marketers, who are crushing it to close deals by December 31. 

Whatever vertical you find yourself in, take a few minutes to walk with me and look back over what we’ve done in the last 12 months.

4 marketing lessons learned in 2022

I suspect many of you are grabbing time to read this while you’re on your way to something else — your daily stand-up, a team meeting, commuting to or from work (don’t read and drive) or just kicking back and looking for something to do because you don’t feel like doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

Wherever you are in your daily life, thanks for joining me to review the year, look for things we can pat ourselves on the back for and remind ourselves that we made it through another challenging year.  

1. The advice I shared in 2022 can guide you through 2023

When I look back at all the columns I wrote this year for MarTech, one thing stands out: Most of them are designed to help you level up your email program. I frequently advise marketers to stop what they’re doing, clear their minds, look at their efforts and think of how to improve them.

That has been my goal with my MarTech columns since I began writing them — to help marketers do better.

I share real-world advice pulled from my own experiences because I have been where you are now:

  • The person pushing the “Send” button.
  • The one getting screamed at to “send another email.” 
  • The marketer who had to figure out how to fight for every scrap of budget to make the email program achieve its potential.

If you’re thinking about what to do in 2023 but not sure where to start, visit my article directory on MarTech and search for ideas. How to do email audits, review your tech stack and move to a new ESP. How to brag a little about your team and your results and help your company understand the power of email and why it deserves investment.

You’ll find a year’s worth — and more! — of strategic and tactical approaches that can make a real difference in your email program. Find one or two improvements that you could make happen, along with a reserve list of five or six, and then follow my guidance for how to make them happen.

No, you don’t have to do it right now. Post a note on your cubicle wall or tape it to your computer monitor, and come back to it after the holidays. 

2. Brands are beginning to invest extra in email again

I’m noticing an encouraging trend — an increase in spend. We’ve seen significant investment in email by our clients in 2022. When I ask business owners why, they say they learned their lessons during the pandemic. They needed to invest in better platforms to take advantage of everything email could do for them.

We also saw people put their investments on hold to see what would happen in the economy and the labor force. But overwhelmingly, spending increases outpaced cutbacks or holds.

We also talked with front-line marketers. They told us they won their increases because they had effectively communicated the power, the upside and the opportunity of email in their organizations. 

They made a case for email. They educated their executives and pointed out where email could excel. They also highlighted instances outside of marketing where email could solve company problems that cropped up because of COVID-19.  

That’s the advice I shared a year ago in my forecast for 2022. Boast about your program a little. Talk about your email program with your executive team and point out what you’re doing and how you’re contributing to the company with email.

This has been one of my consistent themes this year because I can see the increase in business, and I want other marketers to share that mentality if they can put together solid business and communication plans.

In other words, if you want the funding, you have to think like a business owner. Because you own a business unit within your company. Treat your marketing program like a business, an asset, and communicate that asset to your executives.

This approach results in increased spending at companies that value email. That comes from people who own it.

Dig deeper: 5 email marketing lessons learned in the pandemic

3. RFPs and ESP migrations are off the charts

This is another long-term result of changes forced under the pandemic. Many companies found their platforms weren’t good enough. They weren’t fast enough. They couldn’t handle the fast pivots and new demands from extreme digital transformation.

That left many marketers wondering, “Am I the problem? Or is it my platform?”

In my 20 years of working with RFPs, migrating to new platforms and onboarding new clients, I saw people running RFPs because they didn’t understand what their present platforms could do. They hadn’t tried everything or taken ownership of the process to learn all the ins and outs.

Today, we are getting inquiries from people who have done that work and know that their platforms can’t take them where they want to go. They don’t have time to cope with sluggish systems, downtimes, workarounds or extra processes. These companies are driven to change and need platforms that can keep up with them.

You don’t have to be beholden to the platform — whether email, marketing automation, CRM or what have you — that you have been using. 

Digital transformation in its broadest sense can mean moving to a new platform that enables cross-channel and omnichannel marketing, that gets you to the Valhalla of real-time dynamic content, that draws a closer relationship between customer intent and product demand.

This rush to RFPs will continue in 2023. The frustration I hear from clients is tangible. This is a challenge to the existing ESP industry to do better. You can’t just say you “do email.” People want more than a pipe. They want functionality that goes beyond email and pushes email to do more.

Is an RFP in your future? Maybe. But before you start putting one together, be sure you’re using everything your current platforms offer. Audit your platform use to be sure you can accomplish everything you need to do now. 

Dig deeper: 5 tips for successfully switching email service providers

4. Finding balance is a need, not just a want

COVID drove home the idea that people want balance between their work and home lives. As I wrote last year (“Marketers: Where will you be a year from now?“), finding that elusive work-life balance would become a priority in 2022. Burnout was real, and we could feel its effects as 2021 ticked over into 2022.

I wish Elon Musk had followed my advice.

After he acquired Twitter a couple of months back, he sent out a now-infamous memo telling people they had to work harder — nights and weekends — or quit. 

My reaction: Somebody wasn’t reading the room.

Whether Musk appreciates it or not, we have moved beyond demands like that. We have moved beyond the corporate dictate that work is the be-all and end-all. 

Yes, some employees signed up for that 24/7 workday. That’s fine. That’s in their DNA. But many others looked at the choice between more work and more life and chose to have a life.

I hope this trend continues into 2023. Manage your work so you can take time for yourself. If you’re in ruins, so is your work.

In my 2021 column, I also advised marketers to keep their resumes updated and to take any interviews that come along. You could be happy as hell in the job you’re in, but keep an eye out for the next great opportunities.

Finally, continue to boast about your email program. Help others discover all the good work you do and get the respect you deserve. As some of my clients showed, it can pay off. 

Going into the new year prepared

As we go into 2023, let’s remember this — as hard as it was to work through the upheavals that COVID wrought in 2020 and 2021, we got to the other side. No, COVID is not over. We’re facing another winter with the triple threat of COVID, the flu and RSV, the respiratory virus that’s so dangerous for young children and the elderly.

And let’s not forget about the twin challenges of inflation and recession and whatever crisis is waiting for us. Can we meet it? Yes. Can we conquer it? Yes!

Over the 20+ years I have been in this business, email marketers have always impressed me with their spirit, their grit and their ideation. 

We are a talented industry, and we need to take pride in what we do.

Over the next few days, disregard Elon Musk’s advice and take time for yourself. Watch SpongeBob SquarePants. Put your phone down. Turn off your notifications. 

Put some distance between yourself and your work to start 2023 with a fresh perspective. Give yourself the gift of balance because you deserve to take breaks. 

Know that I think everybody reading my words is an amazing person. 

Have a wonderful holiday, and I’ll see you on the other side. 


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.



About the author

Ryan PhelanRyan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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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.

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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.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • 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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